Gail pulled some strings and got me an appointment to buy this horse. Not an appointment to try him or to negotiate, as this horses' value was already determined by a per pound price, but to put the cash down, period. Gail informed me that any wavering or renigging on my part could hinder her work in the future and endanger horses from getting new homes. With butterflies in my stomach and 800 in my pocket, I headed for the feedlot.
Rescuing a feedlot horse flies in the face of everything we are taught. The list of never do this, never do that, is long and well-advised. But then this was not a purchase, it was a rescue.
When I arrived, by luck the feed lot man had to go to the doctors and I was left alone to wander the pens. The Bay gelding I was rescuing was in a back pen with an old Thoroughbred mare. It seems he was too dominant to be left with the other horses. I walked into the pen, no halter, just me. He turned and looked at me. I stopped about 12 feet away and showed him my side (an invitation to say hello) He walked right up to me, kissed me on the forehead, rested his muzzle on my shoulder and heaved a huge sigh. Then he wrapped his whole neck around me a gave me a horse hug, and begged to be scratched. I felt this little tap on my shoulder from the hand of a loving and merciful God and felt a warm flow of peace enter my heart. That was it, he was mine. I peeled off the cash (they wrote me a bill of sale on a scrap of lined paper!) Now to get him out of there and home!
After spending two weeks on a private ranch to be sure he did not get strangles or some other disease, I was able to get Riley to his new home in San Juan Capistrano. It was a a real big day for both of us. He got here dirty, cut up from the trailer ride (his feet were so bad, he injured himself jumping in the trailer) and very scared.  When you rescue a horse, you find out real quick who your friends are! All of my "serious" riding friends thought I was nuts. Some even turned up their noses at us! But I also found a new group of friends, you know them, you see them at every stable. The people who love their horses and sometimes even give up many of life's niceties to keep their horses safe, healthy and happy (these folks are usually found around the pipe corrals).
As Rileys new stall was not yet ready, I had to put him temporarily in one next to another dominant gelding. Well my new horse, proceeded to rear and strike at his new neighbor. The barn aisle now sounded like a a hollywood movie featuring fighting stallions. After two hours, the screaming stopped, after 5 hours they were best friends.
I really took my time getting to know my horse. He had been through a lot, including an auction and complete trust was going to take time and effort on my part. I decided not to even think about riding until I had gotten his attention and co-operation. He was sound, but I felt he had gotten some muscular damage in the past few months. We started out with, working on ground manners, leading manners and whoa. Lots and lots of hand walking. I was real nervous for his vet check-up. Usually these things were performed BEFORE purchase (but remember this was a rescue).  He passed with flying colors, the vet, not an over-emotional type was surprised that he came from the feed lot. He was going to need some chiropractic, and my saddle didn't fit him, so that would have to be replaced.
We were able to read his tattoo and this is what I found out about him from the jockey club. Riley (aka Baba Ruhl) is a six year old registered Thoroughbred who raced successfully for two years earning over 20,000. He is the great grandson of Native Dancer and Bold Ruler as well as Nasrullah on the sires side.
Time and patience are your tools with a untrusting horse, but I had to be sure he knew I was the top of the herd dynamic, the alpha mare so to speak. Using a combination of Marv Walkers round pen techniques (very similar to Monty Roberts) and Linda Tellingtons TTouch and Labrinth work I saw tremendous changes in relaxation and attitude. Horses are very much lead, follow, or get out of my way types of beings. Riley continues to challenge me everyday, but the signs are subtle and you must be listening. I require him to stand stock still for grooming, ground tied. Period. When he is deciding to test me, he shifts his weight, them moves. If I look straight in his eye until he drops his head or chews, he will stand still for several more minutes. If I pretend he has not challenged, or even if I over-react and scold, in a few moments he will be walking away with an "I don't have to listen to you" attitude. If I take this approach in grooming it carries over to all other training.
The first time I rode him was an un-eventful happy experience for both of us. He still thinks he is a race horse and I figure that is our next re-training phase. Lots of quiet walks and slow trotting circles. No canter work for a while.
This is and continues to be so much more that horse ownership. Every little improvement brings with it so much joy and happiness. As it turns out I got a very nice horse and maybe even someday I will be able to show him. But that just isn't the important thing. The important thing is that by challenging myself way past the comfort zone, I am making a difference in the life of one of God's noble creatures. The end of the story just doesn't matter, it's the daily journey with it's risks and rewards that counts.