No Fences—Every Horse and Every Horseman has a Story
Hope Grieg’s anniversary present was the treasure for which she’d spent years searching.
By Rachel Florman
“Buy whatever you want. I just want you to be happy.”
Those golden-ticket words from Hope Grieg’s husband, Nigel, should have been music to her ears. Instead, they only highlighted the desperation of a six-year search to replace the irreplaceable.
The spring of 2010 brought the crushing loss of Hopes beloved Paint mare, Miss Number Seven. A gorgeous 1994 bay overo, “Seven” was Hope’s partner, confidant and friend for 12 years. Together, Hope and Seven made the local rounds to shine in every event possible, and the versatile pair even earned Paint Alternative Competition Certificates of Achievement. As colorful ribbons multiplied—testaments to their talents—a deep, unspeakable partnership blossomed between horsewoman and her equine soul mate.
“She just had the sweetest personality,” Hope said. “I remember being told I’d never meet another horse quite like Seven.”
Though innocently intended as a complement, those words seemed to haunt Hope after Seven’s sudden bout of colic and devastating surgery complications.
The horsewoman inside Hope knew she needed to get back in the saddle, a gesture as healing as it was symbolic. Pushing back tears, Hope put her foot in the stirrup and mounted a personal hurdle aboard one of trainer Robert Robald’s kindly lesson horses, only two months after Seven’s death. It took another year, however, before Hope was emotionally ready to add another horse back into her life.
“Over time, I realized that I had such a large void to fill, and there was only one way to fill it,” Hope said.
But not just any horse would do, especially after the enormous horseshoes left by Seven on Hope’s heart. Far from a starry eyed shopper ready to fall in love with the first horse to come along, Hope’s list of requirements was detailed: around 14.3 hands, a mare, gentle, well trained, sound, correct and sweet. And she had to be a Paint.
It was quite the tall order, to say the least. Looking for a gemstone in a rock pile, the difficulties of Hope’s search became glaringly clear. Six years of scouring ads, hundreds of inquiries and traveling for hours only seemed to lead to frustration with less-than-upfront sellers and “not quite” horses.
“Robert kept telling me to be patient, that the right one would come along,” Hope said. “But I’d get impatient and excited about a horse I found online, only to waste time and energy on another disappointment.”
Finally, Nigel had enough.
“Buy whatever you want. I just want you to be happy,” he said.
Emotionally drained from the exasperating search, Hope handed the reins over to Robert, trusting her mentor to find the seemingly impossible. Within seven months of letting go, serendipity came to call.
A Gem of a Mare
“I really think I’ve found your horse,” Robert said over the phone to a skeptical Hope.
He’d been networking with connections across Florida when the owners of Iron Horse Acres in Cocoa Beach remembered a broodmare with past show experience who just happened to have some extra chrome. Her skills were rusty and she had a foal at her side, but the owners promised to dust her off in preparation for a trial ride.
“I drove for several hours thinking I would just rule out another horse, bracing myself for that familiar disappointment,” Hope said.
Fate, it seemed, had other ideas.
When Hope stepped out of her car, she laid eyes on Sheza Diversify, a 2001 sorrel overo mare by Diversify and out of Impressives Ten Too (QH). Slight in size, the mare’s dainty frame and wildly marked pattern checked off the first two boxes on Hope’s laundry list of requirements. Upon closer look, the kind expression in “Ruby’s” semi-blue eyes made Hope’s heart leap with optimism.
“I knew that when I found the right horse it would just feel right,” she said. “When I met Ruby, I immediately recognized she had the look and feel I wanted.”
This is an excerpt from the full article—get the whole story in the Spring 2017 Chrome magazine, which is sent to all current APHA members. Not a member? Join or renew at apha.com/join.