The logic was still working for the schoolmaster search and I'd narrowed it down to the previous three horses. Each one had some negatives and positives and I was weighing them seriously plus nailing down my farrier, vet, and trainer to make sure they wanted to go on this journey. Everyone was way too excited about it, although that made me feel really good about this new venture. Basically I'm paying for "dressage tuition" and to help me get more out of my existing and future horses. The money will come back in well, enjoyment, but also in increased value of any future horses I train for resale.
The horse I ended up going to see was actually one that just suddenly reappeared in the online world and I just happen to do a search "one more time" and poof! there he was. It was Nirvana from the previous video. His owner was responsive, professional, sincere, and helpful. The other two were... not quite as helpful although they seemed sweet but if I'm flying across the country to see a horse, I want to know it's going to go fine on the initial visit and that they're competent to meet a shipper and get the horse safely to me.
May 28th, I got on a plane in College Station and headed to Jacksonville where I'd then drive to Lake City to meet this boy.
The flight went well, the drive went well, and I arrived at an O'Connor designed facility in the middle of a would be development that was well, not developed. Florida was already in the 90s and in Texas (with all the blasted rain), we were not. My body complained and I tried to drink as much water as I could but it wasn't having any of it. The owner was a really nice lady and we quickly met Vana, got him tacked up and she took him to the outdoor and we got started. There was A LOT of walking. He'd pulled a shoe the previous October and they'd given him the winter off as a preventative treatment when they didn't find anything wrong with him despite extensive vetting. OK, sure. *shrug
After about 30 minutes of him being walked under saddle and some lateral work (and me melting in the sun), it was my turn to get on him. The ad said 17.2 hands and I've learned most people exaggerate horse heights and well, his was not. This boy is tall. Not super wide but he's freaking tall. He was thankfully a gentleman at the mounting block and was very kind as I adjusted to him. We got on a 20ish meter circle and I walked. After the breifing on how they were bringing him back, I knew I wasn't going to get to do all the things with him. This ended up pretty good as I wasn't really even able to walk him. We'd do a few steps and he'd halt. Obviously I was failing at something (this was the point of getting him, right?) but we kept trying. He was very kind and responsive which was very nice to see. I figured I'd had enough of torturing him with my inability to walk him and didn't want to push the owner's worry so I opted to get off when she suggested I trot. Really?!? I pushed him a little hesitantly into a trot (we couldn't walk so why would he trot?) and he went into this huge, bouncy, lovely trot and I knew this was doable. Two 20 meter circles and I pulled him up.
We untacked in the heat and hung out in the barn. Lots of paperwork was presented and I just felt like someone that had found a classic Corvette with every piece of paperwork from the point of manufacture, through every sale, to now. It was amazing and reflected his well kept personality and body. Vana was goofy, sweet, and just a good good boy. I talked with the current owner for another hour or two to develop a relationship to show her I was interested in learning what he had to teach me without an agenda to use and abuse him (I don't). In the end, I had to ask to buy him and she agreed. We wrapped things up (she offered a trail ride on the beautiful grounds but I was border line heat exhaustiony and declined reluctantly.
I drove back to Jacksonville, rustled up a celebratory dinner, and then woke up to be on my 5am flight the next morning.
It's raining. I'm not impressed. It's not just raining, it's RAINING. I knew it was going to be a wet winter so I'd resigned myself to just basically throwing Jade and Simon into their respective paddocks and see them in the spring. Naturally I did some in hand work with each and round pen work as able but it's been slow going. I somehow thought I'd be able to ride by now but that's not happening.
While I was lamenting my sad position in life (and shopping urgently for information on either a new home with covered riding area or how to add a covered to my land), I found myself whining about not having lessons, not having blah blah blah and then it hit me - my trainer has horses! I could just go ride lessons on different horses. She probably even has something above the level of my guys!
I swear I'm not that slow.
I called her up, she naturally said yes, and we made a lesson appointment with her 4th level 23 year old mare, Gentle Rain. The lesson was very eye opening, FUN, and let me focus on just me. Oh man, I've got so much to work out on my body. Overall I wasn't so bad, but it wasn't pretty. All these years of riding young and broken horses hasn't taught me how to ride dressage like too terribly well. At least not at the upper levels.
I asked about weekly lessons on Gentle Rain and was excited to have (something to ride lol) a plan. But then... I started thinking. What IF I had my own upper level horse to ride regularly? Lurena naturally said that yes, that would help me learn faster. I also felt that I'd spent so much time training and retraining my horses so I'd be prepared for anything and was beginning to feel I was wasting time because I was installing ALL THE THINGS just in case I needed them later rather than just what I'd need and I wanted a target.
Sooo, that meant horse researching the "what ifs" followed by horse shopping, Beth style. Here are the top contenders:
Another year and a winter off hasn't been nice to Jade's physique. She's not a lithe little thing by any stretch of the imagination, but my lovely Icon Flight saddle wasn't going to cut it without being refitted. Considering it fits Simon just fine and she's going to keep growing, changing, and developing I thought about another saddle just for the black beast. Also, with the debate about getting a covered arena and/or being more productive when I'm riding I thought being able to tack up two horses simultaneously would help.
Iron Springs Farm was using a Lazer Triton on her when I tried her out and the adjustable hoop tree sounded good. A new Lazer will run close to $4K and I wasn't excited about that if I didn't need to. After poking around, I landed one on Ebay, mislisted in the "Housewares" section and nabbed it for $1500 in basically new condition. The seller was perfectly lovely and included EVERYTHING with it aside from a saddle cover. It came in perfect condition, I tried it on Jade and it looked perfect right out of the box. We've done one round pen session in it and it worked fine. Not as good for me as the Icon Flight, but still completely workable.