Whitney Mulqueen sat idly surfing the Internet one evening, more out of habit than with any great purpose in mind, flipping through horse advertisements with a glass of wine at her fingertips, when she suddenly felt a spark of electric hope that reminded her of better days.
Though her bridles and saddles had long been sold off, and she had resolutely walked away from a 14-year professional horse career, the single mother who now struggled with finances and self-image, sat up a little straighter. What was this this horse doing here? With perfect conformation and the well-set head of a show horse, the bay gelding What Is looked as out of place on the Finger Lakes Thoroughbred Adoption advertisement as she was feeling in a life beset with troubles and loss.
What if, she thought, this classically turned-out bay could offer some relief to a hard year; some hope for the future.
Leaping to her feet, she searched the house to find her 11-year-old son Cole and said, “Lets go look at a horse!”
Show name: What Is … Wesley
Foal date: April 7, 2003“I was at a low point in my life. I had just ended a long-term relationship that did a number on my self-esteem, and I had closed a small retail business that I’d owned,” Mulqueen says. “I didn’t have a saddle and I didn’t have a bridle, but I asked my son if he felt like taking a drive up to Finger Lakes, and I remember he said, ‘Mom we can’t afford a horse!’ ”
He wasn’t wrong. Perhaps it was foolish. But she and her son threw caution to the wind, and drove up together to take a look.
What Is, all brushed and shiny, was trotted out to meet mother and son. Hard to say what horse thought of them, but to Whitney and Cole he was just one fine looking T-Bred. Then the gelding’s exercise rider climbed aboard and put him through the paces, regaling them with stories about a horse who never belonged in the races.
“He told me he was always too regal to be at the racetrack and he always acted like a show horse,” she says. “I bought him right there on the spot. I adopted him for $400. They offered to throw in a second horse for free, because they knew I had a professional background with horses, but I had to admit I just couldn’t afford it.”
From the moment she got him home to a boarding facility near Factory City, Pa., her luck and her life began to change.
“Getting back to horses gave me a lot of self esteem. I had gained weight after ending my relationship, and when I got back into horses, I started getting into better shape, became more grounded and more focused” she says.
Next she went back to college, earned a degree, and landed a great job at a natural gas and petroleum company. Now she has the financial wherewithal to “do horses” the right way, instead of living hand to mouth, she adds.
As for What Is, he has proved to be the easiest horse she has ever worked with. Agreeable to a fault, he eagerly stretches into contact and seeks only to please. The only nagging concern is a condition in his front feet, called high-low syndrome, which due to irregular and unsymmetrical shaping, causes some challenges. But even with those issues she is confidant her new farrier can cure. Compared to all she endured, and the chance she took buying What Is, the subject of his front feet is a small matter indeed.
“Personally and professionally I was in limbo before I met What Is. I just knew that there was something about this horse that would be very healing for me, and five years later, he’s in my life in a huge way,” she says.
Whitney’s future plans include riding What Is at a number of Thoroughbred shows. Surrounded by other glossy show horses, What Is will fit right in. And among the optimistic riders and happy show goers, Mulqueen will fit right in too.