The Hardest Part

Was there ever anything harder than closing a farm?

It’s never easy selling horses, even when that’s what you supposedly do for a living. Compound that – sell all of them, all at once.

When I was eighteen, interning at a breeding farm (we specialized in draft and Thoroughbred crosses that make me blush to think of now) the farm owner told me, standing over a foal that had been born dead, “You have to be hard.” Yeah, I thought. I can do that.

I love my very bad children!

In the years to follow I’d sell horses, and give horses away, and some I’d check up on, and some I wouldn’t. Some I wish I had. Rapidan – whatever happened to Rapidan, my amazing Thoroughbred stallion? Truly, The One That Got Away. Too bad, too bad. Horses come and horses go. I worked hard at being hard.

Last year, I sold my first two home-breds. Off went Sugar and Emira, Sugar whose impending arrival we discovered during a commercial break of “How I Met Your Mother,” (nice and early, wasn’t that nice of her?); Emira, who would be born, find her feet, learn to canter, and start nursing while we slept, her mother being in the dictionary under the heading Sneaky Mare. My first foals, they kicked me and bit me and stomped me, ran away from me, made me generally crazy, until suddenly they were following me around, rubbing on me, looking for me over their stall doors. I tacked them and started them, and then I put them on a trailer, and they left. I worked very hard at being hard. But I missed them very much. And I worry.

Sugar and Emira’s dams left two weeks ago. Mercedes and Princess came as a pair, lived as a pair, left as a pair. They were turned out in a huge new pasture as a pair. Their new owner is knowledgeable and will take care of them. I drove away and left them, dry-eyed. Hard. But I’ll worry about them from time to time.

Charlie left two days ago. The little black stallion, age unknown, breeding unknown, history unknown. I found him on Craigslist for $50. I gave him to a girl with a beautiful little farm and a collection of fat and attractive geldings. No doubt he will run the place. I’ll worry about him, too.

Bonnie and Wicket live here yet, and saying good-bye to them will be especially hard. I’ve ridden both, I love both, they are beautiful and intelligent and royally bred. Watching them in the paddock is practically a pastime for me. I will have to work extra hard at this one. The same goes for my 2010 yearlings. Their futures are bright – we may seem them on television – but sending them out into the big scary world – oh, I’ll worry. I’ll work hard but – I’ll worry.

And Final Call – what can be said about him? He’s lived with me briefly, but his personality is like no other. I could put in his sales ad, “Will Work For Cookies – But a Head Rub Will Do.” And require that whoever takes him buy his favorite cookies, and rub his head just so, and remember that he likes to pick up his off hind leg before his near hind leg, and his flanks are ticklish, and – I’ll work hard at being hard. But, I’ll worry.

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “The Hardest Part

  1. Barb Fulbright

    They’re all so vulnerable for being such large beings- I can’t even say “animals”. When we live them, they become part of us, and we of them. I’m still holding my breath on Final Call.

  2. We all worry when we aren’t the ones overseeing their care and well-being any more. You can only find them the best homes possible so you’ll perhaps worry a little bit less.

    To not worry would be more worrisome.

  3. This must be so hard for you. I guess the upshot is that there are so many good people out there who would take great care of them. The problem is weeding those honest, reliable people out of the riffraff.

    • Natalie Keller Reinert

      It leads to a really interesting question, which is how picky-choosy should you be when you’re selling a horse? I’m not above asking for pictures of someone’s property, but I don’t generally check up on their training techniques or ask to talk to their trainer. Although if I gave away a horse for free, I might.

      What I’m finding challenging now is that the best way to find the right situation for a horse is through word-of-mouth, and I don’t have any local contacts to put out the all-call for someone who is looking for a project.

  4. Sara

    I have followed your blog with some interest. So I am reading your latest with a lump in my throat. I find myself in a similarly awkward situation regarding horses. I’m 56 yrs old and I had quit horses for 30 years, earning degrees in both fine art and architecture in the meantime. Along comes my daughter and wants to learn to ride, and turns out to be very talented. So what’s a mom to do? I got back into it too, not totally selfless, I admit. So now I’ve worked my way into a riding instructor’s position which hardly pays anything. To be honest, I’m a better artist than rider or trainer. But I did it so my daughter could have free rides and lessons.

    In this economy, I’m not quite willing to give up the “pin money” I make, since I’m supporting a horse that I “co-own” with someone else. But I’m not sure I regret the detour either. When I stopped riding, back in 1975, I was riding race horses, and OTTBs. Maybe its kharma that I came back to horses after such a long abscence.

    I applaud your recognition of the direction you personally need to take. But it won’t surprise me if somewhere down the line, you come back to the farm.

    • Natalie Keller Reinert

      Sara, Isn’t being in the horse business one long series of awkward situations? I often think that. There are people who seem to be content spending their whole lives in the barns. And then there are those of us who flit back and forth, between professional lives in suits and heels, and professional lives in breeches and boots. I will say this – this is the closest thing to having both that I have ever found. To live in the city, and to write about horses? Sounds perfect. Racehorses were my first love, and if I was relegated to the show ring because that is where young girls have to go, it was never my intention to stay there forever. And I find showing pretty boring, anyway! All that trouble for a ribbon? Racehorses win money, ya know 🙂

      But if horses are in you, even if it isn’t your lifestyle forever, can you ever really give them up? It’s there, it’s instinct, it’s fate, it’s something – it’s a need that can’t be filled by anything else. So you go back to riding after 30 years. That need is there. And thank goodness we never really forget how to ride!

      Believe me, my saddle and stick, my hat and my vest, my breeches and boots, are all coming to New York with me! It’s hard to say when they’ll be needed, but I know that they will be. There’s no question of giving up riding. Riding for a living? Yes. Definitely. There’s a lot of other things to accomplish. I’m not one of those people easily contented, and I can’t stay in the barn, as attractive as that option has often seemed. 30 years down the road? Who can say?

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