Originally, I had planned to get a horse in October. That time line wasn't going to work with this horse, however, because Steve needed him gone. Hay in Texas is incredibly expensive and I think they were tired of feeding a horse no one could ride. We agreed on April as the month I could move him north and with that plan, J and I started laying plans. I found a great stable about ten minutes north of where we live, with an indoor arena, outdoor arena and round pen. Ashke will need to be in a indoor stall, at least for a while, because all of their outdoor pens are full. (We have been placed on a waiting list, however.) I'm really glad in retrospect that he will be indoors, with his own space where he won't be fighting another horse for his food. I picked out the saddle I wanted and picked up basic horse tending equipment. On March 3, we went to the saddle shop to look at a pad saddle and they had the saddle I wanted for 30% off. Even though it wasn't planned, J and I didn't feel like we could pass on the price, so I got it. I had wanted the pad saddle for starting Ashke, but the regular saddle will work even better for breaking him in.
I didn't want to plan on moving him until I saw him. J and I coordinated with Steve and his family to travel to Texas the first part of March to see the horse. I think we were all very nervous when we got there. This is what greeted us:
He was in horrible shape. His hair was incredibly long, maybe six inches in someplaces due to the lack of muscle or fat on his body. He was covered in mud and horse poop, probably in an attempt to keep himself warm. The hair on his back and haunches was thin and straggly and he had sores on his back. When I asked about the scabbed over sores I was told they were probably made by the mare he was sharing the paddock with. It was obvious that he wasn't getting enough food. J could tell by the look on my face that this was 1) not what I was expecting, and 2) I was almost in tears at his condition.
His mane and tail were matted and tangled. You could count every bone on his body. There was no muscle anywhere and absolutely zero fat. The good news was that his feet and legs looked good and he was sweet tempered. He let T lead him around the corral with no issues. He has a sweet face but he's not real trusting of people. He's not nasty about it, he's just not overly friendly unless you have food.
You can see the bone structure of his front leg very clearly in this first picture. You aren't supposed to be able to see that.
Its amazing to me that a horse in this condition is still willing to walk across the corral and he even picked up a nice trot at one point when he thought there was food on the other side of the pen. It was also obvious that the owners weren't aware of how bad he looked. At one point they shared the story that during the winter he would get so cold he would visibly shake. They were amazed because they had never seen a horse do that. I wanted to snarl and scream at them that they were starving him to death and he was shaking because his body had no fuel to keep him warm, however, I also didn't want them deciding to keep him, nor did I want my working relationship with Steve compromised. So, I kept my mouth shut and just smiled and nodded while inside I was sobbing. I told J later that they would have had to give him away because no one in their right mind would want to pay money for a horse in that condition.
While we were there I measured his height - 15.1 hands, although he looks so much smaller because he is so thin. Steve and his wife kept talking about how small he was and I just kept thinking he really wasn't small, he was just thin.
After we left Steve's place we went to dinner and didn't really talk. I can't explain how deeply it hurt me to see Ashke in the condition he was in for a couple of reasons. First, he was so different from the horse I had visualized I felt almost cheated. I spent some time comparing the pictures we had taken to the Youtube video of Durango and I just wanted to cry. Crying because the horse that was given to me wasn't perfect seemed shallow, but after the psychotic horse mistake, I really had wanted to do this right. Second, I hurt bone deep because I knew I was his last hope. I kid you not. I felt like if I didn't rescue him he wasn't going to have a chance at survival. Steve had been given Ashke by a co-worker two years prior. At that time he was healthy and at a good weight. Pictures from last summer showed he had lost weight, about half of what he had originally. His current condition shows he lost everything between last summer and now. Finally, I had only spent an hour or so with Ashke, although I felt as if I knew him longer than that because of the research I had done into his heritage and siblings, and I felt that if I didn't take him home I was failing him. Call it fate or destiny or sheer good luck on his part, either way I was in a position to rescue him and if I didn't I would break faith with him. Crazy, huh?
I had traveled to Texas to take a look at him, because I wasn't willing to commit to a horse I hadn't seen. Its a good thing I did, because I am not sure he would have survived shipping. I had originally planned on having a equine shipping service move him for me, but after seeing him, I didn't think that was going to work. It also gave me the opportunity to get some extra money to Steve and ask him to feed Ashke extra over the three weeks between when we saw him and when we were picking him up. Steve told me he would feed Ashke separate and give him extra rations, since I told him I was worried about shipping him to a higher elevation and colder climate. He accepted my explanation and agreed to feed him more and separately. That was all I could do until we could move him North.