The last time I wrote about selling a horse, we weren't all that sad to see him go. He had been a good horse and we had loved him for the year we owned him but after his explosion had put Equestrian Girl in the hospital for 8 days with a fractured kidney, we knew there would always be a trust issue.
This time was different. Much different.
Stanley had been our "once in a life-time" horse. He was the horse that taught us not just about riding and being good horsewomen. He taught us about growing up, cooperation, doing what's right. He taught us about ourselves.
I remember one time about 3 1/2 years ago when EG was riding and was getting very frustrated with Stanley. He was trying to do what she was asking. I could see that very clearly. She couldn't and was being short tempered and mean. I pulled her right off his back and told her to go get in the car. I took off his saddle and gently brushed him while I calmed down. He had that effect on me. That calming thing. By the time I got to the car I had made my decision. EG was grounded for the next six weeks from riding. She was going to be my groom only but was not going to ride. At all. And this was right before show season was starting...
Nobody thought I would hold to that six weeks. I wasn't even sure I was going to stick to it but every time we drove to the barn, I was more and more sure that I had done the right thing. And I had. Stanley enjoyed the break from the hard work since I would only walk and trot him and EG and I came to a very different place in our relationship. A better one. Thank you Stanley.
After Equestrian Girl made the top 20 with APHA 2 years ago we spent the next summer more or less "relaxing" with just 6 open shows and 4H fair. Busy, yes, but not like the year before where we were showing at least 3 times a month and put many, many miles on the truck. Going into that winter, I should have seen the change in EG but didn't. In retrospect, it was right there in front of me. The lack of excitement about riding and lack of motivation to go to the barn. What had once been a 5 times a week thing had become more of a chore for her and she didn't mind much if I went without her.
This summer we only had plans to do the 5 open shows and I was okay with that. I love our "Spur of the Moment" family and knowing I was having hip surgery right after the first show, my activity was going to be a bit limited anyway. EG was having fun and doing very well at the shows but something wasn't there. Apparently she was hinting but I wasn't listening. Or maybe I just wasn't hearing. She had to hit me upside the head. And even then, there was a few weeks of denial.
After the fourth show she told me. Mom, we have to sell Stanley. I've outgrown him just like Kayla did. I'm bored. I need a new equestrian challenge or I'm going to quit horses.
I thought the challenge of doing dressage with him had been enough. It was a change more than a challenge. Stanley made it easy. Too easy. Our little Western Pleasure horse was pretty dang good at dressage. Who would have thought? EG knew. It was time. The horse that I had promised to keep forever and retire when he got old needed to go on to teach yet one more young woman how to ride and be an awesome horsewoman. I wouldn't be able to ride the horse into my sunset years like I had planned. The horse that had carried my daughter to such great success in the show ring and brought her umpteen awards wasn't going to be ours anymore.
I was crushed. I couldn't talk about it. I knew what we had to do but I just couldn't. I thought of ways to keep him. It was like going back to when I was 12 and my parents told me they were selling our dog and I ran away with him. I wanted to saddle up Stanley and ride away. Except I couldn't. I couldn't even ride yet because of the hip surgery. I was going to have to sell our horse without having one last ride on him.
Of course, running away wasn't logical or possible. I had to come to terms with the whole idea first and I did. Slowly. And then started telling a few people he was for sale. And then listed him on FaceBook. And then on Dreamhorse.com. People started calling and asking questions. We knew we had a rock star horse but we also knew he was 16. Way too many people think any horse over 12 is "old". And in some cases, they are right. But not Stanley. He is still going along exactly the same as he was 5 years ago and if anything, he is better.
The first family came to look at him and try him out. Tiny little girl of 7 but with a big personality and not at all afraid to push. Her little feet just barely hung past the flaps of our dressage saddle but she was able to get a nice walk and trot going. With the touch of the whip and a big kiss, she got him to canter. He liked her and was pretty well behaved. He loved her carrots. Alas, a few days later they decided to buy a pony. Stanley was too big. We found that funny since by all practical purposes, he's on the small size for a show horse.
The second family came with a trainer. They were jumpers and in spite of my warnings over and over again that he wasn't a jumper, they wanted to try him out. A few days later they let me know they were going to buy a horse with more jumping experience.
And then the third family called. His Dad had owned Stanley's grandfather. Their daughter was 14 but very inexperienced. The family had showed with their older daughter for years. They had 200 acres and would retire him on their property if they bought him. We scheduled their visit and before I hung up the phone, I knew they'd leave with him.
This next family was due to come early on Saturday morning. On Saturday night, EG and I went out to the barn to work the ol' boy and make sure he was doing better with his donkey separation. I started taking a few pictures with my phone. These would probably be the last pictures of Equestrian Girl riding Stanley...so I took more. I think it then hit EG and she offered to take a couple of me with our boy. I was glad I was wearing sunglasses. I was crying.
My gut wasn't wrong. They loved him. He was exactly what they wanted and needed. Within a few hours, he was loaded on their trailer and headed to Indiana.
Goodbye sweet boy! You will forever be in our hearts as that once in a lifetime horse. And if I ever get the chance to ride you again, I just might ride you off into the sunset to runaway until someone makes me come back.