The Kid Lands in Paradise

Novels for Horse-Lovers

The Tipped Z Ranch books feature fictional stories but real horsemanship.

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When we bought Laredo in 2012, the plan was to keep him for a couple of  years, get him going nicely, and find him a good home when we he was ready. He was our first foray into “project horse” territory. In retrospect we had more to learn about working with young horses than we knew at the time. But Laredo was great from day one. He was patient as we fumbled through figuring out how to help him learn. He was tolerant of our mistakes and we all made progress in a more or less linear fashion.

The day Laredo arrived — not quite three years old.

Before we knew it, we’d had Laredo for a few years. Bear was retired to Miracles in Motion. We’d bought and sold three other projects but somehow Laredo’s name never came up as the next one to send on.  Then we bought Nevada thinking she’d be Brian’s primary mount after she had a chance to grow up a little. We acquired Piper (a rescue case) as my next project.

Since Steen is mine and only mine forever and always, Laredo became Brian’s go-to guy by default. We had four horses, two of whom were just barely started. We were refining the boys and laying the broad strokes in with the girls. This meant riding a ton and learning every day. Everything was going perfectly.

Until …

Suddenly, we hit a skid. We were preparing to find Piper a new home when she got diagnosed with navicular. Around the same same time, we ran into a rough patch with Nevada. Laredo developed an intermittent cough that on one hand wasn’t a big deal but on the other we couldn’t totally get to the bottom of. As time went on we narrowed in on the probable cause: an allergic response to some kind of local fungus that sometimes showed up in the winter round bales.

That left us in a tough spot. On the one hand, we’d always planned to sell Laredo. On the other, we had four horses, but two of them were either not sound or not reliable. In many ways, Laredo was our most versatile and resilient horse. The thought of selling him seemed insane.  But barring the sudden death of a long-lost uncle who would leave us a hobby farm on the outskirts of Iowa City, we were powerless to change Laredo’s circumstances in a way that could support him better. He needed a lifestyle that didn’t involve round bales, which was something we couldn’t give him.

We knew selling him was the right thing to do. But we didn’t want to do it. Reluctantly, we put the word around among a few friends who had expressed interest in him in the past. I  shot some video, edited the footage into two nice montages … and never posted them anywhere. I made him a page here on our website. But we never took it any further. Brian and I would talk about it all the time. We always agreed we should put him out there more seriously. We didn’t.


The skid turned into a rut

2018 was tough. Challenges with the horses plus challenges in real life plus back-to-back instances of extreme weather patterns kept us from finding our footing. We struggled, stalled, and couldn’t seem to get our momentum back up. We were riding. But it wasn’t like it had been. Not by a long shot.

Finally, after spending thousands of dollars on various treatments to no avail, we accepted Piper was beyond our ability to help. Late last summer, we found her a new home. Getting her into the hands of someone more able to support her needs was a huge relief. We took a step back from the horses for a while. Laredo was great. He was always his easy-going self when we wanted to ride. The rest of the time he was an uncomplicated member of the herd.

Still, though, our situation was fundamentally unchanged. Laredo’s cough was gone all winter but then it had a brief flare in the spring. We felt terrible that we continued to keep in him in conditions we knew could bring it on. Through further chats with our vet we found ways to manage it decently well. But we didn’t feel good about it. It felt like a coin toss as to whether the lifestyle we could offer him was healthy or not.

Spring rolled around. The cough cleared up quickly and stayed gone. We started riding more. Laredo was getting back in shape. We were back to riding multiple days each week and weekend. We were putting longer, more demanding rides in and having a blast.

And then one day we realized the summer wasn’t going to last forever.  The thought of subjecting Laredo to another winter that might bring on his cough again felt frankly irresponsible.

It was time

Finally, we couldn’t justify stalling any longer. First, I posted the videos. Second, we put ads up for Laredo on a couple equine classified sites around the web. Almost immediately, someone contacted us. She’d watched his videos with her trainer and wanted to buy him. She offered asking price and was prepared to take him sight unseen if we’d agree to ship him a few hours north.

We were shocked. My first knee-jerk reaction was to want to say no. It felt too fast. I wasn’t ready. I mean, sure, Laredo was for sale. That didn’t mean we wanted someone to actually buy him.

But I pushed ahead. I took the good camera out to the barn to collect some fresh photos and video and sent those her way. She got back to me and said her husband had decided he wanted a taller horse. I was relieved. We waited a few days and then I posted one of those snazzy new photos on Instagram, mentioned Laredo was for sale, and went to bed.

The image that did the trick.

And then …

First thing the following morning, I got a message from someone on Instagram. She rides like we ride, follows the same teachers and the same methods. She was in search a younger horse because her two old guys are either in retirement or getting close.

It took a few weeks to get our schedules coordinated and work out the details of the vet check. Frankly, as much as I was excited about the potential outcome, I was happy for the delay. It still felt too soon to say goodbye.

But the buyer sounded serious and the home sounded perfect. We stopped pushing Laredo’s ad and told new people who inquired that his sale was pending. We spent three great weeks riding every chance we got, enjoying our last days with this handsome, goofy, remarkable horse.

This last Monday Laredo met his new owner. It was easy to see they were a match. On Tuesday he passed his vet check. We handed over his papers, helped load him up, and he went home to Ohio.

We’ve had some updates. He’s already gotten shoes so he can explore on gravel roads, made best friends with his new herd mates, and gone for a short ride. I honestly don’t think we could have found a better placement. He literally lives under a rainbow these days.

photo by wstrippelhoff

The bittersweet aftermath

I’m not going to lie. For two solid days after Laredo left, I almost wished we hadn’t sold him. For seven years we had this lovely fellow at our disposal. The very idea that he’s not out there with Steen anymore is completely surreal.

The reality is sinking in though. His new owner keeps sending updates. He seems happy and she seems devoted to him. We’ve started tentatively shopping around and talking about what’s next for us on the horse front. We might even go look at a horse this weekend.

In the meantime

Steen is never going anywhere. He’s 19 and has more than earned a lifelong home with us. Nevada has been out to pasture for a while now. We need to figure out what’s next for her and perhaps pick up another project besides.

Part of what we’ve found to be so rewarding with horses is learning from them, teaching them, and placing them in homes where they’re likely to thrive. The woman who bought Laredo was in search of her next partner for over a year. She specifically wanted a horse trained following the principles we seek to adhere to in our work with horses. During the test ride she was able to perceive and appreciate all the tiny nuances and specific ways we have dialed Laredo in over years of consistent work.

It feels good to think we were able to make the horse she was looking for. We also felt good about the placements we found for Zoey, Bear, Aiden, Oliver, and Piper. I don’t doubt Nevada, too, will thrive in the right hands. The fact we’re not the right fit for her doesn’t mean she’s will never be a good horse for anyone.

So yeah. It feels like the end of an era. Times are a’changing. I will remember Laredo fondly for the rest of my life. But at the same time, I know he’s in good hands and I’m hopeful this step forward will leave us poised to hit our stride with the horses again.

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1 year ago

I’ll admit that when I first saw your Instagram post that Laredo was for sale I kinda fantasied about buying him. But, we’re still not really in a good place to get another horse, let alone haul one from half-way across the country.

Anyways, sounds like he found a good home, so that’s great! And good luck on whatever you decide to do next!

1 year ago
Reply to  Robin

No worries. There’s no shortage of horses here, and I’m sure we won’t have trouble finding one when the time comes. I have a feeling it’ll be more green than I’d ideally like, but eh, not the first time that’s happened.