Whenever you have to retire a horse before you expect to you’re in for a long haul. It’s an emotionally taxing time at the very least. Being the first horse I’ve had to go down this road with, retiring my 20 year old grade quarter horse gelding due to navicular changes was (and still is) nothing short of heartbreaking.
The boy I call Bobby McGee taught me how to ride but today the best thing I can do for him is not ask him to pack me around anymore. After going on 4 years together the most I can do is let him live out his golden years in peace without me on his back.
I live on a horse farm in Central New Jersey with my fiancée, Lisa, a horse trainer who got me sucked into this mess in the first place. While some people might think of refineries and smoke stacks, the New Jersey I know is sandwiched between boardwalks, beaches and farmland.
Fun fact: Did you know that New Jersey is more densely populated with horses than Kentucky? It’s true. You can fact check me here.
Despite our fist pumping Jersey Shore reputation, I live in the horse country of the East Coast. And for the first time in almost half a decade I’m horse-less living on a farm full of horses and boarders’ horses.
And that’s when we found ourselves trolling Facebook.
“Did you see this one?! He’s amazing!” I’d say to Lisa. She’d take one look and say, “Built too uphill… Chip removal surgery… See those knees?” Or my favorite. Getting too excited over appearances I would frequently skim an ad thinking I’d found our purple unicorn, handing over my phone with such excitement only to have Lisa say to me, “Did you read the whole ad? It’s a pony… She’s pasture sound… Just had surgery.”
This is when I realized that in all likelihood I would never be able to pick out a horse for myself. Why? Simple answer: I like pretty things but I know that in the horse world, pretty horses are not always well conformed little beasts that my amateur-ish self can manage on my own.
Having a few friends in Kentucky and Northern New York who’ve competed in the Retired Racehorse Project I was sort of intrigued by the idea of an off track thoroughbred, especially since in the middle of August most tracks are winding down and clearing out the stalls on the backside. They were readily available and for the most part, within budget… But how was I supposed to find the right one for me?
I didn’t, but my fiancée did. She joined a Facebook group dedicated to rehoming OTTBs and in that group, we found my little prince. Shockingly, I didn’t take much convincing to trust in the process of buying an OTTB sight unseen on Facebook. To be perfectly honest I was giddy at the idea of having a horse to ride. Later I told Lisa it could have been a three legged donkey that walked off the trailer and I still would have loved it. But thankfully he’s nothing close to that. Combined with video, pictures, and a personal reference that the horse we were interested was very ammy friendly, we couldn’t help but jump at the opportunity.
“I just sent her the message saying we’d take him,” Lisa said to me.
“Did we really buy a racehorse off Facebook without a pre purchase exam or even seeing this thing?” I said to her.
“Yup,” she said.
And while Mr. Jones and I are newly into this journey together, if you ask me about regrets during the process, I truthfully have none.
I trusted people who are more knowledgeable than I am in this subject. I put my faith and trust in those people and in the reputation of strangers and closed Facebook groups. Risky as it may sound, I’ll take the word of a stranger if their reputation is that they’re fair and honest. Hell that’s more of a heads up than I get with most of the a*holes I deal with on a regular basis. The process of putting my trust in others assured me of one thing constantly: there are still good, fair, and honest people in the world willing to work with you if you ask. If you never ask, you’ll never know.
There were no guarantees he’d get off the trailer sound or that he’d behave like a perfect gentlemen. But he was pretty close – exactly as described, sound, sure footed, and above all, friendly. Isn’t that all you can ask for in a new horse?