Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Lex Files

"Jess, how do you accidentally buy a horse?"

I'll tell you: You work for a barn owner whose husband is an equine surgeon at the major research university in your town. (Back in the fall, I ended up taking several shifts a week cleaning stalls and stuff to pay for my horsey habit.) He completes a study and the vet school has to get rid of a dozen or so OTTBs. "No," you think to yourself. "I am in grad school. I have no money. I cannot buy a horse." But! These horses are going to go to auction if they don't find homes. The board at your barn is the cheapest you're going to find anywhere, and the horse is practically free. So, when one of your barn mates goes and picks up one of the mares and then tells you about this other horse there that you'd totally love, you think, "Well, I could probably sell her, right? Beats having her go to auction?"

Resale Project: Famous. Last. Words.

I actually never ended up looking at the horse that my lovely barn mate S saw. Instead, I saw this:
It was love at first sight.

Lex is a six-year-old OTTB. She raced once and came in last, but she's a special girl, both in terms of her breeding and in who she is as an individual.

Lex's Jockey Club name is Afleet Alexia. If that sounds familiar, it's because her sire is the legendary Afleet Alex. He showed more courage and heart in the Preakness alone than most horses show in their lifetimes. What an amazing guy. And the cool thing is, Lex looks just like him.
This was at the vet school. After she got a bath, I realized she isn't a dark bay at all - she's the same color as her dad.

Crap! Did I leave the oven on?
Right? It's uncanny. Her dam is no slouch either: Tampico was a multiple graded stakes winner who retired in 1999. I haven't been able to find many good pictures of her, unfortunately.

So after hemming and hawing for like a week, and getting every vet at the vet school to do a lameness evaluation on her, and calling all my old trainers in Virginia to figure out if we could re-home her quickly, I bit the bullet and bought a horse. Mayyyybe not the smartest thing I've ever done in my life, but holy cow, is she worth it.

Lex is a total delight to work with. She is sweet and willing, and learns quickly, as OTTBs often do. She is a very level-headed horse. If something bugs her or worries her, she doesn't stay wound up about it. She likes to relax, and she loves to eat. I think she could really re-educate some people about what OTTBs are like.

For the first week I had her home, I did a lot of groundwork with her - teaching her to lunge and to stand while tied, that kind of thing. She's probably had a lot of good quality handling in her life because she accepts new rules pretty well. After that first week, I got on and a friend/barn mate led us around like we were in a pony class. Lex was a little unsure about whether this was really a good idea, and she was a little tense, but she didn't do anything naughty. This week I've managed to get on her three more times (and do groundwork with her every day). We've got walk-halt transitions down, and are working on trotting a little. We'll get our first lesson with the dressage pro who comes by sometimes next week. I'm very excited about her because each time I've ridden her (mostly walking so far) she's been more relaxed and figured out what I was asking for. Today I think she actually had fun.

So, basically, I'm totally in love with her. My quick resale project is probably just going to be my new horse, unless I decide I totally cannot afford to give her the life she deserves, but here's hoping it doesn't come to that.

Oh, and there's one other thing - that mare my mom bought? Mom is planning to give me the foal. The dam is a half-Friesian/half-APHA (all black, all attitude) and the sire is the world's ugliest Gypsy Vanner/Frieisan cross. I'll post pics of them both eventually, but I'm REALLY hoping the foal turns out to look like its mom. The baby is due any day now, so we'll see. I'm not sure whether I'll keep the foal or not, but assuming the foal is born alive and all that, I will actually own two horses any day now. I also have two dogs and two cats. I should probably be committed.

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