When we stopped for gas, I hopped out of the truck and peeked into the trailer from the back. Bizzy – the horse I had just bought and named – was still eating. In the dim light of dusk, I couldn’t see the filth or the ribs and hips sticking out. All I could see was the outline of a Thoroughbred – and she belonged to me.
The day after Kevin and I went to visit the horse – in October, 2016 – Lauren and Amanda drove the truck and trailer up from Uxbridge while I drove from our home in Arlington. We met up in the Friendly’s parking lot and I hopped in with them. Lauren had brought her one year old baby, Elizabeth, and was pregnant with her second.
When we arrived, the first half hour was filled with pushing the dogs back, ignoring the woman’s protestations about getting the horse out of the paddock if we weren’t definitely going to take her, Lauren threatening to walk away if we couldn’t see her move, my ducking out before getting kicked by one of the other horses and finally, at last, leading the horse into a trot down the driveway. She trotted just fine. She was sound.
Lauren and I had a quick consultation. The horse would need extra board, she was so extremely thin.
I agreed, not even really knowing what I was saying, and asked the woman for the horse’s papers.
“I don’t think I can find them,” she said.
I told her I thought that she could, if she just went in the house and looked for them. I don’t know what possessed me to say that, but it worked. Two minutes later, she’d produced them, protesting that she didn’t want us to have them because she didn’t want us to race her again. We compared the registration number to the tattoo inside the horse’s lip. I wrote the second check for $250. And then she was mine.
We walked her down the driveway. At the end of it she suddenly stopped, slammed a front hoof on the pavement, threw her head in the air and screamed. I thought it meant we were going to have an awful time loading her. But once that was done she threw her head back down, walked right on to the trailer, and began eating the hay hanging inside.
She’s never screamed since, so now I know she was saying goodbye. Or perhaps something a little less polite.
The woman began to get sentimental, calling her “Stella” and telling her she had always planned to do right by her. At last we said goodbye and I climbed up into the back seat of the truck – exhilarated, stunned, overwhelmed.
Amanda said, “Nicole, you own a horse!” and tossed me some mini Milky Ways, in the truck for Halloween. I ate three in quick succession and told them what I wanted to name her.
“Her registered name is She’s Just Business,” I said. “So I thought we could call her Bizzy.”
This is Goldie, the horse I leased for two years.
Goldie is Lauren’s pride and joy, an OTTB she adopted at ten years old and retrained for Hunters. A month before we found Bizzy, I was quietly absorbed in grooming Goldie for a show the next day. It was the hot beginning of September, and Lauren and I had been looking for a horse for me to buy. Because cost was an issue we had been checking out free lease options. But the woman with warmbloods to free lease never came through. The camp horse named Blueberry decided, on my second visit to him in Maine, to grab the bit and run away with me after jumps. And when we went to see a Paint who loved to jump, we were instead shown a huge, green draft named Rosie, trained by a woman who liked to somersault off her back.
While I stood there grooming Goldie, I thought, “Why don’t we just make me another Goldie?” Lauren made the same suggestion from the ground while I was mounted and about to go into the ring at the show the very next day.
She found the ad on CANTER and again on a Facebook feed for Horses for Sale in New England under $2000. There was a picture of a sleek horse, with the note “in race condition.”
And, the fact is, we love Thoroughbreds.
One Saturday in October, 2016, I asked my husband Kevin whether he’d be willing to drive about an hour north the next day, into New Hampshire, to see about a horse. I told him I didn’t think it would amount to anything. I had been looking for awhile, and nothing had panned out. But this horse was only $500, and it was a warm weekend, so we took a drive.
After getting off the highway, we followed winding roads past a Friendly’s and a Dunkin Donuts, and finally found the road and the address. It turned out not to be a horse farm we were visiting, but a house on a cul de sac. The pitted, rutted driveway, under overgrown bushes and sumac at the end of a semicircle of neat houses and lawns, led to the only property you couldn’t see from the road.
We were greeted by running and barking dogs who seemed so simultaneously afraid of us and aggressive that they were scary – and a harried woman who finally emerged from the house. She had strung wire up in a small backyard and into a bare dirt patch beside the woods, with one or two small shelters for the six or so horses distributed among the makeshift paddocks. The horse we were to see was in the furthest back, on bare ground under the trees, with a long, viscous pool of urine along one side of her enclosure.
The horse was emaciated and filthy. But her eye was kind, and she let us approach her easily and touch her while we looked her over. Her legs were long and beautiful. Her tangled mane and tail were thick and long and her hooves strong and uncracked. Her eyes and nose were clear. To me that meant she was thin but not sick.
Kevin took her lead rope and led her from one end of the paddock to the other, slipping into the urine pool, heroically trying to get her to trot.
“Come on, Mama!” said the woman.
I watched the horse, who moved with Thoroughbred elegance even if she didn’t trot. There was no room to trot with those long legs, so she gamely picked up her walking pace as Kevin trotted alongside.
Eventually, we left. We sat in the car, still in the driveway. It seemed obvious that she was too much of a mess, that there was no way we were going to take her.
“What do you think?” asked Kevin.
I don’t know what he expected me to say. I didn’t know what I expected me to say.
As we discussed it, we agreed she seemed sad but not broken. She was kind and had a beautiful conformation. I called Lauren and sent her the videos. She didn’t hear a dealbreaker in our assessment. We got out of the car and gave the woman a check for $250, with the promise Lauren would come with a trailer the following day, and we agreed that before we took her we would make sure the horse was sound.
Kevin and I stopped at a McDonald’s on the way home, looked at the videos and pictures over and over, sent texts back and forth with Lauren, and tried not to get excited. Lauren and I agreed not to name her.