To ride dressage is to dance with your horse, equal partners in the delicate and sometimes difficult work of creating harmony and beauty.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Once upon a time...

. . . don't all fairy tales start that way? Yes, once upon a time, I attended the Oregon State Fair with my toddler and husband. Rick was the horse show vet for the day, so we spent a fair amount of our time at that venue.

Just outside the warm-up arena, I noticed a handsome horse . . . a strikingly handsome stallion. He was standing there saddled but riderless, calm and quiet, while many of the horses being warmed up acted less than well trained. I wandered over to get a closer look, and struck up a conversation with the horse's owner. He introduced me to Dino, his adopted Kiger mustang who was rounded up by the BLM as a four-year-old (a fact that made his gentlemanly demeanor even more impressive). After watching Dino move, I was so enamored that I wished out loud for a good mare he could service in order to see what he could produce for a dressage mount – he was that nice!
Riddle Me Dino

But I didn't have a mare; I had Russell, and I was very happy with him. He was progressing nicely in dressage and taking excellent care of my little boy:
Brian scaling "Mt. Russell" just days after that fateful State Fair

The horse my dad called "one in 20,000"
Fast forward seven years to this summer. I was leasing Larry and wishing for a horse to call my own. Having given Russell away to the perfect semi-retirement home, I had no budget to speak of. I had looked at a couple horses owned by clients of Rick's who owed him money, but we either couldn't work out a trade or the horses weren't what I was interested in. Then two different friends almost simultaneously suggested I look into adopting a horse from the BLM. So look into it I did, and in the process, learned: 1) "mustangs" can be a mixture of TB remount, ranch horse and draft blood, which could result in a very nice dressage-type horse; 2) a friend of a friend could get me into the closest holding facility to get a good look at prospects; 3) I could afford the adoption fee of $125 and even get it gentled for free through the Trainer Incentive Program; and 4) Kevin Sink, that stunning Kiger stallion's owner, is an approved T.I.P. trainer. (THAT was a blast from the past; I hadn't thought much about them nor could I have recalled the names of horse or owner without this development.) I started getting excited about a road trip to potentially choose my new partner.

But that plan was derailed – or at least moved onto a sidetrack – by two things. First, the BLM's holding facility in Burns, OR was closed to visitors due to a big influx of newly rounded up horses thanks to huge range fires in their herd management areas. And second, just as I was wrapping up Larry's month of training for his new owner, my friend Sylvia called, urging me to take Horton in for training. Seeing as we needed the additional income, I put thoughts of getting my own horse on the back burner and agreed.

In August, while my son was visiting my folks in Texas, Rick invited me to ride with him to a vet appointment over at the coast. He figured we could take advantage of the rare opportunity to have a date after he finished his call. So off we went. In the course of visiting with the client, she mentioned breeding for buckskins or duns because she and her daughter show on that circuit. With a newly refreshed memory, I piped up, "I know which stallion I'd use in that case!" When she asked which one, I said, "Kevin Sink's Kiger stallion." The client laughed out loud and pointed to the horse in the corner stall – a tall, good-looking colt who had already caught my eye – and said, "That's his daddy!" She had bred her short palomino mustang mare to Dino in hopes of getting a short Western-type filly, but instead got Lancelot, a tall, English-type gelding. The only part of her wishes that was fulfilled was the red dun packaging! I rued aloud that I didn't have space or budget to take him off her hands, and Rick and I bid her and her lovely colt good-bye.

On September 7 my phone rang. It was Rick's client, asking if I would be interested in Lance. She had put him in training at a barn here in the valley for the month of September in order to see what he was best suited for in order to market him. After the first ride or two the trainer said "dressage," and suggested the owner call me. I reiterated that I had no space or money; she offered to keep Lance for the cost of hay until I had space available, and trade out his purchase price on her vet bill. Then she suggested I go try him out, and the rest is history . . . most of it still waiting to be written – and ridden.

"Well, look who's coming through the door
I think we've met somewhere beforeHello love, hello love
Where in the world have you been so long?I've missed you so since you've been goneHello love, hello love
Make yourself feel right at homeI'll hope you plan on staying longCome in love, come in love
I must say I was sure surprisedYou're the last thing I expected byHello love, hello love
I've heard it said time and againYou'll often go back where you've beenI really didn't believe it was trueBut I left the door unlocked for you
I'll try to please you in every wayAssure you of a pleasant stayThis time love, this time love...."


A :-) said...

I'm wishing with all my heart that this turns out to be the horse you have been wanting for so long - that maybe this is finally your Camelot :-)

Michelle said...

Me too, Adrienne . . . me too.

Cheyenne said...

Fingers crossed for this one! Sometimes the right thorse comes along. We have a saying here,
"Whats for you, will not go by you!"

Its truer than most people think.

Lori Skoog said...

Just caught up. A lot has been going on in your life. Hope it all works out for you and the horse, he is a beauty and is sire is a knockout.

sylkan said...

Wow! I love this story. Here I sit all snot & tears. Sounds like this horse was just meant to be yours. Don't let this blog evaporate into the ether. You will need it for the book you write about him someday. You will have time "someday" and you sure can write. Hugs!

Michelle said...

And I LOVE the Camelot reference! Maybe I'll have to work that into the title of my book (that Sylvia mentioned below) someday!

Michelle said...

Thanks, Cheyenne; it sure does seem that Lance and I were meant for each other. :-)

Michelle said...

Yes, it's been a whirlwind month, Lori!

Michelle said...

I don't know how many people would read the story about "a (middle-aged) girl and her horse," but the thought has crossed my mind. I hope the story is another couple decades in the making, though!

shelly hancock said...

Ohhh! Just getting caught up with your blog here. What an exciting time. I think the 'regret test' is a useful tool. Lance is indeed a handsome young horse, and his sire really does have incredible presence. I'm looking forward to more updates. (sigh, it's been awhile since I've wished for a horse...)

Michelle said...

Shelly, are horses another thing we have in common that I didn't know about?

shelly hancock said...

A love of horses yes! But I haven't had my own since my early 20's. A pinto mare of unknown background. Best trail riding horse ever. Steady and sensible when it counted, with enough attitude to keep things interesting. It was a great partnership. When my life situation changed, I gifted her to another person, who was greatly taken with her. (Boy, did she know how work a crowd, and endear herself to people. Especially people with horse treats.) He'd never had a horse before. He was always telling me how much she brought to his life. He kept her and treasured her until the end of her days.

A :-) said...

Well he's your Lancelot . . . :-)