Nowhere to Hide and Jeff

There is no better advertising than word of mouth. No better compliment than having a satisfied adopter come back for an additional horse or having a potential adopter come to the MMSC because they have heard good things about our horses, our ethos, and our adoption procedures.

Lauren and Louie
So I was really, pleased to hear that Lauren W. who had adopted a horse from us in early 2013-and a horse that had had many physical challenges to overcome to boot!—was so pleased with her “Louie” that she had told her boyfriend, Jeff, to come to us to find his “dream horse.”

To do what? I wondered.

“To be together, go on trail rides, maybe little shows, maybe not. Something quiet. Something easy. He has ridden Western maybe ten times, English maybe three.”

Ah yes! I had the perfect horse for him: Formaggio! A very solid citizen—a horse with the duty bound attitude of a US Marine. Big too, 16.3. Man sized. 

 A few weeks later, after Jeff’s application had arrived and been approved, I looked up from my desk where I was catching up on emails and saw a hulk of a man walking towards the arena.

“Catherine!” I called. “Who is that?”

She darted back out of the office and was back in a flash.

“That’s Jeff Tow-Arnett, Lauren’s boyfriend. Remember he and Lauren were coming in from Minnesota today to try horses?”

“But, but…he’s HUGE! I mean he looks like a pro linebacker! Thank goodness Formaggio is big!” 

Shortly thereafter Jeff, and two other titans, one male, one female strode into the office. They looked like gods from Mount Olympus; all three were over six feet tall and tautly muscled; the men built like mighty burr oaks, the woman like a lofty willow.

I caught a glimpse of the nymphlike Lauren standing to one side. 

“Lauren!” I gave her a hug.  

“This is Jeff,” she said, “and his brother Nick, and Nick’s fiancée, Jessy.”

Jessie and Nick

“Welcome!” I said. “My goodness,” I couldn’t help myself from adding. “You two guys look like football players and you, you…”I looked at Jessie.

“We are football players,” said Jeff with a grin.

“And Jessy’s a professional volley ball player,” Nick offered.

Jessy was at least 6.2”, long limbs, long neck, long hair, long everywhere.  Both men had chests, arms, and quads like the granite boulders on the rocky coasts of MaineNick was taller with gentle brown eyes and military correct posture. Jeff, the more massive of two, had Samson-like curls grazing his broad shoulders and a winsome smile.

“Wow! That’s cool. So, Jeff, I hear you are looking for a quiet, dependable trail horse? Let’s go to the barn. I believe I have the perfect one for you!” His name is Formaggio.

“What about Noah?” he fired back.

“Well he isn’t totally sound yet,” I said, brushing the question off.

That was the truth. But that wasn’t the full truth. Noah still was very volatile under saddle although he and his rider, Alicia, were making progress. A green rider would be totally wrong for Noah. Besides, I was a bit of a snob. A football player for MY NOAH???!!!

“Let’s just start with Formaggio, shall we?” I responded.

I sat on the bleachers watching Jeff ride. He was, as I suspected, as  green as grass. Bless dear Formaggio who carried him like the dutiful trooper he always was: Keen to follow directions. Careful of his cargo.

“Let’s tack up Noah for Lauren and send them both out on a little trail walk,” I told Catherine. “Do we have an intern who could go with them just in case Noah gets strong?”

As soon as they were ready and had exited the arena, I went over to talk to to Nick and Jessy.

“Who did you play for Nick?

“The Dallas Cowboys. The Seattle Seahawks. I also was in minicamp with 
the Minnesota Vikings one year and the Jacksonville Jaguars.”

“You done now?”

“Yup. I am going into sports fitness.”

“And Jeff? Who did he play for?

“Well, we both played for the University of Minnesota. Then he played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Then arena football in 2011 and 2013 for the Milwaukee Mustangs, followed by Tampa Bay Storm last year.”

“Is he done with football?”

“I think so. I hope so. He’s had a lot injuries. But he’s really persistent.”

“And Jessy, tell me about you? Who have you played for?”

“I trained with the USA National Volleyball Team and played in the 2011 Pan American Cup where we won the Bronze medal. I have played professional volleyball for 4 seasons in Puerto Rico, one in Vienna, and then last season, as Nick, said, in Azerbaijan.”

About that time Jeff and Lauren were back from their trail walk.

“How was it?”  I asked. “What do think about Formaggio, Jeff?”

Jeff and Formaggio

Jeff was nice, polite, but not elated, which is the expression I like to see when an adopter tries a horse. “It was good. He was good. I like him. But I am just not in love with him.”

“Oh, thats too bad because I don’t have another horse that would be right for you at this point.”

“He really had his heart set on Noah,” said Nick as Jeff and Lauren led their mounts back to the barn.

“Noah is not a good fit for him. He’s too green, and Noah is a die hard competitor.”

“I understand.  But he’s not going to take this well, “Nick said.

Not taking it well was an understatement. I was back at my desk when I saw Lauren and Jeff head for their truck. He looked like the darkest skies before Hurricane Katrina. His brow was furled. His ears were beet red.

“Are they leaving, Catherine?”

“Yes. They are headed back to Minnesota.”

“Ah, me. I guess I made someone mad. He didnt even say goodbye."

“Yup. He was pretty upset.”

“He’ll find another horse. Maybe even another horse at the MMSC. But I doubt he will want to come back.  I was too blunt.”

But an hour later, he was back! 

“I would like to talk to Susanna,” he told our office manager, Lori.

“O000..kay,” Lori replied slowly.

“Do you want to talk with Jeff?” she said, sticking her head through my office door, eyebrows raised, her tone foreboding.

“Sure! Send him in!”

In an instant his massive frame filled the door. Then he dragged a chair up to the front of my desk, and sat down with heft on it. He fixed me in a cross fire gaze.

“How can I help you, Jeff?””

He launched his offensive:

“You see, Susanna, Lauren had told me that the MMSC was a great place to get a horse. So I went to your website, and I scrolled down the horses and once I read Noah’s blurb, the search was over. I watched his videos. I learned about his injuries and all that you were doing for them—acupuncture, Chinese herbs, chiropractic! I have had all those things done to me!  I, like Noah, have fractured bones! I have had competed hard like Noah. Then when I heard you say on the Horse Channel video that Noah had a heart of gold and would do anything to serve even if it caused him to die, I thought of what my offensive line coach from
my senior year at the University of Minnesota said to the Philadelphia Eagles Scout who wrote me off because I was too small: ‘If I had 11 Jeff Tow-Arnetts I could rule the world!’  I knew that if I was a horse, I would be Noah. And besides, my parents were supposed to name me Noah, but in the end they called me Jeff. But I always wanted to be called ‘Noah’.”

The more he talked, the faster his words came. He leaned forward. He clasped and unclasped his large mitt-like hands. I could fill the heat of his passion “tazing" me from across the desk. I found myself intrigued by his earnestness, his persistence, by the massive  weighty cross on his chest. WHAT PASSION!  Is this what it was like to face an opponent’s relentless touch down drive ?

“Noah is not totally sound yet, Jeff.”

“I can wait til he is.”

“He still very much in racetrack mental mode.

“Can I adopt him and pay someone to continue reschooling him?”

“It make take a while.”

“I can wait.”

“It might never happen. Noah is a confirmed competitor. And you are too inexperienced. I am afraid you or Noah might get hurt.”

“I can get better. I’ll take lessons every day until I do.”

“How much do you weigh?”

“275 pounds”

“That’s too heavy for Noah.”

“I can lose weight!!!”

I sat back and took a deep breath. My mind was clearly against it. What did my gut say?

“Susanna, how do you know for sure Jeff is the wrong fit?

Inexperience. Size. Noah’s horsenality,” my mind shouted back.

Susanna, you say you are all about second chances. Are you truly? my gut returned.

I sighed. 

“Jeff, you make a very passionate case for Noah. I have reasons for thinking that it is not a good idea. But I honor the fact that you didn’t just head back to Minnesota in anger. You didn’t give up. You decided to face me again and you have done so making a worthy case for your desire. I am a person who has dedicated herself to second chances. If I am a truly honest about that, then you have made me think I must not impose my opinions on you. Can you come back tomorrow?”

“We weren’t planning on staying,” he told me, inching to the edge of the seat, his  eyes hopeful.

“Well, that’s too bad because I believe we ought to let Noah have a say about whether he wants to be your special horse or not.”

“WE WILL STAY!” Jeff exclaimed.

“All right. Be here tomorrow morning and we will put you and Noah in the road pen together, at liberty and we will let Noah weigh in. What do you think?”

“I’ll be here!” said Jeff, ecstatically. “AND Thank you! THANK YOU!” he said enveloping  me in one of the most massive, memorable hugs I have ever received in my life.

Cheery bye,