We were almost victims of a Craigslist horse ad.
My boyfriend and I are very experienced horse people. We have bought, sold, and traded many horses and know what to look for. For example, we had a very violent paint stud in training. We tried to convince the owner of the stud to put him down because we felt the horse was dangerous and we didn’t want to continue working him. Instead, he priced the horse at $400 and just wanted to sell him. A woman looking for a cheap, docile project for her "up-and-coming young trainer" was insistent on buying the stallion, but we refused. The stallion wasn’t a good fit for her and we knew it would take a very specific person to be successful with the horse. We did eventually sell him to a correct and knowledgeable person with the time and money to spend on him. He was gelded and is a fine working horse now. We usually like to keep in touch with the buyers of horses we've sold to ensure no problems arise.
Anyways, my boyfriend, Jack, had owned a grullo gelding for 8 years when the horse suddenly died of heart failure. This horse was everything to my boyfriend. He roped, trail rode, you could shoot off him; the gelding was just everything he needed and replacing him would be hard. We began the long search for his replacement. Jack was bound and determined to find another 16-hand grullo gelding that was built like a tank. We spied one about an hour’s drive from us on Craigslist. The ad stated he was a very nice, calm trail horse and young enough still to learn how to rope and have a job. The seller had raised him from birth on his property and was only selling due to the drought and lack of grass and time. Even though the gelding was a favorite, he had to go because the seller had other horses he needed to work with.
We set up a time to meet him at his house to see the horse. We were pleased when we pulled up to see no horses were caught; we like to see how everything is done and how the horse reacts coming in from the pasture. The seller got a bucket of cattle cubes and the horses came running as he dumped them on the ground in a line. Then he had to sneak around other horses to surprise-catch the grullo gelding... “Odd,” we thought, “for a born-here, raised-here baby," but we brushed it off. Horses are often difficult to catch when the only time they had been caught was for a long ride. Some of our own working horses were hard to catch, so we thought the grullo’s behavior might not have been unreasonable.
We watched as the gelding fidgeted, danced, and pawed while being taken away from the herd, a definite red flag. "Is he barn sour or buddy sour?” we asked the seller. “Has he ever bucked, reared, or bolted with you?"
The seller shuffled a little, keeping his focus on the horse. He mumbled a lot, so it was difficult to tell exactly what he said. It sounded like, "No, he likes going out and sometimes he gets nervous but he hasn't done any of that."
Jack took his saddle out of our truck and adjusted it to the gelding. It was a brand new saddle, bought especially to fit his exceptionally large horse and because of his horse’s untimely death, Jack had only used it four times. He threw it up on the horse (the seller refused to tie the gelding up and insisted on holding him for us...another red flag). The grullo nearly jumped out of his skin and dumped the uncinched saddle to the ground. We glared at the seller, who apologized profusely for the horse’s behavior and insisted he hadn't really messed with him for a while.
Jack got the saddle back on, went to tighten it and out of the corner of my eye I saw the seller restrain the gelding from turning to bite Jack. He hadn't realized I saw the horse do that, so I asked him again, "Has he ever bitten or kicked? Are you sure he has never reared up?" I have dealt with horses like this before and so has Jack. In subtle agreement, we knew we were not going to purchase him unless a miracle happened. We did know that some horses were just unmannered, which we could fix if the sell price was right, but this seller was going to have to come way down in price.
The man fumbled again, "He may have."
"May have what?" I pushed
"Bit. Sometimes if he doesn't like a saddle he gets jumpy. His front feet might come off the ground. Just a little though."
That was it for me. Once before, I had bought a horse that reared "just a little" and had the old pain of where a saddle horn smashed my pelvis to remind me. “Just a little” means a horse that likes to rear up...maybe even flip.
The saddle was in place and the man handed Jack the rope and stated, "I need to get his bridle, I'll be back," as he went into his house. While he was gone (for quite awhile, in fact) I told Jack what I thought and he agreed, but added, "We'll put the bit in and see what he does. Maybe he just needs a few manners. But…so far I'm not very impressed. Any horse his age needs to have the decency to stand tied. How old did the seller say he was?"
"Six. And a very nice, calm trail horse," I added sarcastically.
The man handed Jack the bridle while he held the rope. The gelding raised his head and refused to open his mouth. With a deft, experienced hand in position, Jack took a quick look at me; I knew what my job was. The seller twisted an ear to help Jack and Jack spread the horse’s lips apart and let them sit a few seconds before lifting the rather severe, straight metal bar bit into his mouth. I could see by the horse’s teeth that he was significantly older than six years. The horse became extremely agitated at being forced and began dancing and spinning in circles. By now Jack was quite fed up with the seller’s lies and said, "If I am buying this gelding, I will handle him as I handle any ill-mannered horse."
The man looked at the ground. Jack tightened the headstall because the bit was hanging uncomfortably low in the horse’s mouth. He settled for a moment before beginning to dance again, with the seller holding the reins and doing nothing. Finally, Jack grabbed the reins and popped them a bit and pulled back while saying "whoa" to see if the horse would respond.
Well, respond he did. He leaped straight into the air, flipped, and landed on his back in a defiant, obviously well practiced move, right on Jack’s new saddle. Unhurt, the horse rolled to his feet and took off for the barn and his equine friends.
The man became a blubbering, apologetic fool, and cursed the horse’s name. Talking more to himself than to us, he said, "I don't know what has gotten into him, but that is the last time he rears up and flips like that." Jack and I had the impression that the seller had mostly forgotten that we were there. "I should have taken him to kill when he did that to me on the trail ride last year." His look of embarrassment when he realized we'd heard every word he said told us volumes.
The man apologized profusely and helped Jack get his saddle back. We said nothing as we put our things in the truck but the seller promised that this time, the horse was going to a killer buyer; this had been his last chance.
Before he closed the truck door, Jack spoke simply to the seller. “Good thing. That horse needs to be there. Good thing, too, that my saddle wasn't busted and even luckier for you I wasn't on him when that happened ‘cause I'd have been hurt." Pointing to me, Jack continued, "She's already gotten rid of a horse like that she bought from someone she thought she knew and trusted. You, sir, are a low down son-of-a bitch for putting someone in danger like that."
Jack slammed the truck door and we left.
This seller may have been a horse trader. He said he’d owned the grullo gelding all his life, which also might have been true. Either way, he knew the horse wasn’t the calm trail mount he had advertised. He knew the horse had one of the most dangerous vices of all: rearing up and flipping over. We hope telling this story will help others avoid a similar life-threatening situation.
For the next story, click here- Two From Cassandra
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