Friday, August 22, 2008

The Best Decision ~ A Joe Update

I made a very difficult decision last year, and that decision was to sell Joe. Joe is (or was) a 6 year old Quarterhorse gelding that I bought a few months after Turbo's death. He was going to be my trail-riding buddy. But of course, with other horses, kids, and a household, my trail riding plans are unfortunately few and far between.

After 2 years of only sporadic working together, Joe began to lose his patience with me. I could tell he was becoming unhappy and bored. Joe is a very charismatic, smart, funny, outgoing horse. Standing around in a paddock eating all day was not his idea of fun (although my girls don't seem to mind it at all). When I did get time to take Joe out, he would be so over-enthusiastic that I couldn't manage to channel his enthusiasm into a productive outlet.

I thought long and hard about it, but I had learned a lesson a few years prior. I was always very proud that I wouldn't be "one of those owners" that dump their horse at the first sign of trouble. I am committed to my horses. I love them, and provide them with the best home. They are kept barefoot, fed hay 24/7, safe fencing, an interesting paddock lots of hills for condition and nooks and crannies to investigate, the best food, minimal chemical interevention, and gentle, natural horsemanship type training with the animals best interests taken to heart.

Well, that last item, with the animals best interests taken to heart, can become clouded by our own pride. What could be a better home than mine? What horse really wants to work? Horses don't mind standing around eating and relaxing at all, in fact it is what they would rather do, right? I was committed.

And then I met *Wind Traveler. Trav was my first Curly horse, and I bought him as a young colt. I had a baby at the time, and not much time to spend with the horses, other than daily feeding, handling, grooming, etc. Then Trav was 2, and it was time to start some groundwork and relationship work with him. He was becoming pushy and obnoxious. I will admit, that I really didn't get along with Trav much at all. I don't think he liked me, either. It was nothing personal, we just didn't mesh. But I was proud, and I was going to work through our differences, and we would be friends eventually and riding partners.

I had my trainer come over, and Traveler did NOT like being told what to do, at all! He reared and struck out at her, and at that point I decided it was time to geld him. I put the training on hold, scheduled his brain surgery, and it was done in October. I had him scheduled to go for a month training with a John Lyons trainer in January. It was obvious he was more than I could handle at the time, and we needed someone with some more experience. But I was committed to this horse, and was going to keep him for life no matter what. I never sell a horse.

In January, there was an ice storm on the weekend we were going to bring Trav up to Maine for training. So we postponed it until April and better weather. Then on February 2nd, Trav somehow managed to impale himself on an 8 inch long, 1/2" diameter oak stick. Peritonitis had already begun to set in by the time he was found. We decided not to put him through heroic measures of 30 days of 24/7 IV antibiotic flushes and the certain risk of laminitis, and decided to humanely euthanize him.

I am ashamed to admit that I felt a little bit of relief. I can't say why, but there it was. My husband was devastated, and I had no idea how he had connected with Trav, a non-horse person, but he had.

So there you have it. If I wasn't so proud, and had admitted that Trav was too much horse for me, and found him a more appropriate home, he may not have had to die in order to get out of here, where he didn't belong.

So when it became obvious to me that Joe was unhappy, I decided to do the right thing .... for him. I now feel that my presence in his life was merely to serve as a catalyst, to bring him from Iowa to New England and keep him until his rightful owner was in the right place in her life for him.

I advertised Joe for sale in a number of places, both online and locally. I had planned to send him to a trainer for a tune-up, since I hadn't ridden him much, and couldn't really speak to his level of training or what he would be suitable for in his advertisements.

I was contacted as I arranged for a trainer, by a young lady who seemed very interested. She was very insistent that he was the horse for her, and even came out to see him when I wasn't home, even though I had left her a message at home cancelling the appointment and asking to rescheduled because of a doctors appointment.

She was quite insistent, so I agreed to let him go on a 1 month trial, to make sure they got along well, and for my own peace of mind that he would be well cared for. This young lady talked about how much she loves her horses and takes care of them, and that she would never subject them to "that Quarterhorse training", they are all so mean, etc., etc.

I dropped Joe off at a quant little family barn, with just a dozen horses in individual paddocks attached to their stalls, and the owner living on the premises. It seemed nice. Joe waltzed in like he owned the place (he always does), and settled right in. It seemed good.

She rode him a few times, then the phone calls started coming. She needed to put shoes on him, the boots I provided were rubbing and he was sore on gravel (although he wasn't sore on gravel at home). He spooked at the yellow lines in a parking lot. He refused to cross a stream. Then he started to act up after he "got a spanking" for not crossing the stream. He started to buck when he was forced to do something he was unsure of, rather than letting him take the time to sniff it and decided if it was OK. After he was still being forced with a crop, he started to rear. But he only behaved this way with the one person, not her friends or "trainer".

Everyone loved him at the barn, and nobody wanted to see him leave. But he continued to act up, and act out. I arranged to visit, to try to see what was going on. When I arrived at a predesignated time (and I was on time, which is a miracle itself), he had just been turned out into a grass pasture from his usual dirt lot. When the girl caught him (easily enough), she decided, for some reason, to run with him toward me and the gate, away from the horse he was turned out with. Now, Joe is a confident, herd-leader horse. He likes buddies, but he is confident enough to not need a horse with him at all times. But these people made him herd-bound, by doing everything with her friends horse. They rode them together, always, turned them out together always, lead them together, always. It was quite odd.

Anway, as she runs in with Joe, he pulls away, breaking the snap and taking off at a dead run around the pasture. He wants nothing to do with being taken off grass, and the horse he was with went into a tizzy fit, racing around, snorting and blowing as if he had a tiger on his tail.

I stood still, waited for Joe to slow down, then walked up to him and took him by the halter. I asked her for the lead and looped it on, then handed the lead to her to head out the gate.

Joe shouldered into her, barged ahead, and was a total BUTT about leading. I took the lead, and showed her how to lead him (basics, right? an experienced horseperson?) If he barges ahead, ask him to back up. Ask him to take his shoulder away if he gets in your space. She insisted she "can't be mean to him". Joe was walking on a loose draped lead with his chin at his knees with me and his "buddy" way up ahead and almost out of sight. With her, he pushed, and shoved and barged. It was horribly obvious, but I am certainly no magical horse trainer!

When we went back to his paddock, she fed him about half a bag of carrots, then talked about how much he likes donuts, and Slurpees, and all this other crap. How much he likes his treats, etc. I looked him over, and he did not have a sore back, nor sore feet (but the feet were too long with those horrid shoes on). But he did have a big crease down his back, and a cresty neck. He was FAT! I told he she had to stop feeding him all that crap or he would founder, and it likely didn't help his attitude or energy level, either. I showed her how to lead him, I told her that she was letting him walk all over her. He tried bumping me a few times, and I politely asked him to stay out of my space, which he did. But he continued to mug her, push her, get in her space, and he basically herded her around! Joe is a Watch Joe Jack bred hot little cutting bred gelding. So he is damn smart, and dominant, too. Its not rocket science to handle these horses, but maybe it is?

The girl decided that she was going to try sending him to a trainer. Two weeks later she called and changed her mind. Everyone had convinced her that it would never work out. I agreed, wholeheartedly. So now I had a horse that had developed bad habits at someone elses barn, a horse I had for sale, and I had already turned down a few prospective buyers, after all, he was there for 6 weeks!

I found Jenn of Roundtuit Ranch willing to take him and tune him up, and entertain perspective buyers, with an arena so he can be ridden there (which I don't have). Joe was delivered, mostly without incident (but without a halter), and spent 3 weeks with Jenn.

Joe never put a single hoof out of place while there. He never acted up, or attempted to act up once. He was the perfect gentlemen. Jenn put him through his paces, lunged, free-lunged, walk, jog, lope, back-up, tied, roped, and dragged stuff around on him, and he was just perfect. I visited him there numerous times, and he was happy, confident, and respectful. Finally, someone that gave him direction!

A few people came to see him, some interested, some less so. I had him listed for what I had paid for him 2 years prior. Most people wanted to spend significantly less, so I'm not sure why they were looking at him anyway.

Then I got an email from his Dreamhorse ad, the mother of a teenage girl looking for her first horse. At first I wasn't sure if a young girl would be right for Joe, since he can be a bit dominant. I explained to the mother that Joe LOVES children (he does!) but that he can be a little dominant and pushy if he is allowed to walk all over you, so needs someone that is more on the confident side, not a timid person. She said her daughter had been taking lessons and riding horses for 4 or 5 years, and had been saving up for her own horse, and that they would contact the barn owner and go look at him.

A week or so later, I got a call from Jenn, the barn owner. The young girl had been out to see and ride Joe a number of times, and they were very interested! She said that Joe went perfectly for her, and they seemed like the perfect match. Since Jenn does this for a business, I had to put my trust in her that she knew what she was doing.

The arrangements were made, and Joe was sold to a teenage girl I'll call "L" in August of 2007. (I won't share her name or location for her own privacy). I ended up selling Joe for quite a bit less than I had him listed for, and I also had to pay another $650 for his 3 weeks at the training/sale barn, but after speaking with L's mother, I was less concerned with the money, and thrilled that Joe had found his match!

L has kept in touch with me every few months with little updates and photos of she and Joe. She sent me Christmas photos, and High School graduation photos. And she gave me permisson to share this most recent update and photo. My heart melts, and I get all teary eyed thinking about the wheels that needed to be set in motion to make this all come together for them. And how thankful I am that Trav taught me that lesson (or maybe thankful that I was able to see the lesson in that situation). And now I know, that Joe was never truly "my" horse. He was never meant to be my horse. I was the middleman. I was the catalyst to get him across the country, and keep him fed and healthy until L was ready for him.

I didn't have a horse of my own as a young child. I am thrilled that I was able to make it happen for another.

Hi there Michelle,

How have you been? I hope all is well and that you have been having a great riding season/summer! Everything is great here, I just wanted to let you know how Joe and I are doing together since on August the 16 it had been a year since he had come home!!!!

Joe and I are going wonderfully together! He has excelled in almost every way possible, it's amazing what a year's time can bring. We ride almost every day and he loves it (especially the part when we're done and he gets his abundance of treats, hugs, and kisses)!!!! I am telling you, he LOVES to run! I love to run too so it works out perfectly!!!! In the evenings we go up a certain stretch of dirt road by the barn and his whole demeanor changes: he gets all excited and jazzed up and the minute I say the word "lope..." I don't even have to use any leg, just the word and it's like shooting a bullet out of a gun...he takes off up the road and when we stop at the top of the road he's ready to either keep going or go back and do it again!!!! He is just one amazing horse. He has become so confident and no matter the situation he puts his trust in me. I am so happy that he has become my horse because I really love him to pieces! I am pretty sure he is very happy, too!!!! : )

Sometime I'd love it if you'd come see him...maybe we could all go on a nice trail ride someday. You and I could finally meet, you could see Jojo again, and Joe could reunite with one of his old horsey friends again!!!


and ......

Hi there Michelle,

Of course you could share my e-mails! I really do not mind. I think it would be great to show people how much I adore Joe and how far we have come in just a year, because he really has simply blossomed! **HE IS A STAR** Of course, I think it was WONDERFUL that you sold Joe because he has made my young life feel so complete and enriched. My buying Joe from you was the single best thing that I have ever done. I can't tell you enough how wonderful it feels to finally have a horse of my own. Before I bought Joe, I had been taking care of and riding other people's horses since I was thirteen years old; although I enjoyed it, it's just not the same as having a horse of my own. To me there's nothing like heading to the barn after a crappy day at work or school and seeing Joe come loping through the paddock and over to the fence to greet me...I can't help but smile and think of how lucky I am.

It makes me feel so happy to read that you feel as if you made the right decision in selling Joe to me. I want to assure you that my home will be the last home Joe will ever have. I want him to grow old with me. In your selling and my buying Joe, not only have I found a wonderful horse and a great riding partner but I have also found a lifelong friend and companion.

Hope to hear from you soon!!!!



Kim said...

Michelle, this brought tears to my eyes, as I'm sure it did yours too. Its nice to have that validation that you did the right thing! Kim G.

Life at Star's Rest said...

I often used to feel I was the 'matchmaker' in horses' lives. In fact, I used to be known as Buy High and Give Away! Glad your Joe found his true home. Carmon

LJB said...

Tears in my eyes, too. I like the idea of being a catalyst for some of the horses that come to us. I tend to think "lifetime if I own" but in truth, that's not necessary in their best interest, as you put it.