It’s the end of The Great Horse Hunt but the beginning of a new adventure.
We’ve been horse hunting for a while, checking out some horses through word of mouth but mostly shopping online. I’ve met some horses who didn’t quite fill our bill for one reason or another, but I also got to visit with some really nice horse people, making the whole thing a positive experience.
More than anything, I got verrry familiar with the advanced search function for classified ads on AQHA’s Web site, because we had a lot of variables to plug in. We were looking for a easygoing horse for my husband, Chad, to learn to ride on, and which could double as a kid horse for our nieces and nephew when they come to visit. We wanted a stocky horse shorter than 15 hands for ease of mounting, and we preferred a gelding to fit in our herd situation. Bonus points if he’s low in the pecking order and won’t fight with our other horses. Color didn’t matter so much, but he obviously had to have a heart of gold and be comfortable trail riding and checking cattle. We wanted a horse that was somewhat older and experienced, but with no soundness or other health issues. Oh, and we didn’t exactly have an unlimited budget, either, and we couldn’t travel cross-country to try out horses. Like I said … a lot of variables.
We e-mailed one seller on the site to ask about a black gelding she had listed. She responded with her Web site address, which had more information and also listed a few other horses. Among them was a cute flaxen-maned sorrel gelding who was doing light ranch work and trail riding. “Val” sounded promising enough to merit a two-hour drive, so I went to try him out, taking a spin in the arena and then heading out on the trails of the northwest Oklahoma ranch.
In the arena, well, let’s just say he won’t be winning any world championships any time soon. But on the trails, the little gelding’s ears went forward, and I’m pretty sure he started smiling. We went “off road,” going up hills and through brush, scaring up some birds from their groundcover. He enjoyed all of it, and I did, too. He was safe, responsive and happy to do his job.
His bloodlines intrigued me. On the top (sire side), he’s a grandson of Easy Jet (a racing world champion and member of the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame). His bottom (dam) line traces to Me Quick To, a gray stallion who earned a Register of Merit on the racetrack, then scored AQHA Superiors in halter and western pleasure. He also had some National Cutting Horse Association earnings. Most importantly, my last “kid horse with a heart of gold” was one of his descendants. “Blue” had to be put down in fall 2008, and I miss her dearly.
But despite the racing blood, this gelding — like Blue — prefers to keep it in a lower gear.
It got more interesting when the seller’s trainer gave me the phone number for Val’s breeder. (Sidenote: this wouldn’t have been possible without the AQHA transfer reports … a definite benefit to buying registered horses.)
The breeder had had “Val” from birth to 5 years old, and as it turns out, she called him “Everest” because he was strong, solid and as stable as the mountain. She had given him special nutritional supplements and didn’t actually start him under saddle until he was 5, so that his joints were all fully closed. “He’ll last you longer than 10 horses,” she said.
We had a pre-purchase exam done just to make sure.
And interestingly, Everest/Val is featured in a book the breeder wrote called “Promises Lost and Found” about Native American philosophies and their relationship with animals. I haven’t read it yet, but she offered to send me one if I ended up buying him.
And you know I wouldn’t be writing this much about him if he weren’t standing outside in my pasture right now. Except that the poor horse has undergone yet another name change. Chad wanted to give him a fresh start … so his nickname is now “Ochocinco.” (Cincinnati Bengals fans will understand my husband’s attempt at humor … it’s a reference to the football player who changed his name to Chad Ochocinco to match his jersey number, 85.) I’ve made the executive decision to shorten that to “Ocho.”
Already, it has been an interesting journey just getting him here. As the weather turns into trail-riding temps, I can’t wait to see how his story continues to unfold. Hope to see some of you guys out on the trails!
Editor, America’s Horse magazine
Don’t miss the fun, educational and heart-warming stories in the print version of America’s Horse! It goes to all members of the American Quarter Horse Association, and it’ll also keep you in the loop on Association news. We want you to belong!