I wouldn't have gone to Sugar Creek that Friday, it was almost Christmas and I had the usual holiday 'to do' list on my mind. But it doesn't take too much convincing to get me to go to a horse sale! Even then I didn't take the horse trailer because we were, “just going to pick up a couple things at the tack sale.” Right. Before you can say “Reindeer” I was in the kill pens looking at horses. What can I say? I was compelled.
There was the usual assortment of horses at the sale that day. Discarded Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds, young horses with no training, broodmares that had done nothing in life but reproduce, older horses who's owners felt that an auction was an acceptable retirement option and a few other horses in varying conditions with some amount of training.
I didn't go in Hope's pen to look at her. There was a good looking chestnut mare that caught my eye and a perlino and haflinger. Hope was pretty rough looking and she was standing with her head down when I walked in the pen. As I began to evaluate the other horses I became aware of one that seemed to be following me. It was Hope. Even after my initial look over (too much white, mare, bad cut on her lip, feet in rough shape) I continued to look at the other horses. Wouldn't you know she was right there beside me. There have been some really good looking horses that have not been pulled out of kill pens because they were challenging to catch. There was one really lucky paint mare that did get pulled out because she wanted to be “in my pocket.”
Hope was just as sweet in the aisle as she had been in the pen. I seldom assign human attributes to horses but Hope was communicating loud and clear, “I don't belong here! Please get me out!!” She trotted out sound and picked up her feet fine. Next step bridle. This was a little tricky because of the gouge in her lip but going slow and being careful she took the bit for me. There is always a moment when things can go terribly wrong climbing on an unknown “kill pen” horse. I had no reason to worry with Hope. She was rusty but no buck or rear. Determining that she was sound, good minded and had some level of training she went on the list. You know, the list of horses that I WASN'T going to buy that day.
When Hope was run into the ring only the kill buyers were interested. They didn't care that she had a sweet disposition or that she was sound, her value was determined only by her weight. Hope couldn't represent herself and tell of the things she had done, 4-H?, Trails? Fun shows? She was in the ring for about 10 seconds and the next horse was run in. But fate smiled on Hope that day. There was someone else that was interested in her, and not just for what she weighed. Because I was “just going to pick up a couple things at the tack sale” and hadn't brought the trailer I had to pay someone to haul Hope, but home she came.
Hope did great while she was here. I rode her out on trails and hauled her to an indoor arena to “put her through her paces.” She got along well with the other horses, loaded on the trailer, rode bareback and saddled and did fine along the road. A date with the farrier did Hope's feet a world of good and medicated salve helped heal her lip. I was pleased with Hope; little did I know that she was going to pay me back in a big way for pulling her out of the kill pen. On New Year's day I came home at 11:30 P.M. to find fence torn down and horses GONE. Only Hope was standing in the barn. I grabbed a bridle and we started to search. In the dark, in the snow. When it became obvious that the missing horses were not in the immediate area Hope and I went back for a saddle. Past midnight now, still snowing. Hope and I covered a lot of ground, loping along the road, climbing up banks and through ditches. Finally a random pile of manure in the middle of a side road gave evidence as to the whereabouts of the fugitives. Hope and I went cross country and found them in a field. I'm not sure how many horses would let me pony three others off of them at 1:00 in the morning, during a snowstorm, trotting down Rt 40, but Hope did, (even being clothes lined repeatedly by an especially naughty escapee.)
If Hope's story stopped here it would be a good one, but the Schutt family in Pennsylvania made Hope's story a fairy tale. Trooper, a bay gelding, had found a great home with the Schutt's in November so I was happy to hear that they were considering another equine family member. We discussed several horses that were here but none were quite right. After Hope's true blue performance rounding up rogue horses in the middle of the night I had the confidence to recommend her as a good fit for the Schutts.
Hope went home on January 7th. She has a home that any horse would love to have - nice barn, warm blanket, love and attention and other horse friends to be turned out with. In fact, the Schutt's bay gelding, 'King George', has taken it upon himself to become her personal protector! Quite the story really. From the kill pen to the protection of a king. Hope could have very easily passed through the sale with no one taking any notice of her. If I hadn't gone to Sugar Creek that day, if another horse in her pen had not caught my attention, if she had not followed me around, if, if, if. But those 'ifs' don't really matter. Hope made it out of the auction, she helped me round up horses in the middle of the night while she was here and she went on to find a family that loves her. If that's not 'happily ever after' then I don't know what is! Congratulations to the Schutt family and Hope.
'The End'