I've been putting this post off for many reasons. It's hard to put all of these thoughts into words, at least words that everyone can understand.
Parting with a horse is not an easy thing. A horse that has been a part of our daily life for years. A horse that has given so much of himself and has rewarded us with so much pride.
Jin came about after many months of searching for a new show prospect for Sara. Many hours were spent scanning the ads on the internet, viewing videos, and talking with sellers. Many miles were spent in the car looking for just the right horse. We got it narrowed down to three prospects, with Jin being the youngest of the three. Sara really didn't want a yearling, but she always had a soft spot for a Palomino Paint. A lucky turn of events found her dad near where Jin called home, and he took some time out to go look at him for us. He called us that evening and said he couldn't find one bad thing to say about this little yellow horse. We called the seller, made arrangements to go pick him up, and hooked up the trailer.
I'll never forget that trip. It was mid December and 9 degrees above zero. About an hour into our trip we discovered that the heater in the truck was stuck on high. We had to drive with the windows open so we wouldn't melt. When we finally arrived without any further incident, Jin was all cozy in his stall waiting to meet us. He was adorable. And all legs. He was nice and quiet and a little shy, but he warmed up to our scratching fingers soon enough. We put a blanket on him to keep him cozy for the trip. He'd never had a blanket on but accepted it without a fuss. He loaded into our strange trailer without a fuss and stood quietly for the entire ride. We got home well after dark, and he unloaded just as quietly and followed Sara's lead thru the dark to the barn door. It was a big day for him, but he handled it all like a big boy.
There's not a lot of things you can do with a late yearling. Sara and Jin just spent a lot of time together that first winter. He learned how to lead and lunge and mind his manners and they even did some simple showmanship practice. It was fun to watch him grow and learn. He seldom needed to be shown something twice.
His second year was spent with more learning. We took him to the occasional open show and he did well in the 2 year old lunge line class. We knew he was going to be a nice mover when his body and brain finally caught up to those legs. Sara started him lightly under saddle at 2-1/2, and his first ride outside was on Thanksgiving day. The smiles on Sara's face were priceless.
His third year was spent at many local open shows, where Jin and Sara earned many firsts & seconds. He was beginning to excel in showmanship and hold his own in Western Pleasure. We have an entire wall in our rec room dedicated to his winnings.
The APHA has a program that allows Paint Horse owners to accumulate points at open shows, and it's known as the PAC program. This is to acknowledge that while you may not be showing at breed shows, your APHA horse is still capable of earning points. By the end of that third year he had earned certificates of recognition in Showmanship, Western Pleasure, and Equitation. In addition, they received year end awards from a local open show circuit - Grand in Novice W/T Horsemanship and Reserve in Open Showmanship. Not a small feat by a little yellow horse that was raised and trained by an amateur owner.
His fourth year was when it all came together. Jin & Sara started taking a lesson once a month from a local trainer. Sara had done very well with him, but they both needed that push from an experienced trainer to point them in the right direction. They polished those rough edges and got ready for their first breed show.
I'll never forget that first show. I felt like the smallest fish in a big pond, but everyone was so nice and friendly and helpful to us rookies. I remember watching the competition and realizing that there were a lot of really good moving horses there. I wondered if we made a mistake by going to those breed shows. But we soon realized that the biggest difference between open shows and breed shows was the quantity of the quality. At an open show you'll have three or four good horses and 15 not-so-good horses in a class. At a breed show you have 15 really good horses in a class. But you still compete the same. The goal is the same. You try to do your best just the same. Anyway, I don't even recall the outcome of that first Paint show. They did well enough to not get discouraged.
There was one defining moment to that first big show. We were walking Jin back to the barn after one of his classes when a big trainer walked past and said, "Hey, you have a really nice looking colt there." I turned back to see Sara smiling from ear to ear. She was six inches taller as she floated back to the barn. We knew then that they had a good chance of doing just fine at those Paint shows.
And they did well at their fist year on the circuit. Sara set big goals for the two of them, and they achieved all of them and more. They ended the season winning year end awards in every class, earning points in Horsemanship, Western Pleasure, Equitation, and Trail, a Register of Merit in Showmanship and Hunter Under Saddle, Reserve Champion in Novice Amateur Horsemanship, Reserve All Around Novice Amateur, Grand Champion in Novice Amateur Showmanship, and Rookie of the Year, which was accompanied by that big shiny buckle.
Sara and Jin continued to work and learn new things that fall. They spent the winter working on nailing those lead changes. Jin was about as good as he was gonna get, so we decided to put an ad on the internet. Just to see if we'd get some nibbles.......
The phone was ringing within two hours of placing that ad. Details were worked out and a thorough vet exam and x-rays were done.
It all happened so fast.
We sold that little yellow horse. He has a wonderful new owner and a nice new home in Arkansas. Of this we have no doubt. We hope that he brings his new owner that same sense of pride that he brought us. We hope to see him continue to excel in the show ring and bring many ribbons and awards home for his new person. We hope that they bond as deeply as he and Sara bonded.