Monday, August 31, 2009

In Like Flynn

I am discovering the one drawback of having a nearly perfect horse: if anything goes awry during riding, it is my fault. "The horse is perfect," I am told repeatedly; "You, not so much."

Thus I soldier on, trying to live up to my new Argentine warmblood who is thought to walk on water by pretty much everyone. Yes, Flynn has a couple of unsightly scars, most likely the result of a youth spent amidst barbed-wire fencing, as is customary in South America. Barbed wire and young horses are not a good mix, as any horseman will testify, but it's cheaper than wood fencing and therefore still used in some cultures. He has a wind puff on the right hind ankle, another cosmetic blemish. Flynn can be standoffish with folks, and he can be hard to catch in a field if he doesn't like you.

These imperfections were not enough to deter me from buying a horse that still astonishes me with his training and beauty. He is a handsome chestnut, with a heart-melting face and four fancy socks. All three gaits are lovely, especially the walk and canter. As Susan puts it, "he is a forward-thinking horse," which means that Flynn likes to move out, an enormous relief after years of exhausting myself trying to get Beau to move off my leg. For the first time, I can actually focus on my technique and not having to motivate the horse.

I owe the fact of Flynn to my friend Susan, who had her eye on him from the beginning. He was at a well-known sales barn in Pennsylvania, priced to sell in this depressed economy--only he didn't. Perhaps he wasn't marketed correctly; perhaps his aloofness put off potential buyers. For whatever reason, Flynn remained while other horses left within days of arrival. His price kept dropping. When Susan and I went to this sales barn, I was actually more interested in other horses I had seen on their web site. Flynn seemed too fancy and too expensive for me, but Susan insisted.

This horse that had frozen out other customers over the past two months, turned his head to look at me intently and we locked eyes for the longest time. He sighed, and I stroked his neck, knowing I had passed some mysterious equine test. Accustomed to advanced riders, Flynn nonetheless took care of me, patiently carrying me over cross-rails and cantering in a nice collected gait.

I returned the following weekend, this time with my friend Hope in tow (in addition to faithful Susan). Hope didn't like Flynn initially--he wouldn't look at her, staring stonily ahead--and she frowned at the wind puff and scars. Once I mounted, however, her furrowed brow smoothed and a smile broke out. "You look great on him," she enthused. Again, I did flat work, in addition to an hour trail ride. Flynn nuzzled me affectionately afterward, eating treats and inhaling my human scent. Susan joked that it was like a bad commercial with two people running toward each other in a field of wildflowers, arms opened in an expectant embrace. Truth be told, it was that bad. I don't know if horses and humans are capable of love at first sight, but something like that happened between Flynn and me.

I worried about the wind puff and fretted that the pre-purchase exam would show up some insurmountable problem. Many tests later, my fears were allayed: Flynn was pronounced to be a remarkably hardy horse given his training and show-jumping experience. Especially for a rider at my level, he would give me many years of sound work and pleasure. Both the owner and the agent were eager for the sale to go through. Flynn's owner, now living and training in France, couldn't afford maintaining horses on two continents, and the sales agent had other horses coming in. Flynn's price dropped again, making him affordable. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine being able to own a fancy warmblood with years of training, but I have Susan to thank as well as the agent, who worked very hard to make the deal happen. I know that horse dealers generally have a bad rap; this woman, though, was the consummate professional.

And that, dear reader, is how I came to own a horse from Argentina, an animal who is perfectly behaved with humans but lavishly affectionate with me alone. I wouldn't have it otherwise.

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