I'm 5'2". He's 17 hands. I'm middle-aged. He's seven. I have a bad back. He has a bad habit of bumping off the bit and throwing his head and being a little headstrong. And I've never ridden with a martingale.
But his ground manners are pretty good. And his gaits are great. And he's very light on the forehand (I think that's how you say it; he doesn't lean on the bit).
And he's beautiful. Seal brown with a white blaze and 2 whites and that lovely fox-red shading around his muzzle and chest and loins.
And he's got an old injury that I think would make him sound for anything I might be up to doing, but probably won't let him go on to great things as an eventer or jumper. I think he was over-stressed too young.
So, what do you think? Go for it? Or run from it as fast as I can?
He may be less sound than you think - low level chronic pain may be a factor in his behaviour: how much are you willing/able to spend on vetting & maintenance.
This will also make him much more difficult to sell on...
His list of positives sound pretty attainable to me, ie you can easily find that in another horse where you're not wondering about the size.
Are you capable of, and willing to, control and correct him? Every time?
I know three people with horses this big. Two are petite, middle-aged women and their horses (draft crosses they ride dressage) are well-mannered, quiet, obedient, and the only thing you worry about is getting your foot mashed if they accidentally step on you. Even then, I think the horses would apologize. But these women spent the time to make sure the horses knew who was in charge. The spent the time to give their horses manners.
The third person has a 17-hand warmblood who has run me over twice. The first time, he dislocated my shoulder; the second, I managed to get through the fence first. He has nearly killed her son twice, and her husband once, and yet she refuses to make him behave. He know he is bigger than anyone, and he knows he can get away with it because if we try to discipline him, his owner has a meltdown. This horse, too, has three lovely gaits and an uphill build. He, too, is beautiful. But you cannot pay me enough to get near him.
Please decide, NOW, if you are willing to put in the work and effort to make this a sane and respectful horse. The horse may be perfect for someone, but it might not be you.
Sometimes people get carried away with a big, fancy, pretty horse that is "better than I could afford" and completely overlook the pitfalls - like that he may be physically and tempermentally unsuited to you and unsound to boot!
From what you have written, I would say pass on him.
I am the same kind of Middle Aged as you are. And I own a 17.1H horse (I bought him when he was just a little puppy so how was I supposed to know?
I want to tell you that it is is a LOOOOONNNNNG way down betwixt the saddle and the ground. Long enough that you can think "Oh shit this is going to hurt" three times before you land. And then it does hurt, so I was right.
How do you intend to mount this behemoth? I had to make a 4 step mounting block to get on. And, since I have a bad ankle, it killed me to get off and drop to the ground, so I now get on and off at the mounting block.
I would say a big NOOOOOO!
If it weren't for horses, a man would be the best thing in the world.
Learn how to ride with a German martingale as a second rein. Find someone to show you how to hold the 2 sets of reins like a double bridle. It is worth the time to learn even if you decide not to get this guy...it has saved my back and diffused many situations which could have put me on the ground. I ride with the draw rein a little slack but it comes into play if baby ties to snatch, grab, bolt or do other interesting things. It's not hard, I am no great rider, never will be but if I can do it..anyone can. It saves on the old body.
I am also 5'2" (5'2.47", to be precise...don't forget those .47 inches). In riding my trainer's horses, she has noticed that while the one mare that is 16.1H is a good girl, just her height and size makes it harder for me to work with her. I started working with her, under my trainer's guidance, when she was 4 and had spent a year in the field, after being at the track. So, working with her just to get her muscles fit and teaching her collection, etc. She is not bad in any way shape or form, but my amateur fitness level just starts to make it harder for me to do things with her. Also, getting her straight to the jump is sometimes a problem - not that she's bad, it is mostly me correcting steering mistakes and her still being a bit green. It is much better now, than when we first started jumping her.
The 16.3H well schooled gelding I ride likes to make you work for collection. He is trained to at least 2nd level, but will make you work just to put him in a training frame. It is MUCH harder for me to put him together and get him over that, than if he were smaller. The smaller horses I have ridden were easier to work with.
So, it isn't just about how bad he may be, but also how much more difficult it may be to simply teach him things like - no need to fling your head around. His height is definitely something to take into consideration and at your age and physical limitations, I would only take him if I knew I could have a trusted trainer or friend hop on him to help get past a training plateau.
The injury would also concern me because it seems the bigger horses seem to break down quicker, once they start. So while a smaller horse may have 15 more good years after an identical injury, I would be concerned that he would have 10 or less. That's just my personal experience.
As the owner of one TERRIBLE back (broken in two places), I am VERY selective what I sit on. I don't like tall (heck its too far down, and it HURTS getting on, and you can't guarantee there will always be a mounting block), and I can't ride wide (more stress on the back). Were it me I would continue looking for something easier to ride (less issues, especially issues that involve needing extra core and back strength), smaller and leave looks out of the picture, they don't matter at all.
The worst part of a ride is the getting of these taller horses but if the first thing they learn is to stand still being mounted or dismounted, a picnic table will help enormously! And middle-aged is no excuse....I still say get a longish trial and if the price is right check him out. (shilly-shallying here)
Proud member of People Who Hate to Kill Wildlife clique
Thank you all for your good feedback. It is just going to be a lease, if anything, and I think that my brain is telling me "No" even though my gut (and maybe my heart) is saying "Yes!".
He is a big guy, and I don't know where his unsound issues will come in.
By "light in the forehand" I didn't mean any tendency to rear, but just that he doesn't lean on the bit, when he is going quietly and calmly. But he does have a tendency to get distracted, to look around, to see if the mares in the pasture are admiring him, to see what the barn cats are up to (horse swears they can't be trusted to just lie there sunning themselves--they have to get up to something sooner or later and horse wants to watch when they do).
For 30-something years now I have always thought, where horses are concerned, the smaller the better. A pony who is up to weight would be great for me, at least size-wise.
And yes, you are right, there might not always be a mounting block (I can't believe the barns full of warmbloods that have only a 2-step!).
But he is such a handsome boy ... and I can afford the lease ...
Which tells me something right there ... sometimes affordable financially can mean risks other than monetary ones ...
In this market there are so many lovely horses available for full and half leases. If I had the budget to shop around I would keep looking. The height is unappealing but more than anything it sounds like you are paying to take on someones project with potential pain issues. It's going to be a bummer if you sink $$$ into chiro, teeth, massage, saddle, injections, training, etc. fruitlessly addressing what seems like a small issue at the moment. Why pay money to fix someones horse?