I have to confess, I’ve never been a fan of horse shopping. The actual process is great, who wouldn’t love an excuse to sit on a bunch of different horses? But when it comes to the actual picking a horse I’m generally at a loss. I genuinely like pretty much all horses. That is when the process starts to resemble a high stakes version of The Bachelorette. Full disclosure, I’ve never watched the show, but it seems like the girls are always picking between equally attractive, rich and charming guys. And if the longevity of the show is any indication, its not an easy choice and there are some hijinks along the way (I assume?). Anyways, that is how I feel horse shopping, except instead of roses I’m giving out a pretty big check and more than a few of my hopes and dreams. I sense a reality show in the making here.
I much prefer horses that come with some sort of intervention from fate. But in 2014, fate wasn’t helping out much. I spent most of the year casually looking for a horse with no luck. I was looking at starting the 2015 season with a few sales horses and Cappy, none of whom steered reliably or jumped much bigger than a crosspole at the time. That is when I decided fate needed a bit of a push. A trip overseas seemed the best way to cast my net a bit wider, and originally I planed to call on old friends who lived abroad to travel around with me. In my head the trip resembled a mixed montage of ‘International Velvet’ and ‘Eurotrip’. Not the best idea, as it started to sound less like a horse search and more like a pub crawl. I decided I needed a proper tour guide, so I got in touch with Mike and Emma Winter of Wayfarer Eventing. Some family friends had just returned from a horse shopping trip raving about the horses Mike and Emma sourced for them, and that sounded good enough for me. Mike very kindly didn’t respond to my email with ‘who the heck are you?’ and instead set about lining up some horses to look at. I didn’t give him much to work with, as I believe my only criteria was ‘good horse’ and ‘blood type.’ He knocked it out of the park, but more on that later. I was still left without a traveling companion. But, as I do in most crisis, I called up my mom who was happy to come to the rescue. So the trip ended up resembling more of a Lifetime Original movie production, we laughed, we cried, we got lost in airports. And at the end I was left with a dilemma.
I went to England with a clear mission statement: buy the highest quality horse you can afford. But Mike and Emma made that difficult as every horse they showed me was pretty spectacular. I was back in bachelorette territory. But I did come to a decision somewhere on our ill fated trip home. Our flight out of Heathrow was delayed, which meant we missed our connection in Dublin. And the only other flight to Philadelphia left out of Heathrow. Hop a flight back across the Irish Sea, land on the opposite side of the terminal from our departing international flight with nowhere enough time, and we were getting a bit desperate. My mom and I are both fairly active people, but more yoga/deep breathing than contact sport. Body checking strangers in Heathrow is not something that would come naturally to either of us. I really hope no video of our sprint across the terminal exists. But once we were safely boarded on our flight, I took advantage of the left over adrenaline to make a quick gut instinct decision on the horse search.
I ended up buying a horse whose name I still haven’t found a definition or correct pronunciation for (Cartender de Nyze, your guess is as good as mine). He came with the name Tino, after his sire Caretino. Tino sounded a bit Jersey Shore for me, so I adopted the first part of his dads name and call him Carrot around the barn. I tried him twice, the first time I thought he was a really super type. But it was the second time that stuck in my mind. He hadn’t evented before, coming from a show jumping background. So I went back the second time to get him out of the ring. Turns out ‘out of the ring’ in this case meant the grounds of a castle. Horse sellers, take note. That’s how to sell a horse. But beautiful scenery aside, I was really impressed with his attitude. He was very excited to see what was around each bend. He simply seemed like a horse you could be buddies with. Its about nine months into our partnership and my opinion of him hasn’t changed. He’s a very people oriented horse, which makes working with him a pleasure. And his general excitement at life hasn’t changed. If you’re ever in a bad mood, come hang out with Carrot or watch him go. His enthusiasm is pretty infectious. All things equal, I’ll take a horse like that any day. And of course he is fabulously talented. I can’t thank Mike and Emma enough for finding me such a quality horse. I hope that his talent takes me many more places as my career and our partnership progresses, but for now I’m content that the first place Carrot brought me was on a pretty memorable trip with my mom.