It's not a place for a lone beginner. Take a knowledgeable friend--take two knowledgeable friends--who will shut up, listen and watch what is going on. It's a real education in the ways of a professional dealer's yard.
They have some really nice horses. They also have some they'd really like to get rid of. And like any sharp retailer, they'd like to get rid of their older stock first. I think almost everyone I knew who bought a horse from them took the first one back and replaced it with one of higher cost and better value.
They sell a lot of horses at a lot of sales. Its a good place to find a horse if you are savvy and experienced and willing to take it back to auction the next week, but its not for the novice buyer. I would classify them as a wholesaler of horses like a big box store. You find it yourself, you try it yourself, you make sure its what you want and you do not expect and help or service or to pay too much.
I worked at a riding school in MD and they bought a lot of horses from those folks for the school through the auction. About half were good and half went back the next week.
One mare was really nice, but too crazy for a school horse. So of course I bought her. She was sound, but she sure wasn't as quiet as the night at the auction. But then later she was--much later--like a year later--so???? I sold her for a lot of $$ and she won some ribbons in the hunters, but I wouldn't do it again.
If you're not very good at judging conformation or temperament...any large dealer barn isn't a good place for the buyer to go without help.
Strains has been around for ages. I've known tons of very decent horses that have come out of there. I've known a couple handfuls of duds too.
Bill is honest about what he has and what he knows about them. many horses they simply don't know that much about, they don't have them all forever and the amount of horses usually means they rarely have a lot of time to spend individually with each horse.
If you're shopping for a decent horse in a mid range price, it's a good spot to go and see many in one place. All ages, breeds, sizes, genders and even colors. if you end up with a crap one, return it for an exchange. You can do this continuously until you get what you want. You may/may not have to pay more if the next one you want is priced higher than the last.
And in all my years around horse auctions, dealer barns and even huge sales barns...strangles isn't unusual in places with massive turnover of animals. You quarantine what you can...but you can't steam clean each employee as they move about. So yes, do change and shower after visiting a large dealer barn or auction. Which a buyer should be doing anyways.
You jump in the saddle,
Hold onto the bridle!
Jump in the line!
I went with my trainer, I rode the horses and she watched. I, not being a nervous rider, rode a chestnut QUIET mare there. We loved her and took her home. I rode her for the new potential owner, she was great, was definately a hunter in her past, jumped all the scary things in our ring, auto changes etc. Then the other woman got on (nervous rider) and trotted one lap, and the mare planted her feet and wouldn't move. Naturally my trainer tried to take her by the reins and walk her forward..Well she FLEW backwards rearing up etc etc. Thankfully the other woman stayed on. Since I play guinea pig at the barn (ride all the noobs, the way I like it) I got back on. The mare still wouldn't move even with a lounge whip behind her. When she finally moved she flew into the air broncing for a few strides than stopped dead and I came off. So I got back on, and she wouldn't move, AGAIN. Started the whole flying backwards/rearing again. Needless to say we took her back, but not before we noticed the boogies she had >.< We moved her into QT right away and all of our horses came out unscathed thankfully. So 2 weekends later we went back, brought the mare back, and their trailer pulled up right behind us with an appy in it (super cute!) He was there for 5 minutes, we rode him, hes quiet, honest, and we brought him home. We were much more careful this time and pine sol-ed water buckets, the floor, our boots, washed hands, totally pine sol-ed the trailer, kept the appys tack separate from all the other tack. He also went into QT but made it out ok; while we were there there was a horse HACKING, very scary. The woman came to ride him yesterday and thankfully, he is staying. SO, to anyone else wondering, you can get them good and you can get them bad at strain. I found they were honest and the horses in OK weight. The stalls were gross and some horses lame or looked like they had some issues in the legs. If your comparing to Crowleys, this is a much nicer place. I just wanted to tell everyone of my time there so everyone is aware >.< It also scared me that they dont wear helmets!
Scary auction stories notwithstanding, I bought a horse for my mom frfom them at FPP 20 years ago. Tried it there. Liked it. Bought it. Took it home. It was sick and barn sour and my mom said, too big for her. She called Strain (thru FPP.) They asked her what she wanted. She described it (smallish, grown up, cob, doing-sort-of-horse.) They agreed to trade. She took the other horse to Timonium. They swapped it out for a black cob type.
25 years later, Billy is STILL the greatest horse ever made. He still gives little kid lessons and was the most perfect doing-horse (doing, as in, do anything with him - hunt, show, event, games, polo, play, bareback - you name it.)
Caveat emptor, but they don't want a bad rep. TELL them what you want. They know horses.
They've been dealers longer than that, I believe. They buy horses from sales all over the country east of the Mississippi (last time I knew), like OH, KY, IL, etc. Then bring them home, work a bit, then off to a sale to sell them on. I never can believe any of their catalog descriptions because they can't have had any of them long enough to know them well, esp. having so many.
It's big time 'buyer beware' with them, and I won't go into my stupidity on my part story about buying from them many years ago....
"As a rule we disbelieve all the facts and theories for which we have no use."- William James
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Proud member of the Wheat Loss Clique.
I can count off the top of my head at least 15 lesson horses at area barns near me from Strains. Sane, safe and sound lesson horses. At least 10 privately owned trail horses and 5 kids' horses for pleasure riding and local shows and 4H.
Did all of them get the right horse the first time? Probably not.
But ask the owner Bill about horse selling, he'll tell you straight out the buyer who traded a time or two is usually the same ones who bought for color or cuteness. After they trade and state exactly what they want before trying/looking at all the pretty horses...the sales folks there can usually get them pretty much exactly what they want. It might be the plain bay or the kind of homely looking one instead of the chestnut with tons of chrome or the loud paint...but it's the right horse for them.
If a buyer is insisting on buying the "cool" horse or the "cute" horse they aren''t going to refuse a sale. This isn't a private sales barn, it's a big public dealer barn. Sales is their business and their business model haas been working strongly for longer than I've been alive. But they are decent enough to swap that incorrect horse for one that works for you once the buyer realizes it's not the right horse. And sometimes they just don't know as much about a certain horse due to lack of time with it but will still trade it for a better one later on for the buyer. Other horses they know better, not all purchases they make come from unknown sources and many of those they're reselling were brought in as trades from new buyers, it's like a car dealership that way. You can offer your own unsuitable horse to them as a trade for one that suits you and those folks give all the details to the dealer barn. I don't know many barns that will do that or trade previous purchases.
Are they perfect? Nope. Are they decent? Yup. Should someone not used to evaluating horses for purchase go by themselves? Absolutely not. It's the Auto Mall of horses...they will make good on a bad purchase though and they do have a ton of horses to check out.
You jump in the saddle,
Hold onto the bridle!
Jump in the line!
Many years ago, my parents got many of their school horse's from the Strain's and Milton Potter. I don't remember any illnesses (but would have to check on that) but do remember that they always took something that didn't work out back in exchange for another horse.
I do know one person that bought a horse of theirs at one of the PAS Sporthorse sales and the horse turned out to be a complete nut case but I don't think that is any reflection on them.
My friend bought some sort of warmblood from them who ended up being very mean and rank. She kept him for a week and returned him in exchange for the horse she has now. I believe they charged her $7000-7500.00 for her horse. Her horse had one lead, was green broke, spooky and underweight. They also claimed he was an appendix QH but mysteriously lost his papers when we wanted to know more.
I haven't been too impressed with the place or the horses there. Every once in a while I do see a decent warmblood cross on their website.