One year ago I signed the purchase agreement for Tommy. At the time I had no plans to buy a draft horse. I'd admired them from a distance. I'd ridden one during a guided trail ride in Gatlinburg, TN. I'd never considered buying one as a riding horse. I'd sold my TWH gelding the year before, and hadn't found anything I wanted to take home yet; although I wasn't really seriously searching until that summer. I went to Tommy's barn to see a gaited horse. After a short test ride I knew that horse would not work for me. His owner and I were just yapping afterwards, and she walked me behind the barn to see Tommy. For my part it was Love. My heart was warm and fuzzy when I looked at him, and I didn't even think about the trials of owning a draft horse. I still have the pictures from the first day I met him on my cell phone. These were taken the day we went to pick him up for a trial period.
My friend Donna and I picked him up and hauled him to her barn so I could have a trial period with him. Neither of us had a bridle big enough for him, or a bit for that matter, so her son and I rode around with a halter and lead ropes. We were very careful of riding him with his abscess and stuck to the grassy areas, he really only seemed sore going across the pavement or the gravel. We started out in the small paddock, and then made our way down the lane, across the creeks, and the farm and fields. We used the tire feeders to mount. Tommy didn't care. After a few days I was even more infatuated.
Did I tell you he failed the vet check? Yep. The vet took a look at his legs and said LOOK at that sidebone!
Heck No, this horse will not hold up! Well, that's not QUITE what she said, but you get the gist :) We didn't even do any x-rays. He had the abscess at the top of the hoof, and didn't flex well on that leg. He didn't flex well on the other leg either. We didn't even do the hind. We weren't sure what to attribute to the abscess and what to attribute to the sidebone. Any normal person would have probably walked away. Heck, a normal person wouldn't have taken him home in the first place. Or maybe a normal person would have xrayed. I've never claimed to be normal, so I can only guess; but I was in Love.
I thought about exactly what I wanted in a horse. I knew with my hectic schedule I didn't have the time to ride every day. After my TWH I knew I didn't have the time or effort to devote to a project horse. I wanted a horse that had already had the wet saddle pads on the trail. My riding time was for peaceful relaxation and wandering down the trails. I thought it would be fun to do some ACTHA rides but that was as much ambition as I had. I wanted a well trained gelding between 15 - 16 hands. I wanted zero fussing. I wanted a big swinging walk that covered ground. I wanted sound, safe, and sane. I also wanted a safe horse for the boys to ride when Weapon passed away. Tom's silver beauty tarnished on the size and soundness criteria, and he prefers to mosey rather than move out down the trail, but otherwise he seemed like the perfect horse. I thought The Abscess would clear up in no time, and he was so calm and felt so safe. I took cash out to the owner, signed the purchase agreement, and hauled him to his new home.
He made the transition to a working farm with ease. Machinery? Tractors? Plows? Semi trucks? Combines? Grain wagons? Check, check, check, check, and check. He always answered the same way. Anything else? As a matter of fact, Yes! Hunters with Guns? Cows? Deers? Ponying Weapon? Children running amok? Check, check, check, check, and check again.
Do you know what Tom cares about?
We've had our disagreements about Who's In Charge and we've had Come to Jesus Meetings. I didn't think about sourcing draft horse tack. Didn't think about having to eventually find a boarding situation with draft size stalls. I had no clue how hard it would be to find a farrier willing to work on draft horses. I'm still searching. I didn't know how big draft horses poops were. Do you remember that scene in Jurassic Park where Laura Dern is digging through dino poop? Yep. It's like that.
I NEVER considered that what looked like simple blown abscess would turn into such a....well, I don't really know what to call this. What's appropriate here? Hot mess? Assuredly! There were (and still are) times I thought, WTF are you doing? Why are you spending all this money on this horse? He's not Weapon who's been in the family 20+ years, what loyalty do you owe him? How are you going to justify this? Sometimes that little voice inside turns loud and says THIS ISN'T WORKING! Or I think about the type of horse I could have had if I'd spent this money upfront on a purchase price. Those are the times when I have to hold to the idea that if THIS horse this kind, gentle, and willing soul is not worth saving, then who is? What is?
Journey? Surely it's been one, but it's not complete yet. So much of his story is still unfinished. I look forward to sharing it with you. For now I'll leave you with one of Tommy's smiles: