We last left off after we found Uno, the cutie pictured above. Uno is a 7yo Selle Francais who was, in pretty much every way, perfect for me. He was brave. He was chilled. He hacked with no qualms. He wasn't a spooky idiot. He learned quickly, and though his flat work needed a lot of help, that's something that I'm really quite good at. He was authoritative and blooded to the jumps. He would jump *anything* from *anywhere* and give zero shits about what was under it. He held my hand and took over when I made mistakes, and I made one really big one where he just dealt and didn't think twice about it. Liverpools, scary fillers, the open water - he didn't care. I got on and jumped him bigger than I usually do at home and couldn't WAIT to go bigger. It felt amazing. His jump was easy to sit, unless he really launched. The horse competed to 1.35m in France, so the scope was there too. We negotiated him down to what was more or less the perfect price, which, with my budget isn't very easy, particularly for Florida. It was easy to get him to Wellington for a several day trial, and he was a perfect monkey in the ring. The universe seemed to be on my side. I fell for him, and I fell hard.
I fully admit to knowing I should have waited, and that it's never good to give your heart to a horse you're trying when they haven't yet seen the vet. But we were so hopeful - he was 7, he had had perfect X-rays when he was imported, blah blah blah. I was so confident in it that I gave my notice on my lease with Riley. Yeah, whoops...
Saturday began the longest weekend of my short life. The vet, who was incredible, and apparently does all of Kent Farrington's horses (there's a good recommendation if ever there was one!) She appeared midmorning and thus began the most extensive vetting ever. First we did blood, then flexions. He flexed slightly positive on both stifles, which we had actually expected given his fitness level and conformation, and weren't worried about. But then he flexed slightly positive on the right front, vet thinking coffin. Uh oh, says we. We move to flexions under saddle, same thing, but the horse works better when packaged, which vet is philosophically optimistic about, thinking the fitness and greenness is causing some of it. Well, it isn't too bad, and we think it's worth the X-rays, so onward and upward.
So, on to the X-rays we went. The first thing the vet did was pull his front shoes, and that's where things got a little iffy. He had been wearing half pads (cut out to support his heel, and no pad in front... stupid really, since that just lets everything compact under the frog) and he had terrible thrush, as well as the beginnings of white line disease and both his front feet had small splits up the middle. Vet is unamused, makes it all sound very dire, and tells me white line is a maintenance nightmare. But, she is also mildly optimistic that it's not very far advanced, and could be at the point where it's still able to be completely eradicated. Let's X-ray the feet, she says, and see how far up it extends, and also see where this split goes.
So we X-ray. The front feet turn out to be fairly okay - the white line is not advanced, and the split is not advanced either. Not affecting internal structures, and nowhere near them really. He is positive to the hoof testers, but she believes it's due to the poor foot care he's been receiving. He is also trimmed very oddly and unevenly and is due for a shoeing. We go on and take the remaining X-rays, and she cheerfully tells me that she's seeing else pop up. Upon her recommendation, she calls a farrier who is, apparently, the best in North America, shoes for the US Team horses, etc etc and is excellent with foot problems and any foot therapies necessary. He agrees to pop in in a few hours and volunteer his opinion. So we wait with bated breath until he appears. I am somewhat beside myself, knowing if this farrier decides the horse has some serious foot issues that it will have to be a "no." I am hopeful. All the barn staff and trainers are holding their breath.
So, the farrier shows up. He pulls out the horse, proceeds to quietly trim him and assess. At the end, he stands up and says, "I would not be afraid of this horse's feet at all. If the feet are the deciding factor on whether you buy him, I would buy him. It's obvious they've been neglected, and there are several months of work ahead of you to fix the issues, but even with this trim I was able to even out his feet, take the pressure off his heels, and trim away about 50% of the white line issues. I think if he is taken care of correctly, you will have no problems whatsoever in the future. I don't see any of this being an issue." Additionally, the way he was trimmed (low heel, pointy toes) led him to believe that the horse's split toes (worth noting exactly the same on both feet) were due only to poor trimming. He believed the flexion we got on the right front was due to the horse's tendons being extended the wrong way for so long, and that any horse would flex when they were pulled back the other direction, and that we shouldn't worry about that either if the X-rays are clean. Excellent!!!! Says we. I am stoked. Excited. Grinning again, the stress removed. I am so happy. I do a dance down the barn aisle. This horse is going to be mine, he is going to come home to Canada, we are going to jump the 1.20 this summer and maybe move into the 1.30s. He is perfect for resale, his age is ideal, he's brave and he's just wonderful.
I - and everyone else - am so confident about this that we crack open some cocktails and celebrate. I go buy a halter, complete with nameplate, and an Uncle Jimmy Hanging Ball. Uno falls in love with this since he is, after all, a mouthy 7 year old gelding who is somewhat busy minded and food motivated. I have figured out his favorite treats - he loves and adores carrots most, puff mints, apples and Meadow Mint cookies. He is not a banana boy despite my best efforts. I go to bed that night, following the penultimate WEF Grand Prix (and yet more cocktails....) and dream happy dreams.
I'm awakened at 8am after far too little sleep by the Assistant trainer calling me. Her voice gives nothing away at first, until she interrupts my stories about the night prior to say, "I have some news, and it isn't good."
At first I think the sellers will not negotiate further on price. (We had him at a great price, but given the foot issues, we were advised to negotiate further, which was very much fair.) I am thinking to myself, well if they won't negotiate it down more, that's kinda fine, it's not a huge deal.
But then she goes on to say that the vet looked at the X-rays in a dark room, which of course allows them to see things more clearly, and give close examination.
And it turns out that my horse-to-be has a very terrible issue which appeared only in the past seven or eight months since his import. It's a bad issue. Like, really bad, leads to horses being put down sort of thing. The vet says it may never bother him, but the fact that he's not flexing 100% on that leg leads her to believe that it will, if not shortly, become an issue at some point in the future - and that also, for resale it will be an impossibility. It is the sort of thing that sends a potential buyer screaming for the hills. It's the sort of thing that drops a high $$$ horse from being worth absurd amounts of money to $5,000 instead. It's the type of thing an insurance company will never insure. It's the type of thing that, if and when it becomes an issue, the horse is in pain forever and lame as can be, and most end up being put down. It is, in short, serious, particularly due to this particular placement.
And so the Assistant says, I have talked to Trainer, I have talked to the vet, and we think it's not a good idea. If it were me, says she, there is no way I would buy him. You may get many years out of him, but you would never be able to resell. You might have him for two weeks before he goes lame for life. We just do not know.
And so my perfect angel of a potential new horse turned into a great big "no." Just like that, the bubble popped, and the dream ended.
After some quick leg work by the amazing barn staff, Uno found a place on a transport heading back to Ocala which left in several hours. I went to say goodbye, give him some more of his favorite treats, and stroke his silky soft neck. He didn't understand, and it wasn't his fault. He was visibly upset getting on the trailer, and kept staring at me like, what is going on? In such a short time, we had developed something. Even if he just thought I was the Treat Lady, he still knew me, and had no idea what was happening to him. I had to load him on the trailer myself, and it really hit me then. I knew I shouldn't have given my heart away to this horse, but I had, and I cried and cried, kissed his nose and told him to be a good boy. The last look I had of him before the trailer door closed was him staring at me, ears perked, for many long seconds.
And so it is over.
As I type this, I think to myself how ridiculous I must sound. I only knew him for six days, but I came to love him so terribly quickly. He was easy to love. I really feel horses like him don't roll around too often. He had the perfect amateur brain, and that's hard to find. He was the perfect size, he was a lovely color (I'm trying to stay away from greys [cleaning nightmare] and really dark bays [only ever had terrible experiences with them; it's a superstition now!]) and just super cute to boot. Plus, he was so much fun to ride. I'm not kidding when I say I've never felt more confident jumping a horse in my entire life. For someone like me, who is anxiety ridden when jumping, that was a huge deal. Instead, I couldn't WAIT to get on and jump him.
The whole thing has been depressing as hell, and when you mix it in with all the stupid crap and drama that occurred in Wellington (more on that later, maybe) it just turned out to be two weeks that were pretty terrible. There were good things, of course - I got to ride this lovely soul, I had a fantastic time with my friend, and even had a horse showing at WEF for the first, and probably last, time in my life. I even kept the number to prove it! Those things are amazing, and I am so grateful that I got to experience the time with him and enjoy showing him. But I am so, so sad that it didn't work out medically. He really passed every test we gave him with flying colors, and then some. It's not his fault. It's anything BUT his fault. It would have been so much easier if he turned into a jerk, or started to be spooky or take off to the jumps, or stop, or something, but instead he tried his little heart out and did everything we asked of him cheerfully and well.
But now I don't know what will happen. The owners took little Uno back, and still plan on selling him for "money" - whatever that means. We tried offering to lease, we tried offering next to nothing for him, because realistically he is not sellable with his condition. For $5k or something I would have been happy to take the risk. But not for what they wanted. We tried, we really did, but they were not open to anything, and now I really don't know what happens to him. I don't know if they try to continue selling him, or if he gets put down. I hope he lives a long and healthy life and that his condition ends up never bothering him... but that's not very likely.
Additionally, I have no idea what will happen for myself. The horse show season is around the corner; give or take five weeks and it begins. I will have no horse. Yes, I currently have Riley, but they've already found a new lessor for him, and that ends for me at the end of April. We'll keep looking of course, but I don't know what's out there, and after the past several weeks of trainer wrangling I don't exactly feel hopeful that they'll find something for me. So that sucks too.
Post of depression, y'all. But what a sucky, sucky weekend.