When judges look at a horse and rider, one of the things they consider is “suitability.” Coney and Sharon were not in any way suited to one another. One look at Sharon said athlete. One look at Coney said Klutz.
He was only seven, a Quarter Horse mix with a heart of gold. His barn manners were good and he was easy to live with. But Sharon was a gymnast, with a body sculpted from years of practice and an urge to excel in any endeavor. She and Coney came to their trainer, Patty Messina, to try to get together as a team, but Patty could see no way to salvage things. It was hopeless. Sharon could never be successful in the competitive show world with this horse. Canter him once around the ring and he would puff like a steam engine. Set up some jumps and he could reduce them to a pile of pick-up stix in the blink of an eye. Patty jumped him over a crossrail once and he stumbled over it smacking her knee into a standard and leaving her to wonder if perhaps she should carry him over the jumps.
Patty didn’t know what to do. Coney had to go, but where? If they sold this horse, with no athletic ability and a probable unsoundness problem what with his total lack of stamina, what would happen? No one would ever give him a good home. He would end up at the slaughterhouse, and neither Patty nor Sharon could let that happen. He was young and good natured and he deserved a chance at something. They just couldn’t figure out what.
Without a lot of hope, Patty placed an ad in Newsday, the Long Island newspaper. She was brutally honest about the horse’s lack of ability. It wouldn’t do anyone any good to varnish the truth. The horse would end up coming back. Besides, Patty had a well-deserved reputation as a reputable trainer and she would do nothing to tarnish that.
Patty only got one call from the ad, which was one more than she had expected. A woman named Marilyn wanted a dead quiet horse for her daughter. She had ridden and owned horses herself, so she knew them and knew exactly what she was looking for. She had been searching for nearly a year now and was beginning to think that the horse she needed didn’t exist.
When Marilyn arrived, she got on Coney herself, and did some flatwork around the ring. Coney outdid himself, wheezing and blowing after just trotting twice around the small ring. Marilyn didn’t ride for long and when she dismounted Coney’s nostrils were flaring and his sides were heaving. Patty figured that was probably the end of that. She was sure Marilyn was going to say “No way” and tear out of the driveway.
Instead, she said, “I’ll take him.”
Patty was so flabbergasted she tried to dissuade the buyer. “Don’t you want to have him vetted?”
“No, I’ll take him.”
“But, I really think you should have him vetted.” Patty feared that Coney’s lack of stamina was a symptom of something serious, and she didn’t want him leaving only to return later when Marilyn realized that something was amiss.
“No, Coney is perfect.”
Patty’s face must have betrayed her confusion.
“You see, ” Marilyn explained, “my daughter is mentally challenged. She not only needs a horse that won’t run away with her; she needs one that can’t run away with her. Like I said, he’s perfect.”
Everything depends on our perspective, and Coney, a horse that most of the world would have considered useless, found a niche where he truly was perfect.