Ever since our horseback riding trip to the Black Hills this past August, I've been in high gear searching for a horse of my very own.
While Ole has been – and will continue to be – mine since he came to live with us 9 years ago, it's really been since Kamell that I feel I've had a horse that's entirely all mine. Even though I hadn't ridden Mell much at all in his later years (he retired to the pasture because of his bum knee), when he was put down in the fall of 2006, it devastated me. I'll still tear up if I think about it too much – after all, I'd known him since we were both 5 years old and had ridden him since I was 13 or 14. He was a good boy...
In 2007 an opportunity presented itself and I jumped at the chance to get "Ky," a large Appendix Quarter horse gelding. He proved to be sickly and – much to my chagrin – died in the pasture that fall (the first time anything like that had EVER happened to us!). We think there was something going on there before we got him, but regardless, he wasn't the horse for me.
Anyway, since August I'd spent just about every free moment I had searching online horse ads for suitable Quarter horses...I was looking for a big gelding with enough training to do open horse shows but also one that would be good on the trail.
In this market it was hard to find horses that fit my criteria – either the horses were too small, too expensive or didn't have the requisite training/experience. In some cases, it was all three rolled into one.
I almost didn't call on "Ellliot," a bay Quarter horse for sale in Wisconsin, since he was listed at 15.3h and only 950 lbs (Kamell was about 900 pounds and was a small horse). Finally, Clint told me to call and find out instead of wondering, so I did. Come to find out, the gal hadn't measured him; she just guessed! She said everyone who'd come to look at him had commented on how much bigger he was than the ad stated...
So, after talking with her for about an hour I scheduled an appointment to go see this gelding...I had a good feeling about him just based on what she told me; I also really liked her and her personality (plus, she said her family had a German shepherd, so obviously we're kindred spirits :).
Since I'd made that appointment, I figured I might as well call on a few others in Wisconsin, and we could make a weekend of it (Clint said he wanted to go along, too!). I set another appointment, had another couple fall through (the horses had sold but the online ads were still up) and we planned the trip for the last weekend in September.
Meanwhile, I'd planned a weekend up north for horseback riding and found out about a horse for sale an hour's drive from Mom & Dad's. So, I added that one to the list to kick off the Great Horse Hunt. He was a nice horse (albeit lame), with a good personality and snazzy coloring, but he just wasn't for me.
Yesterday we set out at 8am to drive to Birchwood, WI to meet "Elliot." After a 2.5-hour drive (including a couple wrong turns and some road construction issues) we arrived. I'd told the owner I wanted to see her catch him up, saddle him and ride him first...I wanted to get a feel for how he was handled, what he was used to, etc.
She didn't have to go far to catch him – he and his two pasture mates came right up to the gate to hang their heads over to be petted (a good sign). She rode him first and I was glad to see her style of riding – very similar to my own – and how far along he was in his training (she'd made it sound on the phone like he was very raw). I realized I liked this horse.
When it was my turn to climb aboard, she had to lengthen the stirrups for me and he just stood there, calm as could be. I gathered up the reins, clucked and off we went! I think the only other horse I've ever gotten on for the first time and felt totally comfortable (as if I'd been riding him for years) is Ole – but that was just on a trail ride. "Elliot" had no clue who I was, I had no clue what he was used to in terms of how much leg pressure, etc. to use but he just ambled off and did everything I asked of him (see the video Clint took of me riding Whata Dandy Life for the first time).
While he's definitely taller than Ole, he's not as bulky – when I put my saddle on him I had to cinch up the girth on both sides from how it fits on Ole – but I felt like I fit him pretty well in spite of not having as much horse under me as I'm used to (width-wise).
After the video taping was done, I was sitting on him talking to the owner and "Elliot" reached his head around to sniff my foot...and then proceeded to chew on the toe of my boot, just like Kamell used to do in the line-up at horse shows. *Sniff!* I knew I really, REALLY liked this horse at that point.
I got off and she un-tacked him, then showed me how well he stands for the clippers (she did a front foot, back foot, his eyes, nose and even in his ears, all while he stood there not moving a muscle); loaded him into the trailer (popped right in) and then put him through his showmanship paces for me. She even gave me a little lesson on Quarter horse showmanship – I learned quite a bit, not having shown in a showmanship class since 4-H!
When it was all said and done, I knew this was my next horse...even though we had an appointment 5 hours south for the next morning with a buckskin gelding.
Even though said buckskin was the first horse I'd found online that fit my criteria (and had kicked off the whole horse-hunting search), I knew right then and there I had no desire to ride that horse...I already knew this horse was The One!
Clint knew it, too...he said, "I know you've made up your mind about this horse...if you want him, get him!"
What more was there to say except, "I'll take him!" And that was that – we lined up a time for me to come get him (ahem...for MOM to drive her trailer and for me to ride along with :) and then we sealed the deal with a hug.
I'm so very excited about my new horse – he was raised right, he has a stellar personality, he's been trained right AND trail ridden. I cannot wait to bring him home!