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.
She was dirty and thin.
She let us touch her all over.
Her hooves were strong and not cracked.
She looked cute with Kevin.
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.