Hi everyone! Kelly asked if I wanted to provide a blurb for the blog, giving an update on Afton, and I happily agreed. Who wouldn’t want to brag about their CANTER cutie, right?
I’ll start with a little background.
I first found Afton Mountain in December of 2008 on the CANTER MidAtlantic website when idly searching for my next project. He was the first horse listed under “CANTER OWNED” and his picture and description captivated me from the first.
The only problem was I still had the horse I was trying to sell and couldn’t do anything about moving on until I had found her a new home. I had a buyer in the final stages, though, and was hopeful enough to begin shopping. Whether that was a jinx or not, who knows, but the sale fell through and I was back to the beginning. Advertising, showing, hoping, waiting. Selling horses is never fun or easy (although since this was the first one I had ever tried to sell, how did I know?) but as the economy got worse, the prospects of selling a 17 year old horse were getting dimmer.
That was when the person who had first come to try her back in the summer of 2007 emailed me out of the blue to see if she was still available. Sometimes the stars just align. Within 10 days, the sale was complete, and my 17 year old OTTB mare – eventing partner for 9 years — was on her way to her new home. By all accounts and reports, she is well loved, being cared for like a princess, and impressing all the trainers with her abilities and her condition. I guess I did something right.
In the meantime, it was no almost three months since I had first seen Afton’s photo and started reading his blog and tracking his progress. I was amazed that the horse was still available, considering how well he seemed to be taking to his new career. I immediately started the process of seriously evaluating for my needs based on all of my requirements. I really intended to shop around, try at least 5 horses before I bought anything, since I tend to always buy the first thing I sit on, and twice have bought them sight unseen. Since he was four hours away, this evaluation thing was a challenge. (Eventually, I just took a Saturday and drove down to try him.)
I was looking for a bay gelding (no more chestnut mares for a while!) — check — between 15.3 and 16.1 — check — between 4 and 6 years of age — check — with good conformation — check — and no known soundness issues or vices — check — that had a pleasant expression and seemed to like people — sort of check. When I first saw him in person, he had a very cautious look on his face, as if he were skeptical of this person’s intentions. I think the track horses can get this way, as they get shuffled from trainer to trainer, groom to groom, they are never able to make strong connections with specific people. Some horses don’t care, some do. His expression wasn’t bad or mean by any stretch, Kelly described it is a bit “cynical”. I continued with my evaluation.
I was on my own with this adventure, which made me a bit nervous. My dear friend Pat went with me for moral support and to man the video camera, but my trainer wasn’t there, and my husband was in Aiken, SC competing. I had only my own judgment to go on, which had me a bit nervous.
When it was time for me to get on and ride him, I was nervous. Getting on a young just off the track thoroughbred can have unpredictable results. What impressed me the most was that my nervousness vanished as soon as I sat on him. I was totally relaxed and comfortable. I have no idea why, but that made a huge impression on me. He was willing, pleasant, and oh-so comfortable! Walk, trot, canter, turns were a bit wobbly and assisted by the indoor arena walls, but that’s a baby horse for you. He even happily jumped some little jumps, never surging in front of them or on landing. I walked him out the driveway and around the front field, where trucks, cars, and motorcycles were whizzing past, and he was rock solid. Kelly had really done a nice job with this guy! His expression had even softened by the time we were finished, as he began to trust me.
I was beginning to get excited. On the four hour drive home, I had lengthy conversations with Duncan (husband) and with Maureen (trainer) to tell them my experience and my thoughts. I was trying to be dispassionate, but could find nothing to tell me not to buy this horse. I decided to proceed with the pre-purchase vet exam.
The following week was a whirl of making plans long distance (scheduling the vetting, coordinating people to be in certain places at certain times, all while being insanely busy at work and with Allie on crutches!) and then waiting. The vetting was scheduled for Thursday. Waiting is the worst. In the end, though, it was all okay. The vet called Thursday night and found nothing to raise red flags, so Maureen drove down on Friday to bring him home.
Afton Mountain was my project!
Since then, we have had so much fun! His barn name is now “Owen” but due to popular demand, he will show as Afton Mountain. He has his own big stall, all the hay he can eat (and not to say he wasn’t getting fed by any means! He just thinks he’s now being pampered 🙂 ), his own SmartPaks with hoof and coat conditioners, and is now being turned out in a big pasture all day long with two other Thoroughbred buddies. He got shaved the first weekend, and went on a trail ride at the Bucks County Horse Park the second weekend, and was a perfect gentleman! He did show a bit of a stubborn streak when asked to cross a gully, but happily followed Big Brother Tip. Here he is, naked and waiting to be tacked up for his trail ride:
We’ve been working steadily on explaining the concept of yielding to contact, by simply following him all around with the contact and a soft supporting leg, and he is really starting to get it. He natural head/neck carriage which was a little upside down and braced has begun to soften and drop about 8 inches, and he even goes really nicely round now and again! I have felt the promise of a really big extension in there somewhere. All I can hope is that I have the patience, understanding and skill to bring out the best in him!
Here are some photos from a week ago today (Sunday), schooling at home.
Now looking more cute than cynical, don’t you think?
Sorry this went on a bit long, but I am just so excited to have this lovely horse, and to be looking forward to so many adventures! I am honored to have a CANTER horse, and to have entered into the special group of people who have also taken these terrific creatures on to new careers. Thanks for listening, and I’ll be in touch, if you all want me to!
Susan & Owen