Saturday, March 12, 2011

An Obsessive Acquisition

Written March 28, 2010
As I sat, scraping manure from my husband’s work boot soles with a steak knife, I wondered why I had been so obsessed with buying the scrawny black and white paint colt from the auction.
It was as though I knew that particular horse was going to be there, and I went to get him.
Let me step back.  This isn’t exactly a strange horse.  I already knew him, kind of.  He is the full brother to one of my own mares, my most difficult one.  I went to see him last year when he was a year old, noted that he had the same conformational faults as his sister, but more exaggerated, and that he had the added disadvantage of having testes, or, testicle, since the other hadn’t dropped at the time.  Also consider the facts that the owner/breeder wanted an unrealistic $800 for the creature and that, at that time, my barn was full.  So he couldn’t come home with me, even though his sister was turning into a beautiful mare, after suffering a rather yak-like youth.
A few months later, I advertised his sister for sale.  I was injured and couldn’t work with her or the other horses, and I knew I needed to cut back.  Since she had dumped me in the spring (before the injury, but not causing it), and was generally a handful, I decided I could part with her.  She looked good in the ad, I thought, but there was no interest at all in the market in an unbroke, 14-hand paint.  Big surprise.
One day I got a note from her breeder, who had seen the ad.  He asked again if I wanted “her brother,” or to trade for training.  I told him I was injured, so I couldn’t train, and that I still had a full barn, so couldn’t take any more in.
Not long after that, my husband noticed a skinny, paint colt for sale on Craigslist for the same $800.  It was the same colt.  A little on-line spy work showed me that the breeder had unloaded him, and now someone else was trying to sell him for that magical number.  I was dismayed at his condition, and also at the fact that it looked as though the local livestock auction yards were in the background of the photo.    I saved the ad, with some mad idea that in the future, I would contact the owner and offer a low price to take it off his hands.
But recently things change.  A different mare I had tried to sell all last year, and that I had pretty much taken off the market, suddenly sold through word-of-mouth to a great home.   
I was enjoying having just four horses.  It made a surprising difference in the chores.
Then I noticed that the stockyard was holding its semi-irregular horse auction.  I decided to go, to see what was selling with the intention of writing a sad blog post about the state of horse auctions.  At least, that is what I said to myself and my husband.  Really, I was looking for that colt.  
When we arrived, we went down into the stalls, looking over the mixed group of horses and ponies, and one mule coughing in a corner and one cute, fuzzy donkey.  I went like a laser to the little black and white colt and recognized him immediately.  There he was, with a bunch of other underweight, unimpressive, back-yard bred horses.  He was friendly and calm, skinny and undersized.  Registered name: Poco Smokin Stormkite (I'm going with Stormkite).
The person in charge of this group of horses was telling someone else, “If they don’t go for $50, I’ll get them.  I’ll probably have too many horses.”
I didn’t quite figure out his relationship to these horses, but it sounded like he was handling them for someone else, and had agreed that he would buy whatever was leftover for $50. 
I couldn’t stand it.  I warned my husband, who was opposed to the idea, and when the colt came in, I started the bidding at $50.   I ended it at $170.
What followed was a flurry of activity.  Drive home, pick up the truck at the repair shop, attach it to the trailer, shovel the dying opossum out of one of the run-ins (what the heck?) and go pick up the colt.  When we got back to the auction yard, it was a different place.  The cars, trailers, people and most of the horses were gone.   I had a momentary panic that someone could have easily walked out with my colt, but there he was, standing in the same stall where I had first spotted him. 
Another woman, who was waiting for her trailer so she could take her horse home, told me that the lady behind me at the auction started crying when I bought the colt, so she was certain I got a good one that was somebody’s baby.  I already knew more about the horse’s history than she could have guessed, and was pretty sure that, no, this was nobody’s baby.  But I just smiled and said, “I hope so.”
I do wonder about that crying lady though.  What was that about?  Someone had tried to sell the colt in January, on Craigslist, after buying it in October from the breeder.   Was anyone actually devoted to this poor, and I do mean poor, colt?
I led him away and he came quietly.
“It’s like he is just thinking, ‘What is going to happen to me next in this life?’” I said to my annoyed husband.  “Please let him load.  I don’t want to be loading him here until midnight.”
My gut told me he would calmly get on the trailer, just as his sister had the first time, and I was correct.  He stepped right up into the dark stock trailer as if it wasn’t there, and went straight to the hay bag.  Food was his priority, and that was understandable.  He had nothing to eat at the auction, so any horse would be hungry, and was seriously underweight to boot.
Twenty minutes later, my husband was relocating our mares in the stable to make an appropriate spot for the new addition.   We settled everyone in for the night.
I didn’t sleep well, wondering what I had done.  I went out this morning and he was still there, nickering for food.  I rearranged all the horses again, because two of them weren’t playing nice in their new places.
I’m pleased with this little guy’s personality.  He is not in-your-pocket, but he is calm and friendly.  My first call on Monday will be to the vet to remove the gonads before he and my mares figure out what he’s got down there.  He is young and immature, so showing no interest, and has already received a good fence zap to know to keep his distance.
I really don’t need this little guy.  I have three projects to get under saddle and a green riding horse already.   I know I am crazy, but here he is, for now.  My plan is to give him some decent training and start looking for a good home for him.   And for now, anyway, he has food and water and company, so life is probably as good for him now as it has been since he was weaned.
Oh, and the part about scraping manure from my husband’s boots?  Let’s just call it self-prescribed penance.  He was wearing his work boots, as in day-job boots, when he trudged through the manure last night.  So as an apology for what I put him through, not just today, but all the time, I scraped the manure out with a steak knife and scrubbed the soles with soapy water, hoping that, by Monday, they won’t stink of manure.
There is no morale here. Just a thought:  I really wish people would not bring horses into the world for which there is no market.   There just aren’t enough suckers like me out there who are willing and able to clean up the mess.

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