Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Thawing Out

One Big Regret
Horses I Have Known: Part 6

We are in a thaw here and the mud has joined the snow to make a bigger mess than we had before. Yesterday, when I went out to clean the stalls, I pushed the wheelbarrow through the mud to the manure pile. On the way back, my muck shoe got stuck in the mud, was pulled off my foot and I stepped into the cold, wet mud with my socked foot. Yeech!! It actually took some effort to get the shoe back out and I nearly lost my other shoe in the process. I think I am going to have to choose an alternate path to the pile if I can find one less boggy. This morning, it was still a bit frozen from last night so I managed better except that the wheelbarrow kept getting lodged in holes making it hard to push. No pain, no gain???

I made one big mistake after I'd officially retired Russell from competition. My trainer, Pru, had built a new lesson farm and needed at least one advanced school horse. Russell fit the part perfectly, so I agreed to let her have him there. I knew he would be well cared for, an I trusted her as a teacher, so I also knew he would be well ridden. By then, I had found another horse (more later) and not having to pay board on two horses was a super idea. It looked like it might work out well.

But we'd misjudged a few things. First, her farm was too far away for me to visit regularly. And once, when I did, the gate was locked as she had established hours that did not fit my schedule at all. Second, she simply did not generate the business she'd hoped and Russell was not getting the exercise he needed to keep himself sound. And last of all, I had seriously underestimated the bond Russell and I had.

After a few months, Pru called to tell me he was not quite sound. Russell had problems with his stifle that required he be kept fit, and an old shoulder injury that also needed exercise. When I asked how much he'd been worked, she told me he was mostly on turnout because she didn't have enough students capable of riding him. Fortunately, the barn where I was boarding had a few open stalls, so I reserved one, just in case, and headed up to Pru's the next day.

Russell was indeed out in a back pasture and as soon as he heard my voice, he came galloping over. His whole expression told me all I needed to know. I could see he had lost a lot of muscling, and it was also clear he was one unhappy boy. My heart broke. I had the trailer up there in no time, and soon he was back with me where he belonged. And I promised him we would never be apart again.

And we never were. Until the day he died in my arms, I spent time with him virtually every day. I can hardly recall a week where I did not make at least seven trips to the boarding stable to take care of him. My only other regret is that I was never able to have him come home here to live with me. That would have been perfect.

So, now, I had two horses to board--Russell and his successor.

But that part of the story has its drama as well. When Russell was 15, still sound enough for a light riding and even occasional jumping, I decided it was time to find new, young horse to bring along. It wasn't going to be easy. I had, what was, even then, a limited budget of around $5000 for a new horse. I'd owned Russell and knew exactly what I wanted in a horse, making it even more challenging.

Eventually, after a fruitless search here in New Jersey, my friend who was living in Maryland, told me there were lots of horses advertised for sale down there, so it was worth a trip. I traveled down and off we went to horse farms. Again, nothing panned out. Some of the trips were amusing, including one to a farm where the woman insisted she had a half dozen 16 h horses all suitable for dressage. When we got there, we were introduced to a muddy paddock of furry Appaloosas none more that about 15 h. They were well cared for, aside from not being groomed or presented to us in any kind of appropriate way, might well have been nice horses. But as far as we could see, there wasn't one even remotely like what she had advertised.

Disheartened by our failure, we made one more stop, at Carousel Farms in Mt. Airy. Jan and Hugh Collins were horse dealers who specialized in buying Thoroughbreds from farms, tracks and trainers all over the US, but mostly in the Midwest. Their barn was nearly full of gorgeous creatures, all destined to be sport horses, and all already restarted with basic training for the show ring. The prices varied, but Jan assured us that she often had horses well within my price range and soon pulled out a few prospects.

One was a dark bay, I think seven years old, beautiful to look at and a super mover. The other was a plain bay, with a huge trot and a nice calm attitude. How it all developed, I can't quite recall, but within two weeks, my friend had purschased the dark bay, and I bought the four year old plain bay.
Idaboy, Si, the day he arrived at Prime Time Farm, where I boarded. That's my good friend Jacquie holding him.

His name was Idaboy, and I figured if he didn't turn out to be my new perfect horse, I could train him for resale and work my way up to something else. I soon renamed him Sudden Impulse, nicknamed him Si, and within a week, was in love. He was a beautiful mover with huge, well balanced gaits. He was still green and the indoor arena may well sport a hole in one of the doors where he connected with his hind hoof kicking out on a left lead canter depart, but otherwise....wow! He'd learned to do an extended trot down in Maryland and I'd have to remind him when I rode that there was a working trot we really needed to do instead.

And out on the trails, he was a joy. On one of our last rides, we encountered a herd of deer and all Si did was look at them, wait for them to cross the trail, and then walk calmly on. He was a wonderful horse.

But last ride it was. It might even have been that day, because I know I had just come back from a trail ride when I noticed that Si, just wasn't right. I'd seen the signs of colic before, and knew at once what was going on.

I got someone to start walking him for me and went inside to call the vet.

It was the end of a dream and the beginning of a nightmare.


  1. Anonymous11:22 AM

    Loved your description of your reunion with Russell. He was a lucky boy to have you. Si's story is a sad one, I can tell, but we'll still want to hear it.

  2. Sounds like a sad story for SI.

    What I have noticed is that your TB look gorgeous. They look to have a rounded, full rump, and nice neck insertion/neck.

    Not the high withers, swan neck I have seen so many times. I wonder if it is because of the TB lines you have. Obviously you chose good conformation ;-)

  3. Great stories! Keep them coming, they're keeping me from going stir crazy in this wintery muck!

  4. As to the first part of your blog - try laying out some boards on the mud. They should stay on top and make rolling the wheelbarrow much easier.

  5. muriel, the high withers is normally caused by an ill fitting saddle! nothing to do with the breed!

  6. So glad you and Russell got back together, I'm sure it was the best thing for both of you.

    Si's picture shows what a beautiful horse looks like. I think I know there is going to be a sad ending to his story. I'm sorry about it already.

  7. Oh, this has me tearing up already. I don't even want to know how upsetting the next part is. Keep the stories coming though; they're riveting.

  8. Claire - there is BIG difference between a QH and TB withers/neck attachement!

    Or perhaps Western saddle fit better than English saddle, that is hwy none QHs have high withers!!!