Kinda Ugly

“He’s Kinda Ugly…. but I just feel sorry for him, and I know he’d have a good home with you.” It wasn’t the most promising sales pitch, but that was the description we got about a horse for sale. The woman calling was a longtime friend of my trainer and knew she was looking for a horse for me. He was being used as a school horse and I’m not sure if it wasn’t working out or they needed to limit the number of school horses they had. What I did know was he was a Thoroughbred, 16 hands, skinny and sympathetically ugly. However my family had been looking for a horse for a year and we decided to give kinda ugly a shot.

The weekend we were going to try him happened to fall on a show weekend. So my mom and I went without my trainer and were to report back to her after. If we liked him, she’s go pick him up the following weekend for a trial period.  Early that Saturday, Mom and I drove the hour and half to go and see Kinda Ugly.

If you have never shopped for a horse, here’s a little bit how it goes, you have decide you are ready for a horse and its financial commitment (you never are they are ridiculously expensive), you’ve set your purchase price, so you start looking for horses. It tends to be a little easier today to search for horses, with websites like, or, there are even plenty of Facebook groups you can join where people list horses they are selling or ISO (In Search Of) post. But back in early 2000s it was via word of mouth or the occasional for sale ad placed on the bulletin board at your local tack store. Once you find a mount you might be interested in, you either go see them at their stables, or the owner can trailer the horse out for you to try.

In this case we drove out to see him. We met the woman, A*, who had called my trainer about Kinda Ugly. After a short introduction she mentioned that aside from Kinda Ugly, there was another horse to look at as well since we were there. Let me preface Kinda Ugly and mine’s meeting, by saying this. I wish I could say it was love at first sight, honestly I wish I could say that he stood out at all. The truth is I barely noticed him.

This other horse was dream horse material, he was a tall, big bay horse with no markings and honestly I thought he was the perfect horse. My 15 year old self was so excited to try Dream Horse that my memories of Kinda Ugly are just a vague notion of another horse.  It felt like no time at all had passed and I got to ride Dream Horse. He was very tall and for a girl who had spent a majority of her time on ponies I felt like I was on top of the world. My instructions from A* were simple just take him for a ride, walk, trot, canter, just get a feel of the horse. Dream Horse in my mind was perfect. He walked with a large stride and I felt sure that he was going to be great. After a few minutes of walking around the arena, it was time to put Dream Horse through his paces.  A quick press of my heels into his side I asked Dream Horse to trot. The response I got was barely an increase in his walking pace. A* encouraged me to nudge harder, and that I might in the future if I choose him need to use spurs. Being 15 years old I had some pretty harsh opinions regarding spurs, so I wasn’t really interested in using them. It took a lot of nudging, clucking, and prayers for No-Longer-Dream Horse to finally trot, and it was unpleasant to say the least. I was out of breathe, my legs were sore, and I never could get the correct rhythm for a posting trot. After a few miserable minutes I bought No-Longer-Dream Horse to a walk and back over to my mom and A*. A* knew immediately, but my mom looked up expectantly and I just said no, he wasn’t right.

Dismounting from No-Longer-Dream horse we bought him back to the grooming stalls to untack and then try Kinda Ugly. He had been waiting patiently in the grooming stalls for us to return. Looking back it’s probably the only time he was ever patiently waiting for anything. But his ears were alert and his eyes were bright and curious as he watched us return from the arena. The thing that stood out about him the most though was his head. It was comically oversized for his body, I remember thinking that at any point he would just tip over and face plant. He was as they said 16 hands, dark bay, but his sympathetic ugliness wasn’t true, his head was oversized because his body was less skinny more malnourished. His ribs were visible, his hip bones were prominent, and you could feel and see every vertebrae in his spine starting from his withers to his croup, he wasn’t ugly, he was however sympathetic. Unfortunately we never asked how he got into the shape he was, did he come to the barn that way? How long had he been in this shape? Was there a medical cause for his malnourishment? The only explanation that was ever given was “we can no longer afford to feed him”. Which seemed strange considering how many horses were there and in good shape. But Mom and I did not question it, we were there to see the horse and see if we liked him and report back to the trainer.

I’m not sure what would have happened had I decided that I didn’t feel like he was the horse for me, I’m not sure if we would have just gotten him anyway in order to get him out of the situation. I would like to think we would have, but fortunately I feel in love with kinda ugly at first ride.


The Day it All Changed

If I am to be completely honest, I had planned this blog back in early 2016 because I was between jobs and bored. Keyboards & Hoofbeats, I planned to write about the adventures of my horse and I. Or rather that was the plan, it came to a halt when I couldn’t decide what to write about. I guess I could have blogged about what a pain trying to get rid of Scratches (aka Mud Fever) on my horse’s back legs were, about tack care, and even about taking care of a senior horse and the adjustment in expectations. I wondered about being 100% open and honest about my weight, did I want to be vulnerable to whoever may read about the shame I felt being a larger rider? How embarrassed I felt riding with my tall boots half way zipped because I couldn’t get them up all the way. I was unsure of how I would do that, how I would be that open because while the Internet can be wonderfully supportive, it can also be incredibly cruel. So I procrastinated, then I got a job, and then the excuses happened. I didn’t have time to blog, I wanted to but I had too much to do. In reality I did I was just scared and unsure to post anything. So time passed and suddenly it was 2018 and I was one month way from turning 32, and I made myself promise I would take this blog seriously. I would commit to it, no more excuses.

Then May 7th 2018 happened. It was a Monday and was like most Mondays I was at my work. I got the call when I was at lunch. It was the owner of the barn my horse was boarded at. I had excused myself from my coworkers and answered, its the worse news a horse owner can hear. Pepsi was laying down and they couldn’t get him up. She asked if I could come out and if I wanted them to call the vet. I said yes and I would be out there soon. There was a moment I wondered if I really needed to be out there. A tiny fraction of a moment where I didn’t want to leave my work, I would be going on vacation for my birthday and I didn’t have much PTO left. However the moment passed and I informed my manager and headed straight to the barn, convinced Pepsi would be fine. The owner thought that he was either Choking or he had Colic, but they weren’t sure.

Some background on Pepsi is that I have been extremely lucky with him. He’s never Colic and at 28 years old it was extremely lucky. I drove out thinking of all the possibilities. But I convinced myself he would be fine, I’d get out there and he would be his usual self. See the thing with Pepsi is that he never acted his age. People were always surprised when they found out, he was full of energy and life. My family and friends had always joked that he would be a round long after us, watch out Guinness world record Pepsi was coming for you. I think I believed it. I had believed Pepsi would be with me until he was in his 30s maybe even 40s. Instead he didn’t even make it to his 30th birthday.

I arrived at the barn and the owner met me, they had gotten him up and given him a shot of Banamine with permission of the vet. He seemed better,  he wasn’t trying to lay down. The Vet was on another emergency call and would come right out as soon as she finished. Pepsi was standing there every now and then try to walk forward. I took the lead rope from the groom and the owner let me know they would be right over in the main barn. To call if I needed anything and we were just going to wait for the Vet. Pepsi walked around a little before standing quietly and groaning every now and then. I would rub his forehead and noted all the little scratches he had gotten from when he was laying down. He was muddy from the ground and I thought after the vet I would give him a good brush and hang out with him, I would put wound dressing on all his little scratches and I would be with him for the rest of the afternoon. I definitely didn’t take into consideration the seriousness of what was happening. I took my cellphone out and texted my best friend who was on vacation and let her know what was going on. We were chatting via text and I was explaining the situation and outcomes to her when I felt him nudge my hand with his muzzle. I turned to him and apologized and told him we would get him all better.

If I only knew this wouldn’t happened. It was a little moment, that I have thought about over and over in the weeks that followed. I wonder if that little nudge was him telling me to pay attention to him because our time was running out. That our time was almost up and he knew it, so put the phone away and be with him. I take comfort in that I did turn to him, rubbed his white star on his forehead before running my fingers through is forelock but it wasn’t long after I responded back to another text. I was just waiting for the vet, convinced that she would make him better and we would get through this. When the vet got out she got right to work, after an exam she told me one of the things she was concerned about.

Strangulation Lipoma, something I had never heard about. Here is an excerpt about this:

Strangulating lipomas: One of the more common obstructions we see, especially in older horses, is something called a strangulating lipoma.  A “lipoma” is a benign fatty tumor that develops within the mesentery.  (We call it “benign” because it’s a tumor that does not metastasize to other parts of the body.  But that doesn’t make it less serious.)  Lipomas typically hang from a stalk, which makes them a ticking time bomb for colic – at some point in the horse’s life it can wrap itself around the small intestine, cutting off the blood supply and causing sudden, extreme signs of pain. 

Other sites talk more in detail, and my vet spoke in detail about her thoughts and concern with Pepsi.  This tumor is usually only found in older horses and could only be corrected with surgery. With him being 28, she did not foresee him surviving the surgery. But she wanted to tube him and go from there. This was just her suspicion. If you are unfamiliar with horses and colic, here’s a thing to remember Colic is a general term for abdominal pain in horses. The cause of that pain could be several different conditions. Tubing is where the vet will insert a long tube into the horse’s nostril and down the esophagus to the stomach, this will all the vet to administer fluids straight into the stomach. When my vet did this to Pepsi the amount of stomach contents that came out was startling, I could tell by her face that this was concerning. Honestly felt like it would never end and sure enough when if finally did quit there was a pool of what looked like half digest hay and grains. My vet smiled sadly and said told me that the average horse’s stomach could hold 12 liters, we had easily surpassed that.

I don’t remember much after that, the owner of the barn asked some questions on my behalf. What is the prognosis? What is our next steps? How long until he’ll be in pain again? Questions that I should have been asking but just couldn’t. The only thing I knew for sure is I had a choice, we could load him up take him to the hospital to perform an ultrasound to confirm the Vet’s diagnosis of Strangulation Lipomas or we say goodbye here at home during the small window where he wasn’t in pain.