I found something I could ride

Something I ate: when, back in April, my husband and I took our trainer to dinner and asked about his ideas for getting a new horse, I think I ordered the fish.  Horse shopping wasn’t a new topic of conversation, as this is something most equestrians have opinions about, so we weren’t surprised to hear him suggest going to Germany. “The main thing,” he said this night, and not for the last time, “Is find something you can ride.”

How do you find a horse to try: while I was able to use my personal connections to find someone to look for a horse for me in Germany, looking closer to home was still easier. And where are the closer-to-home horses advertised? On Facebook, in a large, open group. Facebook has gotten some tough press lately, for its role in interfering with democracy and in facilitating genocide, but until we overthrow our social media overlords, cast off the shackles of our Amazon Prime memberships, and find a way to circumvent the authoritarian monopoly on online search, it’s what there is beyond word of mouth.

What I did beforehand: a day before my flight to Florida, I got a message from the agent who was supposed to show me the horse. She wanted to check if I was still coming. I said I was. She said the horse I had first contacted her about was no longer available, but she had a number of others to show me. There are a lot of reasons I can think of that would make a horse be no longer available, like injury or illness, or if it was already sold, or if the owner changed her mind about selling it. But to be honest I was annoyed. Peeved, even. I thought about cancelling my trip.

Why I went anyway: when I somewhat testily pressed the sales agent, she cheerfully provided me details about four other horses, all theoretically suitable for my purposes. I got over my peeved self.

Things that were not funny: at the sales barn, the fellow showing the horse had a German first name, and everyone knew him by his German first name, and no one said his last name because apparently no one felt they could pronounce it. This feels terribly American to me, as does most mispronunciation of names. Put this on our list of things we should do to be better, America. Let’s all learn to pronounce each other’s names. Starting with me. I can’t pronounce the German guy’s last name.

What I saw: the first horse the fellow with the German name showed me was a little chestnut mare, darker than a penny but a shade brighter than liver chestnut. When I saw her in the cross-ties, I noticed she had an unusual pattern of white on the side of her face, and wasn’t sure I liked it. But there is no such thing as a good horse in a bad color, so I set aside this impression.

She seemed like a quality horse with a professional rider sitting on her, but the reason professional riders exist is because they can ride anything and make it look like a quality horse.

What I wore: riding clothes, but no spurs.

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What it is: riding is expensive and time consuming. Horses are simultaneously fragile and dangerous. I know of nothing more magical than the feeling of riding well, and also nothing more elusive.

Things that were funny: over the course of four trips to barns, I rode about 10 different horses, and it wasn’t until I sat on the little chestnut mare that I felt that I’d found something I could ride. My trainer’s advice, which had seemed at first to be so obvious as to not be important, turned out to be the best signal that I’d found what I was looking for. I tried to suppress the huge grin, but I felt right away that I had found what I was looking for. I just didn’t want to tell anyone yet. I didn’t even know the horse’s name. In fact, we left the barn without me finding out her name. I knew she was six, and what she was like to ride that day, but not much else.

Who went with me: the sales agent who did all the work finding horses for me to try in Florida, who was polite when I abruptly got off another horse I didn’t like, who laughed at my jokes, and who even got me the chance to try the horse I had originally wanted to see.

Why I bought this horse: other than being the one horse I tried that I really felt I could ride, she was the one that was fun without feeling inexplicably intimidating. Sure, they weigh 1300 lbs., but, as my trainer says, either you’re in charge or they’re in charge. And her face? Once I’d ridden her it seemed extraordinarily adorable.

Things that were sad: that other horse, the one I’d wanted to see in the first place? She was really nice, too.

I held the elevator door

What I saw: two guys, Broseph and Chad. Broseph filled the opening of the elevator door like a tank-top-wearing storm cloud, blocking the light from the sun. Chad blew in behind him, dressed in an American flag-striped polo, almost as big but pinker, because of the acne he was too old for.

What I did beforehand: flew to Florida, had dinner alone, wandered the forlorn aisles of the next-door liquor store, ducked a clerk watching a telenovela set in ancient plastic Egypt who called out to me repeatedly asking if I needed help finding anything. It wasn’t until I was driving home that it occurred to me I might have asked her about finding an amateur-friendly horse, under ten years old, nice enough to show in the dressage ring. Or better, why are we here, any of us? I should have asked her that.

IMG_2162What I wore: black suede Pumas, capri-length jeans, black tee shirt, scowl

Where I sat: the exit row

Who went with me: pocket friends

How I got tickets: a couple of weeks ago I saw an ad for a horse and contacted the sales agent about it. Within hours of my booking a trip to try it, I got two messages from friends saying, “Ooh! Look at this one!” and suggesting I go try it. It seemed fortuitous.

What it is: dressage horse shopping these days has become like an obscure subculture of internet dating, and is facilitated by an open Facebook group. You read ads, look at videos, show them to your trainer and friends, saying, “Ooh! Look at this one!” You talk to people on the phone, and sometimes even fly to other cities on the chance that they’ve got the horse you’re looking for. You wonder if you’re crazy. You hope you’re going to be safe. I tried horses on one previous trip that I couldn’t really steer and on another trip, a horse that wouldn’t stop. The people I’ve met doing this have been extremely pleasant and nice and as open to the weirdness of some random, unknown person showing up to ride their horse as I have had to be to the weirdness of riding some random, unknown horse.

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Things that were not funny: a group of construction workers crossed my path as they passed from the pool deck to the interior of the hotel. I was dressed in riding clothes, and more than one of them felt it would be ok to make “appreciative” hissing noises about me.

Things that were sad: dinner alone next to the mating turtle salt-and-pepper shakers at a strip mall Thai restaurant.

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Things that were funny: trying to convince the owner of the Thai restaurant to make my food spicy enough.

Something I ate: massaman curry that was actually spicy enough

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What about the horse: that story is to come.

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What happened on the elevator: when Broseph and Chad stepped onto the elevator with me, they thought I was holding the door open for them. Really I was pressing the button for my floor. So they thanked me, and I said, “Sure.”

Then the door closed, revealing a big ad for the hotel chain we were in, with the word “selfie” and a dog wearing sunglasses. I said, “You know, a dog can’t really take a selfie. No thumbs.”

Chad agreed. “I know, right?” said he, adding, “It’s like anything can be anything these days.”

As I stepped off the elevator, I threw in, “I mean….Look who’s president.”

I left the cat in charge

What I did: like you know, last year, a barn friend, S., invited me to join her on this trip to Florida to watch the winter circuit horse show, shop, and do sunshine; I was like, “Pick me,” but then couldn’t get shit organized at home. I have pets and sourdough to feed, don’t you know. This year, I said yes, and left the cat in charge.


What I did beforehand: you don’t have to leave written instructions for the cat. I figured the dogs would  let him know when they were hungry or needed to crap someplace other than the kitchen floor.

What I packed: sunscreen, gray jeans, white J. Crew linen swimsuit coverup, bathing suit, yoga clothes, three polo shirts, underwear and socks.

Something I packed and didn’t wear: a sun hat.

Something I ran out of: shirts.


Who went with me: S. and K. from the barn. S.’s friend D. joined us from Germany. 

How I got tickets: online, from JetBlue, at the end of November.

Why I saw this show: I think S. wanted us to be able to see the FEI  Grand Prix CDI 5* at the 2017 Adequan® Global Dressage Festival in Wellington, FL, which we saw, in addition to the Grand Prix freestyle competition. 

Where I sat: in the bleachers and in the VIP tent, because S. is well-connected through volunteer leadership work she does for the Jewish World Games. 

Where I stayed: at the Casa Passivo-Aggressivo, a bed and breakfast  in West Palm Beach which you should not confuse with the nearby Passivo-Aggressivo Bed and Breakfast, just a couple of blocks away. And don’t mention the confusion to your hosts, because the rivalry is old and bitter.

We were told we couldn’t have breakfast, 
which was included with our rooms, 
because we didn’t tell them the night 
before what time we wanted it. 

Things that were not funny: hearing S. explain that the Jewish World Games have been around since the 1930s and how Jews might want their own international sports competition, and, of course, why. She’s quite upbeat and polite. Then there was like this famous trainer who I met at a barn visit on S.’s World Jewish Games business, who was sure we’d met.

Things that were interesting: S.’s friend D. whispered to me all about what to look for in a correctly ridden and trained Grand Prix horse and told me that she thinks this one famous U.S. Olympic Dressage rider SP is an artist; he took third in both classes we saw him compete in.

Things that were sort of funny: K.’s connections got us seats at a super cool fundraiser where we were assigned to sit at SP’s table. I could only imagine myself saying something I would regret, so I didn’t have the courage to talk to him, but S. did. He was very nice, and so was his staff who also sat at our table.

Things that were not actually funny: a second snowstorm rolled into New York while we were all in Florida and our flight back on Sunday was cancelled. JetBlue sent us emails saying they’d re-book us, but we didn’t trust them to get us home in time for our obligations so we all scrambled to get back on the same flight only on Monday. By the time we heard from JetBlue, they’d booked us to leave several days later.

That thing where you go for a goofy selfie
and your friend doesn’t 
Things that were cool:  S. wanted a ride to the show grounds on a golf cart because she wanted to experience everything, and we got it on the bonus day. The benefit show featured a group that works horses at liberty, up to eight at a time. It was beautiful and exciting and I could hear horse people at other tables comparing the performer’s control over her herd to their own horses. 

Something I ate: there were these short-rib empanadas being passed by a woman carrying a tray that we had to chase around the room.

Something I didn’t eat: breakfast at our B&B.

Casa Passivo-Aggressivo hospitality 
included notes that appeared on the doors. 


Who should see it: fans of dressage. 

What I saw on the way home: the Atlantic Ocean, which is acidifying as a result of global warming. The last half hour of the flight was super bumpy because of a windstorm, but the flight attendant said they knew what they were doing so I just tried to close my eyes and deal with it. A woman in the row ahead of me whooped and commented about the bigger bumps. I wanted her to shut up. At least the kitchen floor was clean when I got home.