Friday, February 26, 2010

Yes, There's a Weather Report Too!

Horses I Have Known: Part 2

We probably have another foot of snow out there. Hard to tell, though as it's been blowing and drifting. The barn did not escape. There is snow in the aisle that blew through the top of the big sliding door on the south side. I really need some kind of baffle up there, but the barn swallows use the opening for passage so.... And Chance's stall despite opening into a run in shed roof was hit. As a matter of fact, I closed his top and bottom doors for the night and left him in. It gave him a bit of a break from getting stuck out if the bully Boys decided to chase him, and it kept his stall a bit drier. As it is, all the stalls are pretty messy this morning. I picked out some to tidy them up, but I'm in for a major cleaning later. But I will need to shovel a path to the manure pile first. Yippee....*sigh* By the way, it's still snowing.

On to the previous tale.

After college (the university) I was hired as a full time teacher in September, 1971. As soon as I had a job, I was off on my hunt for a horse of my own. Back then good horses were to be had for $500 or so. These were show quality animals, ones you'd be glad to compete today. I found plenty of ads to follow up on.

I drove hither and yon. In south New Jersey, I tried a young Thoroughbred that was just a bit too wiggly and green for me. In north New Jersey I found another nice prospect that was a cribber, so passed on him. I found another nice boy a bit closer to home, but when I had the vet look at him, he didn't pass. There was an Anglo Arab I nearly bought, but changed my mind before I closed the deal. And not too far away, at a local boarding stable, I tried and loved a nice show jumper. But again, when my vet looked at him, he too failed to pass. That was a bit of a nasty experience because the horse had been regularly shod by the barn owner, and the job was so bad, it caused chronic, low grade lameness. My vet and the barn owner got into a bit of a tiff about that one, so I certainly wasn't ever going to be able to go back there.

That was when my vet suggested I visit a dealer he knew in South Jersey. He told me the guy was honest and had nice horses.

I called Mr. M soon after, and he told me he had a nice young Thoroughbred for sale at $1500. That was way over my budget, but he insisted I really ought to see this horse, and he'd be willing to work on the price for me.

In less than a week, I met Russell R. for the first time. At just under three years old, he was one of the prettiest horses I'd ever seen. You'll have to understand here that I hadn't known many Thoroughbreds at this point, and Russell had gorgeous head with a lovely expression. To top it off, he had the attitude to match. He was quiet and, although green, walked, trotted, and cantered more willingly than most of the horses I'd been riding for years.
December 11, 1971, the day I tried Russell at the dealer. Back then we didn't wear hemets, and I was still not in breeches. You can just get a little feel for Russell's expression here, but he was a sweetie that day.

Now, whether Mr. M. was giving me a phony sales pitch or not, I'll never know, but he offered to sell me Russell for $1000 because he thought we made such a nice pair and he was sure I'd give him a good home. He said someone else had offered him more, but I had the right of first refusal. At that point, I nearly panicked. Not because I was afraid I'd lose the deal, but because I knew full well that buying a three year old, green Thoroughbred was not the smartest thing to do. I told Mr. M. I'd need to think about it, so he told me that was OK. I was to call him by the next day to let him know.

I went home and tossed and turned the idea in my head. I called some friends, no more expert than I, but at least they knew horses. Before the night was over, I called Mr. M, and the deal was closed. Russell was mine.

Again, I'm not too sure how I found my first boarding barn, but it might have been through the minister at my church. At any rate, in about a week, I'd spent the money to get new grooming supplies, a nice Baker blanket, and was all set up for Russell's arrival. Little did I know my decision was going to take me on an incredible journey, one that's led me now to Toby, Tucker and Chance.
Russell soon after I bought him. That's the barn owner holding him. This was probably around Christmas, 1971. Russell arrived on December 18. The bandages? Probably to wrap one of the many little bangs he got soon after I got him. Better to wrap both legs instead of just one.

Russell bucked me off on the very first time I rode him--out on a trail near the barn. I remember tromping back to the stable, furious and determined to find the barn owners upset and worried about me as they held Russell's reins. I climbed back on, and rode him right back out to where I'd gone off, and finished up the ride in the saddle. I learned that day, and every day afterward that he wasn't one of those kinds of horses I'd ridden before--he was Thoroughbred and taught me to adore the breed with all its quirks and temperaments.

Russell was, by far, one of the most itelligent horses I've ever known. And he loved people. In a lot of ways, Chance reminds me of him. Russell would play with blankets, never miss an opportunity to get into some kind of mischief, and constantly keep me on my guard. He loved life and taught me to love horses beyond imagining. I learned about riding, training, handling, basic vet care, how to enjoy success and how to cope with utter failure from him. He was my rock on the days when my classes at school overwhelmed me, and my laughter when he pulled one of his many pranks.
As I look back now, I know that buying Russell was one of the best things I've ever done.


  1. GREAT story Jean - Russell was a BEAUTIFUL boy. Your companionship with him rings in your words.

  2. Well written. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Anonymous3:08 PM

    What a gorgeous horse - he does sound like a keeper and a horse soulmate - you are indeed fortunate to have found him.

    Sorry about the snow - you've come out worse than us this winter.

  4. What a pretty boy! And a great story, too. It's funny how sometimes the decisions that don't seem like the right choice at the time end up being the best ones. They're the ones that were just meant to be.

  5. Ah! that connection! Nothing better.

  6. Russel is a beautiful handsome boy. It's wonderful to get a young horse and grow and learn together. I'm sure you had a long wonderful relationship with him.

  7. I am finally getting to catch up on my reading. I am loving your story of Horses you have known. Youe description of Russel reminds me so much of Fawkes, those Thoroughbreds sure do have a distinct personality to them!