Erin was a fancy tomato soup colored chestnut Holsteiner mare. I raised her from a weanling, started her as a late two year old and rode her until she was four. She was a delight, a real character who adored flat work and dressage, but looked down her nose in distain at anything higher than two inches off the ground. When faced with any height, Erin chose demolition. She crushed cavaletti, snapped ground poles and crashed through jumps, scattering flower boxes, roll tops and standards all over the arena. I got the hint pretty quick.
Take her out of the jump ring and into the indoor, where the climate controlled perfection of 72 degrees suited her perfectly, she would effortlessly perform perfect circles, straight lines and lateral work, voltes, pirouettes, changes (you name it) in the manicured rubberized footing. She would go all day in there - oftentimes putting up a fuss when it was time to leave. She had an amazing work ethic - for a dressage queen.
I was an event rider.
I tried to take her outside, where she could enjoy some time turned out in a nice grassy paddock or go on a trail ride. She hated it. She would shiver and shimmy and scream at the top of her lungs until she got back inside. She was happiest living a pampered, clipped, blanketed, climate controlled life. Her new owner felt exactly the same way. They were perfect for each other. In fact, Erin went on to compete and win big at the Devon Horse Show for many years. I was incredibly proud of her, bless her little pea pickin' heart!
Her sale enabled me to go shopping for something big and bold, who loved to gallop and jump.
There was only one small difficulty - I couldn't find anything. I searched for months, canvasing the west for a sound, talented, healthy event horse. It was exasperating!
One of my friends had purchased an OTTB from a sale barn in Denver. She'd spent the winter working with her new horse and he was coming along really well. I figured it couldn't hurt to visit and asked two friends to come along. We agreed to head up that Sunday. I brought my bridle and saddle along in case I found something worth riding.
My friends were experts in their fields. One was a nationally ranked hunter confirmation judge, the other was the manager of the largest equestrian show facility in Colorado Springs. They knew horseflesh and together we made a very knowledgeable team. They were excited to help me find just the right horse and within minutes of our arrival, they had perused the stalls and lined up several horses for me to ride.
While they were checking confirmation, blemishes, athletic ability, mental capacity and emotional status on each of the horses, I was observing the exercise riders as they put each horse through a quick warm-up. If I liked what I saw during the warm-up, I would hop on and take the horse around to see how it felt. Two of the horses appealed to me and when I handed them back to the grooms, I asked them to keep the horses ready for me to try again.
The sale barn was crowded for a Sunday and I rode several more horses before I figured out that there was something fishy going on.
People were hanging around the ring watching the exercise riders and then observing me ride. My friends were busy inspecting the other horses. When I finished riding the fifth horse, I noticed that the horses I had an interest in, were gone. I asked the grooms where the horses went. They told me they'd been sold! Those folks hanging around the ring had purchased them right out from under me. I was none too pleased.
Furious, I found the owner and confronted him. His response, and I quote, "You're very good for business!" While I was busy giving him a piece of my mind, my friends had another idea. They disappeared.
The facility was laid out with the main barn centrally located. All the best, newest, sleekest and fanciest horses were in there. Those that hadn't sold in the first two weeks of their arrival were in the next tier of smaller barns. Behind those were horses in three sided sheds and way in the back, amid old rubble, junk car parts and huge piles of rotting manure were small, muck mired pens housing the worst horses on the property - those slated for the killer. Buyers were strongly encouraged to stay in the main barn, so while the owner and I were having words, unbeknownst to me, my friends snuck off to look around back.
When I finished my conversation, I hung out by the car and waited. I just wanted to go home. The trip was a total bust and I didn't want to waste any more of my time. When I saw the two of them sneaking out from behind a rusted old Chevy pickup, I was curious. Wearing toothy smiles, they told me they'd found my new horse. I thought they were joking. When they took me down the junk infested path to the back of the property, I questioned their sanity. In a pen, behind a paint peeling, bent and twisted starting gate, was a huge dark colored mare. It was difficult to tell her color. She was thickly coated in dried manure. Even her eyelids, shadowing enormous, sad black eyes, were caked in slime. I counted every bone in her body. Her massive head caused her to look all out of proportion. I couldn't see her feet. She was standing knee deep in muck, but I figured they were rotting off the bottom of her legs. There wasn't one tiny strand of hay to be found. There were no dead leaves, not one twig and the ground 6 inches outside the pen had been scoured of any edible materials. There was no water, no bucket, no hose. The mare was dehydrated and dying of starvation.
Looking at my friends, my mouth dropped completely open. I was appalled and wanted no part of this...