THE GOOD HORSE – Horse of the Month for August
“Kahlua” – by subscriber/contributor Alexa Ross
Editor – Cherie Kyte
I have been riding for a long time and after the horse I was leasing had an unfortunate career-ending injury, I began the hunt for a horse of my own.
With more time than money, I knew I had to get creative. I recognized that my small budget would not allow me to purchase an older horse that would require maintenance so I began looking for an off the track thoroughbred (OTTB) from some of our local SoCal race tracks. I also networked with all the trainers I have known over the years. Eventually, a girlfriend mentioned the idea of the Lancaster Livestock Auction but I was very leery about buying an auction horse.
I knew at the very least, with an OTTB coming from the track, I could get a vet check done, look at racing records and speak with grooms and trainers to get background info. With an auction horse, you really have no idea what you are buying and you’re just hoping that the couple of minutes you have spent with the horse translates into something that won’t try to kill you. I also knew if I brought home something like that, my husband would kill me! I decided to take the plunge anyway and go to an auction.
I went to the Lancaster Auction on May 5, 2014 and found that there was only one horse that evening that I wanted to bid on. The information was that she was a 17 hand Belgian cross mare and was about 9 years old. (She’s actually 16 hands and the vet thought more like 7 or 8 years old.) I saw her in the paddocks before the auction and knew I wanted her.
Then to make my evening even more exciting, while waiting for the auction to start, I heard over the loudspeaker, “Would the owner of the silver Prius please see the auctioneer. ” I suddenly wondered if I had parked in the wrong place. I found out that a seller who had just dropped a horse off hit my car with her trailer. She took my little Toyota with her (she had no idea apparently, and left the scene). I discovered my car resting not exactly where I left it and certainly not in the same direction. It was at that point I thought, “I better win the auction on this dang horse!”
Needless to say, I won the auction! I did eventually get a little more information about her that night. A horse rescuer told me that she knew the owners and she thought they had owned the horse for her whole life up to now. Apparently, they had put her out in a field 3 years before and she lived on the forage in the field until it was all gone and then they called the auction to come take her before she starved. The rescuer thought she had been green broke (the auction had a rider get on her bareback during bidding, which I had taken to be a good sign) prior to that.
The next day my new horse was delivered to me at Hidden Valley Ranch and she began her new posh horse life. We quarantined her for 2 weeks, had the vet out for all her vaccines, vet check and to float her teeth. And I got her insured. Then I got on her for the first time and discovered boy, was she green broke! She had no steering or brakes and had been probably “yahooed on”(she leaped into the canter like she was in a wild west movie running from bandit gunfire and running for her life) and she certainly didn’t know anything about western or English training. However, she was good-natured, although she was clearly ridden only a few times in her life. My husband named her, “Kahlua.”
Kahlua had not been ridden much but that wasn’t what concerned me at first. I was more concerned with the fact that she had not been handled enough and was not familiar with anything that happens in a nice training barn. It took me about 6 months to really improve her ground manners. It was not that she was “bad”, but more that she had a significant flight instinct and was obviously not accustomed to all the new sights and sounds of a barn. Things like bathing, hoof trimming/shoeing, extended grooming, clipping, mane pulling, trailering, other horses in the arena, other horses being turned out nearby were completely foreign to her. I also discovered that to Kahlua, almost all people were quite frightening.
After a lot of love and patience she has turned out to be my once- in- a-lifetime horse that I will keep forever. She and I have a very special bond that I have not had with any other horse that I have owned and she now trusts me with everything – not to say that the she doesn’t have a bad moment now and again – she just fits in now. Her under-saddle work has improved tenfold and she has started jumping as well, which she appears to like and have the ability for. She also is now a very solid citizen for grooming and groundwork. She is truly a love bug and would love to spend all day with me cuddling and eating me out of house and home. Her favorite treats are apples, carrots, bananas and watermelon. Kahlua also adores my 6-year-old daughter and is extra gentle with her.
As for the small details…. we think (and are pretty sure) that she is a Belgian Draft crossed with a Quarter Horse or possibly mustang. Her color is bay with pangare. Pangaré is a coat trait found in some domestic horses that features pale hair around the eyes and muzzle and underside of the body.
Our future plans include moving back to Canada. We will be beginning our next chapter in British Columbia. Kahlua will stay in Seattle at first and when we find a great barn in B.C. she will join us. Once we are all settled in we should be ready to try to start showing next year. This girl deserves to demonstrate how far she has come. Who knew she would go from auction horse to international traveler in just 2 short years? But no matter where the adventure takes us, we will remain together because she is my special girl. She and I have definitely have bonded. Things could have worked out much worse for my Kahlua – she knows it and I know it and we are both thankful we found each other.