It’s a bright October day and Dr. Wendy Krebs is doubled-over Skipper’s hoof, doing the flexion test countdown. Her assistant, Anne, is at Skipper’s head and I’m at the tail end, whip in hand.
Anne gives the five-second warning and Dr. Krebs lowers Skipper’s foot to the ground.
Three, two, one, and we’re off at the trot, watching Skipper’s reaction. Without meaning to, I hold my breath through each flexion and am gasping for air as I trot alongside Skipper, motivating him.
My friends have reminded me, with varying degrees of smirking, that I’d been adamant that I’d never buy another horse.
How did I get here?
I went from liking Skipper to loving him back in August, when he was superstar at dressage camp — our first off the property adventure together. He handled the new setting and the two-lessons-a-day schedule graciously. When I turned him out in the round pen to romp, he followed me like a puppy.
When I returned from camp, singing his praises to his owner, she said, “You should buy him.”
Yikes. Suzanne has four horses, was preparing for a knee replacement, and was ready to downsize.
“I’d love to, but I can’t afford it,” I said.
My retirement plans didn’t include boarding a horse — I’d done some downsizing of my own.
I told myself not to panic, that it could easily take six months for Skipper to sell and that if I was really lucky, someone would keep him at our barn, letting me lease him.
This strategy worked until his ad came out on dreamhorse.com and someone made an appointment to ride My Horse. My anxiety and imagination kicked into full gear. Picture this: me standing in the barn’s driveway as Skipper is hauled off in a trailer, kicking up a small cloud of dust as he exits my life forever. Ow.
“I only have so many years left of riding,” I told my husband, Al. “I don’t want to waste them.”
Trying to explain the horse/human connection to an engineer is next to impossible, but I tried. Ever practical, Al suggested I contact our financial planner. I’m pretty sure Al was hoping Ken would deliver a death blow to my dream, so he didn’t have to.
I delayed a few days, afraid to make the call. Finally, I worked up the numbers: Skipper’s monthly costs, including board, medical, lessons, etc. and sent Ken an email. An hour later, he replied, “Let’s talk.”
We set up a three-way call, with Al, Ken, and I —and I braced for the worst. But here’s what happened.
“That’s what money is for,” Ken said.
Tears started rolling down my cheeks.
Sure, I can’t take lavish vacations or live more than 30 years without downsizing further (trailer park, here I come), but that’s ok. Skipper passed his pre-purchase with high marks and I’m telling everyone I meet, “I bought a horse!”
I’m not sure if I own him or he owns me.
Thank you to Mari Valceschini of Alliance Equestrian for facilitating my co-lease of Skipper, back in June, when I was between horses — and for facilitating the sale. Mari put the training on Skipper, transforming him from trail horse to dressage star. She saw the potential for a match long before I did.