Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Getting Back to My (Blonde) Roots

There is a new strawberry blonde here at BBA!

After a few weeks of heavy thinking, I made the difficult decision that Harlan and I aren't the right match for each other.

When I first bought Harlan, I was confident and he was confident. We hit some snags but it was still a fun challenge...most of the falls I took could be explained by rider error or saddle dysfunction. Then came the last big fall, the one where I bruised my tailbone pretty badly. Something broke in our partnership. We lost trust in each other and I lost all confidence. Harlan is a horse that NEEDS a confident rider, someone to tell him that everything is okay when he's with them.

I know with time and miles we could probably get back to having fun together, but right now riding causes both of us wicked anxiety. Instead of a stress reliever it is a major stress causer. Harlan tenses up as soon as I stand on the mounting block and I have to fight to relax my body when riding. I had to do the tough job of looking at how many spoons I have available and how to apportion them between school, work, MMSAR responsibilities, correcting dog misbehavior, and riding.

I made pros and cons lists, I talked it over with trusted friends, and it ultimately seemed like selling Harlan and finding a more suitable horse was the best decision.

I had started casually looking at horses for sale, thinking I would get a head start for when I sell Harlan. I knew that what I was looking for, a thousand other people were looking for: big-boned, level-headed, calm, and with just a little bit of get up and go, all for a fairly small budget.

I trawled the sales websites and sent info on many, many horses to my friends; most were ruled out due to conformation issues, distance, price, training deficits, etc etc. One horse I came across and couldn't get out of my mind was a big Clydesdale mare...despite the fact that she was out of my price range and that I would probably have to buy a new trailer and tack to fit her big butt, I obsessed.

And then a new horse came on my radar. I had sent a message to one of the local sales barns, asking them to keep an eye out for something that might fit my needs. They promptly messaged back Sunday night saying they were out on a buying trip and had just bought something that I might be interested in. They sent me a picture of a 10-11 year old, 15.3 hh draft cross gelding and I was like "Clydesdale who?"

They also posted him to their Facebook page and his picture immediately got almost 100 likes and over a dozen comments. I made arrangements to go meet him the next day (yesterday) in the afternoon, and my friend Melissa graciously took time off of work to come with me.

The guy pulled "Ed" out and my first thought was Oh, he's smaller than I thought. His withers may measure at 15.3 but his back is more like 15.1 or 15.2. But he's stocky!

We poked at him for a while and then the guy saddled him up and rode him in front of us. Melissa rode him a little around the indoor and then I got on. I had the now-usual feeling of anxiety when I first sat on him, the fear of him exploding and me taking a dive again. But I forced myself to breathe out and relax, and I found that I didn't feel any nervous energy radiating beneath me, like I do with Harlan. This boy was awaiting my orders, not worrying about what was going on around him.

I took a few laps and then the guy opened the electric garage door that led to the parking lot. The boy (I refuse to call him Ed, that is a terrible name and was given to him by the sales barn) watched and listened to the whirring door and started to get a little nervous. I put a hand on his neck and he immediately stilled. My crusty old withered heart gave a thump at the thought that he trusted me.

We walked out past some machinery and blowing smoke from the woodstove, and toodled around the parking lot. He walked fast, not in a holy crap holy crap we're gonna DIEEEEEE way, more in a hey world, whatchu got going on? way.

I dismounted and we took him back into the barn and put him in the crossties. Melissa and I then proceeded to torture him with various objects, like a big push broom and some Kleenex. We jumped around and made weird noises to gauge his reaction...which was in total a look that said Really? You guys are weird.

His attitude the whole time was completely willing and calm, and he was very attentive and engaged. This horse had been put on a trailer in Ohio with 16 other horses and brought to Maine, where the very next day people came and ogled him. Pretty impressive behavior for going through that.

As a sign from the universe (at least that's how I'm interpreting it to justify my fairly impulsive buy), the woman who owns the barn where Harlan is currently boarded showed up half an hour after us. Completely a coincidence, she was buying a trailer from the sales barn and happened to come on the same day at the same time as me. She generously offered to trailer the horse home if I bought him.

I consulted with Melissa and my very patient mom, did some haggling on the price (PS, I am terrible at haggling), and I bought him. After I had signed the papers I found out that a woman who had arrived maybe 45 minutes after me had come to try him out. Scooped him up just in time!

He is probably an ex-Amish horse. Not gaited, I will have to get used to posting the trot again!

Because I am ridiculous, I had stared at his picture the night before and came up with a tentative name: Bisbee. He looks like a rugged old west gold mining horse to me, and Bisbee is an old mining town out west. Per my mom's request, his middle name is Ann. (Those who have seen me reprimand my animals know that most of them have the middle name Louise no matter their gender, so this is not a far-fetched request. Plus, Bisbee Ann has a nice ring to it.)

Now that Bisbee was officially mine I was faced with the reality that shit, he's coming home TODAY. Harlan is still at the boarding barn but because Bisbee's history is unknown and he was with a bunch of other sales horses it is best to keep him away from other horses for a quarantine period.

Which meant that I had to scramble and get my barn ready again for horses, including buying hay and grain.

It's going to be a challenge doing horse chores until the snow melts. The barn doors are frozen at the width of a person so a horse can't fit through, the path the barn is a long winding one I had done with the snowblower so I could access the chicken coop, and there is knee/thigh-deep snow everywhere.

Bisbee was a champ though when I led him through the hard, deep snow to access the gate outside the barn. He only made it so far in the pasture though before deciding that maybe sticking to the barn was a better idea.


Excuse me, there is no grain in this bucket.
It was nice to wake up and look out to see a face in the barn again, although I am SO. READY. for the snow to be gone. I'm looking forward to get to know Bisbee more and take him out for jaunts up the road.

Harlan is coming back from the boarding barn tomorrow and hopefully I'll find him a great new home soon.