“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 www.bigeq.com, or www.dreamhorse.com, 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.