Last week we looked at the first five steps to finding your perfect horse.
Here are the final five.
6.Don’t Just Test Ride the Horse
When you own a horse, riding is a small part of your interaction with him. Much more time will be spent on peripheral activities, such as grooming and leading him to and from the field.
If you think he’s a good prospect after you’ve ridden him, ask to do these things with the horse.
Also watch him being saddled, to ensure he behaves during the process. If he is already saddled up, be suspicious. Ask them to remove the tack and start again.
7.Take Him to a New Environment
My husband and I became very tired of buying horses that behaved well at home and were obnoxious in new places, including ours!
So when we were looking for his new showjumper, we asked to have him taken to a new environment, where we could pop him over some fences he’d never seen before.
The owner was a bit surprised, but agreed.
This way we got to see how the horse loaded, traveled and unloaded, as well as how well he coped with a strange place and new cross country jumps.
He passed with flying colors and is a wonderful horse with a great temperament. We have owned him for fifteen years now.
If the owner won’t agree to this trial off the property, ask why. At the very least say you want to see him being loaded.
Leasing a horse with the option to buy is a great way to get to know a new horse.
This adds the safety net of allowing you to spend an extended period of time with him before making the decision to buy.
9.Get the Horse Vetted!
It is false economy to skip this process. You will regret it if you don’t have the horse thoroughly checked out once you decide he’s the right one for you in every other respect.
Any agreement to buy has to be subject to passing the vet. No exceptions!
The thoroughness of the vetting will depend on how much the horse costs and how much you are willing to pay. But at least have him checked out for soundness of wind and limb, and take a blood test to ensure he has not been given any medication to mask lameness, or any sedatives to alter his behavior.
Some owners will take offense at the blood test. But tell them you've heard horror stories and, in any case, you're paying for them.
If your prospective horse fails the vet, WALK AWAY!
10.Ask For a Trial Period
It is worth asking for a trial period of two weeks, provided you insure the horse first.
If the owner refuses, this does not necessarily mean there is anything wrong with the animal. But a trustworthy seller will often agree to take the horse back within a stipulated period of time - if the partnership doesn’t work out - provided the horse is returned in the same condition as when he was sold.
Buying a horse is a risky enterprise, but there is much you can do to find your perfect equine partner. And when you do, the time and effort you put into the search will pay off.
Next week we’ll be looking at things to put on your shopping list when looking for a horse.
In my article
4 Mistakes to Avoid When Buying a Horse,
I compare buying a horse to getting married after only one or two dates. If you think about it, we acquire what we hope will be our ideal equine partner based on the briefest of acquaintances. Is it any wonder the relationship often doesn’t work out?
Buying a new horse is a big investment in your future happiness (and his). It’s worth taking the time to do it properly. Here are steps you can take to maximize your chances of finding the right horse.
1.Make a List
Before you fall in love with a horse for the wrong reasons (which I am guilty of having done) make a list of what you’re looking for.
The least important part of the horse is his color. Don’t set your heart on a dark bay with four white socks and a little snippet of white on his nose. Take to heart the saying: “A good horse has no color”!
Ask a trusted person to help you make this list, for example, your instructor or an experienced riding friend, who will be more objective than you.
Once you have your list of desirable traits, prioritize them. No horse will match everything you’re seeking, so you need to have an idea of what you’re willing to sacrifice, and what is essential.
An example of where you might be willing to compromise is gender. Many people are prejudiced against mares, yet the best horse I ever owned was a mare. If everything else is right, don’t reject her because she’s not a gelding.
Examples of must-haves are:
(a) Complete soundness, with no history of lameness (other than from something minor, like a bruised sole)
(b) Good temperament
(c) Good conformation
Now you have a well-thought out list and can begin looking for the right horse.
2.Where to Look
There are many places to find horses for sale, but the best source is word of mouth.
Check with your local riding school, your instructor and riding friends. Ask them if they know of any horses for sale which match your requirements, and if they would put out the word for you among their horsey acquaintance.
There are a lot of websites advertising horses. One I recommend from experience is http://www.dreamhorse.com.You can enter the details of your ideal horse, plus the farthest you are willing to travel to find him.
Also visit your tack shop and pick up a free copy of your local horse magazine.
Ask the owner lots of questions, over the phone and after you arrive to meet the horse. Remember, as the buyer you are entitled to be properly informed about the horse.
Don’t let the seller make you feel as if you don’t know anything about horses. If that happens, thank them for their time and hang up the phone. The same applies if the owner gets defensive about any of your questions.
4.Don’t Visit the Horse Unaccompanied
A golden rule when trying out a new horse is to have someone accompany you.
Take an experienced horse person with you e.g. your trusted instructor. This will help the owner stick to the truth about the animal. Your instructor can also ask any questions you may not think of, and be a sounding board for you. A second opinion on a horse is always useful.
5.Don’t Mount the Horse First!
Don’t be taken in by the owner’s stories about having a bad back or some other excuse not to ride their own horse first. If that happens, walk away.
Make sure the owner, or some other person who knows the horse, rides him in all three gaits before you get on him. Don’t trust what you’re told about the horse – actions speak louder than words. Watch how the horse is ridden: is the rider tentative, or does she look comfortable on him?
Does the horse behave well, or is he spooky or naughty, excitable or misbehaving in some other fashion? Does he look sound? Does he move well?
Don’t feel obliged to get on the horse if you’re not comfortable. If you’re an inexperienced rider, ask your instructor to ride him first. She knows what kind of horse will suit you, and can judge whether this is a good candidate.
Next Friday we’ll look at the final five steps to help you decide whether a horse is right for you.
Today we look at the final four of 7 reasons why your horse may not be right for you.
4. Wrong Temperament
Your temperament and that of your horse have to match. If you are both nervous types, the relationship is unlikely to work. One of you has to keep the other calm.
I once owned a very anxious Thoroughbred mare. My instructor told me that one of us had to calm down first, and it wasn’t going to be her!
If you find yourself ‘winding up’ your horse, and constantly worrying about what he’s going to do next, you may want to consider finding a calmer rider for him and a quieter horse for you.
5. He Is Too Young
It’s very tempting to buy a young horse in the happy expectation that you and he will grow old together.
Unless you’re experienced in dealing with youngsters, that romantic dream can swiftly become a nightmare. Even if he is quiet when you buy him, this will not necessarily last if you’re unable to continue with the correct training required to keep him well-mannered.
If you’ve purchased a youngster and realize he’s too much for you, don’t wait until the horse becomes unmanageable. Find an experienced home for him, where he’ll receive the training he needs to fulfill his potential.
Then look for an older, more experienced animal for yourself. You’ll have many more years of fun with the right horse than with the wrong one.
6. He Can’t/Won’t Perform in Your Preferred Discipline
Sometimes we find ourselves with a horse that is either unable to, or doesn’t want to, participate in our chosen riding discipline.
Here are some ways this can happen:
(a) We’ve switched disciplines: for example, moving from show jumping to dressage, and our horse doesn’t enjoy pure flatwork.
(b) The horse’s abilities were misrepresented to us when we bought him.
(c) He simply isn’t interested in his job any more (he’s sour).
If this last is the problem, it may just be a matter of changing his work routine to revive his enthusiasm. I trail rode a sour show jumper for six months solid, and he willingly started jumping again. My current dressage horse co-operates if I take him on trail rides and occasionally jump him to vary his routine.
But if the horse makes it clear that he is not suited to whatever you wish to do with him, it’s time to find him a home compatible to his strengths.
7. He Has Constant Health Issues
We horse people seem determined to continue with an animal which never stays sound for very long, has permanent respiratory problems or suffers from some other health issue which prevents him from being ridden consistently.
While this is an admirable trait, there comes a time when we need to admit that such a horse will never be rideable. Neither is he happy, struggling to be the horse we want. Especially when he has to stand for months on end in his stall – for the sixth time - with an injury that will never heal sufficiently to withstand the rigors of being ridden.
I speak from experience, and know how hard it is to accept the finality of this. But the time, money and effort put into such a futile task are much better spent on a healthy horse.
If he has an otherwise good quality of life, your unrideable equine buddy should be allowed to live peacefully as a companion animal.
Our horses can be totally wrong for us, and yet we tend to love them like children. Since it’s morally reprehensible to sell one’s offspring, we feel the same way about our equine buddies!
But be prepared to consider that maybe your horse would be better off in a different, more compatible home. As long as you’ve done your best to find him good parents, there’s no need to feel guilty about selling him.
If you think your horse may not be the right one, visit me next Friday, when I’ll be exploring ways to find your perfect horse.
If your horse isn't making you happy, ask yourself whether he's the right one for you.
And if you're not enjoying him, he's probably not happy, either!
Maybe you should consider finding him a more suitable home? This will free up your time and money to find a horse you can truly have a fun and successful relationship with.
But how do you know if it’s time to go your separate ways?
This week's post examines three key problem areas in horse ownership, and next Friday I'll address the other four.
1. You Don’t Look Forward to Riding Him
(a) The Temporary Situation
Perhaps you’re working through a minor behavioral issue or a difficult movement, which will be resolved eventually but is consuming a lot of your time and energy.
You’re not enjoying the process, but know the final results will be well worth the effort.
(b) The Permanent Situation
But if you dread going to the barn every day, and find yourself constantly looking for reasons not to visit/ride your horse, with no happy end in sight - you need to reconsider keeping him.
2. You’re Afraid of Him
Being afraid of your horse is nothing to feel ashamed about. We all have times when our horses make us anxious. It’s far better to admit the fact to ourselves and do something about it, rather than wait until we get hurt before we take corrective action.
But can the situation be resolved, or is your horse always going to frighten you?
Here are two possible causes for your fear.
(a) Your horse really is dangerous
Examples of a truly dangerous horse are: one which consistently rears, bolts, kicks, bites and/or runs back home every time you take him on a trail ride.
Such an animal needs to find a home with a professional horse person. (Been there, done that - several times!!)
(b) Your horse handling skills need honing
Maybe your lack of leadership is causing your otherwise amenable horse to take over control instead? Horses need to follow a leader or else they boss us around.
My previous two posts discuss how to improve this situation, and feel comfortable around your horse, instead of being scared of him. Using the methods I describe, I changed from being afraid of my own horse (and desperately wanting to sell him!) to falling in love with him.
3. He’s Too Much Horse For You
Many of us are drawn to horses which are too big for us (I have also been a culprit).
Such animals require a great deal of strength and effort to ride properly and are much better matched with physically stronger, taller riders who can ride them with ease.
It doesn't matter how much we love such a horse, we'll always be the wrong person to ride him.
I've struggled many times in the past with the knowledge that a horse was wrong for me, and
have been unwilling to admit defeat by selling him.
But professional riders at the top of their game aren't embarrassed to concede that they don't get on with a particular horse. So we don't need to feel ashamed or guilty about finding another home for a horse that is wrong for us.
Make sure you find him a suitable, loving owner and you will create a win-win situation for both of you. He’ll be well-cared for and you’ll be free to find the right horse.
Next Friday I'll examine four more reasons your horse may be wrong for you.
Horses are my big obsession, and I'm constantly striving to get better, smarter and more in harmony with my equine buddy, Cruz Bay.
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