Yesterday, Jan and Dan and I went to Atwood Ranch Naturally to choose a sound partner for continuing our horsemanship journey. We want a horse who will be sound, who will be happy in a family setting, a mix of playing at home and going out on trails, demos and playdays and friendly competitions. A sound horse with a medium spirit, innately LBE or RBI. Of course we want a sound horse with a natural foundation, no abuse or neglect to undo, no unknown traumas or history.
Did I mention, we require soundness?
We got a tour of the amazing ranch with its miles of pastures on an abnormally warm and sunny day — northern California does not tend to be that springlike in January. We met all of the weanlings, yearlings, broodmares, “ladies in waiting” who will join the broodmare bands when they’re old enough, and the 24-year-old stallion they call Target but the pedigree calls Colonel Doc Bar Chex.
Jake Shoemark played with 5 or 6 long yearlings and two-year-olds while we watched from a dias, like the Emperor and his cronies at the Coliseum, with all of the power in our thumbs up or thumbs down. I learned a lot from watching him play with the different horses, and seeing how he changed his strategies from one horse to the next, and one moment to the next.
Then I went down to play with the one I liked best, had Dan and Jan join me eventually, and never even needed to play with the others. She’s a medium-spirit LBE with an excellent mix of sweet and sass. Small but not as delicate in person as the photos suggest. I didn’t get on her back because — well, truthfully, it was because I was shy. Now that I’ve mailed a deposit I’m not quite as shy — I own about 10 percent of her as soon as that check arrives, right?
I will also go through a “tier two” series of soundness tests, playing with her on hard ground and uneven ground and doing the flexion thing and all the other tests on the checklist. I will get an outside vet to do a check, even though I’m pretty sure that Atwood Ranch staff and full-time, on-ranch vet would not have missed something, nor would they have any reason to hide or lie about their horses’ physical fitness. Yet when soundness is the only dealbreaker, a fresh perspective can’t hurt.
Now the emotional bingo begins. I am spiking wildly between it’s her! I know it’s her! and she’s gonna be lame, and then I’ll have to Look, and I HATE SHOPPING. (If I can’t just click once on Amazon and have it arrive in two days, it counts as shopping and I hate it.)
Then my calm, sensible, practical nature says so what, if she’s an unsuitable match for any reason including soundness, it will do everyone good to know it, and I will check the others until everything works, and there won’t be any driving around all over the world looking at horses that all have something wrong with them. Blech.
And my intuition says that’s all ridiculous, she’s totally sound and a perfect match, get yourself organized for bringing her home.