6: The Painted Horse Named Sparkle

The first horse Molly and Greta went to visit was a paint horse with one blue eye (and presumably one brown eye). A paint horse is a type of breed that is either black and white splotched or any other mix of white with another colour. They look a bit like a typical dairy cow or a harlequin coloured great dane. Molly had found this paint horse listed on Kijiji. The ad said “Sparkle” could be ridden Western or English and was “always in the ribbons” at horse shows. This was the type of horse Molly was looking for in many ways, a nice all-rounder. Molly was more of an English style rider but a horse that could do both sounded amazing too.

After picking Greta up from Patricia’s house, they started on their journey to see the horse. The trip to the farm would take just over an hour, so they used that time to catch up and talk horses. The farm was pretty with a line of Maples along the driveway. A group of riders were gathered around as they arrived. With a friendly smile, one of them waved and approached Molly’s car, “Hi there, can I help you?”

“We’re here to look at Sparkle, I’m going to try her out. I’m supposed to meet Meghan?” said Molly.

“Ohhhh, ok, Meghan’s inside, go through that door and you’ll see her,” she offered.

Molly could barely contain her excitement as they headed to the barn. She and Greta exchanged excited toothy grins as she opened a big old red barn door and entered the stable.

Her eyes adjusted to the darkened isle and she saw a horse in the cross-ties being brushed by a young woman. The girl looked about 16, maybe 17. She had long blonde hair, tied back in pony-tail with what looked like some hay bale twine.

“This must be them!” She thought. 

She approached and introduced herself and the girl confirmed this was in fact Sparkle, then introduced herself, “Hi, I’m Meghan, thanks for coming.”

“I’m just getting her saddled up,” she continued. 

“Great! Sounds good!” replied Molly with another excited look at Greta. “Meghan, this is my sister Greta, she’s my second set of eyes for horse shopping! She’s just in town for a few days.” Meghan and Greta exchanged smiles.

Molly had hoped to see the horse before she was saddled. She had read that when buying a horse you should see how it reacts to everything, from being taken out of it’s field, stall, etc., to having a saddle put on. But oh well, she was horse shopping – this was so exciting!

Silence ensued as Meghan adjusted the horses saddle and it wasn’t more than two minutes before Molly observed the horse seemed to be breathing heavily.

“Oh poor girl, she must have just come in from running in the field, did she? She seems out of breath,” queried Molly.

“Oh no, she has allergies, she’s been in a stall here and she should be on outdoor board, she needs to be outside at all times. Her allergies get really bad when she’s on indoor board. Last year she lived outside 24/7 and you could barely tell….” explained the girl, trailing off. 

“Oh, okay, what kind of allergies?” asked Molly with an ever growing tickling in her intuition.

Without looking at Molly, the girl replied, “heaves,” and gave one last quick brush of the horse before undoing the ties and putting on her bridle.

Molly had, thankfully, heard of “heaves” before.  An unfortunate type of lung disease in horses that affects their long-term health and athletic ability. The typical symptom is that the horse always seems out of breath and has laboured breathing. Very sad. Molly’s brain took a minute to catch up with this and in the meantime the girl led the horse outside to demonstrate how she went under saddle. Molly exchanged a now disappointed look with Greta and followed the girl to the outdoor ring.

If the heaves weren’t bad enough, the girls attempt at riding the horse was downright awful. The horse swerved in snaking lines around the ring while the girls hands wildly grabbed and pulled at the reins, the horses head sticking up the air like a giraffe. Clearly she was a novice, and had no control and the poor horse had no idea what she was asking. For some reason, in spite of how terrible the ride was, the girl chirped out that she was about to demonstrate how the horse jumped and headed toward a small jump in the ring. Her arms flailed wildly in the air as she kicked at the horses sides to encourage it to go over the fence.

“Dear God,” thought Molly as the horse swerved hard to the right just before the jump. The girl was unseated but didn’t fall off, and continued on, chirping that she would try again.

Before Molly could stop herself, she blurted out, “That’s enough! That’s enough! Okay, thank-you, that’s great, you don’t have to show me anymore!”

“Are you sure?” said the girl, with a look of disappointment as she pulled the horse to a walk.

“Yes, it’s okay Meghan, she needs to rest I think,” said Molly.

And by the grace of God the debacle came to an end. The horse was now huffing and puffing so badly Molly was concerned she might fall over.  She gently suggested to the girl that she walk the horse until her breathing returned to “normal”. And with that they thanked her, and Molly and Greta headed directly, and without hesitation, back to the car. Molly felt bad for the girl, she was clearly in over her head, and no one was going to buy that horse.

“Wow, that was brutal,” said Molly to Greta once they were back in the car. 

“That horse had really bad heaves, and oh my god the riding. It was so terrible. That poor girl. Where is her mother?” said Greta.

“I know, she was completely out of her element, that was bad,” agreed Molly.

Sparkle was definitely not the one.

Molly had lined up another horse to go see the following day, also from Kijiji. A chestnut thoroughbred named “Chuckles”. 

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