by Kit Ehrman
During my last post, October 7, 2008, I talked about Stoney, my first horse. I just found a photograph taken a few months after I purchased him.
Stoney--definitely not a rescue horse.
Once I owned my own farm, I was ready for another horse. When I drove out to look at Koby in the spring of ‘85, I didn’t really think of him as a “rescue horse,” but it seems everyone else did. He was extremely thin, but I’d seen horses like him turn around with the right care, so I had full confidence that Koby’s transformation would be no different.
After injuring his left knee on the track, he was sold to a young woman who didn’t have the knowledge or resources to give him the kind of home and care he needed to successfully transition from track to farm life. He was placed in a small, muddy paddock with three other geldings who denied him access to grain and hay as well as the run-in shed. He spent all of that first year off the track suffering under the brutal sun or standing in the freezing rain, scouring the ground for whatever wisps of hay or kernels of grain the other horses might have missed.
Despite the hardships he’d been through, he had a kind temperament, so I had a vet come out to perform a pre-purchase exam which he passed. I had a very strong sense that she was just hoping I would buy him and take him to a better place, especially after she took him into the run-in shed to examine his eyes in a darkened environment. She looked disgusted when she came out. Apparently, the shed was filthy, piled high with a deep layer of manure and crawling with maggots.
A couple of days later, he settled into my barn with my first horse, Stoney. Both horses had roomy stalls that opened to private paddocks, and after the two horses got used to each other over the fence, and Koby became accustomed to eating grass again, I turned them out each day in a ten-acre field.
Routine vaccinations and regular deworming, along with a gradual increase of grain and occasional beet pulp hot mashes, not to mention getting his teeth floated, all combined to put the weigh on and his coat blossomed. So did his personality.
I guess I never really realized just how emaciated he was until, several months later, when my farrier commented on how good he looked and confessed that he thought the horse wouldn’t make it when he first came out to trim his hooves. Here was a guy with undoubtedly lots of horse experience, and he thought Koby would not survive.
But survive, he did. In fact, once he regained his weigh, he was an incredibly easy keeper, and I actually had to watch his diet. He was a broad, bay horse with lovely conformation (this was especially evident once he filled out) and at 16.2 hh, he was an impressive horse. Way too big for me, I might add.
By fall, he'd picked up quite a bit of weight, though his coat wouldn't look healthy until he shed out.
I did wonder if he’d become difficult under saddle once he began to feel better, but except for a little testing early on, he developed into a wonderful mount. What I do love about ex-racehorses is that they are acclimated to a wide variety of sights and sounds and activities from their time on the track. He was easy to load and handle and was generally a levelheaded horse.
Koby being ridden by my instructor.
I used to load him by myself and trailer him to my instructor’s farm where I took dressage lessons in her indoor. He didn’t even blink when he went into the arena the first time, and I could leg him over to the wall to get a drink and he would stand so quietly. One of the nicest compliments my instructor gave me was when she said something like, “Why don’t I find nice horses like him.”
I remember the first time I took him on a long trail ride with some neighbors. Up until that point, all he knew was the track and my riding arena, but he just took it all in and was so full of confidence. The only thing he did not like, and never became accustomed to, was a herd of Holsteins that we had to pass to get home. He never could get used to the sight of those black-and-white cows.
When I moved to Indiana and had children, I often did not get around to riding until about midnight. This worked out especially well in the hot summer months, but I’d ride in the winter then, too. It was my time to just fool around, with no pressure or distractions. I’d put some music on, and we’d be out in the lighted outdoor arena, just the two of us. And sometimes the snow would come down, spiraling past the sodium vapor lights, and I just loved those nights. Often a herd of eight or ten deer would walk past in the neighboring field, and we’d stop and watch them. They had no fear of us and took their time.
I’m happy that our paths crossed and that we both enriched each other’s lives.
Happy reading and riding,