This is the second time I have purchased a horse through the Roses to Ribbons program. The first horse I purchased was five years old at the time. I very tall 17.2 mare named Morally Flexible. Rally as we called her was purchased to be a trail horse primarily for my husband. She proved wonderfully suited for this task and loved her trail rides with either my husband, or myself aboard.
Last summer we left town for three weeks and took our two horses, my thoroughbred Eliot (who was retired from race training after 25 days showing absolutely no talent for running) and Rally to stay with my dressage/eventing trainer while we were gone. Upon our return, my trainer said that he thought Rally was the real deal as far as an eventing prospect and he wanted to continue to work with her. We said yes and that has left us with an empty stall.
As I am the organizer of the Roses to Ribbons Old Fashioned Horse Fairs, I thought I should chronicle the journey that buying a horse off the track turns out to be. I was a little worried about writing the adventure as it unfolds. What if I couldn't manage the horse I picked out? I am far from the world's best horse trainer. What if I have to admit publicly that I failed the horse? That would be very hard to do.
As everyone who has ever sat on a horse knows, failure is only a step away so here is my story. Let's see where it goes.
I had put together the Roses to Ribbons Fair for Sam Houston and in walking around the backside of the track, several nice horses had caught my attention. One horse in particular, Kissin Silk, a seven year old dark bay gelding seemed really sweet.
I was fortunate enough to meet up with a jockey who had ridden Silk and said that he was a nice horse. She said he knew his business and pulled hard on the track but he was not a horse to buck (very important for me). The most he had ever done was skitter sideways (I think I can handle that).
When the horses were brought to the paddock for Roses to Ribbons, Silk stayed calm and just looked around. I asked the groom handling him to jog the horse for me. He jogged sound and didn't get excited. I liked his movement, what little I saw of it in those few steps. He was very active with his hind end which will only help in the dressage ring. Dressage and trail riding are my goals for my horses.
Other people were also appreciating Silk's demeanor and movement. I offered $1500 for him and that was accepted. I had them take Silk out of the paddock before anyone else might try to offer more for him.
Silk was mine and now I had to get him home. Because, in general, my life is crazy I was leaving town the next day. I had to find someone to get Silk off the track and park him somewhere until I returned a week later. Fortunately, I found someone I knew, Jose, who was running a horse that night and then hauling to Cameron Texas. He would be happy to take Silk to his barn and even ride him a few times for me while I was gone.
It was really hard to have a brand new horse and not even be able to see him for a week. As soon as I returned home, I hooked up to my trailer and made the run up to Cameron to see what I had bought.
Jose brought Silk out of the stall, tacked up with a western saddle. I watched as Jose got on him and was really pleased to see that Silk stood quietly to be mounted. Jose rode him around the pasture and Silk looked unsure of what he was supposed to do. Silk was pretty sure that if you are being ridden you ought to be galloping. Jose rode Silk in large figure eights and Silk, with some confusion, complied. Jose then rode him up to me and asked if I wanted to ride him.
As I am not the bravest rider in the world I wasn't really sure what my answer would be but as he was my horse, I thought maybe I should go ahead and ride him. They have a great round pen and as I don't have one at home I thought this would be my best chance to ride him.
I turned a bucket upside down to use as a mounting block and Silk stood quietly while I mounted. He was actually quite nice to ride. He has a very balanced stride and he was very willing to walk, trot and turn on request. He liked looking around like a giraffe but as we were in the round pen it wasn't a problem. I rode him for about fifteen minutes and was very happy with how he went.
Silk loaded easily into the trailer and we were on our way home to Wimberley. We got to the house and Eliot was overjoyed to have a new friend. He and Silk hit it off right away.
The tough thing with an off the track horse is turning them out for the first time. They can really go nuts in their first turn out after having lived in a stall for so long. My husband and I decided to leave Eliot up in his stall so there would be something to bring Silk back to the barn. We had already incarcerated the dogs, we didn't need them involved with the turn out.
I turned Silk loose and he trotted off but didn't go crazy. He stayed around the barn area with periodic trots and canters to see his new home. My husband, Mike, then asked me if I had any idea if he was easy or hard to catch. No idea at all.
It turned out he was easy to catch and has settled into his new barn routine well. His eating has improved each day. I have added a new supplement to his feed. It is a polysaccharide formulation to help manage gastric ulcers, something nearly every race horse has. I am hoping this will help his transition from race horse to show horse and trail horse go a little easier.