Some weeks back I teased my readers by telling you I’d gotten a new horse. Which I had. Why has it taken me so long to write about him? Partially, it was because he isn’t Zelda. Finn needed a new home and I needed a new horse, but it wasn’t until recently that I started to look forward to seeing him rather than her. So now it’s time to introduce Finn, an 8 year old, 17H+ TB gelding. And yes, while I wrote about all the rules to follow when buying a horse (Why I Hate Horse Shopping), I broke a good many of them with him.
After Zelda died, I realized I needed another horse. I started scouring Dream Horse, joined Facebook groups and looked at some Standardbred rescue organizations. My preference was to get a horse that needed a home (I’m not going to show and there are so many rescues that have nice horses) and I most certainly was not going to buy another OTTB. I’d decided I was too old to restart another horse off the track about 10 years ago and Zelda had convinced me that a draft cross was a good choice.
I went to see an adorable Percheron-TB cross gelding, but he was only three and not yet started under saddle (although his ground work was impeccable). I went and rode a nice TB gelding about an hour from me, who seemed like a good candidate, and of course, I called my friend Ellen, who used to own Zelda and who found Freedom for me (she was the Executive Director of CANTER NE and has a great eye for a horse). She knew of a gelding in North Carolina who had been bred by friends, and washed out as a racehorse (he finished last in all four races). They were selling him because the wife was fighting colon cancer and didn’t have time for him. In the “it’s a small world” department, the husband had helped Ellen bring Freedom back after his first adoption didn’t work out, and Zelda had lived on their farm for a year or so when she was first for sale.
I promised my friend Suzanne that I would not buy a horse the first week and I didn’t. I waited two weeks to fly to NC to see the horse. Here’s a piece of free advice. If you are driving outside of a major city, don’t rent an electric car unless you are absolutely certain that there are charging stations along your route. I left the Raleigh-Durham airport with the battery at 64% charge, not as much as I would have liked, but enough to get me to a Walmart Super Charging Station about 10 miles from my destination. What the app didn’t tell me was that 3 out of the 4 charging stations were broken and there were three cars ahead of me. Eager to see the horse, I kept going, figuring I could plug the car in when I got there and get a trickle charge. Wrong. The charging cord in the car didn’t work! I had 7% charge when I arrived and felt like a character from the old Billy Crystal movie, City Slickers. I’d passed about a hundred gas stations by this point and was kicking myself and cursing Hertz.
When I finally got to their farm, I had the chance to spend some time with Finn, who was living out in a 10-acre field with a small herd. Although he’d been in dressage training after his failure as a racehorse, he hadn’t been ridden in almost a year. He was underweight and had no muscle. He was a nice-looking horse with a kind eye, good feet and a friendly demeanor. The couple had arranged to have someone ride him for me the next day so I headed back to the charging station with my fingers crossed that I would get there and that I wouldn’t be there all night. By the time I arrived, I was down to a 3% charge but there was only one car ahead of me. Forty-five minutes later, I had a full charge and with great relief, headed to the hotel.
Day 2 started with taking Finn to a training facility where the rider was going to meet us. Great, I got to watch him load up, trailer and react to being in a new place. It all went well except that the rider never showed up. So, we trailered back to their farm where I faced a dilemma. One of my rules is to never ride a horse that the owner won’t ride for you. Especially a horse that hasn’t been ridden in a year. But, she was too sick to ride and I’d flown to NC, then driven two hours to see this horse. We lunged him for a few minutes and then I got on him.
It went fine, although I don’t recommend riding a strange horse unless you believe the people selling him are being honest about his temperament. I didn’t do much. It was over 100 degrees, he was thin and out of shape, and I was riding in a dressage saddle that almost fit me, but not quite. He was pretty level-headed about the experience, which included the rest of the herd galloping around the field next to where I rode. He felt like a good fit and took up my leg. Sold.
It just so happened that JR Hudson had a van coming up from Florida in three days. Just enough time to get a health certificate, an up-to-date coggins and a cursory vet exam. Yes, I broke this rule too. No x-rays, no in-depth PPE. I did have his entire life history, the horse was sound and the season for trucks coming north from Florida was rapidly coming to an end.
Finn arrived in fine form the Thursday after I tried him, three and a half weeks after I lost Zelda. He is my fourth OTTB and my fourth chestnut gelding. Do you think I have a type? He was really too thin to ride, so the next couple of weeks were set aside for weight gain, ground work and settling in.
Curly was just as relieved as I was to have a new friend. She’d been lonely without Z, and she is an excellent emotional support horse, who made Finn feel at home right away. Okay, there was some squealing, but she is a mare. He’d lived in a mixed herd, so I wasn’t too worried about turning him out with a mare.
We’ve made a lot of progress over the past couple of months. I’ll start to share more about what we’ve been working on and show how he’s filled out since arriving soon!