In March 2009 my riding situation changed – I made the incredibly difficult decision to leave a barn I had been happy at for over ten years. Those ten years were spent as a lesson kid learning the ropes of eventing on a very suitable schoolhorses, then as a boarder who competed actively all over Ontario and Quebec, and, finally. as a poor university student and recent graduate again competing on school horses, this time of the greener variety.
The afternoon of the day I left that farm, I tagged along on a horse shopping adventure to a local barn with an adult amateur friend of mine. As soon as we walked in the barn, I saw the cutest face looking over one of the stall doors. I was thrilled to find out that this was one of the horses she was trying. I sat on all the horses before she got on them, as I was the more experienced rider. The second I sat on this particular horse, I had a huge smile on my face and knew I had to have him. Let’s recap here: I was not horse shopping!! In fact, I had pretty much decided I was going to take a break from riding until the spring when I would find a new barn to ride at.
I got home after that horse shopping trip, phoned a friend with a small barn on her property and arranged to board him there. I phoned the seller first thing in the morning and negotiated a purchase price. That evening I paid for him and within 24 hours of first setting eyes on him, he was all mine! We picked him up the next day.
Although many people think for weeks, months or even years about major purchases, I, unfortunately, am not so inclined. Although an accountant by trade, I tend to make major purchases impulsively, a habit to which HJU photographer Calina can attest. For instance, shortly after I purchased this particular horse, Calina dragged me along car shopping. She was considering trading in her Toyota Echo, and wanted to look at the Nissan Versa. I saw the Nissan Rogue in the showroom and traded in my 2008 Honda Civic for it the very next day. Calina, however, did not buy a car. A little over a year later in December 2010, Calina was once again considering trading in her beloved Echo. This time we head to the Hyundai dealership and I fell in love with the Hyundai Tuscon and bought it on the spot. Calina, once again, did not buy a car. In fact, she is still driving around in the Echo.
When I bought Clever West (“Westie”), he was a rising three year old thoroughbred who had raced unsuccessfully as a two-year old. He had been turned out for 3 months after retiring from life as a racehorse, and had been back in work for a week when I bought him. The love at first sight part of our relationship may have had something to do with his markings – he is every little kid’s dream horse: dark bay with four white stockings and a big stripe down his face. I’m not a little kid, and although the markings attracted me to him, it was his personality that sold me. This was the most easy going and sensible baby I had ever had the pleasure to sit on.
He came home on a Wednesday in March and that weekend I decided to take him on a hack. He hadn’t been sat on since the last weekend and was in a new place, so I put on my cross-country vest expecting him to be a little fresh and naughty. Instead, he walked on the buckle through the snow covered paths for 45 minutes and never put a foot wrong. This continued for the entire time I owned him – the horse has never misbehaved while hacking (actually, he has never misbehaved ever). In fields, on the road, alone or in a group he is a horse who hacks out on the buckle… even at three years old!
He truly was a horse of a lifetime and I never regretted this impulse purchase for a second. If Westie was a cat, however, he would only have 7 lives left. Part two of this story will be about how Westie managed to give me many grey hairs only months after I bought him. The story involves evil ponies, fences, vet bills and transport trucks, so be sure to check back.