Somehow the months have just fluttered by with reckless abandon, and it's been two months since I last updated.
Dear readers, you really haven't missed a whole lot in my horse world other than a lot of circles in the indoor ring. And a lot of pole courses. And some snow hacking. With both trainers in Florida, lessons have been a scarce commodity.
I did make the trip down to Wellington, Florida for the Winter Equestrian Festival toward the end of January. I didn't really end up doing any pony shopping, other than eyeing up some horses going around the low and medium jr/am jumpers, then realizing they'd all be out of my budget by a power of, like, three zillion. But I still had the best possible time with my good friend, A, who is grooming for my barn down here this winter. I enjoyed the warmth, horses galloping around me quite literally all day, staying up until 1am and waking up at 6 (okay, "enjoy" is strong for that particular activity!) and the incredible barn where we're staying. All I'm going to say about that is that it's Eric Lamaze's overflow barn. It is easily the nicest barn I've ever set foot in.
After Wellington The First, there was a casual suggestion made that I return toward end of circuit in order to do some pony shopping. Great, says I. Trip booked. Bam.
The month and a half in between was quick and exciting for me, if nobody else. During that time, I proceeded to (in order): get really sick with pneumonia, get stuck in the hospital, postpone our vacation/necessary appearance in Hawaii for a friend's wedding, actually go to Hawaii eventually, come home and frantically pack, then move. A week after we moved, I came back down to Wellington.
There were some, er, communication issues, shall we say, with yon trainers, which led to me frantically scouring the world for horses to try down here. I came up with several and forwarded them on to the Assistant, who's proving to be quite good at this sort of thing. She procured several as well and I packed up my riding stuff and my saddle and headed on down.
The first day I was here, we tried the first horse. A big 9 year old who had been going around the 1.40m in Europe, supposedly. There were a few red flags with this one - first, horses going around the 1.40 really shouldn't be in my price range, and secondly, the owner had imported him three weeks prior and was already trying to move him on. The Assistant decided to hop on him first and go around, and he proceeded to spook his way around the ring and then stop at a couple of jumps. Trainer, Assistant and I all kind of looked at each other and said "thanks very much" and got outta there.
I was mildly despairing the rest of the week, because we really didn't have much else to look at in Wellington. The several the trainers had found were snapped up by other people in the hours before we went to look at them - yes, seriously - and I was growing more despondent as the days passed. While my budget is more than I had ever dreamed of having the ability to spend on a horse (and is a HUGE amount of money to me! and anyone sane.) by Wellington standards it is nothing. Not to mention that every horse who sets foot on the grounds of WEF is automatically increased in price by 100-300%. I'm dead serious about that. It is truly absurd.
So we decided to take a peep at Ocala. Ocala is still expensive... but it's a lot more down to earth than the wild world of WEF. We found two up there to go and see, one of which I had procured in my search. One, the one I found, I was really excited about. Something about his videos spoke to me, and I loved his seemingly cheerful attitude.
After the four hour drive to Ocala, I was stiff and tired, but hopped on the first horse, a 7yo chestnut gelding with four white socks who had been strolling around the hunters, equitation, and jumpers. It was also about 1000 degrees and sunny. So gross. I hate heat so much. Anyway, the Assistant got on him first, thought he was worth me sitting on, and so I did. I didn't particularly enjoy the flatting experience - the horse was green, sensitive to leg and fussy in the mouth. He wore a longer shanked straight bar rubber pelham with one rein that he didn't seem to like very much. Anyway, I was feeling ultra-depressed since this was the horse I had liked a lot on video, but decided not to give up and to try jumping him... just to see.
Well dear readers. This (not so) little horse was another horse entirely over the jumps. Such great fun. My first day jumping him, we casually sprang over a 1.10m oxer and 1.20m vertical. I rarely do that at home with Riley... to say nothing of doing it on a horse I'm riding for the first time. I got off with the tiniest of stars in my eyes and we arranged to try him again in the morning.
We looked at another as well while we were there, but it was a very poor fit. It was a lovely mare with some great scope, but also green and with an extremely sensitive mouth. I'm pretty proud of my flat work abilities, but I just could not get the feel for this horse. It was very odd. A bad match any way you look at it.
The next morning rolled around and I hopped on and flatted the gelding, and already found him more attentive and having retained information from the day previous. We put him in a rubber gag just to try it out, since he has a tendency to get strong to the jumps. I liked this better on him to flat, but he got a little scared of it when we were jumping. The jumping wasn't as good, but it was still pretty fantastic and we asked a little more by jumping lines, some more bigger oxers and a combination. He was a star for all of it and took good care of me when I made mistakes.
The trainer of the horse had mentioned to us that he could get stronger in the ring... and the Assistant wasn't wholly convinced about him because of that. So, I being the brilliant bulb that I am, suggested that we take the horse on trial for the week down in Wellington and show him a little. Excellent idea, says she, and the owners of the horse quickly agree and he is thus southbound at 6am the next morning and I am somehow in Wellington for an additional week.
To make a longish story short, he strolled off the trailer in Wellington like he'd been there for the whole circuit, circled around his stall, drank some water, and then observed us watching him eat hay like, "what's the problem?" I hopped on him about two hours after his arrival, with no lunge or walking around to acclimate him to the surroundings and he was like, oh okay that's fine. Hey what's that over there? I will put my head up a little and not break stride and perk my ears at it. Oh you said it's fine? OK cool I believe you.
And he proceeded to stay like that the entire week here.
I've actually never seen a horse settle in somewhere so well. Even Riley, who LOVES horse showing, is terribly bright eyed and bushy tailed and loves to pretend to spook at things, and if he's at a new show ground will do the equine equivalent of leaping into my arms and burying his head. But little Uno is very confident in his bad self and therefore gives no shits about which weird new environment he is in.
Where he's stabled, it's a bit of a hack to the show grounds, and the bridle paths around Wellington can be scary for horses. But of course he took it in stride, only having a little "ughhh I do not think I like that very much" at a wooden bridge with rushing water under it.
The Assistant showed him in the 1.10m schooling and he was an angel; she came out with a great big grin and said he didn't change an iota. Best of all, he cantered in merrily and proceeded to pluckily hop around the course, serenely approaching all manner of jumps that had terrified horses going around the rings the entire circuit. Whatever filler, be it liverpool or black or white or orange or with butterfly wings, he just went with no fuss and ears up. This is a horse that loves his job.
The Assistant brought him back the next day in the 1.15m schooling, just to see how he handled something bigger and he proceeded to approach all of it with the same aplomb. This course included a nice triple bar to start, a triple combination, a liverpool, and the open water and he didn't bat an eyelash. He had been advertised as competing to 1.35m in France - which is his country of birth - and after some quick research I discovered that was in fact legitimate. The horse makes piecemeal out of 1.15m. 1.20m should be no great issue for him either; the fact of the matter is, he jumps better the bigger the jumps are, and enjoys it with gusto.
In short, Uno passed every test we gave him with the most flying of flying colors. And thus, we placed an offer on him yesterday afternoon, and after a short night of negotiation (given the sellers are European, there was a slight time lag while they slept!) landed a price on him that makes me very happy indeed.
So now? We are just waiting on the vet. We're hoping tomorrow, but that's iffy. Regardless, he cannot leave for Canada for 10-15 days, due to the fact that the health papers take that long to come back, but arranging a stay and a ride for him has been simpler than simple.
I'm hopeful and confident for this, because it's all just been so incredibly EASY with this horse. Everything has fallen into place with such little fuss. We tried him, he was good, it was easy to get him to Wellington, a friend had a single spare stall in Wellington, trailering him down to Wellington was easy because the Assistant had a friend going down that morning anyway, the negotiation has been easy, the horse has been easy... now the vet just has to be easy! Cross your fingers and pray, y'all. We don't have the expectation he'll fail, since he has clean X-rays from his import last summer, but you also just never know. I will be rather heartbroken if it's bad news, because I've fallen for this horse. He's been easy to fall for. It's not every day you stumble across a super brave, level headed, good-brained horse with enough blood to get around the bigger courses and not kill an amateur at the same time. The fact that he is all this and just turned SEVEN blows my mind. He is still a baby in plenty of ways - the flat work is really green for example, and his body isn't all that filled out just yet - but with his brain I think we can do so very much with him. Plus, he's bred to jump the moon, and that never hurts!
For those of you who don't follow me on Instagram - which is the only place I seem to find time to post - here is a picture of Uno! Hopefully I will have good news about him soon!