Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Big Horse News

I've been sitting on an announcement for a long time.  All year, in fact.  I was approached on January 2nd about the possibility of a new horse coming to the dressage barn.  A horse that is trained higher than any horse I've ever ridden.  A horse that, once moved to the barn, might possibly be in need of someone to ride it and keep it in shape.

I was immediately interested, but didn't want to get my hopes up too much.  For one thing, the barn didn't have any stalls available, so this new horse would have to wait until one or more horses left, making an open stall for him.  None of the other boarders had horses for sale, or plans to move during the winter.  A couple who are college students said they might be moving their horse(s) in the summer, depending on if they got internships or went home once the semester was over.

So I waited, keeping this possibly really cool opportunity a secret.  In a way, I was afraid to talk about it too much, like I might jinx it or something.  I mean, the horse would be coming from the west coast (yes, the west coast of the United States, not just the west side of Michigan), and maybe the owners would decide to find someone there to work this horse for them.  Or maybe they would just decide to sell it, and not worry about board, finding a rider, etc.

In early April, I was approached again, and asked if I was still interested. One of the college aged boarders was leaving for an internship in May and had put her horse up for sale. If her horse didn't sell before she needed to leave, she knew of someone who would let her keep it at their place out in the field with their horse. So there would be a stall open sometime in May.  The west coast horse (who by now DH was starting to refer to as The California Horse because he's the only person--outside of the dressage barn--who I talked [incessantly] to about me maybe being able to work it.) was definitely coming to Michigan. It was definitely coming in May.

Of course I was still interested!  My one caveat was that I reserved my right to change my mind after seeing the horse in person.  If the horse wasn't going to be a good match for me personality-wise, I didn't want to be bound to having to ride it.  Although I was pretty darn sure I would ride just about anything, even if it's personality wasn't on my favorites list.  But, you see, I wasn't totally sure I'd want to take on a fire breathing dragon type of horse of the stature this California Horse was rumored to be.

The barn owner (aka my trainer) assured me that from what she'd been told, he was a mellow horse.  And from the one short video clip that she'd seen, I would have no trouble riding him.  I have the ability, she said.  Don't be afraid of his size.

Because his size is GIGANTIC!  Not very many horses grow this large.  He is one huge chunk of horse flesh.  18 hands.  That's how tall he is.  Now, with a hand being equal to 4 inches, 18 of them total 72 inches.  In other words, this horse's withers are six feet off the ground.  His back is taller than the majority of adult humans!

And I'm wanting to ride this?!?  Yes, yes I am. When it comes to horses I'm possibly certifiably insane.  Not only do I want to ride this, I know I can ride this.  Provided he's not a crazy demon horse from hell (they do exist, ask any long-time horse person). Either way, demon horse or not, he knows 3rd Level and I don't, so he's got stuff to teach me.  Plus, there's the fact that 3rd Level horses are beyond my budget to buy, and I can't make one of my own if I don't know how to do 3rd Level.  So this horse is an awesome learning opportunity and gateway for me.  Once I go through the gate, I will (ideally) have the skills to buy a cheaper untrained horse with talent and train it to 3rd Level. Then I can sell it for much more than I paid for it, buy another untrained horse with even more talent (and a higher price tag) and train that one. All hopefully while I've managed to find an FEI level schoolmaster to take lessons on. . . See where I'm going with this? Grand Prix is my bucket list.  Has been since I was 16 years old.  But it ain't cheap, and so far, nearly 30 years later, I'm still not rich.

I most definitely want to ride the gigantic California Horse.

So he was shipped from the west coast, and arrived in Michigan about two weeks ago.  Let me tell you, he's gorgeous.  Drop dead gorgeous.  For being so huge, he is amazingly well proportioned and almost compact in the body.  Plus, he's got a very handsome face.  And dapples.  Dapples!  Right at eye ball level!  I look at him and see dapples!  And then he looks at me and I see a face  to swoon over.

*sigh* Yes, I'm in love.

So big I can't get all of him in the picture!

What a cutie!

The first few days after his arrival, he was allowed to settle in, and get to know his new barn and meet the other horses across the fence.  His owner (a college student at the barn who also has a younger horse she is training, and not enough time to ride both of them 4 or more times a week) has ridden him about 3-4 times since then.

Last Thursday evening, I got a text asking if I was still interested in riding him (Oh heck yes!!) and if I would like to do that on Monday (Memorial Day).  Monday fit my schedule perfectly, so we made an appointment for late morning.

The plan was for the owner to get on him first, and show me what he could do.  Then my trainer would get on him, so she could feel how he went and test him out a little (to better enable her to teach me how to ride him to the utmost of his abilities).  Lastly, I would get on him and take a test ride. So that I could be 100% sure I wanted to commit to leasing him.

Leasing?  Yep.  Lease him.  Brand new territory for me.  Until this year I wouldn't have considered a lease.  I mean, you have to pay board, and sometimes all the other expenses too, for the horse, but you don't get to sell him when you're done.  So why lease rather than buy?  Because he's a blasted 3rd Level horse, that's why!  Because I have barely $1000 in my horse buying fund (and the sale of the Quarter Horse isn't going to triple that or anything due to his navicular limiting his career and his quirky nature making him unsuitable for beginners. . .), and there is no way in heck DH would spend the kind of coin that a 3rd Level horse cost!  See my line of thought above (8th paragraph from the top of the page), on how I could ever possibly afford to own upper level dressage horses.

Lease details are still in negotiation (since neither the owner nor I have ever leased before, we're trying to gather info on writing a lease contract that is best for both of us).  But I've ridden him twice now--used him for my regular weekly riding lesson last night--and I know without a doubt that I can ride this horse.  He is a gentle giant.  And as huge as his strides are, I don't feel like the corners of the arena are rushing at us.  He moves so deliberately, and picks his feet up so much, that it almost feels like we are moving in slow motion.  The suspension is like nothing I've ridden before, and I'm barely touching on what he's capable of.  This horse can take me far.  So I'm going to lease him, and put off buying myself a new horse for a while.

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