Waiting for the Hammer to Fall......

by Laura Humphreys

On October 31st 2009, the Horse Breeders forum changed our lives forever. My parents were away, so I had the house (and the grandparents!) to myself for a week. I settled down on the sofa, turned on my laptop and logged onto the forum, just as I had done pretty much every night since the forum started. Almost immediately a post caught my eye, mentioning a stud liquidation sale two days later in the north of Scotland.

I read on with horror, seeing the names of our Galaxie’s dam, sister and the sire of our beloved filly Ridgeway First Light (Giggles) listed in the catalogue. The story of how these horses ended up to be sold this way and in the condition they were in was very confused, but it was very clear that it was an incredibly situation for everyone. I had previously spoken to the owner of the stud on many occasions since Giggles was born, and it was all the more poignant that her only other sibling was now also for sale.

My poor mother received a frantic phone call that evening, whilst hundreds of miles away in the depths of rural Wales. She agreed that if we could, we would like to buy Deutsche Eiche (Dorle), Galaxie’s dam, to give her, at 19, the retirement she so deserved. I sent an email to Caroline Ironside of MFS Studfarm, co-founder of the forum and from there, everything seemed to fall into place. She was incredible: phoning the owner, the vets, the auctioneers, all the while keeping Mum updated in Wales.

Two days later, I received two phone calls from my delighted Mum: we were now the proud owners of not only Dorle, but her four year old Sandro Hit daughter Sunday. Caroline had not only bid for us, but she had also organised fantastic foster homes for the girls until they could come down to us at Touchwood. The weeks before the girls made their long journey to England seemed very long to us, but I had plenty of lovely emails and pictures to keep me happy!

The icing on the cake came when I received an excited email from our friend, and owner of Giggles; she had bought her sire Furst Classico! This beautiful boy has now got a loving home for life with his daughter, where a showing and stud career beckons.

It was a very timid Sunday who greeted us on a dark winter evening in November, peering out from the back of one of the biggest horse lorries I have ever seen. She followed Dave, Gemma’s husband, down the Touchwood Stud drive, lit only by torchlight, whilst I followed on the quad, her passport clutched tightly in my hand. I still couldn’t believe it - this beautiful horse was really ours!
She spent her first day in England in the barn, surrounded by friendly equine faces. There was a visit from my mother and father, who had spent the previous day in hospital after my grandfather had taken a tumble down the stairs, so Sunday’s arrival was a welcome relief. A perfect companion was found for Sunday in Monet, Gemma’s sister’s wonderful mare. They soon settled down to grazing together, and Sunday began her education on how to act like a four year old, not the foal she thought she still was.

The first few weeks brought many challenges for this little mare; she wore a rug for the first time, encountered the neighbouring foals, and then had a visit from the farrier. She soon learnt that the Touchwood team would look after her, and her love for people became very obvious.
As Sunday grew in confidence, supervised by her Auntie Monet, Dorle remained in Scotland, in the very caring hands of Julie (aka Wildwind on the forum). I was delighted to receive regular updates and pictures, which soon found their way on to my wall, whilst we all waited until we heard the news that she could join her daughters at Touchwood.

1st December 2009 is a day I will remember forever. Charging up the road on the back of the quad at 8 o’clock in the morning to meet the transporter, so excited I couldn’t even speak. Dorle strolled down the ramp like a pro, glancing around her at the countryside that was to become her home. I led her down the drive, one hand tangled in her mane, just to remind me that she was real.
Dorle spent the first day fast asleep in her stable, curled up in the straw. It didn’t take long though, for her bubbly personality to become apparent. The bouncing around the school belied her age, and she soon proved that at feed times she could be quite vocal! None of this mattered to us though; the fact that this ‘more mature’ lady was obviously feeling so well was more important than anything else as she had not been in the best of health.

She soon joined my mare Minnie and Gemma’s Josie in the field, something which was terribly exciting for Min, having a fellow Fräulein to chat to! Since her arrival, Dorle has made her mark on Touchwood, and I am so grateful for Gemma and Dave’s endless patience with her sometimes cheeky behaviour.

The recent heavy snow brought difficulties for turning the horses out, and this was met with disgust from Dorle. She was not a happy bunny when she couldn’t go out in the field, so she made sure we all knew how she felt about it all... Thinking that I was doing what she wanted, I took Dorle into the outdoor school for a run around on a brisk cold day in early January. Imagine my surprise when this nineteen year old dressage broodmare cantered merrily past me and straight out over the five-barred gate. A very relaxed Dorle then trotted across the nearby paddock and down to her ‘boyfriend’ Roly, me running helter skelter after her. Luckily she was none the worse for wear, just very chuffed with herself...

I hope to break Sunday in this year, with an eventual aim being to compete at dressage together. Having had a lovely email from Dr Bechtolsheimer, who used to own the girls, I have found out that Dorle has been ridden in the past. Of course this has planted a seed in my mind... but the question is, would having someone on her back stop this little lady from jumping out of the school? I’m really not sure!

I will never be able to thank everyone enough for helping us give these mares a home with us. Special thanks must go to Debbie and Julie, for the love and kindness they gave Sunday and Dorle during their stay in Scotland; to Caroline for her unfailing support and guidance during our first auction experience and for coping with my hysterical ramblings; and lastly to Gemma for taking on yet more Humphreys horses without a murmur, and for dealing with them all, and me, every day...

Below: Sunday and Dorle

Below: Dorle...aka the Sneaky Houdini! Vocal talents provided by Laura

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