“Amateur Dream Horse” the advert read. The horse looked very nice, the ad said he was trained to an advanced level, so is he a “dream horse”? Maybe or maybe not. It all depends on the rider who buys him.
“The Dream Horse” is a dangerous phrase to have in mind when setting out to buy a horse. Important things like ‘suitability’ and ‘temperament’ tend to go out the window when thinking about ‘dreams’. I have seen many amateur riders buy a horse and then find they cannot ride it, they loose confidence, the horse looses confidence and it is all a sad mess.
No matter what your financial resources may be buying a horse is going to be a BIG expenditure. The more money you have to spend the more money you will spend. And whatever your budget there is no guarantee you will get the “horse of your dreams”. But there are a few simple guidelines that, if followed, will help you find a horse that you can enjoy and progress with; the right horse as opposed to the “dream” horse.
- Enlist the help of your coach. If you don’t trust your coach then you are with the wrong coach. The right coach will care about what horse you get because he or she will be working with you and with that horse. If you go off and buy a horse that your coach thinks is unsuitable for you then it will be a tough go to progress onwards. Your coach can help you sort through sales videos and steer you toward a possible match. You may be spellbound by a spectacular trot but he will know you cannot sit that trot. If you have to travel to try horses take your coach with you. If you have to pay for their time, or travel expenses this is money well spent. As I said before a horse is a BIG investment and enlisting the help of your coach in the buying process is well worth it. If you cannot take your coach with you then have someone video you riding the horse(s) and have your coach watch and give you an opinion. The people selling the horse may try to pressure you and say that there are 10 people coming from Ouagadougou the next day and they are going to buy the horse if you do not commit NOW. If you get that kind of pressure walk away. Just walk away. Don’t expect them to wait for weeks but a day or two will not hurt.
- If you are shopping locally you and your coach will know the trainer of the horse and will know whether or not this person trains in a manner you and your coach find acceptable. This is about you getting the right horse not about rescuing a horse from a beastly trainer. If your budget allows for you to travel to Europe you may not know the trainer. In Europe it is extremely important to have an agent that you and your coach can trust. And if you have the budget for Europe then you have the budget to take your coach with you. It will be worth it. Do not take your horsey friend from home or your BFF who has never ridden a horse just because they are ‘fun’ to be with. This is the Big Time and you will be shown an extensive array of horses. Many of them will be stunning. Many of them will have beautiful movement that will have you gobsmacked in awe. Many of them will be suitable for you as a rider and many will be absolutely unsuitable
- .It is good to know some of the bloodlines that are prevalent in your discipline. Your coach will also know this information. Some bloodlines produce horses with good temperaments for amateur riders and some do not. It does matter.
- Stick to the wish list you devised before you left home. If you and your coach have decided that you need a horse no higher than 16.2 then do not try out the 17.3 stunning black stallion. Just pass on that one.
- At the end of the each day sit down with your coach, look at the videos of the horses and realistically decide which ones can stay on the list and which, no matter how impressive they may appear, must be let go. Then go back and try the ones that stayed on the list a second or even a third time. Try them in a different location, perhaps outdoors if you first tried them indoors. Try walking them around the stable or down the road if it important for you to have a horse that you can take to shows or on hacks.
- When you have a firm first choice and want to proceed to a vet check have a second and even a third choice standing by. Vet checks may reveal something that you cannot accept.
- The vet check. Do not hesitate to spend money on this. Have an independent vet do as many x- rays as you want. If you are buying in Europe do not be put off if when you ask for various x-rays and they roll their eyes and tell you that “only Americans ever ask for that part of the horse’s body to be x-rayed” and they say it in a tone that implies Americans are idiots. Whatever you want and whatever your vet at home has recommended– ask for it. You are the one paying the big bucks and you are the one who will have to deal with problems once you get the horse home. Also get blood work done. There are some “horse traders” out there who may reduce the hotness of a horse by nefarious means. Yes, I’m talking about drugs here! If you have a trustworthy agent acting for you this should not happen but why take the chance?
- Once you have the results of the vet check have your own vet take a look at the results and the x-rays. If you are away from home arrange in advance how to send him or her pictures electronically. If the local vet says everything is ok but your home vet says something is not good then pass on that horse and move on to your next choice. Do this even if the horse is the best and most wonderful horse of your dreams ever!
- Above all …..at all times throughout the process stay true to your pre decided wish list. Do not decide that since the gorgeous mover is so spectacular that it does not matter that you can hardly ride it. Get a grip on yourself and pass on that horse. If you have totally fallen in love with one of the horses then slap yourself up the side of the head and regain objectivity until the vet check has been passed. Then you can go out for champagne.
If you follow these guidelines the chances are good you will find a good horse that is suitable for you as a rider and will be able to take you, one step at a time, to the goals you wish to achieve. This horse may well become the “horse of your dreams”. If it seems you will never find the right horse, do not despair. Canadian FEI vet, Denys Frappier once said:” The mother of all horses is not dead.” He is right. There will be a horse out there for you. Just keep looking.
When I followed these guidelines I found wonderful equine partners. You will too
I have posted a photo of my mascot “George” who travels in my car with me. I did not want to post a photo of a Friesian with a flowing mane or a stunning grey Andalusian or a chestnut Quarter Horse and have you think that was the mythical horse of my dreams. Hence the photo of George.