As my kids’ riding program started picking up a few years back, I found I needed another gentle horse to add to the lesson roster. And my husband needed a reliable mount for the occasional trail rides we took together. We’d tried a few other horses in the early years on the farm – one “borrowed” from a friend, one that turned out to have too much arthritis for regular use, and of course the infamous Honey (see two blog entries ago) who luckily was never tried in the kids’ program – but none of these had been quite the right fit. So one spring I set out to find the perfect addition to our small herd.
I once again turned to my two faithful online friends, Craig’s List and Dreamhorse.com, as well as local horse contacts and friends. Turns out what I was looking for was what everyone wanted: a gentle, pretty, smooth-riding gelding between 7 and 12 years of age with no major health issues. Oh, and did I mention I was on a fairly limited budget? I drove many miles that spring, looked at quite a few horses and even brought several of them back to the farm on a trial basis. But it appeared this was going to be harder than I had expected. Either the horse was too flighty and inexperienced, didn’t get along with the other horses, had training issues I wasn’t prepared for or interested in fixing, or had some kind of physical concern. I guess if you had this ideal horse, you either were happy with it and kept it, or you knew you could ask a lot of money for it which meant it was out of my price range.
The months ticked by and I was only weeks away from my first horse camp of the season with only three lesson horses in my line-up – one of whom was on loan from a friend. I could manage with three if no one got sick or lame, but I was anxious about not having a fourth horse in case someone had a problem or my friend decided she needed her horse back for her own use. I had one potential new horse at the farm on trial with the vet scheduled to come out for a vet check the next day, but I’d already decided this horse wasn’t going to work for my program because of inadequate training. I was scheduled to ride another potential horse the next morning and then I spotted a new Dreamhorse.com ad.
The ad was for a pretty sorrel Quarter Horse gelding name Jose and it had just been listed. He was 10 years old, had been ridden by kids in Little Britches Rodeo, and was in my price range (just barely). I made arrangements to go see him the next morning and planned to do something I never did – take my horse trailer with me. I always figure if I like the horse I can talk options with the seller and come back for him if we work things out. It somehow seemed presumptuous and like bad luck to bring the trailer on the first look. But this time I knew I had the vet scheduled already and if this was the right horse, he’d need to be looked at anyhow. I rode him and liked him, so I asked the owner if I could take him for the vet check and then bring him back if he didn’t work out. She agreed saying, “but trust me, you won’t be bringing him back”.
Well, she was right. He passed the vet check, the hubby check and the Belle check (a requirement we had put in place when another horse we had considered kicked our older mare, Belle somewhat violently and I had promised my daughter that all future horses would have to be nice to her or they couldn’t stay). And so I finally had my 4th horse with only two weeks to go until camp. I normally get to know a horse for a month or more before putting him in the kids program, but I worked with him for those two weeks, knew he had a strong background with kids, and felt comfortable putting him right to work. I did have to change his name, however, as Jose just didn’t sound like a horse to me and didn’t roll off my tongue easily. I decided to stick with a Spanish word and arrived at Amigo as the perfect name.
Amigo was a gem the whole first week of camp, and one of the campers fell in love with him, riding him every day. The day before camp ended, she practiced all she had learned for the end-of-camp show and was excited to get to demonstrate for her parents how well she could ride her new friend. But the afternoon before the show, Amigo threw a shoe and though we were able to get the hoof trimmed a bit, he was sore as heck. The next day, I didn’t have the heart to tell the little girl he couldn’t be ridden after all the preparation she’d done, so I gave Amigo a double dose of bute (the equivalent of horse aspirin) and hoped for the best. When it came time for the young camper to ride him in the show, he gingerly made his way around the arena, obviously still somewhat uncomfortable, but doing everything he was asked with a can-do kind of attitude. Then and there, I knew I’d made a good purchase.
And the icing on the cake? Turns out Amigo is a distant cousin to Belle!
Life Lesson: Know What You Want and Don’t Settle for Less