Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Wild Goose Chase

Once we make a decision, that’s it, we want it done yesterday, we “git r done.” No one can accuse us of being all talk, no action. One time Kurt decided that his horse wasn’t working for him and maybe he’d get another one. The next day we had Bullet. We still have that bad boy five years later. That’s what Kurt calls him. “Hey Bad Boy.” He’s not really a bad boy. Kurt knows how to pick horses. He has the knack for it. I have to admit that out of all the ponies we had, the ones who were hell on wheels, were the ones that I picked.

Of course the pony hunt is not quite as easy as horse-hunting but since we don’t fart around, we’ve already seen two of them and inquired about a dozen. Which boils down to we blew the whole weekend. And that made us mad because we’re trying to finish building the hay barn. I’m painting and helping and Kurt’s doing all the building. It’s a lot to get done on Kurt’s few days off. But Friday night we went to West Virginia because this pony was supposed to be it. It’s pretty country, here to there. I don’t think there’s an ugly place in Virginia. But we weren’t going sightseeing.

Since we’re tired of going on wild goose chases and because this one was three-and-a-half hours away, I prescreened over the phone till I was blue in the face. I should have known that the seller was going to be less than truthful because he tricked me into breaking my new rule of never traveling more than two hours to go and see a horse. The guy had an ad in the local newspaper; not his newspaper, but my newspaper. The number was one I didn’t recognize but I figured it might have been his cell phone number. A lot of people have cell phones with numbers from out of the area. I didn’t find out until he got me good and interested in the pony that he was so far away; way past my two hour rule. By that time, I knew this was the perfect pony.

I have driven from New Jersey to Oklahoma to buy a pony and from Virginia to New Jersey to buy a pony and everything in between, so a little trip to West Virginia for the perfect pony wasn’t out of the question. The ad said, “Child-safe pony, brown and white Paint, 7-years-old, $1600 or best offer.” I really didn’t care what the pony looked like but it was an added bonus that he was a Paint because Kelly is on a Paints kick. He was a little on the young side but we were done with plugs and it said he was child-safe. That was the most important thing.

However, I knew from past experience that I could be wasting my time and so I did everything I could to prescreen him. I scrutinized the pictures the man e-mailed me and then we were back and forth on the phone several times. When we finally decided to go out there, I called the man and said, “Before I come, I need to ask you some more questions. I’m not trying to pick apart your pony—I just want to make sure he’s suitable for my daughter. I don’t want to waste your time or mine.”

If I asked one question, I asked fifty of them. “How would you describe him as being? Forward or more on the pluggy side? Has he ever bucked? Has he ever reared? How’s his eyes?” (I ask that one now after buying a blind pony in the dark. I couldn’t see and he couldn’t see. I’ve noticed that every bad thing I’ve gone through with a horse—buckers, kickers, head-tossers, bowed tendons—I never fall for getting one with that particular problem again. If I keep going, pretty soon I will find myself with a flawless horse.)

I asked, “How is he to bridle and saddle? How are his brakes? Can a child lift all four feet? Does he tie? Does he clip? Does he load? Does he spook?” All the answers were good so Kurt came home from work early on Friday and we headed out.

He was a beauty. He was also the perfect size. You can’t always tell the size from a picture or from what they say. Someone’s 13.2 hands may not be my 13.2 hands. The Paint was dead-on. The man saddled him up and mounted. But I could see the pony was green. His head was up in the air, his mouth was opened and he didn’t know how to neck-rein. He also looked younger than seven. He looked more like four to me. Child-safe four-year-olds are rare. There just isn’t enough time in a year or maybe two, of riding, for them to get enough experience. (Most people start horses at two or three-years-old.) But it’s not impossible. He had a kind eye and a mellow disposition. He was so pretty I thought he’d be worth finishing off for Kelly.

I asked the man to lift his feet. He lifted the front ones. I said, “Can you lift the back ones too?” The pony yanked his foot away and tried to kick. The man wrestled him to keep his foot up. I scratched my head. Didn’t I ask this question? Green horses are one thing; kickers are something else entirely. Still, we didn’t rule him out. Maybe it was just his youth and I could fix it.

We also found out he had a needle phobia. The man volunteered this information. He said that when they drew blood to do the pony’s Coggins test (a blood test to check for Equine Infectious Anemia) he resisted so violently they had to throw him up against the trailer and hold him still. I’m still not sure why he admitted that one. Maybe to gain back some of my trust. Throw me off the track. I wasn’t spooked by the needle phobia. I didn’t like it but I wasn’t spooked. We still didn’t rule him out.

I got on him. There was no safe place to ride. We went up and down the gravel driveway. He was wobbly. He was definitely green. I didn’t jog or lope. The man’s saddle was too big for me, too big for the pony, hard and slippery and I felt it slipping. I was not secure. I had visions of a pony I had tried a couple of years ago who was supposed to be a bombproof child’s pony whose saddle slipped and who promptly bucked me off. Virginia dirt is hard and I’m getting older. I didn’t need to run the pony to know he needed finishing. Kurt and I took a walk and consulted with each other. Kelly loved him.

We decided we’d offer $1200 and hope he’d counter with $1300. We thought that was a fair deal. We didn’t think he was worth any more than that even though he was a looker because he was green. He wasn’t even papered. Just a grade pony. But if we could get him for a good price, it would be worth putting the time into him. It might actually take the whole year. Kelly wouldn’t be able to ride him now, but there was mega potential. And if we had problems, if I couldn’t get him right, we’d be able to resell him to a more suitable home if we got him a little cheaper.

The problem with going far distances to see a pony is you pretty much have to take your horse trailer with you just in case you buy. If you don’t, that’s when you find one and it’s no fun having to go back and drive all those hours again the next day. Sellers think they have you hooked before you even step out of the truck when you appear towing the trailer behind and you lose all negotiating power. But it was three-and-a-half hours away.

I also suspect that my honesty made the pony seller think he had it in the bag. I admitted he was beautiful. What was I going to say? It was obvious he was beautiful. If I didn’t say it, it would be like seeing the Empire State Building for the first time and not exclaiming, “Wow, look how tall that is!”

Besides, his ad said, “Best offer.” He was negotiable. Smart move. With the end of summer approaching and the dry weather causing a hay shortage, it’s a buyer’s market. So Kurt asked him if he’d take $1200. He flat out said no, he wouldn’t take anything less than $1600, the asking price. It’s like being at an auction and suddenly you are losing the thing you were bidding on that you didn’t know where you were going to put and weren’t sure if you really wanted and then you have to have it. Kurt jumped right up to $1500. The man said no. He said what all horse sellers say, that he had someone else who was coming to look at the pony.

We took a walk and consulted again. It was one of the hardest things we ever did, not to give that man the full asking price. We were mad. The pony was not what he said he was. In fact, we caught him in a couple of lies. And the feet. I specifically asked on the phone if a child could lift all four feet. He got us to come all that way by lying and wouldn’t budge a penny even though he implied he was negotiable. In a nut shell, he thought it was a done deal. We declined. His mouth dropped open. We told him if he changed his mind to call us. But Kurt said if he does call, he’s going to have to bring the pony to us. We’re not going all the way out there again.

Kelly cried her eyes out. Kurt said, “You should have turned the waterworks on when we were negotiating, that might have helped.” She cried harder. I tried to make her feel better by telling her we had that other one to look at who was closer to home. The other one wasn’t pretty like the Paint but we should at least go and check her out. I told her she couldn’t ride that Paint pony right now anyway.

“I don’t like that other one. I like the Paint,” she sobbed. “I was going to name him Cochise.”

That’s not good, naming the horse before you get him. It’s putting all your eggs in one basket. It’s like counting all your chickens before they’re hatched. It reminds me of my friend who has been planning her wedding since she was sixteen-years-old but who has yet to meet a man to marry. Who could compare to the fantasy man?

But by the time we got home, well after midnight, Kelly moved on. She got over the Paint and wanted to see the other pony. I Mapquested it. It was an hour and a half in the other direction, under the two hour driving limit and so we hit the road, trailer in tow. But this time we didn’t have to worry about negotiating. The pony was cheap, $700, and we wouldn’t insult the seller by trying to get a good riding pony for less than that. However, she was too short, too old and too much to handle. Waterworks again.

We got lost going there and going home. You can’t trust Mapquest and you can’t count on people giving directions remembering to tell you there are two highways with the same number, the old one and the new one. The hour and a half ride and quick let’s- look-just-in-case became an all day procedure. No barn work got done. But we saw some pretty country. I’m convinced that there isn’t an ugly place in Virginia. There may be a shortage of child-safe, reasonably-priced ponies, and honest pony sellers, but there are no ugly places here.


House on the Glade Hill said...

Awwww, poor Kelly. I feel for her. You guys must be whipped. I am sure my weekend was not that busy and we had a busy weekend!
Nice post - too bad about the jerk in WV.

Sometimes I wonder how stupid people think we all are? I can't stand liars and it's only because they think we are all stupid. Hang in there...

Amy said...

Ugh. That makes my blood boil Debi. I know what you are dealing with. I'm glad that you didn't buy her. You may have run into all sorts of problems later. If he lied about this then you know that he lied about that. I'm so sorry! You tell Kelli to hold on to that name, a special pony is waiting for her!