30 June 2011

The Mare Backstory - Part Two

Standing there, looking at this horrible creature, my mind whirled with the promise I had made to my husband - that I would not bring home another disaster. This mare was way beyond disaster. Then the hunter confirmation judge piped up and said the mare had wonderful confirmation. "Just look at her bone structure!"

That was all I could see. Bones, bones and more bones. It would take months to repair the damage done to this horse. I wanted to compete. I had goals. I had the money for something really fancy and I didn't want to wait. My mind continued to whirl with all the reasons I should just walk away, but I didn't. I allowed my friends to convince me to stick around long enough to watch one of the exercise riders hop up on her.

The guy came from behind the old starting gate with a snaffle over his shoulder, carrying a beat up racing saddle with a cloth girth. I hadn't seen one of those since I was a child. He was the smallest adult male I had ever seen. He cooed to the mare, went in her pen and reaching as high as he could, he plucked slime off the mare's back; just enough to slap the saddle on her. He wedged the snaffle between her teeth, grabbed the flap and lifted his left foot off the ground.

When no one moved, he glared over his shoulder, spoke some curt Spanish barb and I stepped into the mire to give him a leg up. He didn't weigh a thing. He pointed to a dilapidated fenced in area that looked like it might have been an arena a thousand years ago. Curious, we trudged after him to see what would happen next.

The space was oval shaped and very large. At one end was a dismal gray silo attached to a building who's roof had long ago caved in under the weight of one too many Colorado blizzards. Large nails protruded from the few boards left hanging on spindly posts. Barbed wire bundles lay scattered about, coiled like rattle snakes. Someone's futile attempt at an abandoned clean up job.

The rider was highly skilled. His short stirrups drew his knees into right angles so when the mare started trotting, he stood up perfectly balanced over her center of gravity. He piloted her around, allowing her to get a feel for him on a nice loose rein. In all of her dreariness, encrusted in manure, rail thin bones protruding - she floated around the arena.

I felt a sharp jab in my ribs from the hunter judge's pointy elbow. Cocking her head in the mare's direction, her look said "What did I tell you?"

There was water pooled in the arena. The rider sensed that the mare was thirsty and he trotted her over for a drink. The mare splashed into the pond sized puddle. It turned deep fast. In three steps she was belly deep, taking long savory gulps. Her rider pushed her forward and she waded through, coming out the other side. My first thought was she probably wouldn't have any difficulty at a cross country water complex. Like he read my mind, the rider picked up a canter and circled the mare back around to the long strip of water. Judging perfectly, she sailed over the span, landed and changed leads.

I was impressed. Both friends were grinning from ear to ear. The rider jumped her over the water several times and then asked the mare to quietly wade through, offering her another drink. He looked over at us with a questioning face and I shook my head. I didn't need to see any more.

We turned around to leave and there was the barn owner, standing with his arms crossed over his chest. Walking past him, I said one number.


He laughed. I nodded and we wound our way back to the car. On the drive home, I put the mare out of my mind. She wasn't worth my time...

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