Surprises are interesting. I mostly like them. I mostly like them because they become life lessons. Sometimes they are gifts and those are good, too. In my former life of grandeur, we owned multiple properties, homes, and pets. This is the story of how we acquired three horses by surprise.
We had made an agreement with our daughters. They had been horse riding for years and getting lessons from Uncle Rod and Aunt Debbie. More than anything, they wanted horses of their own. They were willing to muck and feed and clean and train and scoop poop and other unmentionable acts of care; practically anything to have horses. We were willing to let them do so if they could afford it and were committed. Horses had become a great way to teach our children about trust and resilience and responsibility and life. My daughters saved penny after penny and dollar after dollar and searched. At the ages of thirteen and eleven, my daughters were in the market to buy horses.
They begged me to visit a gentleman and his family that were selling two Ponies of Americas-a brother and sister. Asking price: $500 each. I knew the girls had been saving, but they certainly didn’t have enough for $1,000 plus all other initial costs. It was unlikely to happen, so what would it hurt to go anyway? It would be good experience.
The ponies were sturdy, good, young, a little green, but “unspookable” (they don’t scare easily = great for the kiddos). It was a lot to consider as we had never owned horses before, but the girls didn’t have enough money anyway so I thanked the gentleman and let him know that we would be in touch, but unlikely to buy. On the way home, I talked to the girls, in hopes to reset expectations and regroup. Again, we weren’t opposed to having horses, but let’s make sure they understood the verbal contract they were entering, the commitment needed to horses and the costs. They took the news well and did not try to renegotiate. Then they informed me that by the end of the month, they would have a collective savings of over $700 in allowance, gifts and doing extra chores.
LIFE LESSON #1: PEOPLE WILL OFTEN EXCEED YOUR EXPECTATIONS IF YOU LET THEM (ESPECIALLY IF YOU ENCOURAGE THEM TO DO SO).
When we got home, I checked the mail and the voicemail messages. There was a message from the gentleman we had just left minutes ago letting us know that he was willing to drop the price to $750 for both horses. I called back and asked if we could come back later that week with Uncle Rod and Aunt Debbie along to check them out. And so we did. Later that week, the price dropped to $500 and we became horse owners.
LIFE LESSON #2: EVERYTHING CHANGES (EVEN WHEN YOU DON’T REQUEST IT TO).
We became the proud owners of two POAs, Little Man and Dalilah. With a lot of shared wisdom, help, and grace from many of our beautiful horse people friends, we did our best to further train and nurture these precious creatures, but as the months went by, we realized that something was not right with Dalilah. She was losing weight in her ribs and gaining in her stomach.
“Maybe she’s pregnant!!!?!!” my daughter said.
LIFE LESSON #3: EXPECT THE BEST…?
We called the vet. “She’s too young to be pregnant and she hasn’t been around a stud.” (Little Man was gelded.) “Likely needs to be dewormed,” doc said.
So we started a more aggressive de-wormer process. We increased her feed intake and the number of feedings. We provided more hay, more attention, more love and she just got worse. The vet came out again and then again. She might have hay belly. We changed her feed again. On the vet’s last visit, he told us that she either had a rare disease or she was indeed pregnant. However, she was very weak and he did not want to put her through a physical exam. He took her blood for testing and told us to call him in the morning for the results. I went home devastated, expecting her to not make it to the end of the week. Our Dalilah was dying under my watch. I knew that I would soon have to break the news via phone to the girls, as they were out of state visiting family. I cried.
LIFE LESSON #4: …BUT PREPARE FOR THE WORST.
The next morning came and I was wakened by an early morning phone call that went something like this:
Him: “Hey! We’ve got three horses out here.”
Me: “What do you mean three horses? A horse got through the gate somehow? Who’s horse is it?”
Him: “No. Negative. WE have three horses.”
Me: “What do you mean exactly? What are you saying?”
Him: “I’m saying Little Man is here. Dalilah is here and there is a baby horse or a colt or whatever it’s called. I’m saying we don’t need to call the vet for the pregnancy test results.”
LIFE LESSON #5: LIFE HAPPENS!
I’m pretty certain the conversation was followed by a joyous release of astonished expletives followed by a crazy thought process including some need I felt to locate towels and hot water, confusion as to what kind of leave I would need to take from work for the day and the desire to contact the girls immediately.
I called the girls and sent pictures. “I told you so!” was mumbled by the thirteen year old and they quickly came up with the name for our new baby boy: Sunrise Surprise, Sunny for short.
Sunrise Surprise became a wonderful addition to our horse family and we continued to learn many things as he grew. As time has passed only one of my daughters rides regularly now and has successfully sold three horses and currently owns two.
I forget to be thankful for the surprises life offers me. As time has passed for me, I find that I am less surprised at things as I used to be and generally yearn for more.
LIFE LESSON #6: WHEN YOU ARE NOT GETTING ENOUGH SURPRISES IN LIFE, MAYBE IT IS TIME TO SEEK THEM. COMPLACENCY BREEDS MEDIOCRITY.