View Full Version : Buying & riding dilemma

May. 12, 2009, 11:20 AM
I'm going to apologize in advance for the long post, but here's the story:
I've been an AQHA w.p. rider for close to 20 years now, and recently retired the only horse I've ever owned. I lived in another state for about 8 months late last year and took lessons at a h/j barn, thus realizing that I would like to make the transition away from WP now that I'm back living at home, in the midwest. But here's where I've run into a wall: I've been looking for a new trainer for some time now, but the 2 trainers I want to train with don't have lesson horses, and I don't feel qualified to pick out a h/j horse to purchase with my limited experience in that discipline. I asked both trainers to find a horse for me to lease, but that has been fruitless so far. At the same time, since neither trainer has ever seen me ride and therefore doesn't know my riding ability/style, and I haven't been around their barns enough to know what they look for in horses, I'm not comfortable asking them to find a horse for me to purchase.

From January - April this year I was working out on the west coast, and taking lessons with a fabulous trainer at a fancy show barn, whom I trust and still keep in contact with. When I mentioned my predicament last month, she had me try out a horse that was for sale in the barn that she thought was a good fit for my ability/style. I really got along with this horse, and am seriously considering purchasing him. BUT....

1) He seems expensive, ($35k) but when I mentioned the price to my preferred local trainer, she said that that was on the low end of the horses she sells
2) It seems like overkill to have that fancy of a horse when I'm only doing 18" crossrails

I don't have a trainer to assist me in finding anything for less $, since the west coast barn is strictly A-circuit, high-end horses, and I'm also no longer traveling out there every week.

At home, I'm in an area with a limited selection of h/j barns in the first place, and since I'm still working through my fear of busy arenas (retired horse would have meltdowns when there were more than 4 horses in the ring with him), I don't want to ride at the big, crowded lesson barns

So is $35k too much to pay for a 9-year old hunter horse with limited show miles? Do I buy this horse that seems a lot more talented than I, in hopes that I progress to his level? I'm miserable at home, not having anything to ride, but at the same time, I'm nervous about plunking down that kind of money.

Oh and this is an alter - it's a little TMI for me to air as myself.

Come Shine
May. 12, 2009, 11:36 AM
So is $35k too much to pay for a 9-year old hunter horse with limited show miles?

Seriously? To do cross rails with?

May. 12, 2009, 11:41 AM
35K is alot for a horse with limited show miles and for you to do xrails. If it was a packer that has been there done that I'd say great match but if its limited and is new It seems like a gamble. Are you a beg. jumper? Ob. your not a beg. rider. There are lots of horses out there for much less but what circuit are you wanting to show and how quickly do you think you will progress?

May. 12, 2009, 11:43 AM
Dont do it - find something else.. a packer that you can learn on and move up from the crossrails..

May. 12, 2009, 11:46 AM
These trainer's don't sound like they want to take you on as a client. Sorry to be so blunt, but most trainers won't send you out to find a horse for yourself when you have such limited experience with your new discipline. Unless they don't take you seriously, or they don't have the time to devote to a newbie.

If I were in your shoes, I would find a lower level trainer and take lessons on their school horses and get into the discipline before you spend $35K on a horse. That is a steep figure for someone who is only doing 18" cross rails! I would get your feet wet and then decide how much you want to spend, or how far you want to go. If you only plan on doing cross rails at smaller shows (or not showing at all for that matter) then you don't need the fancy show horse that has the potential to go further than you plan on taking him. JMHO

May. 12, 2009, 11:48 AM
It depends. What are your goals -- to stay in crossrails or end up in the AAs at the A shows? Can horse meet those goals? Does Nebraska trainer think the horse is a good fit for her program? Do you have the $$ and like the horse? Will you keep New Horse forever or use it as a stepping-stone to a nicer horse down the road?

If you have the $$, like the horse, want to show in the bigger divisions eventually, and are the kind of person that keeps horses forever, go for it. If you have reservations about any of these, I would think hard about whether the horse matches your plans.

Depending on the quality of the horse, $35k could be a perfectly reasonable price for a calm 9 yr. old with limited show miles. A significant portion of that price would be the combination of somewhat fancy with beginner-tolerant, a combination that is worth its weight in gold.

May. 12, 2009, 11:50 AM
That's way overkill for what you need.

I would think you could find a safe, fun horse for cross rails in the $5k range, and if you want a really solid beginner horse that will get you going around a bit higher, maybe to $15k ish. This may not be the fanciest horse and he may not win all the time, but this will get you safe, fun, and a good start into a new sport. You could go less if you don't mind taking on an older horse with maintenance needs.

Especially in Nebraska.

It might help to take some of that money you might spend on a horse and find an intensive riding vacation - travel and take a week or two with an instructor who does have lesson horses available and get some significant miles in your new discipline. You might even be able to find one who is a bit off the beaten track and who you might trust to help find you a horse.

May. 12, 2009, 01:06 PM
Are you located near Omaha? If you are willing to drive a bit, there are some decent h/j barns in central and eastern Iowa that I am sure would at the very least be able to help you find something to purchase. I used to live in Sioux City, so I know what a dead zone that area is, but I thought that Omaha had it a bit better?

I am an eventer so I know very little about h/j prices, but $35K sounds pretty steep to me for low show miles and 18" crosspoles regardless of discipline. PM me if you want the names of a couple of Iowa barns.

May. 12, 2009, 01:19 PM
I do want to show at some point, but that of course depends on how well I progress. I'm not a beginner rider by any means - been to world, congress, and more breed shows than I care to mention - but at the same time, I'd never touched a polo wrap in my life prior to a year ago.

And I agree that the trainers don't seem super-excited to have me as a client, but that seems to be the rule vs. the exception with all the ones I've talked to. At the same time, though, I really do not want to ride at a super-busy 60+ stall lesson barn that's an hour drive from my house, after having spent the past 12 years at a smaller, high-quality QH training facility where the owner/trainer is even more OCD about care and cleanliness than myself. It's mostly adult riders also, which I prefer. The two h/j trainers I've been speaking with both have very similar facilities - less than 30 stalls, a mostly adult client base, within a 30 min drive from my house, and a professional style.

I know there are less expensive horses out there, but I wonder if I'd be worse off buying one of those without some guidance or anyone to assist me in evaluating them. It's like the chicken or the egg - I can't find a horse because I don't have a trainer, and I can't find a trainer because I don't have a horse.

I have to say that I'm a little ashamed at even considering a $35k horse when I barely have the skill to clear a crossrail.

May. 12, 2009, 01:22 PM
PM me if you'd like more info...but I MAY know of a horse out my way (close to Ogallala) that may be fitting to you.

I'm also surprised you're not having luck in Omaha finding trainers. Karen Cudmore is out there...and Jeanine Carhart I think is her name....Those are 'bigger' trainers though. Lots of small 'local' schooling type barns too.

I understand the horse hunt though....I get my horses shipped in off the track from CA cuz I couldn't find anything out here.

May. 12, 2009, 01:28 PM
I have to say that I'm a little ashamed at even considering a $35k horse when I barely have the skill to clear a crossrail.

This might sound stupid, but have you looked into leasing at all? You're probably not going to get something super-good, but it seems like you should at least be able to get something good enough to get you going with lessons and give you time to really find something that suits your needs.

A part-lease type situation with a horse already with one of the trainers seems like it could work out very well if there's a suitable horse/owner - save some money and time for the owner, keep the horse in work but supervised by the trainer.

($35k just sounds absurd to me - I know h/j horses can go for a lot, but spending that much on what's basically an entry-level model when you're not even 100% set on showing and being extremely competitive? Ouch.)

May. 12, 2009, 01:31 PM
What about your QH connections? Could they find you a AQHA horse thats been doing the hunters or equitation at the AQHA shows?
As for the 35k horse, if you like it, feel safe on it, enjoy riding it, and feel it can teach you the ropes, it is money well spent. This is especially true if you trust the trainer who is offering it. I'd rather pay a little more and buy something from someone I trust, then take a gamble on a lesser priced horse with someone you don't know.

May. 12, 2009, 01:40 PM
If you plan on riding with one of these trainers, it really is ideal if you can work with that trainer to find a horse. That way you avoid the problem of buying a horse, then taking it to the trainer, trainer doesn't like the horse and encourages you to get a new one.

Maybe you should call the trainer you want to ride with and tell them what you told us -- you would like to ride with them, but need a horse, can they help you horse-shop? That is easier than asking them for a lease. You may need to beg, borrow, or steal a horse to take a few lessons on so that the trainer will know what kind of horse is appropriate.

If they say no, I would look for a different trainer. If they are looking but it takes a while, that is to be expected. Sometimes it can easily take 6 months to a year to find the right horse -- but the trainer should be showing you something much sooner than that (within a couple of weeks).

It is very uncommon in the H/J world to shop for a horse by yourself unless you are a trainer or very, very experienced.

May. 12, 2009, 01:49 PM
I would definitely lease, and one trainer had a horse for me - a great been-there-done-that horse whose owner was trading up. Would have been perfect, but the owner leased him to someone else the day before I had an appointment to go try him out. I've had both trainers on the lease lookout since January - no luck, though (I'm not convinced they're actually looking...)

And just to clarify on the pricey horse - it's not he that is doing crossrails, it's me. He's shown in the green hunters and has points, but was put out to pasture a year and a half ago when his owner stopped riding.

May. 12, 2009, 01:52 PM
I'm with Luvs2rideWBs. Why not look for a QH that has done some jumping? You are familiar with the breed and probably have lots of contacts. I would certainly NOT spend $35K on a horse. Sorry, just too expensive. And since you did QHs for so long, you obviously like the breed. TBs and WBs are a different type of ride.

Good luck,

Edited to add: I wouldn't be buying a $35K horse that's been out to pasture for a year - sounds funny to me. Why not sell him before or lease him out?

May. 12, 2009, 01:54 PM
Good point on the "just call the trainer and explain the situation." Sometimes the most obvious answer is the one most easily missed.

May. 12, 2009, 02:59 PM
When I rode in college, I saw several riders make the transition from Western or Saddleseat over to the Hunter Jumper world. I found that if the riders had a good, solid base, they transitioned rather quickly. They got used to jumping, did cross-rails for a while, and then once they got the hang of it, moved up at lightening speed - winning equitation classes left and right, and pointing out of the lower levels.

If I were you, I would consider my amount of natural ability - these riders were very good at what they did and had either a very good natural feel for the horse's movement or had cultivated it over a decade of riding in other styles. You may be doing cross-rails right now - especially if you are only taking lessons once or twice per week. But once you have your own horse and are devoting more time to practice, you might find that you "get it" really quickly and are ready to move up before you know it. In this situation, it might be best to get the nice horse now.

If you think that you have little to no natural ability, but a strong work ethic (me! me!), then you might want to look for a horse that will be more appropriate for sitting at a lower level.

Now, IMO, if the horse really has been sitting for over a year, I would try to negotiate down from 35K.

Have you tried an eventing barn? If you are starting to prefer jumpers over hunters, then perhaps you should look into eventing. You will get a really good base in dressage. And even if you eventially decide to go back to HJ, as long as it has decent form and a good stride, a horse trained in eventing can be really versatile and valuable for low level hunters and equitation.

May. 12, 2009, 03:18 PM
The 35k represents the horse's probable market value on the west coast where your last trainer is. That and the east coast are the most expensive areas for any kind of horse.

You are moving into a much more reasonable area where 35k would get you a much more finished horse with a decent show record at second tier type shows and enough quality to pin for the bigger ones with good trips. Or a fancy greener type.

I'm thinking the new area trainers don't know you that well yet and may not realize you got your checkbook ready-if you get my drift. West coast trainer knows you and knows you got the money.

Follow up with the new area trainers and be specific about your needs and price range plus let them know you can and will pay for it.

IMO your best route is a 1 year full lease on a packer until you get your feet wet, so to speak, in the whole H/J world. Then you will have a better idea what you want and which direction you would like to go in.

May. 12, 2009, 03:25 PM
Wouldn't Glen Cudmore (Karen's father in-law) have something you could lease for a year?

or does the Nebraska hunter/jumper association have a website where you can list a "wanted for lease" ad?

May. 12, 2009, 04:09 PM
At home, I'm in an area with a limited selection of h/j barns in the first place, and since I'm still working through my fear of busy arenas (retired horse would have meltdowns when there were more than 4 horses in the ring with him), I don't want to ride at the big, crowded lesson barns

Now would be an excellent time to deal with this - on a safe schoolie who's used to crowded lesson rings. Get thee to a lesson barn to get over your phobia and keep yourself in riding shape.

If you plan to show hunters, all the hack classes are in busy arenas with many other horses, not to mention the warm up areas for all classes. The other trainers will still be around when you find the horse you want to purchase and start to get serious.

Go Fish
May. 12, 2009, 06:25 PM
This is your wake-up call. As a former western rider (QHs), plan on spending a lot more for your babysitter or world-beater in hunterland. I'm on the West coast and $35K out here will get you walk, trot, and canter. Horse will be green and MAY have lead changes and be going over small courses. However, horse will have a ton of POTENTIAL, (maybe).

Your other option is to buy a schoolmaster that requires maintenance, (good footing, drugs, a sunny day, gold-plated shoes, filet mignon) or get damn lucky.

Feel free to PM me to discuss your transition from western to the hunter world. Been there, done that! :)

May. 12, 2009, 08:28 PM
I would love to have you in my program......want to move to the east coast? ...or how about flying out on weekends? Seriously, If you have been riding for 20 years and you were in my program....in six months I would have you jumping around 2'6" courses correctly and confidently and winning in the show ring on a horse that new his job. You will learn VERY quickly and if you don't then you don't have the right trainer and/or horse.
If I were shopping for you I would NOT limit you to a crossrail horse. Leasing is definately a very good idea as you learn. The horse you lease should be a made up packer for sure. In one year you could easily be doing the AA's on the right horse with the right trainer.
Maybe you could fly out the trainer you want to train with to look at that horse on the west coast for you. If that horse has all the right stuff then 35K is NOT too much for a show horse that can do the job you need him to do. He absolutely must stay in the same canter while jumping, have automatic lead changes, not react at all when you make a mistake, jump slowly off the ground with a jump that is more flat than round, not peek at any jump and do it all with a smile on his face! If this is that horse than he could be the one......good luck!

May. 12, 2009, 09:01 PM
If you get the opportunity I would definitely recommend trying to get involved with the Kudmore's. I have watched Karen coaching at shows and she seems excellent. Also, from who she was catch coaching at the show, willing to accept beginner riders with good basics.

May. 12, 2009, 09:13 PM
In this world someone should def. help you to find the horse you need. I'm from Iowa so I know most of the trainers around here, and the ones you're describing don't sound like them at all. But then again, I don't know them personally very well. The Cudmores are great, I got my current QH jumper from them :] But you if you want some more names around that area just pm me. Also: the Iowa/Nebraska Hunter/Jumper website is not helpful at all!!! so I wouldn't count on that. The Midstates Horse Shows (which is based in Mason City every year) has a great trainers page that lists a ton of the nearby trainers. The only problem is that I don't believe it has been updated in awhile so its kinda hit and miss. Just let me know if you need anything else!

Hunter Mom
May. 13, 2009, 12:02 PM
I'd visit the Fremont show next weekend and hang around. There are trainers in the Omaha/Council Bluffs area, and others that would be a bit more of a drive.

May. 13, 2009, 12:30 PM
In this market $5,000 will get you what you need. $15,000 would get you an amazing mount that is probably more than you need- with show miles! On the east or west coast!

May. 13, 2009, 12:44 PM
And just to clarify on the pricey horse - it's not he that is doing crossrails, it's me. He's shown in the green hunters and has points, but was put out to pasture a year and a half ago when his owner stopped riding.

IMO, good, SOUND horses don't get put out to pasture because the owner stopped riding. They get put out to pasture because they are not sound at the work level they were doing. If the only reason this horse was put out to pasture was the owners lack of riding, there is usually someone willing to lease, buy, ride, show, etc. the horse and what owner wouldn't jump at the chance to get rid of monthly bills for something no one is using. I would be VERY wary of purchasing this horse...even if spending $35k was like buying lunch to me.

BTW, we're currently looking at a packer type for $10k, which may be a little much in this market. Horse is proven, has a lovely canter and can find his own distances, etc. And we're on the west coast. I'm guessing the same horse would be worth LESS in Nebraska.

May. 13, 2009, 12:47 PM
In this economy, you're bound to find something cheaper that can do that job. Maybe not something fancy, but something that can easily do local shows to 2'6". Have you tried putting a want ad up at tack shops or asking them if they know of anyone?

May. 13, 2009, 12:48 PM
IMO, good, SOUND horses don't get put out to pasture because the owner stopped riding. They get put out to pasture because they are not sound at the work level they were doing. If the only reason this horse was put out to pasture was the owners lack of riding, there is usually someone willing to lease, buy, ride, show, etc. I would be VERY wary of purchasing this horse...even if spending $35k was like buying lunch to me.

Ditto, especially not on the west coast, where it's so pricey. Plus, even if he was sound, you won't be able to evaluate how different he'll be when he's fully in work.

May. 13, 2009, 01:09 PM
Thanks so much for the advice, everyone, I really appreciate the fact that people are so willing to share their experiences.

I nixed the pricey horse after thinking through the comments here - there are enough people on the west coast willing to pay good money for a horse that there's probably a reason this one didn't sell and wasn't leased. In addition, vet costs and shipping was going to add another $3-4k to an already expensive horse.

I also took your advice and called the local trainer this morning and just asked, "what's up?" Basically, she said she doesn't do much leasing these days (price declines have made buying much more affordable), and hadn't thought my checkbook was open for purchasing. She's heading to a couple shows starting next week and will do some asking around for me, but also said that I should definitely be able to get something workable for less than the west coast horse.

She also mirrored what many of you said and mentioned that since I've already been riding, that I'll probably progress pretty quickly and therefore should be looking for something a bit fancier than just a crossrail packer.

What a relief - thanks again everyone!!!

May. 13, 2009, 02:53 PM
I second calling the Cudmores. I feel sure they would be able to find something for you! I would seriously consider leasing something for a year and see how you progress. Plus, if you find a different barn, etc. you aren't as stuck with something. See how much progress you make and what you really want to do. You may decide that you prefer jumpers over hunters. There are plenty of things out there to lease in this economy. In addition, I agree that there must be a reason for one being put out to pasture for that length of time. We have a lot of friends that have bought from the Cudmores and really like them. They are honest and open and have tons of horses! The other thing to do would be to visit some local shows in your area and watch the trainers coaching, etc. You can see how they are at shows, etc. Good luck and please feel free to PT me if you would like. My daughter has been a working student and has a lot of connections and would know a lot of people you could speak with. This may not be a bad time to buy, since the economy is what it is, but you should be able to find something for less depending on what it has done. We are on the east coast and the prices here and on the west coast are a lot higher. Your lease fee should be about 1/3 of the purchase price of the horse. If you lease, you can put in an option to buy, with your lease fees going towards the purchase price. I would definitely consider a horse that has more experience than you do and that can help you make progress. However, if you do want to resell it, I wouldn't get one much older than 8 or 9. I would also be a little leary of a trainer that didn't want to mess with you as they thought you didn't really have any money to spend. The other thing we have found is that it is better to not give them an exact price you are willing to pay because you will find that no matter what it is, it will be at the "top" of your price range. Your buying a horse should not be the only reason a trainer is interested in you. They should look at having you as a long term client and the horse purchase is a part of that, but not the only part. As I see it, someone really can't help you purchase something until they get to know you. I am not trying to be ugly in any way, but you have to watch out for yourself and just know that business is business. ;) Good luck!!

May. 13, 2009, 04:48 PM
You don't need anything "fancy" You want a horse that can pack your butt around from crossrails to 2' 6" He needs to be slow but not dead and have his changes, being attractive and an awesome mover come second. Expect him to be over 10 years old, under 17 hands, possibly not a warmblood, a plain color, and may need some maintenence. When you try out horses ask yourself some questions: Would I feel comfortable showing up when it's 25 degrees out to ride this horse? Would I feel comfortable hacking around bareback when it's 90 degrees out?