I'd been toying with the idea of adding a second horse for some time. A horse that could walk trot and canter, a horse that would be sound. A horse I could actually take up the levels in dressage. As much as I love my Paint mare, she has her limitations and while she's had good years, they always seem to end in another injury. Another setback. But horses are expensive and time-consuming, and I wasn't sure that I wanted that much responsibility. I wasn't sure I could be the kind of horse owner I strive to be with two horses. So I kept going with my one horse, my clunker, my best friend horse, through a winter of no riding and a lot of massaging and hand-walking in the hopes of making a difference in her comfort.
Then one day in the spring, I saw a notice on the board that one of the boarders was selling her horse. He was a horse I knew well enough to know he was at least worth a test ride. I was still in denial about it, but I had enough presence of mind to invite my mom and my boyfriend out to watch our trial ride.
He was well schooled in dressage but had been putzing around trails with beginners on board for the last two years, and sat for much of the winter on top of that. I wasn't expecting much, but he quickly responded to me, and we worked out a few issues and saw improvement within one ride. I couldn't deny his potential, and I knew what he had been, so I bought him. It was the easiest transaction ever. He lived at my barn already, so no trailering, no muss, no fuss. The seller gave me his bridle, halter and blanket. My saddle fit him. And I was freaking out (especially when I handed over the cash...waving goodbye to that much money physically hurts).
At first I was somewhat indifferent to him. I am deeply bonded to my mare, and I wasn't sure if there was room to form a bond with another horse. I was also anticipating a long road ahead of earning trust, since that was my experience with Sofie. But Riley has been fortunate to always have good owners, and his personality shone right away. He is very friendly and expressive, and I soon realized he has a heart of gold under saddle. In our early rides he sometimes struggled to do what I asked, as we were both out of shape, out of practice, and I hadn't yet learned how to ride him. But no matter how poorly I rode, he never said "no". He tries his hardest all the time, even when I take things too far and turn a so-so session into a complete disaster. With the help of my wonderful trainer, we have come so far in a few short months, and I have the biggest smile on my face when I ride.
Sometimes things do happen for a reason. It is terrible that my horse hurt herself (she is now doing much better, but I still won't ride her for another six months or so), but her struggles opened me up to the possibility of adding another horse, and Riley came up for sale at just the right time. Financially, I was able to take on the responsibility (which I would have struggled to do when he was for sale two years ago), and I am in a place in my life where I can balance it all. I am so glad I did the scary thing and bought him. I knew he was a very nice horse, but I never expected to love him as much as I do after such a short time. He is truly a gift.