There's a new lady in Bud's life.
Ruby is a 9 year old Thoroughbred who became part of our family today. We've been talking about getting another horse to keep Bud company and for Mark and I to ride for years now but the time and place were never right. Well, the time and place was finally right a couple months ago ( basically since we moved to the new place and established a family type relationship with the owner) and we began searching.
Finding the right fit for our family and Bud was extremely frustrating at times - you would think finding a horse that was younger than Bud and in better physical shape would be pretty easy, right? Wrong! After calling on ads and visiting several horses in person, then walking away either sad or angry, I decided to put an ISO ad up. I did not think it'd come to anything based on my requirements and what we'd already seen but within 12 hours I was contacted by a lady who had what seemed like just what I had been searching for. We conversed for a few days and she sent many pictures and videos for my inspection and things just kept looking better and better.
Let me stop and say that this was another of those instances that you KNOW was a match made by God. Everything just fell together and clicked. One of the main issues we were having with sellers was blatant dishonesty and this lady left me with a sense that she could be trusted and that the drive to her place would be worth our time. So we went out to meet both her and her horse yesterday....during what ended up being a really awesome thunderstorm.
It made for an interesting backdrop which Mark is kicking himself now for not videotaping. We both wish he would have based on how things went. It would have been really fun to share.
Ruby's owner saved her from a slaughter buyer at Emerald Downs (race track) last August. Apparently she went to buy a specific broodmare from a specific seller who had several other mares up for bid. She got her desired mare but after the auction found the mare's owner in tears over a kill buyer getting Ruby. Ruby's owner sought after the kill buyer and bought her from him. Her plan was to re home her but time just got away from her last year and she never listed her. She was just about to list her last week when she saw my ISO. She thought Ruby might be a good fit for me and reached out and I am so thankful she did.
When my first horse died, it was SO hard to search for a new horse. None of them compared to what I had. We ended up with Bud's mom, ten months pregnant, and while this sounds harsh, Bud's mom was no prize. I tried to love her. I really did. But I didn't. My mom picked her out thinking it was a really good two for one deal. And it was because I ended up with Bud.
When Bud was born, my lack of love for his mommy didn't really matter because I gave Bud my full attention. But he still wasn't anything like my old horse. And the pain of loss lingered for a long time. Looking for a horse while Bud is still alive so that he can impart some of his "Budness" to has always seemed like a good idea. And when the day comes when Bud is done with this world, perhaps it would soften the blow to still have a horse who knew Bud and learned from him. I hope to not know for sure about this for many years but it seems like a good plan for now. Anyway, looking at the perspective horses that we did not buy sent my emotions back to the loss of my first horse. The feelings of disappointment when we looked at horse after horse and none of them even came close. Only then, I just went home feeling the loss even more and there was no remedy. This time, I'd come home feeling sad/angry and then head out to see Bud for some Bud therapy. At least he was still alive and it wasn't as horrible to find nothing as it had been in the past. Mostly I felt sorry for the horses we'd seen and hoped they'd find owners who could help them - some of them were in BAD shape.
We went to meet Ruby yesterday. I told the owner what I wanted to do with her and the plan was agreed to so all was set before we arrived. Ruby was out in her pasture with her mates and walked right up to me. She stood with great interest while I looked her over and picked up her feet, still loose in the field. Her owner gave Mark and I space to really get to know her which was nice. It didn't take five minutes before I knew she was the one. She acted a lot like Bud, in girl form. And I didn't think it was possible for a horse to be more loving that Bud, but she was, right there in the field. What is funny is that when we were looking for a horse to replace my first horse, I wanted a horse I could ride anywhere. Personality didn't enter in because my first horse was pretty bland. And now, it isn't so much about riding anywhere as it is about personality. Being sound and free of metabolic issues was also a must but having both of those AND personalty makes it a win.
I wanted to be able to catch Ruby, bring her into an open space and groom her. Then work her on the lunge, tack her up and ride. That was the plan but as I told her owner, I was going to assess where she was and take her as far as I could take her. If she showed me she wasn't ready for any step in the process, I would not push her. The owner didn't really know what Ruby was capable of. Ruby was on the track for her first five years and she won a few races. Then she was a Mama. Then she was back at the track for auction. Then she came to her current owner. The owner did not ride anymore and never bonded with Ruby so didn't do much with her. I figured that if we didn't buy her, at least the owner would have a better sense of what Ruby could do from our visit and that might help her to place her with another family.
The main issue the owner had with Ruby was that Ruby was bonded so strongly with her other mare that they could not be separated. She was concerned about this being an issue when we came to visit. As Mark and I groomed Ruby, she got nervous when the other mare left her sight so I took Ruby out to lunge. This was during the lightning storm. It was far enough away but interesting to note that Ruby did not care about any of it. I got her going, which she did not initially like, so she started racing and bucking in the round pen. Her owner was a little worried so Mark went to sit outside with her to comfort her. I'm serious.
She really needed him to feel assured that I had this under control. We later found out that the owner was never able to control Ruby, was fearful of her in certain circumstances and she assumed the same would happen to me. It did not. Bud acts like an idiot just like this on the lunge at times and I just ignore it, let him get it out of his system and we go on. After a few minutes she settled back into a nice trot and I said, "Would you like to walk now?" Her answer was to walk. A nice under control walk. I then asked her to stop and then asked her to come in, motioning with my hand, much like I do with Bud. I really didn't expect her to understand but in she came showing me all the signs that she was calm and ready to mind. I hand walked her for a bit telling her how good she was, then took her back to tack her up. I never tied her up once in this, same as I don't with Bud, he just stands and so did she. It was wonderful.
The owner was really not wanting me to ride. It'd been awhile since she rode because she had an unfortunate accident that has left her afraid to get back on. I think she was afraid for me. Like she was having flashbacks. I assured her that I would not get on if I did not think Ruby would be fine. It wasn't as if Ruby was having her first ride.
I ended up spending ten minutes fixing her tack which was sized for the owner's former horse before I could even put it on, all the while Ruby watched and waited. She no longer cared about the other mare. She was 100% tuned in to me. I had to sign a release that I would not sue for injury and the owner was still really leery about me getting on. Note: I used to exercise race horses, I know what they are like. I assured the owner again that I would not get on Ruby if I didn't think she'd be fine. At that point, I knew we'd be buying her so I definitely would not want to set her up to fail. Where Bud is, we don't have a round pen, so it was safer for me to actually take the first ride there. I had Mark come help at this point, keeping Ruby on the lunge with Mark holding it: ground support. I got on with no issue. I felt Ruby tense up a bit and assured her that she was doing very well. I had Mark lead her, keeping her close she could just get used to a rider again. She was tentative, but relaxed quickly. The tight circles got larger and larger until I was on the rail and Mark had a loose attachment in the center of the ring. I was steering and Ruby was listening. She felt like a racehorse. Very responsive to leg, but a bit hard to steer. Within a couple minutes, she was understanding what I was asking. I was SO impressed. This horse has most likely not been ridden since 2011 so it was just awesome. I was probably on for less than ten minutes and it was enough to know what I needed to know. She was like Bud in that she was extremely teachable. I got off her with a flying leap, just like I exit Bud's back and she acted like that was common for her. It was awesome! There were absolutely no red flags.
We untacked Ruby and did our final groom as I do with Bud before turn out and she remained focused on us, never caring what her mare friend was doing. Her owner walked up and I told her that I wanted to buy her and then asked if she was comfortable selling her to me. It was a big resounding YES! Her owner has told me several times during the final transaction that she knew Ruby was meant for us based on how everything went. She said she knew it on a spiritual level. She said she believed God cared about horses and He made this whole thing possible. So, I am not the only one who feels this. It is nothing short of God to both buyer and seller.
You might think it doesn't get better than this but it does. We went to get her today. Always nerve wracking hauling a horse trailer...but even more so when you really don't know how the horse will react. With all the formalities taken care of, I walked Ruby in her field to make sure she remembered me and was going to be attentive and react how I wanted her to. She did. Then I led her out of the field away from her friend. Her nervousness was immediately apparent. I kept walking, ignoring it, just walking like it was normal. She settled. Her owner told Mark she was astounded that Ruby left the field like that. Apparently she was never able to take Ruby out of the field without the other mare in tow. I am not saying I am SO AWESOME, I am just saying that Ruby and I connected and she was as okay as she could be leaving her friend. We allowed her to get into the trailer in her own timing which only took a few minutes. She was still nervous so I asked her to stand a minute and then allowed her to exit. She got out well, unlike Bud who seems to get hurt every time he gets out so I was happy. I took her around the yard another few laps and told Mark that we would load her this time and it would be for real. Again, in her own time, now less than 30 seconds, Ruby got in and stood. We secured her, said our thank you's again and were off. Ruby did not cry for her friend. She stomped the floor a few times and after that was quiet. It was just over an hour home with much prayer for safety. We arrived very safely thank God and found her standing calmly waiting to get out. She exited the trailer just as calmly and we led her into the field.
Bud had been watching all of this from afar. I think he recognized the trailer and did not want to approach. The trailer, to him, means he is moving and trust me, he doesn't want to move. So he kept his distance which allowed us to show Ruby the smaller field, the water, hay, fence line, etc. And Bud calmly stood outside and watched. A gentleman. Or maybe he was just dumbfounded. Mark brought him in and I turned Ruby loose. Their first meeting was uneventful in that there was no kicking, squealing, etc. They smelled each other's noses, and then proceed to lick each other's faces. I have never seen anything so cute in my life. It was like they were long lost friends. And after that, they stayed together. Bud following her kindly as she checked out the field. A bit like a doting father or even a loving grandfather. It was awesome.
These are some pics I took in the first ten minutes.
I just had a thought....it shouldn't surprise me that a horse that reminded me so much of Bud would be able to fit in with Bud like they were old friends. It's still cool.
We left the horses to get to know each other for a few hours and returned later to see what they were up to. Bud is smitten. He nickers to her in a low soft voice much like his mommy used to nicker to him when he was a baby. It is so cute. They touch noses and lick faces about every ten minutes. If Ruby gets too far away from Bud, he prances around like a stallion to get her attention. Now that is hilarious. We got them both groomed and good for the night and then went to top off their water. They both, being super curious, came to watch. I used the hose like a sprinkler and they stood under it of their own free will. And then it just got funny because Bud got one side sprayed and then turned his butt to us for it to get sprayed. And then he turned to his other side for it to get sprayed. Ruby did the same. They loved it. And after that I got out the video camera to capture what they did next.
It is surreal. Ruby will get a few more days to settle in before she begins her training. I look forward to getting her going. The thought is that following the same workout that Bud is doing, she will be ready for some good trail rides next year. She looks pretty good for a former mommy, but like Bud, there is a lot of room for improvement.
Mark and my biggest impression of Ruby was that she needs a real family to thrive. She is an amazing mover and as I mentioned, learns very easily, but what I did not mention is that she has a few nervous habits. My belief is that they came from life on the track as I've seen them before. So we will work with her slowly and gently so that trust is consistently built and hope these will just vanish. She is super loving already and I think once there is a good foundation of trust, there will be no limit on what she will do or be.
But the most important thing is: we love her and Bud loves her and she has found her forever home. I am excited to see what the next days, weeks and months will hold. One thing I am assured of, I will definitely be entertained. And on another note, Bud's joy on earth is complete. His loneliness is over.