Saturday, March 31, 2012

A Very Important Conversation

The day after J and I returned to Colorado from Texas, we met a friend and her friend for lunch at La Loma. Our friend, L, is the mother of CJ, T's best friend. We've known each other for several years, done dinner and had camping weekends with our families. She is pretty wonderful and it's been a joy to get to know her and her husband, JJ. She has an Arabian gelding who is 19 years old and a close cousin to Thee Ashke. They have many of the same breeding lines, since they are both straight Egyptian. He is also a grey and she was excited and astounded when I was given him at Christmas. We spent a couple of hours one night comparing their pedigrees and it seemed appropriate that they were related.

When we were in Texas, I texted her the pictures of Ashke, and her response was, "Oh no, that's not what we were hoping for." My feelings exactly. The day after we got back from Texas, we met with L and her friend Jen for lunch. The only topic of discussion at lunch was Ashke. We talked about whether or not he was strong enough to ship, whether he was able to be rehabbed, what kind of long term effects the malnutrition would have on him, and what we could do to safely move him. I was very pessimistic. I just wasn't sure I wanted to commit to a horse that looked the way he did.

After lunch we went back to Jen's house to use the bathroom, still talking about Ashke. L suggested I move him to a new place in Texas until he was stronger. I told her I wasn't able to do that financially, that I wasn't willing to invest the money into a horse that was two states away. I was willing to take on the role of rescuer, but only if he could be moved to Colorado. She replied that sometimes we are given what we need not what we want, that it was fate that I was given Ashke and that I was the only one who could rescue him. I muttered something along the lines of I didn't want a horse that was as broken as he was. Both L and J agreed that I was very good at fixing broken things. I agreed that I was willing to send money to Steve for extra food between now and when we could go get him, but that was all I willing to do. I looked at L and said, "If you will help me move him North, instead of trying to ship him, than I will bring him home." L said she would help me do that. And she would have JJ drive so we could talk or play cards or hang out.

The conversation that day further reinforced the concept that I was Ashke's last hope and that fate had thrown him in my path. I felt humbled by the offer from my friend to help me rescue him. I felt responsible for his future happiness and health. I gave in that day and decided that sometimes things happen for a reason. And I began planning another road trip to Amarillo, this time riding in the back seat of a double cab Ford F-350 with a three horse slant load trailer flying behind us.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

My First Time in Texas

Despite all of the research and the questions I asked Steve, I was still disbelieving the reality of being given a horse. Part of me was excited that he was the breed and close to the age of the horse I wanted and him being a gelding was a plus. However, I had my heart set on a pampered, well-bred, well-handled horse of a particular lineage (Padron's Psyche offspring crossed with a Bey Shah offspring). Those horses were the ones I was drawn to the most and what I was most excited about purchasing. After researching Arabians Ltd. (the barn he was bred in), I knew he had the lineage, early handling and looks to be the kind of horse I wanted, but I wasn't sure he was going to be the one. I was still on the fence.

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.

How it Went

I had spent hours online looking at Arabians, familiarizing myself with their bloodlines, and during that process I had connected with a breeder in CA who's horses I had fallen in love with. If you look up GG Durango on Youtube, you will find the horse I am talking about. I had hopes that he would still be available for me to purchase when I hit the point at which I could afford to spend several thousand dollars on the horse of my dreams. The owner had offered him to me a week prior to my company Christmas party at a reduced price. I was in tears because I couldn't accept. We didn't have even the reduced price and when you are paying off credit cards the last thing you can do is make a large purchase on one. I had recommitted myself to waiting, knowing it was what was best for my family and our long term goals.

The night of our Christmas party I was talking with my co-worker who lives in Texas. I must have been thinking about the offer for Durango because I brought up my wanting a horse with my co-worker, Steve. This is the conversation that ensued:

     Steve: "You want a horse? I'll give you a horse."
     Me: "Yeah, right."
     Steve: "I'm serious. You want a horse? I'll give you a horse, I have three."
     Me: "Yeah, you probably have Quarter Horses, right?"
     Steve: "I have a couple of those. You want a Quarter Horse?"
     Me: "Nah, I don't want a Quarter Horse. I'm looking for an Arabian."
     Steve: "I have one of those too. You want an Arabian? I have one I'll give to you."
     Me: "An Arabian? Purebred?"
     Steve: "Yep. Straight Egyptian Arabian gelding. Bred to the nines." (Bred to the nines is good.)
     Me: (Imagining a 20 year old) "How old?"
     Steve: "He's five. I think." (He's actually going to be seven on April 17.)
     Me: "Are you serious? You would really give me the horse?"
     Steve: "I'm serious. I will give you the horse. He's white. Course I can paint him any color you want."
     Me: " J come over here. Steve is offering to give me a horse."

The conversation went from there. At the end of it, I sat down at a table with my hands clasped before me, not saying anything. Afraid to breathe. Afraid to move. Afraid to believe. Afraid that if I did any of those things the offer would shatter into a million pieces. At one point, Steve stood up to make a toast and announced to the whole room that he had given away a horse. I figured if he was going to make it a general announcement that he must be serious about it.

Monday morning I called his worksite to check and make sure that sober he was still interested. He was. That started the process of getting me some information to work with in researching who he was.

Thee Ashke is bred from Straight Egyptian bloodlines. This is his daddy:
This lineage is used mostly as halter show horses and is bred for the refined neck and face of a true Egyptian Arabian. His lineage can be traced back generations to the original Bedouin breeders of the Arabian horse. Although Ashke was bred for halter, there should be no reason why he wouldn't excell at Endurance, considering what his ancestors were used for in the Middle East.

From the Pyramid Society: During the early 19th century, the ruling families of Egypt gathered the finest horses from the deserts of Arabia and brought them to the land of the Pyramids. This extraordinary collection, unrivaled since the time of King Solomon, became the foundation for the modern-day Egyptian Arabian.

I was very excited and yet, something inside me was still waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Christmas to Remember

Last year I made an agreement with my partner, J. I manage our budget and I promised to get us out of credit card debt in a year if we could talk about my getting a horse after that. See, I grew up with horses and they had been a huge part of my life. I was in my early twenties when I left Idaho and my horse to move to LA. Life in LA was a struggle financially and although I was scraping by, I had nothing left over to take care of my horse. I left Queenie in Nampa, Idaho as a gift to a 13 year old girl. I thought the two of them would take good care of each other, not suspecting that her father would sell Queenie out from under his daughter less than a year later. In LA, I tried to find a way to do horses, sometimes paying for the privilege of riding, sometimes trying to find anyone with a horse they would let me mess with. I worked for an Arabian horse breeder, working with his foals, until he let me know I would have to pay for the privilege with sexual favors. After that the horse riding was few and far between and always cost me. Finally, I moved to Colorado.

In 1991, I decided I was going to buy a horse and try again. I had been riding horses for other people, doing some breaking and some training and just enjoying being on a horse, but I really didn't want to wait on the generosity of others. I decided I wanted to learn to ride dressage and was looking for a horse with energy and flair. What I got was a horse with a psychosis. She was afraid of everything. I worked her for two years and it never got any better. I finally sold her after she ripped a railroad tie out of the ground and proceeded to beat herself unconscious with it. That day, I had a friend with me who had never been around horses and she was almost hit by the flying end of the railroad tie. I finally realized that this beautiful, spirited horse was going to kill someone or herself if she wasn't careful. So sold she was and I was once again horseless.

Fast forward almost twenty years to now. Now I am going to try again. I have set my goal on Endurance riding, but am open to suggestion. Mostly I just want a horse to connect with, to ride, to enjoy, the way I enjoyed my little Appaloosa mare. J agreed in August of last year. My time frame was October 2012. We will have met our goals of being debt free. And as excited as I am about picking the perfect horse, J is just as excited to purchase a new Ford pickup to pull around our horse trailer. So our evenings in the fall and the beginning of winter were devoted to window shopping: me for the perfect Arabian gelding somewhere between 3 and 5 years old; J shopping for the perfect truck to haul around a camper and horse trailer.

And then the unthinkable happened. At my company's Christmas party this year a co-worker offered me a free horse, Straight Egyptian Gelding, age 7. Unbroke. I don't think I completed another full sentence the rest of the night. All I could do was hold myself completely still inside and wait for the other shoe to drop, not daring to believe. We agreed on April for me to take possession. To move him from Amarillo to Colorado. They forwarded me the information they had on him and I began to research his background.

Thee Ashke was born in Waco, Texas, on a breeding farm known as Arabians Ltd. His father, Thee Asil, is still standing there and Ashke was one of his first foals. He is out of a mare named Bint Kieshta. He was sold as a weanling with another gelding from the farm to a woman who bought them for her daughter. The daughter decided she wanted to do barrel racing with a proper Quarter horse, promptly tried to sell them. The bay sold, but Ashke did not. At least not right away. He was finally purchased by a woman who wanted him so she would have a bay, a black and a grey horse. This woman eventually gave him to my co-worker when she moved to Illinois. For two years he's stood in the pasture waiting for someone to come along that wanted him. My co-worker tried to get him trained, but the trainer kept him two days and then declared him unfit to train. My co-worker didn't want to keep feeding him and offered him to me.

Next up, what we found on our trip to Amarillo  . . . .