Sunday, May 31, 2015

Horse Shopping for Mom: A comical adventure with a happy ending!

More than two months before my husband accepted the inevitable - a horse of my own - I stumbled
upon an ad on Sport Horse Nation. "Event horse with lots of lower level experience ready to move up." I looked at the ad every night for two months. Eventually I noticed that the horse lived in Ontario, Canada, about 2 hours north of Toronto and a 12 hour drive from where I live. Still, I couldn't stop thinking about him and I determined to find a way to make him my own.

The first thing I had to do was convince my husband, with a little creative math, that my horse wouldn't cost him too much money. I pulled that off by April and went out to find my horse.

I spoke on the phone with the trainer of my Canadian heartthrob. She was great, he sounded ideal and I wanted him more than ever. My trainer thought I was nuts, but she usually does! There was still snow on the ground and I couldn't imagine how I was going to get to Canada to look at a horse - I couldn't completely abandon my three kids, my husband travels and life was busy.

So I set about finding another horse or two to look at closer to home. My plan was to bring my daughter or my trainer along with me to look at horses. I couldn't possibly buy a horse without at least one of them but, unfortunately, they were too busy to go with me. So I decided to just go out and look all by myself!

The first thing you should know is that I hadn't even sat on a horse in 8 months. I had leased a horse last year until the end of July. I rode my daughter's horse about 3 times in the fall and that was it! So I really had no business trying horses on my own but I'm an obstinate person with no patience and I knew I wouldn't get my trainer to go to Canada without demonstrating my determination.

My theory was that I was capable of sitting on a horse to walk and trot and possibly canter.  I would be able to eliminate any horses that were super obviously unacceptable. I was looking at horses that were pretty close by so if I thought they were worth a second look, I could bring someone more qualified back with me.

I went to see two horses somewhat locally.  The first was an 8 year old OTTB mare. She was very sweet but I was pretty sure my trainer would say no to her. I did manage to walk, trot and canter her all on my own without falling off which struck me as a bit of a miracle at the time. The second horse was with the trainer we bought my daughter's pony, Pumba, from a couple of years ago. She had heard I was looking and thought she had just the thing for me. The horse was super cute and lovely on the ground, well behaved under saddle but a little small and not really my match. I was very proud of myself for going out shopping on my own and saving everyone's time.

The only horse left to look at was my man in Canada. In all seriousness, there was very little for sale at the time and I had a pretty tight budget. If I travelled to Pennsylvania or Virginia where there would be more horses, the prices went up. My Canadian had the exchange rate going for him so I decided it was time to book a trip.

My trainer decided to go along with my plan. Neither of us had ever been to Toronto so it sounded like a good adventure. I booked plane tickets, a rental car and hotel all with my husband's airline miles. That was a bit sneaky of me. He gave me a budget and told me it had to include everything - travel, vetting, tack, etc. He never mentioned use of air miles!

I suppose it was a bit crazy to go so far to see one horse. It was a tiring trip north and we landed right after a huge plane from China so got stuck in a long immigration line. We drove an hour to the hotel and in the morning headed north. The drive was desolate and beautiful. We were absolutely in the middle of nowhere. It's a bit of a miracle that we managed to find the place!

When we got there, Crafty - that's his name, Crafty Breeze, and it's a bit ironic since I am very crafty - was just what I hoped he would be. He has excellent ground manners. I rode him around a bit at all 3 gaits and he made me look good. He's handsome which doesn't hurt. We walked him out through some fields so my trainer could take him over some XC jumps. He was a perfect gentleman.

As we walked the Canadian trainer told us about the property which used to be home to an event called Checkmate and which my trainer was very familiar with. Later I looked up some old photos of the place which were pretty cool. There were still some old advanced jumps in the woods. The farm had been sold and would close in the fall so it was pretty cool to be there.

My trainer hopped on, rode him around, jumped over a fence a few times and had a great time! We walked him back, hosed him, grazed him and headed off to find some food. It is worth mentioning we found an absolutely amazing restaurant called Mylar and Loretta's seriously in the middle of nowhere and well worth going out of your way for a visit. We chatted over an excellent feast and marveled at my luck.

We caught an earlier flight back to Massachusetts and I got to work on vetting a horse long distance (worthy of a whole separate post) and shipping him down here.

I've waited a long time to have a horse of my own. I am so grateful Crafty came into my life. I'm having a blast riding him everyday and think he is just the coolest horse ever. And it doesn't hurt that he looks good too!


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  2. I just found your blog - I love it. I've recently started riding after an 11 year hiatus. I'm from Ontario but I now work in a small town in Nevada. I found the only english trainer (dressage) in the entire town by chance - I took it as a sign I should ride again. I really hope Crafty gets better. Out of curiosity where in Ontario is he from?
    - Jasmine

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