Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Horses Named Buster and Other Unsuitable Purchases


When Kurt and I started looking for our first horse after I hadn’t had any since I was a kid, I declared, “I want one with a little spirit. I like ‘em with spirit.” Ha! The first one I bought, but who never actually set foot on the property, was a black Quarter horse named Buster. That should have been a clue right then and there. Oh, he was beautiful. And he had spirit all right. Luckily he failed the vet check and after chasing the seller for two weeks for my money, I felt a weight was lifted. I knew when I was trying him out, when he was prancing down the road with smoke coming out of his ears and fire coming out of his nose, that he was too much for me. But my pride wouldn’t let me admit it even to myself. Fear was not what I remembered having as a kid. Who gets happy when a horse fails a vet check?

The next one was just as suitable for a middle-aged woman getting back into horses after twenty years. Basically a beginner. This one was a two-year-old Paint mare I bought at the horse auction. At the time, I thought, “This is good—she is really slow and mellow, not like Buster at all.” In fact, the owner had to drag her by the lead rope and tap her on the butt with a crop just to get her to walk down the aisle even though I was kicking till I was blue in the face. Later, when I got a few more years under my belt and I thought about it, I realized that she wasn’t slow and mellow at all. She wasn’t even broke! She didn’t know how to walk with a rider on her back—that’s why the owner had to drag her—and the only reason she didn’t buck me off was because I wasn’t on her long enough. But I didn’t know that at the time. Plus, she was so pretty. I gave the seller half the money and promised to come back with the other half before the sale started.

Luckily, depending on your perspective and if you count that no real damage was done, Kelly had a little mishap with Thrush X and had to be taken to the hospital where she got an endoscopy and a lollipop and which caused us to be late getting back to the horse auction to give the seller the rest of the money. Even though I somehow had the presence of mind to call to assure him we weren’t standing him up—we still wanted the horse, please don’t put her in the sale, we were simply delayed in the emergency room making sure our daughter didn’t have third degree burns on her esophagus but I was sure everything was going to be okay and we’d be there lickity-split—even though I told him all that, he sold her at the sale that night. I also had to chase that seller for two weeks to get my money back.

While I was chasing those two sellers, I bought a third horse. So technically, I owned three horses now since none of my money had been returned. And we didn’t even have a barn yet! Who knew I’d find so many nice horses so fast? Kurt was building the barn himself. I told him he better get hopping. This new horse I found was a sensible buy. This was one that even Jamie could ride. And Jamie didn’t even know how to ride.

Dancer was a plain, ordinary sorrel. She was nice-looking but she was nothing special. One of the boarders from the stable down the road was selling her. The kid had lost interest. Key word being “kid.” I went and tried her out. She was perfect. We loped all around the arena, turned this way and that way, and even jumped a little cross-rail though I am western and know nothing about jumping. She was easy-going and quiet, well-mannered and willing. Even the vet was impressed with this one. She stood sleepy-eyed while we looked her over, one back leg cocked in the sand. He nodded his approval. “Now you’re talking,” he said. She passed the vet check with flying colors and Kurt finished the little barn he was building just in time to take her home.

Where she promptly went berserk.

Dancer bolted around the corral for two days, crashing into the fences and banging into the walls of the barn. Slivers and splinters flew, nails popped out. She introduced me to the combo. That’s where a horse rears, bucks and whirls all at the same time. She tried to bolt. She balked. She spooked. She was dangerous to ride and I dreaded trying. One time when I was saddling her up, even though I’ve always cinched up slowly and carefully, she reared, broke the lead rope and fell over backwards. The crash was so loud, Kurt came running out of the house. My neighbors, all experienced horse people, were sure it was me. Or my saddle. They came over with their advice and their saddles and cinched her up themselves. But she blew up on them too.

I was starting to suspect that Dancer was drugged when I bought her. What else could it be? How could she have changed so much? How in the world could a child ride her and I couldn’t even lead her through the yard without her spinning around and lifting me off my feet?

This was right around the time of the new trendy thing called “horse whisperers” and the phenomenon of an old training method, repackaged and reintroduced called “the round pen.” Since I was a middle-aged, middle-class woman newly back into horses who had a problem horse, a little money to blow and the determination to fix her because…“I love her,” I was the perfect mark for gimmicks like training halters, motivational sticks, tie-rings, videos, clinics and anything magical that was akin to the snapping of fingers but that worked for no one except the person selling the idea or product. I even, I admit, bought a book by Pat Parelli, desperate for the secret. The cure.

But nothing worked.

Now some of you experienced horse people might be rolling your eyes right now and saying, perhaps smugly, that Dancer obviously had a pain issue going on that caused her to be such a freak and you’re waiting for me to come out with it. But I can assure you that it was not the case.

When I called up the people at the boarding stable and cried when I told them the trouble I was having, they said they had another boarder who would love to buy Dancer. I didn’t even have to ask them. I was surprised it was so easy, hence blowing my theory that they had drugged her or hid something sinister about her, right out the window. Otherwise they wouldn’t have offered to take her back. They would have been glad to be rid of her.

Long story short, Dancer went to another child. That’s right. A kid. A little boy who did hunters and jumpers. He won all over the place on that little sorrel mare and the last I heard there was talk of the Olympics and someone offered his parents a lot of money for her but they said no way. They knew a good thing when they had it. I didn’t feel bad about it. I was happy for the horse (and the kid). A problem horse is at risk and she obviously had no problems now. So was it me?

The only conclusion that any of us could ever come to was that Dancer had spent most of her life at that busy boarding stable where there were thirty other horses and people coming and going and she had never been alone before. Or ridden anywhere except in an arena. At my house, she lived by herself and the only place I had to ride was on trails. I didn’t have an arena or another horse to ride with (I’ve since created a herd. And an arena to go with it.) and she went crazy like I would go crazy if someone transported me to a place without, say, books and paper. Or spaghetti.

Next time I will tell you about the fourth horse. The bucker.

24 comments:

Gail said...

What a wonderful story!

I am horse illiterate but own four almost by accident.

Hoping to learn HOW to ride soon.

Tammy said...

I am still laughing about you owning two and not even getting them home! And I can so relate about the "want a little spirit" comment. I remember as a kid that the fast horse was much more fun than the plug. The difference was, we weren't scared of the fast horse! And I think you were spot on about the paint being 2 and unbroke.

Anxious to read your Part 2!

(Happy Thanksgiving)

Tammy

Tanya said...

Aw Dancer sounds like Esther from Orphan! Glad she found a good home though. Great story.
We have to get rid of our horse, he's a 9 year old Quarter horse, gelded....gorgeous and sweet! Would you be interested?

Rural Rambler said...

Hi Deb! I absolutely love this post. I had a bay mare that introduced me to the combo and introduced me again and again in the El Paso desert where after a couple of times finding my a$$ in the sand I said no more of that and she and I came to an understanding and became my most favorite horse. We hauled her back to Missouri when CH was tranferred back home and she still gave it a teeny try once and a great while. I loved her. I had a Buster too that left me with the prettiest horse shoe bruise complete with nail imprints on my thigh. Never owned a Dancer, but what an interesting story you have there. I am of course looking forward to your story of the bucker.

AND, I want to wish you and your family a very Happy Thanksgiving this morning! I am thankful to have "met" you this year!

Giulia said...

I think it was YOU. HA!

Beth said...

Great stories, Debi! Thank goodness you were able, in all three cases, to return the horses. I'm looking forward to hearing about the bucker.

CountryDew said...

Hmm. I wonder if your place is haunted?

Love the story. I don't understand the love affair people have with horses but I do respect it.

Sloan said...

Kelly had a little mishap?? You gotta love this. Now I know you are horse crazy! I am looking forward to reading the next story too and seeing just how you got to where you are now.

Greener Pastures--A City Girl Goes Country said...

CountryDew, no, the haunted house was the Amityville Horror House and that was recently. These unsuitable purchases happened about 15 years ago. I'm better now. I think...

Thanks everyone for your comments!

Giulia said...

You're right. I'm much too late in my posts. So, thanks to you, I've corrected that.

Gilly said...

Love reading about your horses, even though I have never been nearer one than safely the other side of a fence, with an apple in my hand!!

And then not for long!

I'm good with dogs, though. :)

Anonymous said...

I just wanted you to know that I love your stories, You have no idea who I am, but I followed your blog since we chatted breifly on a quit smoking group when I was going through chemo for breast cancer. So stupid me, I am still smoking and although it has been a couple of years, I am still looking in and reading your blog. Great stories, You will publish a book someday I am sure of it. I have a 11 year old horse that was my daughters 4-H horse,I have owned him since he was three. I love him, even though she moved on to cars and boys, and now college. He is like a bad boyfriend. He never works, he is so lazy that he fakes a limp when ever I ask him to do anything, all he wants do is lay around, sleep and eat treats, costs me every dime I own, But I love him. I told him if I could get him to work a remote control for the TV he would be perfect husband material. I do have him 1/2 leased to a teenager 4-Her and he works for her and is the perfect show horse since he is a really mellow thoroughbred. It is my own fault, I have spoiled him and he gets away with bloody murder with me, except of course on ground manners. I don't tolerate bad behavior in that area. Anyway I have been meaning to write and tell you how much I enjoy your blog. You reminded me how lucky I was when I got my horse. We bought the first one we looked at. A three year old Thoroughbred for a 12 years old. Not too bright. We were so lucky though since he is so mellow. You can put a little kid on him and he walks like he is stepping on glass. Put a trainer on him that makes him work, and he will buck a kick until he realizes that he can't get away with it. A really puppy dog sweet heart, even if he is a spoiled brat, I have boarded him at the same stable since I got him, he lives a good life and is well loved by everyone. Isn't that all that matters!

Anonymous said...

PS My name is Audrey, I am at Topazkitty@verizon.net, Do not want to post anonymnous, just didn't know what it was asking and it kept rejecting my post otherwise? Thanks again for sharing your great stories!

Cape Coop said...

Someday we want some land with a house- and we hope to have a horse or 3 then. I can't wait to hear the 'rest' of the story!

Amy Tate said...

Sounds like a book, Debi. Or perhaps an article?

sweetflutterbys3 said...

What an adventure! I never knew there was so much to buying and owning horses. Can't wait for the adventures of the bucker!

Sweet Virginia Breeze said...

Love the story of your horse buying experiences. Looking forward to the next installment.

Jamie Ferraioli said...

This is hilarious, as usual. I remember when you guys were freaking about Kelly and the Thrush and you worried if anything that she had swallowed the little cap. Also, you be quiet...I know how to ride! They're like bicycles right?
Dancer was pretty. And wild. How funny what became of her. Horses are naturally herd animals anyways, right? So I don't blame her for bugging out being all alone.

Greener Pastures--A City Girl Goes Country said...

Audrey, I remember you. Hope everything is going better with your health. I'll e-mail you.

Oh, I'd love to get it all in a book Amy.

Glad everyone is enjoying my trials and tribulations!

Jeff said...

What an interesting story! I hope those dishonest horse-sellers who wouldn't give you your money back are in the distinct minority!

claudia said...

Deb, the sorrel rescue mare I took was supposedly bomb proof. I did evrything clinical, and twice to double check, eased my right leg over the saddle and before it hit the stirrips, she was air bound,I held her three bucks and off I wentdown on my right side, breaking 6 ribs right side,2 vertebrae in my back and my left wrist. The rescue lady came and said she would ride her, and she couldn't, and almost ended up like me. Then the took the mare to a place and the mans daughter who was a good 100 pounds lighter than me and 150 pounds lighter than the other rider, had NO problems at all. Children have been riding her.I had felt her all over prior to brushing and saddling, but she must have had some structural issue we couldn't see.
I have always wanted a buckskin, but now I have a fear of getting back on,,

Greener Pastures--A City Girl Goes Country said...

Jeff, no offense to my crowd, but horse people are known to be, how shall I put it? Not always on the up-and-up, lol. I DID get that money back though.

Claudia, I give lessons and I specialize in confidence issues. I developed an interest in this because of my own experiences. And I have a real bombproof horse. If you have extra, I wouldn't mind trading lessons for hay. (I have a buckskin too but he's known as "the bad boy." I wouldn't put you on HIM. Though the kid can ride him, lol.

Christina said...

Only been on a horse once in my life. He was chubby and sleepy, we got along great.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Wow. That last paragraph really makes me think.....

Thanks for sharing your stories. I've enjoyed them very much.

~Lisa