Friday, February 13, 2009

Once Upon a Time.... Conclusion

So, Ganey had determined that it was time for my Grandmother to part with some of her money. Ganey (like many horse trainers) always assumed that other people had money. Which, in relation to himself, was usually true. I had been showing horses since I was 7 years old, and was now 16. Besides the nice trail horses of various descriptions I had grown up on, I had also managed to borrow at least one Saddlebred. I had shown all seats in 4-H winning up to the state level, and had shown huntseat on our competitive saddle club circle, even capturing the high point award one year. But for the most part my dreams of showing horses like I had seen at Louisville went sadly unfulfilled. What I really wanted was an elegant three gaited horse and a top hat. So, we went horse shopping.

Ganey was in his element. Not only did he get to burn up the phone lines telling everyone he knew that he had some money to spend, but he got to ride around the countryside in a much newer car, lunching in backwoods restaurant in 3 states with what he considered to be a whole posse of good looking women. Besides horses and money, women were also a big deal to Ganey. Especially long legged women, since he was about 5'4" ("they aren't too tall on a couch"). I remember for my 16th birthday he insisted I come up with the most elegant red dress I could find (specifically "no pigtails") and meet him at a restaurant so he could take me out to dinner. I don't even remember what restaurant it was anymore, but he had been feeding the bartender all sorts of stories, and he needed an accomplice.
So, he got permission from my mother, and we all played along. He instructed me with just as much detail as he had about my ringmanship about how he wanted me to walk into that bar. I have to say, it's a lesson I have kept with me to this day. Not only do I know better than to pull up a cantering horse in the middle of the long side of an arena, but I know to walk into a bar like I meant to be there, with a destination in mind. Knowing my mother I am still sort of baffled that she had no problem with an 85 year old rascal like Ganey parading her teenage daughter around a bar like a trophy girlfriend, but by then Ganey was like family and he was good fun.

We looked at a few horses. Ganey was ready to buy each one, but none of them were really a good match. Finally, he said he thought he had located a good horse in our low price range, and we headed to Richlon farms. See, I told you at the very beginning this was about how I met Lonnie Lavery... While Ganey and I ran sort of a shabby operation in our old has been of a barn, with our string of has been show horses, Richlon Farm was at the other end of the spectrum. The stables were very well run, and the lounge (noticeably absent at the other places we had been) was luxurious. Within minutes of our arrival, I was prepared to have a pretty good time. Even though we were "no one from nowhere" here to look at one cheap horse, we were greeted with great hospitality. I'm sure this was not only due to Lonnie's graciousness and professionalism, but also was being done as a favor for Ganey. The horse we had come to look at "Bold Type" was ready, but Lonnie told us he had two other similar horses to show us so we could make a fair comparison with what we were looking at.

The first horse was a very pretty, refined gelding with nice motion. He had the neatest pair of Valley View Supreme ears at the end of that long neck. I still remember rounding the far end of the indoor looking through those ears thinking "pinch me I'm dreaming". He was a very kind horse, with a wonderful mouth who tried every day of his life to do what you asked him. After we rode that one, Lonnie brought out a cocky little flaxen horse, followed by a really nice horse, much like the first, but with more age and experience. He was also twice as expensive. I was allowed to ride each one, and each one was beautifully trained, and packed me around willingly.

It was pretty obvious that the first horse would fit the bill nicely, and also was what we could afford. But, not to be rushed into any decision involving a horse, my dear mother asked if we could ride him a second time. We had already taken up a good portion of the Lavery's morning riding horses, but no one missed a beat, and the first horse was quickly readied and brought out again. This time, we tried him in the outdoor arena with the beautiful cinder track. I was truly living a dream. Of course, we were all behaving like Hillbilly's at Disneyland. My mother was snapping photos and my Grandmother was bending the ear of Lonnie's lovely wife Renae. I don't recall what Ganey was up to at the time, probably hiding in the corner trying to pretend he didn't know us.

We did buy the first horse. He turned out to be a wonderful teacher. First he went back to Ganey's while we got to know him, and then I took him home. I used that horse as a guinea pig for every training device that could be either purchased through a catalog, or rigged up from the picture. I showed him for years in everything from three gaited to pleasure, and on down to western (never beaten) and then leased him to a gal who showed him successfully in country pleasure driving. We also spent hours trail riding, and driving along the roads in a cart or a sleigh. I even took him calf penning once and he tried his very best. Some years later, I decided I would rather have a five gaited horse. So, I taught him to rack. He really wasn't five gaited material, and was aged at that point, but I do have a video of him racking along as true as can be.

He was the perfect first Saddlebred and I am indebted to Ganey and Lonnie Lavery for matching us up. I think that was my most successful horse shopping experience ever. It certainly was a memorable day.


Ashley said...

I loved it! It really made me think about how I started out riding. I was the guinea pig for the barn and I had to ride all the renegades as well! What I wouldn't give to go back and relive those days! Of course I am assistant at a show barn now, but nothing can compare to the raw excitement I used to feel back then.

Leah said...

I got goosebumps reading the part about riding the horse you bought- I know that feeling, how awesome! Gorgeous horse too in the photo! Great story Brita, thanks for sharing it! And I love the photos too. :)