This did NOT go as planned. I don’t know who was more surprised by this-me, Harley, or Levi. Levi, my cheerful Amish “spotter”, assigned to part this silly soft-hearted “English” from a few hundred dollars, and get rid of a broken unwanted nag along the way.
Somehow Levi and I became allies. Our bond materialized in a flash moment. Horse #12- beautiful black and white paint with dainty muzzle and soft eyes, she seemed perfect. “You gonna ride her?” he queried. “Definitely!” I happily replied, visions of galloping across grassy fields of wildflowers dazzling my mind. “Um, that’s not a good idea,” he stated, casting his eyes about, steadfastly refusing to make eye contact. “Why not? I can ride and she seems really docile.” Levi snorted. “Come on,” he whispered, “follow me.” Confused, but intrigued, I followed. Warnings from friends flashed through my mind: don’t leave the barn area, careful asking questions, avoid the kill pen, never be alone, don’t take pictures, don’t trust, don’t trust, don’t trust. People have gone missing.
We made our way to the test ride area, a concrete chute leading to a rough uneven gravel square. Grey rain drizzled down, making conditions slick. Suddenly, there she was-my horse! Horse #12! “Watch,” somehow came from Levi, although I never saw his mouth move. The rider, a robust “Englisher” rode confidently and strongly, clearly experienced. She then tightened her grasp on the bit, and Horse #12 morphed into a demon, spinning, kicking, rearing. Pale, she quickly clambered off. Next rider- “she’s a trainer, but she’s mean to her horses” somehow materialized from Levi’s non-moving lips. Didn’t go well…Trainer- zero, with a bonus bloody lip from a nasty head swing, Horse#12- two down. Without warning, Levi then leaped aboard, magically transforming Demon Pony into a child’s merry-go-round mount. Mane streaming, hooves click-clacking on the asphalt, smartly turning and changing pace-she was magnificent under his hands. Casually jumping off in one fluid motion, Levi loudly announced, “she’s a great buy, just needs a good rider” and strode off, signaling me to follow.
Horse #12 went for $900 to a surly-faced cowgirl who took Levi’s challenge personally. “You know she was lame.” he calmly stated, again with that weird no lips moving manifestation of speech. Levi vanished, horses came for sale, I bid, four hours passed. My friends checked in, checked out, laughed as I sat miserably, all my choices going for way more money than I could afford. I backed out to leave and the auctioneer turned to me. “Aren’t you gonna stay?” he mumbled. “You like those colored horses, don’t you?” Surprised, I turned back to him. “Well, thin wallet,” I joked, “all my choices have sold.” “You should stay,” he muttered under this breath and returned to ignoring me.
So I stayed, enjoying predicting sales prices and watching the bidders. I played ‘who is a kill buyer’, ‘who owns a ranch’, ‘who wants a prospect’, and guessed at sales prices. I got pretty good after a while but became unnerved by the steady stare of a notorious kill buyer seated across from me. “What’s his problem,” I thought, “I’m not even bidding.” Gathering my belongings, preparing to leave his uncomfortable gaze, I heard it again. “Here,” wafted to me from the vicinity of the auctioneer. I looked up. A little horse entered the auction chute. Head down, barely moving, muddy black? brown? and white shuffling along with Levi on his back- no saddle, no bridle, just a frayed rope halter.
“Who’ll bid for this horse, this horse, this horse. $200, this here’s an old boy ’bout 25-30, who’ll bid, who’ll bid, who’ll bid,” pattered the auctioneer with the hard face and unkind eyes. Silence. He tried again; $100, still silence. I hadn’t seen this horse in the pre-sale; this I absolutely knew because I had looked at every available paint or colored marked one. Who was this horse? The muddy covered horse turned his head and in one electrical moment, his liquid brown eye connected with mine and I knew. THIS was MY horse. I bid at $60 as my horse kept his gaze locked on mine and stood stock still. Kill buyer “$100.” I knew he was bidding me up; I glared and flipped my paddle like I didn’t really care, but oh my heart was pounding! Realizing he would stop at ‘meat price’ of roughly $300, we danced our paddles up and down. “SOLD! For $260, proclaimed the heart hardened auctioneer. Then the unthinkable happened. He rotated his bulk, winked at me, grinned -“you got yourself a horse” as the kill buyer stomped off. Levi slid off and pretended not to see me. I never saw him again.
Giddily, I danced over to pay and gather my horse. Sympathetic clucks- “Oh, are you with a rescue?” “Oh dear, I’m glad someone saved that poor old boy.” “THAT’S your horse?!” This from my friends, doubled over laughing in the aisle. Harley hung his head and looked miserable. “I don’t think he’s that old. Look at his teeth. He’s just thin and muddy, poorly kept. And so calm.” Giggles- “That’s because he’s half dead. Think he’ll make it home?” My companions were enjoying this fully. Even the auction vet waived the required Coggins test, shaking his head ruefully, “not needed for him.”
I whispered into his wonderful furry brown ears, “That’s okay. You’re Harley now and you’re my horse and I think you’re wonderful.” Harley lifted his big Roman-nosed face to contemplate this, blew softly, and laid his heavy dirt encrusted head on my shoulder. A soft tap on my arm. A trainer whose choices in the ring I had admired materialized. “I don’t think he’s that old. Look at his teeth,” she counseled as she was pulled off by the flow of after auction traffic. We meandered down to our van and new Harley walked in with a wonderful slow dignity. Thoughtful, my friend ruminated, “Hmm, maybe he’s not such a bad horse.”
Part 3: Harley Comes Home to follow.
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