"Heard you were looking for a dressage prospect!" read the first of many messages I received after posting on my Facebook farm page about the Cinderella Project. "Let me know if you'd like to see a video of my horse."
"This mare belongs to my friend--super nice mover," read another, along with a photo of a lovely grey warmblood, located in Wellington.
"This is a 3-year-old you might be interested in!" exclaimed the third.
Honestly, they were all lovely. And all over $30,000.
The point of this project, I politely responded, typing away, is to bring hope and encouragement to those dressage enthusiasts who don't feel they can be taken seriously without an expensive horse, so we have a seriously small budget.
"Oh, that's OK!" chirped the first emailer, "I'm negotiable on price. What's your budget?"
"Like a grand."
But then a friend of a friend sent a link from an on-line horse sales site that showed a rather attractive warmblood gelding, unbacked, at $3,500. He was tall, appeared calm and the accompanying video of him at liberty in a round pen showed expressive hocks and a lovely, natural rhythm. Best of all, he was in a neighboring state, so not a very long drive. Maybe, I thought, watching the video carefully a second time, maybe it really isn't realistic to try to find any decent horse for a grand. Dialing the responsible party to make an appointment to view the horse, I mused further...maybe I should bump my budget up to $3,500, and even that won't be easy, but surely there will be more options...
It was an interesting place, this farm, I thought, turning my truck into the graveled drive. It reminded me of a petting zoo, with every kind of animal one could imagine, all co-existing in a sort of swarm of livestock. The gelding was dozing in a corner of a paddock when we approached, and was seemingly unaware or nonplussed by the Emu that pecked at the ground beside him. Huge brownie points, right there. He was led, nonchalantly, to the round pen so I could watch him move in the flesh.
He was really nice indeed. Good overstep in the walk, uphill canter. In fact, if he'd been in my barn, he'd be priced at least three times the amount, as is.
I ran a hand over his legs and body and led him to his stall. Turning back to face his owner, I was just about to mention setting up an appointment for vetting, when the unmistakable sound of gulping air hit my ears.
"Ohhh, he cribs," I said, sorrowfully.
"Yes, but it's controlled with a collar. I just didn't get a chance to back him and he's been bored, hanging out in the paddock, so he started doing it."
I am sure there are those who have had a different experience, I tried to tactfully explain, but in my small barn I would be very concerned the habit would spread to my other horses like the flu.
The owner was disappointed but understanding and we shook hands and I departed, looking back at the gelding.
Too darned bad. He really was nice.