Many years ago, my husband Chris and I would acquire the occasional horse through a neighbor who would take thoroughbred’s off the track to give them a second chance at a new career. We were always on the lookout for our next hunter/jumper prospect, so this gave us a nice pool of horses to pick from. Having been called to see a new arrival, we excitedly set out to see a new possible prospect.
Now upon first inspection of this thoroughbred, not much attracted us to him. Although he fit our first prerequisite of height, his body was very slight in size. Being a plain brown chestnut with not an ounce of white didn’t help either. To make matters worse, he was already 7 years old with only a small amount of race horse training to his name.
We were about to say no, when we decided to see how he moved and we were floored by what we saw. This horse moved straight from his shoulder in a perfect daisy cutter trot every bit as good as the VERY top hunters in the country. Thinking that his canter couldn’t have possibly been as good as the trot, we watched in amazement as this horse continued to impress us.
Chris and I decided that we could overcome the rest of the obstacles and bought him immediately. Because we had so much vision for this horse, he earned the name Hollywood and became our next new project.
Hollywood learned quickly. His movement was to die for and once we became comfortable with his flat work, we quickly moved on to jumping.
This turned out to be Hollywood’s forte. He was extremely athletic and very willing. His training went swiftly and before we knew it, he was jumping 3’9. Now it was time to market him.
Hollywood, who became happy as our horse and wanted apparently only our home, took to pushing perspective buyers away.
I had seen this often with horses. If they didn’t like you, they would find a way, anyway, not to be bought. I’ve seen horses that are one hundred percent sound, fake their way into lameness for vet checks, or horses that were already vetted and paid for, purposely hurting themselves the day before they were to leave.
Don’t be fooled. Horses ALWAYS pick their owners.
We would watch, as Hollywood would instantly “read” the person coming to look at him and then adjust himself in a way to insure his home with us.
The first time he did this was when a young girl and her mother showed up to try him. The mother could only be described as annoying, doing all the talking for her daughter and never letting anyone have a word in edge wise. Her daughter, was apparently a “very skilled” rider according to her mother and was looking for just the right show mount. Money seemed to be no object.
Hollywood, however had other plans for this girl. The minute she mounted him, he “all of a sudden” forgot how to steer or respond to leg. I immediately blamed all this on the “skilled rider.” I coached her to get him moving and after much fumbling she got him to move at least sideways, only for him to plant his feet and resist every request afterward. When the girl decided enough was enough and went to get after him, Hollywood took off to the barn, dumping the girl amongst the trees. That was that. These potential buyers left and we were left knowing that Hollywood wanted to stay with us forever.
One of the next perspective buyers came to try him with their trainer. We explained where Hollywood was in his training, showed them his impressive flat work and went about showing off his jumping abilities.
Starting off with a few small fences, the group seemed to be impressed with each fence taken, as Hollywood showed perfect form and willingness.
We decided to show off his athletic ability in a gymnastic with the third and last element being a 3’9 Oxer. I trotted down to the first element, he jumped it with ease, took a stride, jumped the second, but then decided to duck out on the third element. I immediately corrected him and as he moved back into the gymnastic, we found ourselves faced with the five foot tall standard and not the 3’9 fence. Now most horses would have stopped or crashed or both. Hollywood however, patted the ground and jumped the standard with room to spare. We landed and my husband and I, floored by this ability just laughed. We look over at the trainer, his mouth was agape and he was shaking his head as he spoke “ My kid can’t stay on a horse that has that much jump”. My husband and I assured them that this was totally out of the norm, but wasn’t it nice to know that the horse had this kind of ability.
I trotted back down to the first element of the gymnastic, anxious to show them what we were talking about. Hollywood got to the last element and jumped five feet again. Another perspective buyer down the drain.
Realizing that Hollywood was going to continue to weed through buyers, we took an offer on him from a woman that lived in Virginia. She was not able to fly out to try him, but spoke to us many times on the phone, watched numerous videos, vetted him and then bought him pretty much sight unseen. Poor Hollywood, never saw it coming until we loaded him on the horse trailer. His eyes got real wide as I said my tearful good-byes and he whinnied all the way down the street until we could hear him no longer.
With each horse that we have owned or trained, I have a special relationship with. Hollywood was of course, no different. There was an unspoken bond between us. He had trusted me to train him and with that we would always have a relationship.
This was so strong that it brought me to his exact barn in Virginia, unknowingly a few months later.
Chris and I decided to take a weekend trip to Virginia and as we were driving through the mountains, I got an overwhelming sense that Hollywood was close by. We were completely unaware of where his new home was until I recognized a farm sign that was where he was supposedly stabled. The farm had a locked gate, so we traveled back up a nearby farm road to ask about another way in.
It turned out, that this barn was associated with the other and when we inquired about Hollywood, the barn help, said, “Oh, you mean this guy?”.
Hollywood was in the stall directly behind me.