I’ve sold a lot of horses.
Always with the intention to sell, and always with a profit in mind. Because for the last 5 years, I was a broke graduate student. And finding, retraining, and selling thoroughbreds helped me pay the bills for my own horses.
Maybe more importantly, was the fact that I loved it.
I enjoyed the selection process; assessing the pros and cons of each horse, and knowing what I could and could not live with. I enjoyed scouring the farms and the backsides, meeting so many great people along the way. And I lived for that adrenaline rush of loading a new pony onto my trailer and beginning the journey.
But I also craved that first, second, and third ride on those horses. It’s so thrilling to assess their brains on those initial hacks. To take them on their first field trip, or over their first jump.
For months these firsts continued, and my enamor with the process increased. Their first XC school, their first show. Their first grid, or their first time being braided. I lived for these moments.
And finally, they were offered for sale. And 95% of the time, I even enjoyed this part.
Because (outside of one situation), I truly felt as though I got to play matchmaker. I got to weed through the emails and messages and find the few who felt like a good fit. I got to schedule the first dates at the farm, and make the introductions. And then I got to watch those first dates unfold, and stand on the side lines to see if this coupling was meant to be.
Would she ask the right questions? Would he respond with an answer that was appropriate? Would she laugh when he made a joke? Would he listen when she talked?
It was like being a mother to a son who was finally 16 years old and handing the keys over. Had I taught him well? Had I raised him to open the door and pull out the chair? Would he chew with his mouth closed and walk her to the door?
All of these things were important because they all determined if a second, or third, or fourth date would be scheduled. Or more importantly—a marriage proposal.
I lived for making these partnerships, because nothing brought me more happiness than watching these relationships unfold. At events, on social media, through texts and emails. I am in contact with every owner of every horse, some even the second or third in the chai of command.
She had owned Miko for most of his life-having gotten him as a spry 3 year old. Although 100% thoroughbred, the massive gangly gelding had never raced, and yet took to eventing like a fish out of water.
And although I had known them for most of their partnership together, I didn’t know as much as I did until I moved into the same small boarding barn with her-our horses filling almost half of the stalls there.
A few years ago, I knew she wanted to move up to training level. We went out and XC schooled together. We hacked together, and shared treatment responsibilities. I helped her kick over her first big corner, and she screamed at me to look up down a bank.
And in the spring of 2016, we scheduled to go around the course of Spring Bay after the competition had finished. But in a twist of events, I canceled. I had run my young horse around beginner novice and had a terrible ride. My mind wasn’t in the right place, and I didn’t feel like having a terrible ride on my big boy.
So Kelly asked her then husband to come with, and she kicked off. They flew over the first few fences, but then in a flash, everything unraveled.
A missed distance, a pick instead of a kick, and a bad spot led to Miko chipping hard to a galloping fence and Kelly getting kicked out of the tack.
I knew only seconds later when her husband called me in desperation to come get her horse while he joined her in the ambulance to the hospital. Within only a few moments, both hers and her horses lives were forever changed.
The doctors told Kelly that she wasn’t to ride again…ever.
She had suffered one too many severe concussions, and like an NFL player, was risking early onset Alzheimer’s, mental cognitive disability, and her life if she were to have another significant fall.
And with that, hers and Mikos dreams of eventing at the upper levels were over. But maybe more scarily, was that her one escape and therapy was gone, and with it, she didn’t know what to do with her heart horse.
Kelly and I spent many a night at the barn talking about this. At first, I tried to convince her that it wasn’t the worst thing to sell him. Find him a good home, and watch the journey unfold. But it quickly became obvious to me that she wasn’t ready to relinquish the reins that definitively.
We would go back and forward. With her saying she wasn’t ready, and then realizing that her horse needed a job. She would decide she wouldn’t live with herself if anything were to happen to him, but then realize that he needed the work.
And finally, after almost two years of back and forward, we talked about a care lease. Her life had changed significantly, and with it, so had her ability to keep Miko in the level of care he was used to.
Would she make money? No. But would she be paying the bills for a horse she just groomed? No. And in response to that, Miko could be making some other persons dreams come true.
And at about this time, I saw the worlds best Facebook status.
A friend of mine down south was looking for a been there, done that horse. She was in the process of adopting a teenage son out of foster care, and he wanted to ride. She needed a horse that could take a joke, pack a kid, and still run and jump. She didn’t care about their maintenance or their record, their color or their size, she just wanted them to be safe at 2’6 and fall in love with her family.
And I just knew that I had that horse.
I quickly messaged both of them, and explained each other’s story. I told Molly that Kelly had gone through hell, losing her ability to ride, and that she wanted the perfect home for Miko, because anything less than perfection would give her a heart attack. I told Kelly that I didn’t know if this young boy would be able to event Miko this year, but that both Molly and her husband were great horsemen and at the end of the day, he would be taken amazing care of.
And then I rubbed my sparkly fairy dust together, whispered my voodoo, and sent a prayer to the Horse Gods that this all worked out.
And it did.
Molly took Miko after talking to Kelly on the phone for hours, but without trying him. They both decided that a trial would be best and worst case scenario, he came back to Lexington in a month.
Only, I don’t think he will ever return.
Because in a true twist of fate, he has become everything Molly needed and more.
As her adoption fell apart, her live unraveled, and her other horses became fire breathing dragons, she swung onto this new horse, knowing so little about him. And he just recognized that this was his chance to help, and help he did.
So last weekend they entered an event. It was Miko’s first in over 3 years. It was Molly’s first in a year-having broken her leg on XC last spring. And it more importantly, it was their first together.
They danced through dressage, they boldly jumped stadium. And finally, as years of anxiety and nerves washed away, they cantered around XC like two old friends.
He had stepped up to the plate even though it wasn’t the plate he was was originally supposed to be at. He had held her hand during a superbly rough week, and taken care of her when she needed it the most. And he had brought her confidence back right when she needed that boost.
But maybe more importantly, was that Molly had shown Kelly that her horse was still loved. Still ok. And still happy doing that job that he loved.
I am so excited to watch this relationship unfold. Molly is planning on trekking herself and Miko up to Lexington in a month to enter May Daze HT where both Kelly and I will be.
That weekend will be a big deal for everyone. For Molly as she tackles her redemption ride at BN-her first time back at that level since the day she shattered her ankle. For Kelly as she transitions from rider to cheerleader. And for me, as I get to watch yet another couple that I matched leave that start box and gallop off into the sunset. We will all win that day, and I can’t wait for it to get here.