So I met with Trainer R today. She's also the barn owner and, therefore, Theo's owner. With all of the grand plans coming up for 2016, I needed to sit down and talk to her. It's one thing to excitedly nail our first correct leg yield heading right (cue the ticker tape parade!) but it's another thing to make multi-year plans for a horse you don't own.
At this point, I think everyone knows I would definitely like to own mi papi. I'm kind of territorial and a control freak. The trainers have given me a ridiculous amount of license with Theo, letting me have a say in his blankets, his shoeing, his food, his supps, his clipping, and even his exercise schedule, but it makes me nervous knowing everything could come crashing down in a second.
Am I buying Theo? No. She needs him too badly as a lesson horse. With two horse sized lesson horses out in the past two weeks (one was sold by her owner, the other was REPOSSESSED when it turned out his new owners didn't actually finish paying for him), she absolutely can't spare her only horse sized beginner friendly mount. Theo is a jackass, but he's a lazy jack ass who will plod around with a nervous adult if that's all he's asked to do. Buying him right now isn't on the table for anything near his market value. I adore him, but I'm not taking out a second mortgage to make an offer too good to refuse.
Fair enough. She has a big lesson program and she can't break down the smaller mounts or overwork anyone. Big, laid back, sound, plodding horses are surprisingly hard to find.
But that leaves me in the same pickle. I want to invest in him with time, training, equipment, all of that, but it's much harder when I have no guarantee he's going to be around next week, much less next year. I specifically brought up my husband's protest to a dressage saddle when it's a horse that could disappear at any moment. I told her I'd had a horse snatched away mid-season and I won't put myself in that spot again. She agreed and gave me a written agreement that she won't sell him out from under me. I have right of first refusal.
I appreciated that a lot. I get her wanting to keep control of him, he's valuable. If she sells him to me, she's the one that could have the horse yanked away from her without warning as has happened twice recently. I also found out she has other people that have expressed an interest in him, but she's turned them down. She will sell him, just not right now, and probably not in the next year or two. In the mean time, she's shopping for more lesson horses. She wants Theo available for me to show and clinic and all of that, which means someone has to take the spot of the slow plodding horse in the barn. The goal is to get him on a full lease with me. We just need to find the right school horse to take over his work load.
In some ways this is a tough pill to swallow. I can't buy him, at least not right now. I'm still the half leaser of a lesson horse. I can sleep easy that he's my ride for the next two to three years, but he isn't mine. I will have to share him.
In other ways, this is a win. He isn't going away, I have it in writing. Trainer R is on board with our aggressive goals for 2016 and supports us completely. As she put it, if we're going to do this, let's do this all the way. We're going over Theo's training, nutrition, supps, and shoeing with an eye toward him going out and hitting the dressage circuit for real next year, hopefully with a trip to the regional championships at the end of the season. My bills remain the same and I don't have a looming horse payment, which means I can buy a new saddle this winter, take him to clincs, and campaign him. I can also feel confident that the saddle is going to a horse that's sticking around.
It takes some of the risk away, to leave him as someone else's horse. If he maxes out at First or Second Level, he can be the lesson pony while I find a new partner to get those last scores. If he hates being a show horse, he has a back up job. Of course Trainer R suggested I consider taking some lessons on Miss Thang again. I have to admit, this would be a lot easier with this lovely lady floating around the ring. Pity we fight so much.
Part of me is very sad that Theo can't be mine. I was all ready to make an honest horse out of him, shackle him to just one rider for the rest of his days. But it's okay. I still ride him five days a week, we're still going out to show, and I am still his 'mom', even if someone else's name is on his registration paperwork. Everyone call's me his mom, even Trainer R.
And in a year's time, after we've done a season of real dressage, I can revisit whether or not Theo should be my show horse or if he should be a lesson pony. I'll just sit here and pet my little turtle friend. There's no rush, he's not going anywhere.