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  1. #1
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    Default Looking for my first dressage horse - Update Post 31

    What do you look for - what is the "must have"?

    And, if you only have 1 ride, how do you know you 've found "the one"?

    I may be looking at/riding a couple of OTTBs this weekend . . . we are talking lower level, possibly some schooling shows, etc.

    Thanks!
    Last edited by Tiger Horse; Nov. 19, 2009 at 05:21 PM. Reason: Update



  2. #2
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    Default

    Must have:
    1. Kind and generous
    2. Good three gaits.



  3. #3
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    Apr. 23, 2005
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    I don't think there is 1 single thing that makes a dressage horse "right" because what is right for one person won't work out for another. I usually tell my clients looking for horses to make a list with 3 columns. The first column is things they REALLY want in a horse, things the horse MUST have or do. Like for a beginner, "well broke" would show up in this column. For a tall person, "atleast 16 hands" maybe, or for someone with back problems "smooth gaits" and someone looking to be really competitive might put "fancy gaits", so it all depends on YOU and your goals.

    The second column is the "would be nice" column. These are things you would like but don't need, like if you are an average to shorter height person, you might like to have a big horse but you don't need it, so if put "atleast 17 hands" in this column and you found and otherwise perfect horse but he was only 16.1, we would still consider him.

    The last column is automatic deal killers. Again, they depend on your experience and what you are looking for, but maybe include "stallion", "unbroke", "lame" whatever. These are just examples, and if they end up in your other columns don't worry about it, everyone is looking for something different.

    You also need a budget, including, if you are going to do it, a vet check. Once you have your list as detailed as possible, make copies and when you look at a horse and get the "he's so pretty I want him!!!" excitement, pull out your list and see how he stacks up. This helps keep it a rational decision instead of an impulsive or emotional one, and when you are searching through pages of ads, it will help you narrow down your search to the horse that meets the criteria you want!

    Also, if you don't have much experience especially, ask a trainer for help. There's a lot of nice horses for sale that aren't listed online. Someone with a big network can dig up good deals by making a few phone calls. That's usually how I find horses, and I can usually get a "we know he's going to a good home" discount. And if the horse is coming from a friend of a friend, you can be a little more confident that the info you are given is honest. Of course there are honest strangers and lying friends, but a trainer friend will want future business and referrals so is motivated to make sure you are happy with your new horse.

    Good luck, looking for horses is fun!!
    Gallant Gesture "Liam" 1995 chestnut ottb gelding
    Mr. Painter "Remy" 2006 chestnut ottb gelding
    Stories about our adventures:http://tbatx.wordpress.com



  4. #4
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    I market quite a lot of horses and have been doing so for many years. I market hunter/jumpers, event horses and dressage horses, so have had a lot of contact with people buying their first horse. Here is my advice:

    First - determine your level of "expertise" and riding. BE REALISTIC and HONEST! So often I ahve people come to me looking for horses that really are not being honest with themselves about what they CAN ride. Yes, it is nice to have the huge, big moving, extravagant WB, but honestly most ammies cannot ride them. For an ammie looking for their first horse I would not suggest a huge mover, a young horse or a horse with minimal training (i.e. an OTTB straight off the track). I would suggest that they look for an "ammie friendly" horse. Might not be the BIGEST mover, but soemthing that has gaits that you can easily ride, and above all a GOOD mind and work ethic.

    Second - be realistic about what your budget can buy. Yes, there are some "bargains" out there, especially right now BUT the GOOD horses still command a good price, perhaps a bit lower than a couple years ago, but the good ones hold their value, as that is what everyone wants! The really LOW priced horses tend to be ones that have "issues" of some sort, or are "less desirable" i.e. smaller, mares, "off" breeds etc. If you have a limited budget consider something that is maybe not your "Dreamhorse" but can easily do the job for you. Don't discount a good mare, a smaller horse, maybe a horse that cribs but is controlled with a strap etc, as these can be real bargains right now!

    Third - look for good basic gaits, but again don't "overhorse" yourself in terms of rideability. If you are not well versed in terms of conformation and movement, take someone with you whom you trust, a trainer or good friend with experience to help you assess those traits. But don't be "over picky".

    Fourth - Look at the smaller dealers, farms etc, not jsut the bigger palces. BEware however that there are a lot of unscrupuous people and a lot of individual owners that sincerely don't realize the hrose has issues. TRy and get recommendations. I jsut sold a nice horse to a first time horse owner. She said that I came recommended as honest and up front, which I try to be. Find someone with that type of reputation.

    Fifth - Have the horse vetted, but again, be realistic about your budget, and the use for the horse. There are some things a dressage rider can "live with" that a jumper could not, and vice versa. NO HORSE vets out 100%, so be prepared and do your homework ahead of the time to know what may show up. Also, having an experienced person to help guide you thru the "veterinary terminology" will help, as will a practical vet with good "horseside" manner.



  5. #5
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    Gloria - thanks!

    GG - you made some excellent points and a list is a great idea. I do have a trainer to help me and she has given me some suggestions as well.

    I am very excited to be looking!



  6. #6
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    Jan. 4, 2000
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    With horses off the track I think it really helps if you have dealt with them before, perhaps retrained them to do hunt seat or eventing, so you are familiar with how they react and how they respond to new situations and how to retrain them in general, so you're not intimidated by a horse that could get a little strong and quick at times.

    I think if you haven't it's better to get an older, trained quiet dressage horse, maybe one that is being retired from showing or isn't going to advance any further. Such horses are very well priced especially these days. A horse that has done training and first level would be fine to start on.

    If you're set on a horse from the track with no training, and you haven't worked with them before, I think it's important to expect to work with a trainer frequently. I think the best thing is to have a vet take a very good look at its legs and feet. And then the mind. Best to look for a horse that was successful and well adjusted at the track, who was easy to ride and did well, maybe just a little too slow, but tried hard, not a problem, easy to keep on stride and keep running straight, not at all nervous or wound up, easy to keep weight on when at the track. I think the most important thing after a good brain is to avoid injuries and wear and tear that would be serious enough to interfere with lower level riding and occasional shows.



  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by shawneeAcres View Post
    I market quite a lot of horses and have been doing so for many years. I market hunter/jumpers, event horses and dressage horses, so have had a lot of contact with people buying their first horse. Here is my advice:

    First - determine your level of "expertise" and riding. BE REALISTIC and HONEST! So often I ahve people come to me looking for horses that really are not being honest with themselves about what they CAN ride. Yes, it is nice to have the huge, big moving, extravagant WB, but honestly most ammies cannot ride them. For an ammie looking for their first horse I would not suggest a huge mover, a young horse or a horse with minimal training (i.e. an OTTB straight off the track). I would suggest that they look for an "ammie friendly" horse. Might not be the BIGEST mover, but soemthing that has gaits that you can easily ride, and above all a GOOD mind and work ethic.

    Second - be realistic about what your budget can buy. Yes, there are some "bargains" out there, especially right now BUT the GOOD horses still command a good price, perhaps a bit lower than a couple years ago, but the good ones hold their value, as that is what everyone wants! The really LOW priced horses tend to be ones that have "issues" of some sort, or are "less desirable" i.e. smaller, mares, "off" breeds etc. If you have a limited budget consider something that is maybe not your "Dreamhorse" but can easily do the job for you. Don't discount a good mare, a smaller horse, maybe a horse that cribs but is controlled with a strap etc, as these can be real bargains right now!

    Third - look for good basic gaits, but again don't "overhorse" yourself in terms of rideability. If you are not well versed in terms of conformation and movement, take someone with you whom you trust, a trainer or good friend with experience to help you assess those traits. But don't be "over picky".

    Fourth - Look at the smaller dealers, farms etc, not jsut the bigger palces. BEware however that there are a lot of unscrupuous people and a lot of individual owners that sincerely don't realize the hrose has issues. TRy and get recommendations. I jsut sold a nice horse to a first time horse owner. She said that I came recommended as honest and up front, which I try to be. Find someone with that type of reputation.

    Fifth - Have the horse vetted, but again, be realistic about your budget, and the use for the horse. There are some things a dressage rider can "live with" that a jumper could not, and vice versa. NO HORSE vets out 100%, so be prepared and do your homework ahead of the time to know what may show up. Also, having an experienced person to help guide you thru the "veterinary terminology" will help, as will a practical vet with good "horseside" manner.
    Shawnee - wonderful advice - thank you so much!

    This is not my first horse (I have had four over the course of the last 36 years.) but, it is the first horse I am buying for a specific discipline.

    I am a capable rider, but at my age (51) I am not looking for too much of a challenge, I don't "bounce" like I used to! So, three good comfortable gaits will suit me just fine.

    I am trying very hard to be open minded - I must admit to really wanting a thoroughbred though - it has been a life long dream . . .

    Thanks again!



  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by slc2 View Post
    With horses off the track I think it really helps if you have dealt with them before, perhaps retrained them to do hunt seat or eventing, so you are familiar with how they react and how they respond to new situations and how to retrain them in general, so you're not intimidated by a horse that could get a little strong and quick at times.

    I think if you haven't it's better to get an older, trained quiet dressage horse, maybe one that is being retired from showing or isn't going to advance any further. Such horses are very well priced especially these days. A horse that has done training and first level would be fine to start on.

    If you're set on a horse from the track with no training, and you haven't worked with them before, I think it's important to expect to work with a trainer frequently. I think the best thing is to have a vet take a very good look at its legs and feet. And then the mind. Best to look for a horse that was successful and well adjusted at the track, who was easy to ride and did well, maybe just a little too slow, but tried hard, not a problem, easy to keep on stride and keep running straight, not at all nervous or wound up, easy to keep weight on when at the track. I think the most important thing after a good brain is to avoid injuries and wear and tear that would be serious enough to interfere with lower level riding and occasional shows.
    slc2 - thank you - all very valid points about the OTTBs. I am hoping I will be able to find one that has been off the track for awhile (preferably a few years) and has had retraining.

    I don't think I would be up for the challenge of a horse right off the track . . . in my younger years - maybe!

    I am not ruling out the older dressage horse - I think that would be an excellent choice for me - I just haven't found one yet

    Thanks again!



  9. #9
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    An OTTB that has been off the track and retrained is an excellent choice. A novice student of mine just purchased a 9 yr old OTTB that had been retrained for eventing. This guy is a SAINT, three lovely, but rideable gaits, GREAT attitude, super laid back and very willing worker, seems to truly enjoy his job. This after her having two totally unsuitable horses prior to coming to ride with me. He was a good deal in terms of price, primarily because he is not very big, about 15.3 and compact build. But a real saint of a horse! THey will likely come with a little leg "jewelry" this guy has slightly enlarged ankles, but is totally sound and has been so for his whole career. I have an OTTB now that was retired from the track in June after 4 years of racing and is sound. We are starting his retraining now after some let down time and I think his attitude will be marvelous. Definitely OTTB's can be excellent choices for an ammie as long as you take your time and find the right one that has been retrained for a job!



  10. #10
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    I would suggest that they look for an "ammie friendly" horse. Might not be the BIGGEST mover, but soemthing that has gaits that you can easily ride, and above all a GOOD mind and work ethic.
    This to me is the most important bit of advice that too many people disregard, frequently because they are wooed by the idea of a young and flashy prospect that ultimately is not well-suited to them. Buy the horse that you will enjoy riding, that will be a true friend and partner.



  11. #11
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    One thing I didn't see mentioned (sorry if I missed it) is spending time with the horse on the ground as well. Certainly enjoying riding the horse is important, but how does he handle grooming, leading, trailer loading, having his ears handled, clippers around his face, wash racks, being around spooky parts of the barn, barking dogs, etc etc? I think that's all also important to an AA, because you'll be spending a lot of time on the ground with him.

    Since you have a trainer helping you look, that's a huge help. I used to go look on my own, and if I like the horse bring my trainer out, and if we are both happy at that time then comes the vet check.

    Regarding budget, certainly be realistic but at the same time if a horse is great and slightly beyond the budget you hoped, but you really want him… have him vetted. My trainer used to always say that there's no perfect horse, and if price is the only issue a thorough vet check will usually help you negotiate, because it is very rare that a horse vets perfectly.



  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by shawneeAcres View Post
    An OTTB that has been off the track and retrained is an excellent choice. A novice student of mine just purchased a 9 yr old OTTB that had been retrained for eventing. This guy is a SAINT, three lovely, but rideable gaits, GREAT attitude, super laid back and very willing worker, seems to truly enjoy his job. This after her having two totally unsuitable horses prior to coming to ride with me. He was a good deal in terms of price, primarily because he is not very big, about 15.3 and compact build. But a real saint of a horse! THey will likely come with a little leg "jewelry" this guy has slightly enlarged ankles, but is totally sound and has been so for his whole career. I have an OTTB now that was retired from the track in June after 4 years of racing and is sound. We are starting his retraining now after some let down time and I think his attitude will be marvelous. Definitely OTTB's can be excellent choices for an ammie as long as you take your time and find the right one that has been retrained for a job!
    A fellow boarder found a wonderful mare, an OTTB, pulled her out of a field and has had so much fun with her. Very sane, just a sweetheart, took to dressage and is doing well. I only hope I'm so lucky . . .



  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by YankeeLawyer View Post
    Buy the horse that you will enjoy riding, that will be a true friend and partner.
    AMEN!



  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by esdressage View Post
    One thing I didn't see mentioned (sorry if I missed it) is spending time with the horse on the ground as well. Certainly enjoying riding the horse is important, but how does he handle grooming, leading, trailer loading, having his ears handled, clippers around his face, wash racks, being around spooky parts of the barn, barking dogs, etc etc? I think that's all also important to an AA, because you'll be spending a lot of time on the ground with him.

    Since you have a trainer helping you look, that's a huge help. I used to go look on my own, and if I like the horse bring my trainer out, and if we are both happy at that time then comes the vet check.

    Regarding budget, certainly be realistic but at the same time if a horse is great and slightly beyond the budget you hoped, but you really want him… have him vetted. My trainer used to always say that there's no perfect horse, and if price is the only issue a thorough vet check will usually help you negotiate, because it is very rare that a horse vets perfectly.
    Thanks for the reminder on the "ground" stuff - you're right, it's important and sometimes overlooked.

    As far as budget goes - not a lot of flexibility there - but, ya never know!



  15. #15
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    Buy a horse that you really enjoy, but not necessarily the one that you feel the most drawn to. It seems that so many of us feel drawn to horses that are not a good fit (just like dating the wrong men!).

    I totally bought the wrong horse the first time. I still have her, and it has worked out well in the end (she's now very very solid at 1st, and getting there at 2nd). But it was a l..o..n..g.. road. On a horse that was a bit easier to ride, I would probably be at 4th by now. I had known this mare before, and she had been purchased as a lesson horse, so it seemed like it would be a good match for my start into dressage. But in reality she is one of the most difficult horses I could have bought. GP trainers, one of whom coached the British Olympic team for a bit, have told me she is one of the most difficult horses ever.

    Only she's not fancy enough for a pro. Good thing I love her!



  16. #16
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    To me, apart from the qualities of temperament, etc. a good mover is essential.
    I just need to see a good moving horse in my pasture. Not looking for a Sandro Hit, but it has to make one's head turn. I'll never forget the feeling I had when I was given a middling percentage - long ago - after what I thought was a super test, very accurate and correct. So I asked the judge what she thought and she said "But she moves like a PONY." I was mortified.

    So, after all the work, if the judge will not look at you, then it becomes a disappointing exercise. Of course, if the best mover in the world is a whackjob to work with, then that becomes an exercise in frustration.



  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hampton Bay View Post
    Buy a horse that you really enjoy, but not necessarily the one that you feel the most drawn to. It seems that so many of us feel drawn to horses that are not a good fit (just like dating the wrong men!).

    I totally bought the wrong horse the first time. I still have her, and it has worked out well in the end (she's now very very solid at 1st, and getting there at 2nd). But it was a l..o..n..g.. road. On a horse that was a bit easier to ride, I would probably be at 4th by now. I had known this mare before, and she had been purchased as a lesson horse, so it seemed like it would be a good match for my start into dressage. But in reality she is one of the most difficult horses I could have bought. GP trainers, one of whom coached the British Olympic team for a bit, have told me she is one of the most difficult horses ever.

    Only she's not fancy enough for a pro. Good thing I love her!
    So very true - I am not always drawn to the horse that is most suitable - really trying hard to avoid a bad match. In that regard my trainer is pretty good at keeping it "real"!



  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by HollysHobbies View Post
    1. Do I feel 100% safe on this horse, both in the saddle and on the ground?

    2. Can I take the horse out of the ring and feel 100% safe?

    3. Would my friends or family be afraid to be around this horse (hey, sometimes I need to potty at a show and I want a SAFE horse be around)

    4. Do I enjoy this horse's personality?

    5. Movement: does he have overtrack in the walk? Track up in the trot with nice reach? Canter has the ability to collect (canter is generally a TB's best gait, though it may require some development) CANTER AND WALK are the two gaits I really look for first. A trot can be developed in terms of expression, if it is solid to start.

    If you're looking at OTTBs, consider ones who are adopted out...TRF, for example, allows you to bring a horse back if it isn't a good fit. I'm not into buying and selling, so that was a plus (although my boy is a keeper!)

    My goal with my horses is enjoyment first. I can't enjoy a horse that's nervous or too much of a handful. I don't need the best mover in the class--I'm looking for the best friend who I can learn with/on, move up the levels correctly and earn my USDF Medals...so again, don't need the winner in the class, just a horse who has the ability to collect.
    HH - more great advice - I think I need to print this thread and take it with me when I go shopping! Thanks so much.



  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Foxtrot's View Post
    To me, apart from the qualities of temperament, etc. a good mover is essential.
    I just need to see a good moving horse in my pasture. Not looking for a Sandro Hit, but it has to make one's head turn. I'll never forget the feeling I had when I was given a middling percentage - long ago - after what I thought was a super test, very accurate and correct. So I asked the judge what she thought and she said "But she moves like a PONY." I was mortified.

    So, after all the work, if the judge will not look at you, then it becomes a disappointing exercise. Of course, if the best mover in the world is a whackjob to work with, then that becomes an exercise in frustration.
    Thanks Foxtrot - excellent advice.



  20. #20
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    It depends. Depends on what 'good mover' really means.

    To most people 'a good mover' actually is how a show hunter moves - kind of sweeps over the ground with a fluid, easy looking stride, not a lot of lift to the knees or hocks, nice to look at, fluid, rhythmic, head and neck down and stretched forward.

    To an elite dressage rider, a top rider, a 'good mover' means something very different - it's a horse that is going to move up the levels and look great doing it. The canter has a really distinct leap to it, the trot is very active and round with more lift both of the knees and hocks AND the whole body lifting and springing off the ground because shoulders, hips, hind legs and back are working actively. There isn't necessarily that huge natural 'sweep' across the ground, especially not if it means the horse can push forward with his hind legs pushing out behind him, but not carry himself upward, with his hind legs under him pushing him more upward.

    'Moves like a pony' usually refers to a restricted, short, flat, shuffling stride - relatively speaking. A top pro may call an awful lot of very nice, amateur friendly horses 'moves like a pony' because he's looking for something so much more than that.

    Too, 'what you see' isn't always 'what you get'. A horse that moves restrictedly, can of course just be how the horse moves, or it can be due at least in part to how he's being ridden.

    If the buyer is unathletic, timid and stiff, the last thing he needs is a horse a pro would call a 'good mover' if it means 'a good mover for a pro'.

    He's better off with a 'leg mover' that doesn't swing his back and shoulders and hips, and is comfortable and easy to sit.

    Because a horse can be 'comfortable' and a 'good mover', smooth, easy to sit, a 4 beat non pacey walk, a two beat trot, and a 3 beat canter without a built in tendency to lateralness, without being 'a great mover'.

    The first time buyer needs to buy a horse that is appropriate for him. A big powerful horse that really swings his back and hind quarters and is a 'good mover' for a pro, is a very 'bad mover' for a first time buyer.

    Look for a horse that is 'correct'. A 4 beat walk, no pacing or pacey looking tendency(legs at the walk should make an upside down v shape as they move, not a parallelogram), two beat trot, not huge, not sweeping over the ground with great power and oomph, NOT a 'big booming trot' with tons of suspension (body lift). A 3 beat canter that is a little flat and unimpressive, smooth and easy to sit, NOT a big leap.

    DON'T buy a 'wow' - buy a 'nice'. Suitable, appropriate.

    An athletic 20 something gymnast starting dressage and planning to move up the levels in five years and compete at the nationals, by riding six days a week with a coach intensively guiding him, and then go on to try to qualify for the team, is a very, very very VERY different buyer than the forty or fifty something sedentary horse lover looking for a peaceful, pleasurable ride with the occasional lesson and local show in his future. Neither type is wrong - but where the trouble starts is one thinks one is the former when one is, in fact, the latter.

    If you're not sure what sort of buyer you are, undermount rather than overmount yourself.



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