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“From the moment I met Ruslan, his soft brown eyes drew me into his world, begging, I felt, for me to uncover his past . . .”


don’t think I’m intuitive by any means, but I felt this big Russian Warmblood was urging me to learn more about his history. “What does it matter?” my sister, a non-horse person, asked. To us horse owners, however, it can explain a lot about a horse’s behavior, level of training and demeanor. It’s certainly not uncommon for horses to travel through the revolving door of sale and adoption with owners having little or no knowledge of their past. As a new horse owner, I was determined to listen to my heart, which led me on this journey of detective work. In the end, I was rewarded many times over as I uncovered the past of this accomplished dressage horse. I also developed a new friendship with the woman who trained and competed him. Here’s how it all happened.

Acquiring “Roo”

In hindsight, I didn’t know what to expect when my search

began in earnest in the summer of 2009. Amazingly, I had purchased Ruslan for the rock bottom price of $1200 that included his custom-fitted saddle and saddle pad. Even though in his senior years, I felt pretty darn lucky to own such a well-trained horse. Ruslan came to me in a round about way from Susan Shea of Naples, Florida. Susan wanted nothing more than to find her horse, who she called Roo, a good home. But Susan had little information to offer me about his past other than to say he was a fourth level dressage horse. Adding to the intrigue was a curious 08 89 tattoo on his left shoulder, which we speculated to be his date of birth since he was supposed to be 19 at the time. Susan owned him for five years and rode him mostly as a trail horse. Unfortunately, the folks she purchased him from, also in Naples, moved shortly thereafter so she lost touch with them. Three years into her ownership of Ruslan, Susan

wanted to move back to New England and put her house on the market thinking it was going to sell quickly. In the interim, she sent Ruslan to board at a friend’s barn in Massachusetts who then moved him to another barn in nearby Brentwood, New Hampshire. One year rolled into the next with Susan’s house in Florida still unsold. Finally, she faced the hard reality that she needed to move Ruslan on; so she decided to sell him. As for me, I had re-entered the riding sect taking lessons for a little more than a year with Kara Riley-King,

a well known eventer and instructor at Sea Star Stables in Brentwood, New Hampshire. The six-stall barn and huge indoor arena, together with Sea Star’s mix of social riders and congenial competitive types, were just the ticket for someone like me who had not been on a horse since childhood. Gone were those carefree days as a youngster riding our Palomino bareback! It’s amazing what I did remember but equally amazing what I forgot! For me, getting back in the saddle was both about reliving the joy of those childhood days and overcoming typical adult fears. Luckily for me, Kara was the key to the whole horse equation. When I decided to buy a horse of my own, finding one in these tough economic times was a lot easier than I imagined. A friend had recently purchased a registered Quarter Horse she loved, so over the next few weeks I looked at several of the same breed. Unfortunately, I just didn’t feel any connection. Then one day in mid-May, Kara told me about her close friend Kirsten who was stabling a horse that needed a home. “He’s 16 hands,” Kara said, “but he isn’t a big 16 hands.

He’s 19, has a lot of training on him and has done third and fourth level dressage. I think you should go see him.” I had some reservations about his height since I’m a mere 5’ 2”. Although I felt he could be too much horse for me, my instinct told me to trust Kara. I felt confident her matchmaking abilities were as good as my year’s worth of riding instruction with her. That first meeting with Ruslan was nothing short of amazing! He did not fit the typical typecasting of the “redheaded” horse. He was quiet. Was this his nature or was he putting on a good show to find a forever home? After a while, I could see it was the former because he was well cared for and adored by Kirsten and her three young children, as well as the barn’s boarders. Kirsten brought Ruslan in from the pasture and put him

on the crossties. I walked around Ruslan and then picked up his front hoof when I felt a gentle nibble at the top of my head. Cute, I thought. I spent some time grooming him while Kara and Kirsten told me all they knew about him, all the while with the horse being a gentleman. I watched Kara ride him in Kirsten’s outdoor arena and he seemed quiet and fancy. When I rode him, Ruslan’s height certainly gave me a bird’s eye view of the landscape! He was not a 15 hand Quarter Horse. With so much horse

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