After Preacher's death, I mourned his loss for several weeks, but I knew that I had a horse-sized hole in my life that needed to be filled despite my grief. At the time, the first Lord of the Rings movie was out on DVD and one day while watching it (probably in some kind of unmotivated vegetative stupor), I became absolutely infatuated with the horses that the Nazgul were riding. They were big and black with long manes and wispy feathers on their legs. I HAD TO HAVE ONE. I didn't even know what breed they were, but as I searched, I found the Friesian breed. (As a note, I don't think there are actually any Friesians in the LOTR movies, but my brain is funny sometimes...)
So in spite of the fact that I lived in northern Virginia, with every breed of horse imaginable, many of which were available for very reasonable prices, I became determined to get a Friesian. The prices were staggering, though, and my budget, while reasonable, was not extravagant. I thought that maybe a Friesian-cross would fulfill my fantasy, but I just couldn't get those big, feathered feet out of my head. And then I happened across a listing for a Friesian yearling that was at the very top of my price range. I couldn't believe it. I called the owner and set up a time to take a look at the horse.
I brought a good friend of mine with me to my appointment because I wanted to make sure someone with a clear head was there. Plus, as a barn manager of a riding school/boarding facility with 65 horses, she had developed a good sense about horse personalities and she could spot lameness better than any vet. I planned to rely on her for feedback about any conformation issues as well as any behavioral problems. As it turns out, Friesian yearlings are ridiculously ugly, particularly when you consider that they become so beautiful. Regardless, between my friend and I, we were able to determine that this particular Friesian was sound and had a very quiet personality for a yearling.
I decided to make an offer on the horse, contingent on a per-purchase exam, and the owner agreed. We signed the paperwork and I called my vet. (It used to be you could just buy a horse without paperwork, but with the amount of money I was spending, I was glad to have it...)
My vet came out and did a basic exam (no x-rays because it didn't seem necessary) and pronounced my soon-to-be horse a beautiful mover and very healthy. I was thrilled and made the necessary financial arrangements, which involved a wire transfer (something I'd never done before). I bought my new horse some new brushes and a halter and labelled everything with his name. I was so excited.
As soon as I confirmed the wire transfer had gone through, I called the owner to confirm that she had received it and to make arrangements to pick up my new horse. And that's when the owner told me she had decided she didn't want to sell her horse.
I remember first feeling pretty sick to my stomach because I had just transferred a pretty good amount of money into this woman's bank account and next, I was really angry because I'd started to get attached to the horse. In the few days that had gone by between when I'd decided to buy him and when I made the payment, I'd gone out to see him every day and started doing ground work with him. He was a lovely horse and I could already tell he would be a good partner.
Despite my attempts to convince this woman that she really needed sell this horse to me, she refused. She was in tears and just couldn't part with her "baby." I should note that she had a couple of other horses, including a two-year old "baby" from her own mare, and I had found out that she was strapped for cash and behind on her board, so she really did need to sell this horse. The money she got from me would bring her up-to-date on her bills and give her some to spare, but she was quite frankly, a crazy person, as I would later discover.
I was never more thankful that I had signed that purchase agreement because it gave me the legal standing to ensure that I got my money back. And honestly, I think I could have hired a lawyer to try to enforce the agreement. There were no clauses in the contract that gave the seller the right to refuse the sale if I fulfilled my end of the bargain, which I had. But, I'm not really a suing type, and lawsuits, particularly with crazy people, can drag on, and that wasn't what I wanted. So I got my money back, licked my wounds, was sad about losing out on a nice horse, and went back to my search.
Shortly after this incident, I e-mailed the owner of Wish Upon a Ster Farm in Maryland. I was now gun-shy about dealing with private sellers, and I figured working with a breeder would be a better choice. I also knew that the prices were likely to be much higher - the previous Friesian I'd looked at was priced well below market price - and I wasn't sure if I could make it work. I was actually thinking about doing an in utero contract just to be able to afford a Friesian.
As it turned out, Steven Feys (the owner) was awesome. I told him my budget and he didn't have any yearlings in that price range, but he asked me to come out to his farm anyway. He said there would be no pressure for me to buy - I could just meet some Friesians and we could talk terms if I found one I liked or he would keep in touch with anything he had coming in that might meet my needs. So, I brought my trusty friend as well as another friend (who passes up the opportunity to see a whole bunch of Friesians?) and we made a day out of visiting the farm.
I can't remember exactly how many Friesians he had, but there were quite a few, some mares in foal, some younger horses broke to ride, a couple of yearlings, and maybe a weanling or two, although not all of them were for sale. There was one mare, Whinney, who was in foal, and she captured all of our hearts. Her price tag was $40,000, though, so even if we'd pooled all of our resources, we couldn't have afforded her. There was something about her, though, that still makes me think of her every so often.
I ended up turning my attention to the two yearlings. They were out of my price range, but because I was there, I figured it couldn't hurt to look at them, right??? So we took each one out to the round pen and free-lunged them for a few minutes and just hung out with them. As promised, Steven was totally low-key about selling them, and he encouraged us to look around and interact with the horses as much as we wanted pretty much on our own while he went off and did whatever chores he needed to do.
I asked my friend with the great horse sense how she felt about the two yearlings. One was a filly and her evaluation was that this horse would be much like the yearling I'd already tried to purchase. She would be easy to work with and quiet. The colt, on the other hand, was going to be a "pain in the butt." He was spunky and she said he'd be a bit of a challenge to work with. Hmmmm....
I thanked Steven for letting us look around, but I didn't commit to buying any horses. (I am, to this day, amazed and very proud of that moment.) I took some time to think about what I'd seen and to continue horse shopping. But that little yearling colt kept popping into my mind:) And so, I think it was maybe two weeks after my visit, I e-mailed Steven to see if that yearling was still for sale. He was. And I was able to work out some terms to the sale allowing me to pay the bulk of the price up front and then take a few months to pay off the rest.
After I signed the paperwork, Steven and I headed back into the barn so I could hang out with my new horse. The stalls in the barn were all steel mesh, which created great airflow and allowed the horses to see each other and make faces at each other when they were in their stalls. I think it was set up that way more so that all the horses were on display for potential buyers, but it also created a very open environment that works well for Friesians. Even the mares were friendly and liked being able to see their neighbors. Anyway, there were two Dutch teenagers sitting on the concrete ledge below the yearling's stall. They were there to work as part of an exchange program and they were taking a break at the stall of whom I learned was a barn favorite - the yearling I'd just agreed to buy. I'm not sure if that yearling knew Steven and I were coming down the aisle or if we just caught him in a moment of deviance, but we watched as he grabbed a hold of one of the water buckets in his stall and dumped it on the girls sitting in front of him. Because of the steel mesh design, they got totally doused in water. And I was completely enchanted:) Everyone laughed about what a clever horse he was, and he basked in the glow of knowing he was special. I then learned that it wasn't uncommon for him to take an afternoon nap in his stall and while he was laying down, a young child would come to hang out with him. He was then, and is still to this day, a strange mixture of gentle and devious.
And that is how I knew that his registered name of Geronimo was just not quite suited to him. He was too much of an imp to carry the weighty, formal "chiefness" of the name, so after some debate, I decided to shorten it to Nimo. Now that he is older, he has grown into Geronimo, but for anyone who has known him for many years, he is just Nimo.
And so, this is the story of how Nimo came to be mine. As my friend predicted, he has often been a challenge to work with, but it is a price I am happy to pay. He has enriched my life in ways I never knew to be possible and he is as special to me as the horse I lost before him.
|Nimo a few days after I bought him.|
|Nimo being free-lunged.|
|That famous Friesian trot!|