Weekend before last, my riding buddy Jean and I went on a road trip. We had an appointment to meet a guy named Stu. Although we had not met him, we had heard that Stu was a nice guy and we were looking forward to meeting him and talking horses. After an hour and a half, we found the long lane way to the farm we were looking for. We were greeted by two large dogs, announcing our arrival. A tall (very handsome) man emerged from the barn and carefully maneuvered over the icy open area to where we were parked. After we introduced ourselves, The Farmer told us we would find Stu in the barn with his daughter.
I chatted with The Farmer (did I mention he was handsome?) as we walked up to the barn, asking about his milking operation and his hobby of driving. He currently drives double and four hitches and competes in the regional fairs, if he can get someone to babysit his cows over the weekend. Which brings us to the reason we came in the first place. Meet Stu....
Isn't he handsome? Jean heard about Stu through a friend. He is trained to drive single, double and in a four-hitch. The only issue....he's too short! The Farmer bought him as a 3 year old, hoping he would finish at closer to 18hh. But, at 6 years of age, he pretty well finished at just 16.3hh and at 1400 lbs (we measure him), he's too small to drive in pairs or teams with The Farmer's other horses. As a comparison, Gem is around 16.0-16.1hh and weighs in at 1300 lbs. Although Jean did not have plans to buy a horse until the Fall, Stu was pretty much exactly what she was looking for; he is the right age, the right size, a gelding, has a gentle demeanor, he is an easy keeper, has never had any health issues, is outside 24/7, has good feet and reasonably priced.
It's not all roses though. The Farmer was honest with us and said that Stu had not been worked with for a year, was living the life of a prince out with the other horses, is in the upper section of the 10-horse herd hierarchy and was sometimes hard to catch in the field. Oh, and he's never had a rider on his back.
Stu let us touch him all over (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) and we picked up his feet and held them up without issue. We couldn't trot him outside because of the ice. However, The Farmer's 13-year old daughter walked him up and down the aisle of the barn. He never pulled on the lead rope and was quite content following her. The Farmer did say that because he knew that Jean was looking to have a riding horse, he put his daughter up on Stu prior to our arrival to see what he would do! He said he wouldn't have done it if he wasn't confident that Stu wouldn't turn into a lunatic. He did it again for us. Stu sort of had a look of "hmmm...that feels different....", but he didn't twitch or freak out.
A date was agreed on for the vet check, a handshake sealed the deal and Jean and I said our good-byes to Stu, The Farmer and his daughter. We waited until we were driving down the lane way before we started whooping and hollering.
Jean excitedly told LA about Stu after our lesson last Tuesday. Instead of being excited for Jean, LA's response was guarded. She's concerned for Jean's safety. She thinks Jean is in for a lot of hurt and frustration. But what was hurtful was she doesn't quite get why Jean would want a Clyde in the first place. "You can't do anything with a Clyde." It was a bit of a letdown for Jean and when the two of us went for Burgers and Beers afterwards, I had to give her a little pep talk. However, LA's negativity and big horse prejudice has made Jean even more determined to prove her wrong. :-)
The vet check was done this past Wednesday and other than the vet wanting him to be a little heavier, he passed with flying colours. Unfortunately, because of icy conditions Stu couldn't be lunged in a circle, but the vet's examination did not lead him to believe there would be problems. All his vaccinations and a Coggins Test were done. His teeth will be floated in the spring.
Getting a Clyde or any horse that is +16.0hh brings on other challenges. Normal trailers can't handle a large horse comfortably. Most farriers won't work on drafts without the use of stocks. Getting a saddle may be a challenge. But you can always find a solution and it's amazing how horsey friends come together and help. I offered my English saddle to Jean just to get him used to having something on his back while she's working with him. A trailer was found and booked. Boarding arrangements, at the regular outside board rate (yipee!) with LA have been finalized. Stu will have his feet done before he's transferred to give Jean time to find local farrier that will work without stocks.
I am going to be Jean's ground person for the first while, and definitely when she's ready to start sitting on him. Her goal is to be riding him by the summer, eventually working towards taking him out in the small field to get him used to larger spaces with a rider on his back. I am excited for Jean - her dream has come true. I am looking forward to helping her; I think I will learn a lot. Stu will be here in 2 weeks....I can hardly wait!!! :-)