Taking a Risk; The Story of an Icelandic Horse

I didn’t want to pay for Rosti. I knew I was taking a risk buying him because I didn’t know whether or not there was something seriously wrong with him.

But I did pay for him. $500. I decided he was worth taking a risk. Besides, he needed me, or at least he needed someone like me.

And I needed him, or at least I needed a horse like him. I run Lone Cedar Icelandic Horses, small Icelandic horse farm where I do a little breeding and a little training, but mostly I just enjoy my horses. In 2015, I sold six horses, leaving me with 6 mares and 1 lovely black stallion named Sindri. Sounds like a fun situation for Sindri, right? But I can’t leave him in with mares all the time, as much as he’d prefer I do. And since I don’t believe in keeping horses alone because they are a herd animal, I decided to keep an eye out for an inexpensive gelding to keep Sindri company.

Rosti: Taking a Risk

Rosti on September 28th when I picked him up from my friend Karen, who is holding him.

I created the Icelandic Horse Rescue and Registration group on Facebook, so I got notification right away when someone shared the Craigslist ad for the Icelandic gelding Rosti. He was 23, trained to ride, registered, imported from Iceland…and underweight. The ad stated that he had issues that prevented him from digesting hay and needed to be given senior feed. The ad stated that they didn’t use him enough to justify the extra expense for the feed, so they’d decided to sell him instead. To the owner’s credit, they portrayed this horse as honestly as possible. For example, they said he’d had his teeth floated earlier that year, and I believed them. It also turned out that a friend of mine had been the one who’d imported Rosti from Iceland. She’d sold him to this family about a year later, and they’d had him for 15 years. He was friendly, personable, and a bit spoiled from being handled a lot by children.

But I was worried about what the owners may not know. What might be hidden inside the horse’s fragile digestive system? With reservations, I sent the money to the owner via PayPal and he became mine.

My friend, the same one who’d originally imported him, picked him up for me from the owner’s farm. I was grateful to her as it would save me about four hours of additional driving, plus she knew the owners and knew right where to go. He was thin but not emaciated, yet he was wobbly and she was worried about him during the trailer ride back to her farm in Battleground, Washington. By the time I picked him up 2 days later, he had perked up considerably. My friend was feeding him well and he was eating well. This was encouraging.

And yes, he was rude and pushy, but I could deal with that in due time.

Sindri: Taking a Risk

I am grateful that Rosti gets along with my stallion Sindri. Photo from 11-19-2015

Not only was I taking a risk regarding his health, but I also wasn’t sure how he would get along with Sindri. I’d had problems with my other geldings being a bit rough with my 20-year-old, non-aggressive black stallion. I hit the jackpot there and breathed a big sigh of relief- Rosti and Sindri got along famously, and still do.

Shortly after I brought him home, Rosti was standing in his pen sweating. It wasn’t especially warm. In horses, this is a distinct sign of distress. He kept kicking at his sheath, and my friend Susan, who happened to be over visiting, asked if maybe he had a “bean” that was giving him trouble. (A bean is made up of dirt and excretions that hardens inside the penis and can actually cause blockage if allowed to get big enough.) I wasn’t sure how Rosti would react, but he was quite receptive to having me feel around “down there,” and sure enough, I squeezed out a bean about the size of my thumb. The results were almost immediate- he stopped sweating, though he was still kicking at himself.

A few days later, I pulled another one out about half the size of the original.

Rosti: Taking a Risk

Riding Rosti for the first time on 2-22-2016.

I also put him on Omeprezole almost immediately. This is a human medication designed for ulcer relief. It’s available over the counter at Costco. I can’t imagine what the checkers think when we walk out with a whole stack, because I needed to dose him at about 9 pills per day for a minimum of 30 days. But at a cost of approximately $120, it’s way cheaper than a vet’s diagnosis and it won’t do any harm. I became a believer in Omeprazole after giving it to Sindri. I’d had Sindri for about a year and had trouble putting weight on him. A fellow horse person suggested he might have ulcers and that Omeprazole was an inexpensive, low risk way to treat them. A couple of months after completing the 30-day cycle, Sindri gained weight and I would consider him plump.

How is Rosti to ride? My expression says it all.

How is Rosti to ride? My expression says it all.

I was told that Rosti was a brat to ride; that he wanted his own way. I chalked that up to being ridden by children. But when I finally rode him for the first time a few days ago, I was pleasantly surprised. He did everything I asked, no problems. I had body work done on him about a month after I brought him home, and there had been a lot of things out of alignment. Add to that the possibility that he’d had discomfort from ulcers, and who knows how long that bean in his penis had been a painful issue. When a horse is in pain, of course they are going to act up. When I rode him on the trail the next day, he expressed his opinion a couple of times, but otherwise

behaved perfectly. He has an energetic walk that is pleasant to ride. I did have trouble pushing him into anything faster than a walk, but when I did, he offered tölt (the smooth, four-beat gait unique to the Icelandic horse), even if it was a bit slow. But I also have to consider this is an older horse who is very out of shape and lacking muscle.

As for all that feed I was supposed to have to be giving him, because of his weight gain, I’ve cut him back to just hay with a vitamin supplement, and so far he’s doing just fine.

Rosti: Taking a Risk

The view from Rosti’s back during our first ride out.

His previous owners did the right thing by finding him another home. I just happened to have the right set of experiences to be successful with him. If he’d had other issues, he might not have done so well here.

A horse I was reluctant to pay for so far has turned out to be a bargain. I’d weighed the possibilities, realizing I may be paying $500 for a horse I’d then have to put down. I’m grateful it didn’t come to that. I now have an older, somewhat opinionated gentleman who is a great companion for my stallion and is turning out to be a safe riding horse. Sometimes it’s worth taking a risk.

I hope that the surgery I’m having next week is a risk worth taking as well!


[DISCLAIMER: I am not a veterinarian and the suggestions I’ve made are not meant to be taken as medical advice. I have merely shared what has worked for me and my horses in their situations and make no guarantee they will work in all similar situations.]

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One Response to Taking a Risk; The Story of an Icelandic Horse

  1. Carolyn Giger April 12, 2016 at 5:03 am #

    Animal/human compatibility is an incredible mystery for me…this relationship, between two distinctively different and breathing souls, gives healing to both. I’ve grieved the loss of pets, yet over time I come to realize that relationship with each gave both of us strength and purpose.

    Your inspiration for others is not limited to the animals you love and care for nor for the incredible way you move forward in your young life…I always admire the loving remarks made by a family member of yours – the pride felt for you, the love and all else that builds relationship; all that brings closeness and understanding between you – these are the building blocks of your inspiration and your courage.

    You’re loved….

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