The year was 2003, and so if you are as old as me, you know that one of the "hot" stallions for just about anything in Ontario at that time was Rio Grande.
But back in 2003, Rio babies were exceptional hunters, jumpers, dressage horses, could do hand-to-hand combat, quadratic equations and of course, split the atom with their anus as required by F.Trainerin. Were Wessage around then, they would have kicked some jogging ass.
There was no specialization required. This stud did it all.
And so, when I saw the advertisement for "El Muddo" a Rio x Arab cross, I was sure he was THE one.
But...there were two problems with this boy from the start.
1. He was at the top end of my price bracket
2. He was rising five... and unbroken
Curmudgeon, there is nothing at ALL wrong with that. Have you not read Hillary Clinton's (wait, wait - that can't be right.. you know who I mean, whatever the hell her name is) study on the maturation of warmbloods? Their little spines are like marshmallows up until the age of SIX. This guy is right on track...
Yahhh, maaaaybe. But having worked at a TB farm, I am a big believer in the "get on 'em before they get big enough to notice they don't have to put up with that shit" philosophy of starting horses. Not necessarily "get on 'em and ride them into the ground.." - but just climb aboard and do something authoritative while you are still the top dog in the kennel. If they go back in the field for a year, fine. They will come back in 500lbs heavier, but still under the illusion that you actually have some sort of power to run the show.
(The trick is then to keep it this way for the next 20 years).
The great majority of horses, like teenagers, turn into unpleasant freaks at some point during their adolescence. Get the backing out of the way before this day occurs. Because whether it be horses or kids... really bad things... like vile eye-burning tatoos that eliminate any possibility of a nice wedding photo without some hard core photoshopping ....and serious buck-you-charlie, you-want-to-put-your-ass-where, how-are-those-kickboards-feelin-now type habits can easily crop up during this period if you don't set the ground rules early.
So.. back to the unbacked.
I gave the seller a call to find out a bit more about El Muddo. I am sure you can all hear the conversation in your head, and that it goes without saying (but what the hell, I will say it anyways..) that....
* This horse was AMAZING. A-freaking-MAZING. Sleek, sexy, floating feet and more, suspension, extension, contraction, elongation, deflation... if you are looking for a horse that can be described with a noun associated with movement, look no further.
* Uhhh... no. There are no pictures available of the horse. No, no, he is not a vampire horse or something that would rationally explain WHY he has never been photographed. But over the course of 5 years, no one owning a camera had dropped by
* video? Ha ha ha. Haaa. NO
Well, he wasn't far away, and was in picturesque Mennonite land. Nothing nicer than a drive through the countryside to buy some maple syrup or summer sausage from people who are too clueless to notice that their standardbred cart horse is three legged lame.
Well guess what! On arrival:
* he was in a field, full of mud and burrs, with about 9 other horses, full of mud and burrs. All 10 begin running around like idiots when we approached.
* there was no arena, no ring, no barn. Just a run-in shed. No surface free of mud and burrs - other than the laneway. But does he look great in that mud or what! Look at the hind end action! He really bends those hocks!
(slurp-slurp-slurp - horse yanks its legs free of the sucking mud very expressively)
Ok. To the laneway! We did our best border collie impressions, cut El Muddo from the herd, wrestled a halter over his unicorn horn of burrs and forelock and headed out into the wild world.
Poor El Muddo. Imagine - someone taking him away from his peeps! This was stressful not only to him, but to his peeps as well.
So, as the owner tried to jog him up and down the laneway, she was accompanied by the 9 other horses, running along beside her on the other side of the fence (slurpslurpslurpslurp), all 10 tails flagged and 20 nostrils snorting and blowing, while El Muddo looked entirely pissed by the rude invasion into his private time (i.e. 24/7) and I worried that he would lift the poor woman off of her feet and run through the page wire to return to his life interrupted in the mud.
Did he look expressive? Hell YES. Did he look impressive? Hell YES! Did he look like something I wanted to wrangle a saddle on at the age of five? HELL NO.
So I was kind of torn. But at the same time, did not want to wind up... torn, beaten, bruised etc. I fully believed there was a really nice horse in there somewhere - but I just couldn't see enough of it here, and the negatives associated with a herd-bound wild child five year old were pretty hard to rationalize away.
Then, the owner played her ace in the hole card.
"You know, I am sending him out for training SOON. Like... really soon. And his price is going UP when that happens. So if you are interested, I would ACT FAST".
|Will clean blood off of kickboards!|
So how fast IS fast. Seems to me this guy is 2 years past the date that should have been FAST.
I hate when I read this on a sales ad, and hated it even more as a pressure tactic while staring at Muddy El Muddo. You know what lady? That's GREAT. Do it. Spend your money, start the horse, then post some pics and video that warrant the new price tag. In the meantime...Fuck off with the "oooohhh-ooohhh! Time's a' ticking" bullshit.
Also, I guess I was kind of an exception in that I was totally ready to start my own horse - so having you pick your own weirdo to TTouch / Parelli / tarp / bag on a stick or whatever YOU think constitiutes "good starting" may actually reduce the value of the horse in my mind. Yah, maybe you are going to crack open the wallet and send him someplace awesome. But based on what I see here before me... I am doubtful.
(Do I get a discount if he turns out to be a total asshole that no one wants to start? No, I didn't think so. That can be swept under the carpet, and he can be sold again as ... Unstarted).
So that was the final straw, any tiny crack of open mind I had snapped shut. I thanked the woman for showing me El Muddo and went back to the drawing board.
I did some stalking this morning - El Muddo did finally find a home, as a six year old, and went on to the Arab circuit to do very well as a "Sport Horse" there, whatever that means, and he has earned some punctuation - AFTER his name. All good. I wasn't surprised, as he really did look like a nice enough horse.
So, maybe this diamond was just a little too rough for me, and I missed out big time. Oh well. Although he was not "the one" - nothing I saw really scared me off the idea of a WB x Arab in principle.
Now the Morgans... that was a different story.