A few years ago, our older mare, Belle, colicked one afternoon late in November. For those unfamiliar with the term, colic is a common ailment that horses are susceptible to and it can be deadly. There are different types and reasons for colic, but basically it’s some kind of obstruction or upset in the gut and horses often roll to try to get rid of the pain, which can cause all kinds of internal problems. At any rate, it’s not uncommon but when it happens to your horse, it can be pretty scary. Luckily, with some meds and vet attention she bounced back quickly. But over the next year or so, she colicked two more times, which got me sort of worried. She’s an older girl and I wondered if this could be the beginning of the end for her. She’s a really special mare with a great disposition, and I got to thinking it would be nice to have a daughter or cousin of hers that could carry on her legacy when the day came that she moved on.
So, I set out to search for a relative of hers using the horse sale search site, Dreamhorse.com. If you think you might like to buy a horse some day, this is a great place to look, but if you don’t want to get hooked, I’d stay away if I were you. It can be addicting. Anyhow, Belle’s great grandpa was a fairly famous Quarter Horse named Impressive, and using Dreamhorse I was able to search for horses with his bloodline in their lineage. So, I gave it a try. And lo and behold, I found a distant cousin for sale just 30 minutes away! A pretty little palomino mare named Honey.
It was February when I found Honey which isn’t the smartest time of year to buy a horse, but because of this, prices are usually pretty good then. She was priced attractively and the owner sounded fairly desperate to unload her as she had just bought another horse. So, I drove out to see her on a very cold, snowy day. When I arrived at the facility, I found it to be a run down place with small, dirty, uninviting runs for the horses. Honey was in a little semi-sheltered area with a few other horses and she looked a mess. She was small and scraggly, her coat was dull, and her mane was choppy and in knots. The gal that owned her told me she’d gotten her from an auction along with a foal, and that she wanted the foal but not Honey. She’d ridden her a few times and said she didn’t seem to know much and got a little worked up at times. She’d recently thrown a girl that came to look at her when the girl’s foot banged against the rail while riding her in the small arena. OK, my head should have taken over at this point, but my heart was louder and stronger and I felt I needed to get this little mare out of this less-than-ideal setting. I rode her briefly and thought she seemed sweet enough and had a smooth jog, so I decided to buy her.
Over the next few months, I worked at getting some weight on Honey and doing some basic training in my arena. She seemed willing and responsive, and most of the time was real calm and sweet. And she and Belle got along well, so all seemed good. I started taking her on easy trail rides nearby and she went along pretty nicely. Until one day when I was riding with a friend and a jogger came running toward us from up ahead. For whatever reason, Honey got worried and started to back down the embankment by the trail and then she started bucking. Now I’ve got a pretty good seat and have been bucked around a bit in the past, but this happened so suddenly and swiftly, I was off before I knew it. I landed on my wrist resulting in a hairline fracture, but other than that I was o.k.
I decided I’d better get some help with training Honey and enlisted the assistance of a local Natural Horsemanship trainer. We spent a month or so together doing ground work and were just getting to the point where I was going to get on and try riding her again. That weekend, my daughter and I decided to go to a trail riding clinic – she with Belle and I was planning to take my big, reliable gelding, Chummie. But at the last minute, I thought it would be fun to make it an “all girls” outing, and took Honey instead. Do you notice the emotion involved in making that decision?
Well, let’s just say, that turned out to be a bad idea. About half way through the clinic, Honey got spooked and took off to bucking again. Not just a little hop, but a full out bucking bronco rodeo routine. It felt like it lasted forever (I’m sure it was only about 30 seconds) but it was clear she had no intention of stopping or slowing down until I was off her back. The minute I landed on my knees, I knew I would be selling her. The first time could have been a fluke, but this round made it clear this mare had some ghosts in her past and was downright dangerous.
I sent her off to a trainer for the summer to work out as many of the issues as possible, feeling it would be hard to sell her in this condition. Once the trainer deemed her safe enough, I went back to my old favorite, Dreamhorse, and listed her for sale. I was 100% upfront and honest about my experience with her in the listing as well as when people came to see her, but because she was now a pretty little thing after putting on some weight and muscle, it didn’t take long for her to be sold. The new owner claimed to have good experience with “troubled horses” and I wished her the best. As the trailer drove away and Honey headed off to her new life, I was both hopeful for her success with her new trainer and relieved that it wasn’t my burden any more.
And by the way, Belle hasn’t colicked since.
Life Lesson: Listen to your Heart, but don’t ignore your Head