I'm new here, so a little background. I've been riding hunter/jumpers for the past 20 years with some time off for my two children-I don't ride pregnant. I've had 2 horses, one hot crazy mare who has since died of old age and one laid back gelding (they were from the same sire but purchased unknowingly). Both my horses were very, very green when I purchased them. I've leased a number of horses and I want to get another horse. My gelding is 18 and not doing very well in his hind end. I think it is once again time to jump off a cliff and buy a horse.
I will be looking at a 4 year old TB very green, I work with a number of local trainers-non of which want to help me with this purchase and I would rather not get into that issue. I also board my horses. My daughter rides and this horse would be for both of us-eventually for her. She is a very tough rider and I cannot afford a fancy horse, nor the appropriate shows for a fancy showhorse. In my heart, I believe that she will value the learning experience more than the show experience. I accept the fact that I may be completely wrong on that.
I am seeking a bit of advice from all of you. It has been 13 years since I purchased my last horse. Since green young horses cannot jump or perform piaffes I have always looked for a good steady gait and a relaxed mind. Any other qualities or advice I can use ? I do take horse ownership seriously and they are mine typically for the rest of their lives. Thanks you all !
If your priority is to have a horse to ride and to enjoy your time in the saddle, then go for a good mind and personality. Watch how the horse handles itself in the barn. Is it easy to work with on the ground? Does it behave on the crossties or get fidgety? Does it seem to enjoy interacting with people or does it get nippy? When other horses come into its "personal space" how does it handle that?
Try riding the horse in the ring in a variety of situations: alone and with other horses doing random things. If another horse is misbehaving in the arena was does this youngster do? Pay no mind to it, look a bit, or begin misbehaving itself? If you make mistakes, whether intentional or not, how does the horse react? If it doesn't react at all it might be a dead head, if it blows up well, that might get annoying. Somewhere in the middle and you may have a horse that is smart and alert enough to notice things and be listening to you, but not freak out when things aren't perfect.
These are generalizations of course, there are horses who have good ground manners but are not so great under saddle, but I think for the most part, trying the above will give you a good idea of the horse's personality.
Would it be possible to put the horse through a jump chute to look at its form? Granted, what you see in the chute may not be exactly the same when it has a rider up, but may give you some idea if it can jump cleanly and safely. Do a thorough analysis of its conformation to see if the shoulder angle might permit it to lift its forelegs up enough to jump effectively.
I'm sure other people will have additional ideas, but these are a few that I came up with.
Where am I and what am I doing in this handbasket?
Like the poster above, in the absence of training, I'm looking for a certain type of reaction. If the horse is presented with something new, something they have every reason to be afraid of, what is that horse's response?
It usually breaks down in one of the following ways:
1.Alarmed but then interested
2. Alarmed and then needs to be persuaded it's OK, but is willing to take the human's lead when it comes to dealing with the scary thing
3. Alarmed and really not interested in what the human is asking but if you leave the scary object, things return to normal
4. Alarmed and loses his cookies and never gets them back even when you leave the scary object.
1/2 you can work with, 3/4 is probably going to be an issue for a h/j prospect where new things pop up all the time.
Of course nothing falls clearly into the categories, most horses have a blend of characteristics depending on what they are faced with and even a 3/4 horse can become a 1/2 with trust and work. The question is more "what do you want to start with?"
After that, the quality of his gaits and maybe a jump chute if possible. Again, if it is the first time, I'm a lot more interested in how they handle it after things go wrong in the chute. Are they totally backed off? Are they more cautious but willing to try again? Do they just charge through and do the same wrong thing over again? Do they try to fix it? Even if they don't fix it, it's more the way they address the situation that concerns me.
It's still a crapshoot, chances are you won't be able to tell too much about the jump in a green horse who isn't being bought along in an environment to test his jump (and jump chutes aren't the definitive answer on jumps under tack). But you can make some informed decisions about the personality of the horse if you know what you are looking for, and in the h/j world, the best jumper on the planet doesn't do much if he doesn't have the temperament for the job.
Case in point - I bought a yearling TB before he ran through the sales and I knew two things - he had the exceptional movement and a curious, quiet temperament. I didn't know about the quality of the jump, but that was a risk I was willing to take (and I understood the risk). He will be 4 in April and so far I don't regret it, but I still don't know what his jump u/s will be. In the chute? OK... Not breathtaking, but very correct. But I have enjoyed bringing this baby along like nothing else because he is truly a wonderful personality and well suited to me. For me that beats an ass with a quality jump.
Definition of "Horse": a 4 legged mammal looking for an inconvenient place and expensive way to die. Any day they choose not to execute the Master Plan is just more time to perfect it. Be Very Afraid.
"But I have enjoyed bringing this baby along like nothing else because he is truly a wonderful personality and well suited to me. For me that beats an ass with a quality jump."
A good personality match is so important. If horse and rider clash, that can lead to trouble and/or frustration. I completely agree that about a good match for me would come before the quality of the jump. I've ridden some horses who had wonderful hunter form, but could be bleeping' bleeps half the time if they decided they didn't want to do whatever.
^^ I've run into that sort of thing in the past too. I wonder what that's all about. Is the commission just not high enough for them to bother? Granted there are some very expensive 4 year olds, but there are plenty of them priced at a level where the commission wouldn't be much more than $1-2k or so.
Well, in fairness to trainers who know me, I am not an exclusive client, I use several trainers because they all have so much to offer but well, it takes a village to train a horse and rider. Yes, I am looking for an inexpensive horse and I am in central ca.. Commission is an issue.
I also cannot tolerate a dead quiet horse, and yup, my daughter has the same problem. Genetic ? Who knows. Thank you all for your help. I create work teams for a living, so I am always happy to have smart, experienced people provide input. Thank you.
Some trainers don't look at the big picture. The ammy who only has a limited budget to spend on a young horse might want to take regular lessons and show once they get said horse.
I agree with everything posted. Personality and a brain are musts.
"Perhaps the final test of anybody's love of dogs is their willingness to permit them to make a camping ground of the bed" -Henry T. Merwin
I always look for one that tracks up behind, oversteps the hoofprint of the front hoof with the back hoof by at least 6 inches. You can see that at the walk either by watching or just looking at the hoofprints.
That indicates a good step and also can tell you how the shoulder works...if they clobber the front foot with the back-forge or clip-skip them, can't get the front end out of the way of the back end. Tells you there are conformational problems that are going to limit stride length and probably a nice front end over a fence. You don't need to be a conformation guru to figure them out. Don't let the seller claim it's because the feet are too long either...you don't want one neglected that bad.
Anyway, that overstep has been there on all my horses, Western to USEF AA level Hunters. IMO it is a great clue.
How they react to new things is also important as brought up a few posts ago...and it never hurts if they are good to look at and of a proper size.
Stolen virtue, is there any way you can just pay for an evaluation from one of your local Pros? Many will do it for around the price of a private lesson + travel. 30 minutes looking at it is not commission worthy.
Last edited by findeight; Jan. 28, 2011 at 10:52 AM.
When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.
All good advice. Wise old saying "You don't really know any horse until you've had them home for 6 months."
How old is your daughter? My girls learned tons from every horse we had. Bought the youngest an OTTB when she (the kid) was 10 yrs old and it worked out wonderfully, ended up a heart horse the match was so good. Older daughter did a pity case OTTB that 2 yrs later won the hunter hack at state and did it with great style. It is not unthinkable from your position.
Don't forget a good PPE.
About the only time losing is more fun than winning is when you're fighting temptation.
-- Tom Wilson, actor & comedian
All good advice. Wise old saying "You don't really know any horse until you've had them home for 6 months."
I bought my first horse fall 2009. I have 2 others, but I had owned them since I was a kid, so I wasn't much involved in the purchasing process. This was the first time I did it all as a "big kid" by myself, and I bought my OTTB without riding him (he was 2 and track trained but too slow so never raced).
I am like you, I buy a horse for life, so I didn't want to screw it up.
I got as much info from the owners & racing trainers as I could. I really liked him on paper, so did a little bit more digging. I happened to know one of the local track vets, and she was able to tell me she'd never heard of him, which was a good sign. If she had, it would mean he was probably a huge monster.
When I first went to look at him, we chased him around a field so I could watch him move, and I took pictures & videos for horsey friends' comments. I spent some time with him and I really was drawn to him & his personality. He seemed like a firecracker at times, which I like, but really had a dopey dog personality. I came back a second time with the vet for the PPE, and the horse was a NIGHTMARE. He was a perfect gentleman for the overall exam, then the vet chased him around a field to watch him move, which was a mistake. He then attempted flexions, which were an utter disaster. The kid was high as a kite from being chased and flipped over backwards a couple times. Good news: I got a "half off" deal because he was such a jerk. Bad news: I had the biggest panic attack I have ever had that night (I was going to pick him up the next day).
But, my gut instinct & initial impression of the horse was right. He's been an utter dream since I brought him home 1.5 years ago. My trainer about passed out when I told her I bought a 2 year old OTTB, but 6 months later said she was glad I didn't listen to her when she tried to talk me out of it.
So I put a lot of stock into "gut instincts". I had 2 other horses on my list, both were more expensive trained OTTBs, but neither "spoke" to me like this one did. And I think irreparable "damage" will be evident. If the horse is a nut, they'll have a hard time covering it up. Just to be sure, you can always do a drug screen with the PPE.
Yes, you sort of have to go into buying a green horse with the idea you may be a stepping stone for the horse. In 3-6 months you will know if this is a horse for you and your daughter forever better. I usually guard my heart those first 6 months.
That said - I will ADD to the things already said. I like a good, strong hind end in a Thoroughbred. The hocks is where I find a lot of TBs go arthritic first usually because they ARE so athletic and will often give more than 100% when asked - BUT some of them are not really built so tough as their hearts are. So I look for a good, strong hind that is built to last.
Also, for jumping - you can lunge a horse that is very green over an 18 inch jump - warm him or her over poles and an X and then canter her into a small vertical and you will get a good idea on how courageous she will be and indication on how well she pulls up her front legs - how square and safe the legs are and also if she picks up her hind well. You will also want to see how well she wants to pick up both leads - watch how well she wants to use her inside hind on the lunge - see how well she wants to bend around the circle and also as she relaxes - does she like to stretch down and up through the back....
Beyond the mind/personality that others have covered so well...
I would look for a proportionally-built horse with good feet, straight legs, and if not an uphill build, at least level. If you are unable to ride him or see him go under saddle (you didn't say if you are looking at the track or elsewhere), then a good walk is paramount.