20 April 2009
In May of 2005 I agreed to go along with a friend who wanted to see a purebred Arab gelding that needed a "good home." One guess who ended up with a new horse.
The horse was living with an old mare in an enclosure that included automobile carcasses and hogwire--some up, some down, some with sharp points. The owners were caring people who'd received him as a gift when he was a yearling. They'd even laid out over two thousand dollars to repair him when he'd punctured a knee in 2004, but caring doesn't make people horsemen. Luckily, they recognized they were not up to dealing with Razz. In fact, they said he was almost impossible to catch, or lead, or even hold onto.
I found that out right away. It took the owner quite a while just to snap a lead onto Razz's outgrown halter, and when I took the lead rope he jerked free so fast I ended up face down in deep, fluffy manure. Most people would have said, "Crazy Arab" and left. But his eyes told me he was basically kind and intelligent and willing to learn.
His registration papers backed up that. Razz, registered as Sunsaba, was in fact line-bred to *Witez with a bit of Bay Abi thrown in as well--good working stock.
So, a few days later, Razz, then six, arrived at my place totally untrained and completely without manners. Luckily, he proved to be a quick learner.
Within a month, the horse that wouldn't let anyone lead him much less pick up his feet was much more amenable to working with people.
By August, he was already on his third month under saddle.
And Lion had found a playmate that also liked to run--summer, winter, whenever.
Razz's still not a beginner's horse, but he's more than kind and he tries to be tolerant. In fact, he'll stand like a statue to be mounted, but once up, his rider needs a quiet seat or he'll still become tense and confused.
Here's one of my favorite photos of Razz. By June of 2008, a couple of my teenage students were developing those nice quiet seats. When Erica dismounted, she said, "That was actually fun." I already knew that from Razz's attentive ear position. We're seeing relaxed trust more and more often from him now.
In fact, the horse that used to be nearly impossible to catch is now nearly impossible to get rid of. Here's one last shot of him "helping" my husband clean stock tanks:
I like the idea of rescue organizations, but I'm also a conformation and pedigree snob, so I gravitated to ReRun. They rehome Thoroughbreds. More accurately, they rehome horses that were, in their past lives, Thoroughbreds. To prevent these horses from returning to racing, ReRun returns the registration papers to the Jockey Club for cancellation.
Since I wasn't looking for a breeding animal, the lack of actual papers wasn't important to me at all. Finding a well-bred, well-conformed, good-tempered horse was. And ReRun happily supplies pedigrees, race records, and detailed info about the animals they have.
Of course, being picky, I did a lot of looking.
I looked for months. Then I finally saw a photo of the gelding Life Goes On. Seeing smooth elegance and angles indicating great athleticism, I called and tried to adopt him from ReRun KY on the basis of this one photo:
Of course by the time I phoned, he'd already been adopted. I thought, well, someone in TN just got a good looking horse. Over the next few months, I looked at horses on the ReRun site without seeing another horse that grabbed me. So around six months later, I called to ask the person running the KY chapter to chat, and she asked me if I was still interested in the gelding I'd liked months ago. She said the husband of the woman who'd adopted him had fallen ill and she was returning him. I jumped at the chance to get him.
When the horse returned to ReRun, I got a call telling me he was severely underweight and most likely riddled with worms. Understandably livid, the ReRun person told me that the horse never would have passed his six month mandatory ReRun vet inspection and would have had to have been returned sick husband or no sick husband.
I wanted the horse anyway, but I was braced for a walking hat rack. Here he is right off the truck from KY:
Many wormings and much food later, Life Goes On, now known as Lion, once again looked like the horse I'd fallen in love with. Six months after he arrived, I sent this in as his first vet inspection photograph:
I love this horse. Not only do I find him exquisitely beautiful, I find him delightful in movement and character. While he LOVES to run, he's gentle enough under saddle to use as a lounge horse for children. I knew that the woman who lovingly raced him for five years took him home between meets and hacked him around her farm. I didn't know she obviously had more than a slight knowledge of dressage. When my neighbor got up on him, she discovered he was already quite adept at some low level movements. Here he is in leg yield:
Even his idiosyncrasies intrigue me. At play, he runs and runs and runs, and typically he squeaks when he's about to make the leap to hyperspace. I already knew this about him the first time I decided to try a canter on my trails. Most OTTBs run hot, so I cued with more than a bit of trepidation. When I heard him squeak, I looked at the expanse of trail in front of me and thought, I'm too OLD for hyperspace. Without much hope, I put my shoulders back and sat deeper. To my great relief and surprise, Lion settled into an easy, wafting canter. A horse that wafts--what more can anyone want?
Of course, he does have his standards. Trying to touching his right ear is still a problem. I've gotten used to taking his bridle apart to get it on him. Or, more usually, we just ride him in a halter.
But, if he has an excellent opinion of himself, he earned it. A horse with 42 starts--9 wins, 7 places, 4 shows--has a right to some standards of his own.
I still spend way too much time staring at his pedigree.
According to my research, Lion's by the same sire as Anne Moss's fabulous Helium, the gelding she rode sidesaddle to a USDF Silver medal. There's an article on Anne and Helium here. When I read that Helium squeaks, I smiled.
And, oh yes, my little avatar of a bay horse under About Me on the left of this page? Yup, that's Lion wafting.