Here's Cuna the day he showed up at the barn and I shaved all his hair off. It wasn't quite "love at first sight" for us, but he was big, athletic, and honest, so I knew I couldn't go too far wrong by keeping him for a while. I was impressed by the details of his first day--he hadn't been ridden in three months, had never been to that barn before, had never seen me before, and just trooped around like it was nothing.
We couldn't do any serious riding for a few days because he needed his feet and teeth done, but once we got going, I started to have fun. He didn't care that I panicked in front of the jump and clung like a crazed monkey and did all the wrong things. He would remind me not to grab his face and not to duck at the fences, and then he would just do his job.
I thought of him as tool at first. He was broke and honest and I needed to log some miles before Izzy came back. He was aloof and reserved in his stall. Then we had our fateful jumping lesson, the one captured on video. The square oxer in that last line really did it for me. It looked huge and terrifying and I wanted to die just seeing it, but he took it in stride, like it was nothing.
And I said, "There is another way to live".
I immediately regretted it, changed my mind, changed it back, waffled for weeks, consulted my trainer, drove my close friends completely crazy, trolled for opinions, and finally decided that I only like Cuna because he was broke (somehow that was a bad reason? go figure) and that I should keep my horse. Just to be sure, I checked with my trainer one last time.
"So I was thinking about Izzy..." I started.
"You're selling her," she said.
"So it's not just that I need to get better and ride her?"
"No. You're selling her."
In that moment, it was like a ton of bricks just lifted off my shoulders. I had been so conflicted about her for so long that I couldn't even think straight. She was still gone and I was still playing with Cuna, who I liked more and more by the day. He had moved from "tool" to "super cute horse that I ride". I spent most of my time with him doing arena work. After all, I only had him for the next couple of weeks. There was no sense screwing around with hill work and fitness when I was just going to give him back and buy something else once Izzy sold.
I researched and obsessed and wondered what I was going to shop for and how I was going to afford it. I could get either a young green thing or an old broke thing and plenty of unsound things in between. Hm. I decided I would lease Cuna for 6 months, then do the young green thing, since I'm a terrible commitment-phobe and didn't think I could deal with an older horse.
On that note, I headed to California. I set a super cute picture of Cuna as the wallpaper on my phone. The more I looked at it, the more I realized that his face was the one I wanted to go home and see. I felt so disconnected from Izzy. I didn't want to ride her, didn't want to see her, but dangit, I missed his darling old face.
And then his owner offered to sell him to me for a rock bottom price, but said she really couldn't keep him much longer because her life circumstances were changing too much. Also Izzy was sound and needed to come back to the barn to be sold. Cue panic. I cannot afford to board two horses. Period. End of story. I could maybe hack it for a short time, but definitely not in a indeterminate sale situation. That meant Cuna would have to go home while Izzy sold. I connived and obsessed, but there was no way around it: I have neither time nor money for two horses. I let his owner know my plan (Izzy sells in a week, Cuna comes back) and asked if I could come out and ride him with her on the weekends.
It was Saturday, the morning of the show. I was hustling around, getting things ready to go, when Stephanie stopped me. "How busy are you on Saturday mornings?" she asked.
"Usually not very".
She offered me an option: I pick up extra hours at the barn, she pays Izzy's board and helps get her sold, Cuna stays with me.
OMG!!!! Honestly, as much as I loved winning a ribbon on Cuna, I was far more excited that A) I wasn't terrified and B) the old guy was here to stay. I mean, I still have to buy him when Izzy sells, but the point is, he's staying with me. It's a big commitment, but it's what I want.
So for those of you who've asked what's going on with Cuna--he's still my super awesome loaner horse. He'll be mine as soon as Izzy has located an appropriate new owner.
Better be soon. I'm already acquiring tack for him. :-D
PS I'm pretty sure that the day I called Cuna the "mean ass bastard horse" was important--I always think of him like that, mostly because he's such a cute, sweet kind of guy. Watch for a new header...