- Meet Freddy
- Freddy Comes to Canada
- Settling In
- Freddy's First Summer
|In the spring of 2017 an effort to adopt a 'rescue horse' fell through, and while the idea to acquire a project that needed a home still seemed rational, I came across 'Sefa on Parade' (Freddy), a six-year-old with only about a dozen races under his belt on the Canter, Illinois website. He had a look that appealed to me and a very kind expression. For $ 1,500.00, what could go wrong...???|
|Freddy's First Summer|
|Freddy had a few months of light work under his belt and proved to be as nice as horse to work with as he looked. He learned about cross-ties and became completely comfortable with being handled on his right side.
Standing for mounting was confirmed and he got much better to bridle - still holding his teeth closed, but without the
head-tossing and anxiety that was going on at first.|
Despite only being ridden a few times a week, each time we got on we were able to progress from where we finished in the last ride. He is very quick and willing to learn and put up with my mistakes and miscommunications without becoming offended.
Claudia rode him over his first small jumps and he was willing, brave and well-balanced - staying that way when I was his rider. The steering got much better when Claudia pointed out that I needed to focus on keeping his shoulders straight rather than trying to turn his neck, so we progressed to different sized circles, serpentines and so forth. The biggest problem I was having was with some head-tossing. A combination of Freddy's aversion to bugs and some tension at times would get him going and I found myself getting frustrated. We added a running martingale to his tack and also realized he needed a little more challenge in his training as when he was focused and busy, he didn't do it.
I had taken him on quite a few trail rides, both alone and in company, and he was quite calm and not spooky. We hadn't come across any deer or birds flying up in our faces, so I was still waiting to see what would happen when he gets truly startled!
In the field with Ralph and Lou, he became a bit of a pest - particularly bugging big brother Ralph who couldn't get a moment's peace. I was getting tired of finding new cuts and scrapes on both of them each day and worried that Ralph, who has hind shoes on, would get fed up and kick Freddy. Now Freddy goes out with Lou who seems to take less offense to his attention.
The major excitement of this first segment of Freddy's training was a clinic with Jessica Phoenix! On the first day we did some flatwork, including leg-yielding in walk and trot. I had not attempted that while getting the steering sorted out, but Freddy was obviously ready for the challenge and made some decent attempts. Another exercise to add to the mix...
On day 2 Jessica rode him, and the transformation in twenty minutes was incredible to watch. Freddy is capable of some lengthening, more bending exercises, and learned he CAN lower his neck and relax his back! Jess finished up with a few very tiny jump courses in canter, and it was apparent that Freddy, his fan club watching, and Jess herself were all delighted with his progress!
|On May 3, 2017, Freddy arrived at Sandridge Farm to begin his second career as a riding horse.|
I loved his eye and expression in his photographs, and so far the camera didn't lie - he was proving to be calm, smart, and friendly. He celebrated his 6th birthday on May 6, part of the first week he arrived that was spent learning the routine and being introduced to turnout again. He normally went out with Ralph, and was ready to come in after about three hours. He is the typical thin-skinned TB, and we make sure he wears a fly mask and a sheet if the bugs are particulary bad.
In his first week, the farrier saw him to remove his remaining two racing plates. Apart from a bit of thrush behind, he appeared to have four nice hooves of a decent size, and we left him unshod for the time being. Dr. Halle was also by to give him a once-over and administer his vaccinations, take a Coggins Test, and de-worm him. Our Osteopath, Chris Gagné also examined him, and other than finding his back bit tight and sore, felt he should be able to start light work right away. Later in June, Dr. Heather Ross came and checked his teeth. She was pleased with their condition and they only required a light rasping.
With all the health and maintenance issues dealt with, it was time to see what Freddy knew...
We weren't sure if he'd ever been cross-tied, so we tied him in the stall for grooming and tacking up and he was very well-behaved. Putting on the bridle was a bit of a discussion, until we found he loves 'Barnie's' treats; with a little bribery, Freddy's mouth is open and waiting for the bit! Funnily enough, it was the only type of treat he would eat - not carrots, or apples, or any other brand of treat. His right side was a mystery to him - when we went to handle him from the right, he would turn around and face us or back up. On the lunge line it was the same - he was quite happy going left, but to the right he would stop and turn in, or right around. Andy, our barn-guy-extraordinaire, worked with him on that, consistantly leading and turning him both ways, and he was much more comfortable pretty quickly. The lunging was coming along; after 3 or 4 sessions he was pretty good in walk, trot and canter both ways, although he pulled outward to the right. Under saddle, steering and bending were definitely gaps in his education, and he would only stands for mounting with bribery. This was not unexpected, as exercise riders and jockeys are usually given a leg up and the horse is allowed to keep moving forward. Even though we were only riding him a couple of times a week, he was a little better each time. An average week would have him lunged once or twice, a little flatwork once, and a hack with Ralph on another day.
Freddy comes as soon as you go into his field and seems happy to do things. He was still thin and got tired easily, so 20 miutes or so was about the limit of his mental and physical efforts. So far..so good! We looked forward to seeing how he would progress through the rest of the summer.
|Freddy's first ride, and a cuddle with Andy|
|Freddy Comes to Canada|
(Or, misadventures in acquiring a horse)
|It all started innocently enough with a little idle chit-chat in the barn - "Wouldn't it be fun to get a project?"|
After all, three years into my polo-makeover project with Ralph, we've rearranged the muscles, figured out the feeding, identified the idiosyncrasies and put in the training to the point where he is a solid and fun Pre-Training level Eventer with the ability to go on and do whatever might strike our fancy. He is still a work in progress, of course, but most of the 'figuring out' is done. And I've discovered that the 'figuring out' is something I really enjoy.
A second horse at this stage of my life is probably the last thing I need. I know that. But I also know that I have a strong desire to do this, and if not now - when? So, being slightly irrational and more-than-a-little headstrong, the idea took hold and I began to 'keep an eye open' for a rescue or rehab horse...
I have to tell you, there are A LOT of rescue and re-homing organizations out there! As I was considering an off-the-track-Thoroughbred (OTTB), before long I was being fed a steady diet of tempting horses from Ontario to California. I followed up on a lovely mare off a Toronto track, but she had previously fractured a hind leg and that was a bit too risky for my liking. Ha! It turned out that would have been the LEAST risky part of the subsequent acquisition effort! Anyway, I moved on...
'Canter' is a nation-wide rescue and re-homing organization for Thoroughbreds in the U.S., and I was seeing a lot of horses that looked interesting. I saw one on their Pennsylvania site that I liked a lot, but apparently a few other people did too, and he was sold before I could follow up. The days passed.. I looked at so many horses my eyes began to glaze over...
I'm not sure why the Chicago chapter of Canter made it into my news feed, because I certainly wasn't going to drive to some track in Chicago to fetch a horse, but there it was - and there HE was! "Sefa On Parade", a 6 year old gelding for sale by his owner, He had a look I couldn't resist. There were also a few videos of him walking and trotting in the shedrow and he moved very well to boot. But Chicago! Too far..too complicated..
I tried to put him out of my mind and concentrate on closer, simpler options, but I kept going back to Sefa and I kept getting that gut feeling that he was 'the one'. Before I could allow practical considerations or sensible decision-making processes to kick in, I got in touch with the owner. My first question was, "Will you ship him to Toronto?". When the answer was, "Sure, no problem", the die was cast, and the nerve-wracking, frustrating, and extremely foolhardy effort to bring Sefa to Sandridge began.
I had an in-depth conversation with Sefa's 'agent', who was actually his jockey. His stable name was "Freddy" and everything sounded perfect. He was sound, had only started racing at 5 and had only raced a dozen times. Did his training 'from the farm', so he had driven to the track an hour and a half away, five days a week, and trained barefoot. He had won one race, was second twice, and then decided 9th would be sufficient from there on in. He was used to being turned out with other horses, and had once jumped out of the field 'over a 5-foot fence'. Their 12-year-old son could ride him. He mucked out his own stall. Okay, perhaps she didn't say that last one...I decided to take a leap of faith and buy him.
If Freddy had been located in Canada, the entire experience would have been pretty stress-free - I would have driven to wherever he was, paid for him, loaded him in the trailer, and left. Unfortunately, he was in the U.S., and I was dealing with people who were very anxious to get their money and not too worried about getting Freddy where he was supposed to go. They also communicated by text for the most part, and though I wanted to have our conversations documented, it seemed that much of what was suggested or agreed upon was ultimately ignored. The initial arrangement was his owner would ship him to Detroit for $ 100.00, then to a friend's farm outside Toronto for another $ 100.00. I suggested I would pay half his cost up front; the other half when he arrived in Canada. I sent an International Bank Transfer on Tuesday and the next day Freddy was in Detroit! Very impressive!
The next step was to get him over the border. I got a call from a shipper saying she would bring him Saturday morning. Health papers were done and the owner assured me the bill of sale and registration papers were in Detroit with Freddy. Great - hubby and I swung into action! Organized the truck and trailer and planned to leave Montreal Saturday morning so we could bring him home Sunday. Co-ordinated work and a saddle-fitting in T.O. and we were good to go! At around 5:00 on Friday evening I figured I would check in with the shipper to verify what time she would be picking him up. "Oh, I can't pick him up tomorrow, the health papers weren't stamped in time. Maybe Monday." What? Was anyone planning to let me know this? We cancel the trip and start re-scheduling. But now it's going to cost me $ 400.00 for the Detroit-Toronto leg because the shipper, "wasn't really planning on going there...and, for just that horse, you know, it's really not worth my time." Arrgh, now I'm getting stressed. Back and forth with the owner, "Well, I can probably get him sent with somebody else in the next couple of weeks or so..." WHAT?? MY horse is supposed to stand in a stall at crappy racetrack in Detroit for a couple of weeks or so?? I don't think so!
The Detroit track
|"Okay, I'll pay the $ 400.00; half before you pick him up, half when he arrives. Can you bring him Monday?"... iphone silence for 18 hours...Monday afternoon I hear back, she 'guesses'
she can bring him Tuesday first thing. Back to re-scheduling, we get it done. Back to the owner to ensure all documents are ready and with the horse. Yes, they are, but the horse
isn't going anywhere until the balance is paid - plus fees they were charged by their bank. At this point I will be paying in full for the horse with a feeling I may never see him.
I'm also thinking if I don't follow through, the future doesn't look too bright for Freddy-boy. In for a penny, in for a pound...I send the second payment.|
9:00 Tuesday morning I e-transfer $ 200.00 for half the shipping and get confirmation the shipper is 'close to the horse'. Paul and I set off. I ask that the shipper texts me when she is over the border, she confirms that she will. We drive. And drive. And drive. Nothing. I send a text to find out what's happening and hear nothing. Then she texts that she 'had stuff to do in the morning' and will only be picking him up mid-afternoon. Oh, and by the way, "I'm not loading him until I have the rest of the money". Right, of course not. I e-transfer the balance. It's 5:00 and we're crossing Toronto and I get a text asking if she can bring the horse to 'her place, near Cambridge'. This is closer than the stable where he was supposed to be going, and turns out to be easier for her, so I agree. Are you almost there?, I ask. "No, I'm just arriving to pick him up". I ask her to let me know once she's through the border and start digging around in the glove compartment to see if there is any alcohol stashed anywhere.
Meanwhile, my phone is dying, and the car charger is not working. All the phone numbers and info I need are on the phone, so I have to turn it off as much as I can. The next text informs me she is indeed at the border, but she doesn't have a bill of sale for the horse. Apparently the owner could benefit by saying she was donating him to a rescue, so that's what she told the shipper to do. And funnily enough, Customs wasn't crazy about letting him through on that basis! Fortunately, I had pictures of the money transfers on my phone, so I sent those to her and to my great relief I got a text a few minutes later saying they were in. And a request to e-transfer the $100.00 in GST the shipper paid on my behalf immediately.
The evening turned to night and I wasn't getting any response to my "Where's Waldo?" queries. Paul & I found a hotel, had a bite, and went to bed. At 11:20 I get a text saying she has arrived at the farm. Turns out she had been about to run out of diesel and had to go 35 minutes out of her way looking for a station...
I asked if we could pick Freddy up at 6:00 a.m. He was on the West side of Toronto and we wanted to beat the traffic as much as possible. That was too early for the farm owner (Didn't she tell me it was HER farm??) and she would be another hour away picking up her own horse (Wait, didn't she tell me it was $ 400.00 because she was only making the trip for me??) Fine. We settled on 6:30 and went to sleep.
|The address she gave me didn't exist. "Oops, made a mistake, it's XX90". Phew! Okay, found the place, found my horse standing on concrete with no bedding and no hay. Led him to the trailer and he
walked on with barely a pause. Shipper makes a few comments that we could work together in future if I'm ever looking for more horses. I look at Paul and start the truck.|
8 hours later, we unloaded a very tired Freddy out in the field at Sandridge. He floated across the field, bucked a few times and settled right down. He was home. It was all worth it.
N.B. As an experienced horseperson, I am fully aware that I did not 'follow the rules' when acquiring Freddy. I am extremely lucky that I have wound up with a very nice horse in my barn. Do as I say, not as I do!!
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