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  1. #1
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    Default Spin from Hunter Drugs and Cat Hiring: Buy the mind, people! But how?

    A few threads recently have made me grateful for what the backyard Ay-rab breeders I knew when I was 12 years old impressed upon me:

    1. Learn to see a good mind in a horse.
    2. Choose that first.
    3. Don't fool yourself about "things you can work around" or what you can "fix."

    #3 is hard since we often don't know much about how to do #1.

    So I want to know how you savvy people identify that horse that will go from his bed to the hunter ring with no drugs or prep.

    Or, if you don't buy that horse, what made you deviate?
    The armchair saddler
    Politically Pro-Cat



  2. #2
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    This is why I like to be able to take a horse on trial- off home farm, I can get a better sense of what a horse is going to do when put in an unusual situation.

    I work largely on my own these days; the last horse show I attended, I braided, loaded up, drove to show, left horse on the trailer while I got my number, took horse off trailer, ground tied to groom and tack up, schooled self, showed self... you get the picture. That's the kind of ammy-friendly I need. Some of that is training, a lot of that is brain.

    In riding a horse, whether on trial or at its home barn, I look for a horse who isn't hugely reactive. If something unusual happens, does the horse spook, shy, do aerial dressage, stop and stare, or ignore it? Coming back around to that side of the ring again, is the horse on the defensive against a terrible thing happening, and how does the horse display that defensiveness? In my experience this is often coupled with being a little duller in general, which I don't think is a bad thing for what I look for. I also look for breed and breeding. For instance, every Storm Cat and Cruising baby I have known has been a little kooky. Great athletes, generally more reactive than I want.
    "I'm not always sarcastic. Sometimes I'm asleep."
    - Harry Dresden

    Horse Isle 2: Legend of the Esrohs LifeCycle Breeding and competition MMORPG


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  3. #3
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    I think in my case it was just dumb luck! But I will say I went with my gut because the second I got on my horse to try her out, I immediately felt safe and just knew she would be bombproof (which she is-great on the trail, trailers into shows with no prep, barely any spook, great ground manners and no buck/rear/spin evasions when someone is mounted). I think she just didn't have the nervous energy or something? I don't know because I haven't experienced that immediate feeling of a sane brain since then. Not even on the super solid citizen I am riding now who I just took to a show, where he literally walked off the trailer, warmed up for 15 minutes and went into our first class without batting an eye.



  4. #4
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    When I bought my yearling, I was looking at several that age. I led them around in unfamiliar places at the breeder's farm and past unusual things and watched how they reacted. The one I bought walked right up to the breeder's open garage door without batting an eye. Let me shake an empty feed bag near him. Things like that. He is four now and is everything I hoped for. I bought him because of his mind and his movement. I am hoping he has a decent jump!

    I get a chuckle out of all ooohing and ahhhing about the videos of babies doing free jumping.... the jump is where I rely on luck, it is the brain that I don't take chances on, and the free jumping videos don't tell me anything about that. However, I am strictly amateur, older, ride hunters, and don't jump very high and don't do A shows anymore.

    For an older (riding) horse, I won't buy one unless I know it very well or can have it on trial or lease. For what I do, the horse that clocks around with a decent jump will beat one with a fancier jump that is not as sweet around the course.
    Last edited by ToTheNines; Mar. 7, 2013 at 01:39 PM.
    Rest in peace Claudius, we will miss you.


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  5. #5
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    People who are reasonably skilled at evaluating a horse's temperament in a very short period are pretty good at setting the horse to encounter a new and potentially troubling situation and watch not only how they respond to it, but how they learn from that experience. It's not perfect -every horse can have a fool-you good or bad day, but typically you are right more than wrong.

    However when it comes to hunters, that innate laziness that makes a hunter easier to get to the ring (especially when you consider so few trainers are truly skilled at starting young horses) is harder to pinpoint if only because the person selling the horse can so easily fake that if they want to, and without using drugs. Leave the horse out all night (especially if he is used ot shorter day time turnout), lunge him in the AM and yes, you can create a quieter horse than he might normally be, and none of that tests. There's where your buying relationships will work for you, should you be lucky enough to have them.

    LOL, or you can do like I did - buy a 15 monh old colt in full TB Yearling Sales prep, getting fed like a racehorse and worked daily - just ripped in he muscle department. hen watch him lope around he lunge pen like a made hunter. I figured that was about as much energy as he would ever have. I was not wrong.
    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.


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  6. #6
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    I bred the current one I own and show. I started with a mare who had a fabulous mind and movement and a good athletic jump. The resulting offspring was no surprise as my horse's jump is the least impressive of those three critical attributes, but he has plenty of talent for me and his brain and consistent hack winning make up for any lack of WOW factor in the jump.
    "Can you imagine what I would do if I could do all I can?" Sun Tzu, The Art of War
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  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by 2bayboys View Post
    I bred the current one I own and show. I started with a mare who had a fabulous mind and movement and a good athletic jump. The resulting offspring was no surprise as my horse's jump is the least impressive of those three critical attributes, but he has plenty of talent for me and his brain and consistent hack winning make up for any lack of WOW factor in the jump.
    I did the same, but in addition, interviewed the stallion owner extensively about his mind.

    Also like you, I exchanged good mind for an extraordinary jump. Later, a good pro told me I'd have to choose between those in most horses and any that I could afford unless I got strangely lucky. In other words, the horse who whose mellowness allows him to put up with my ammyess day in, day out, will look at fences the same way.
    The armchair saddler
    Politically Pro-Cat


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  8. #8
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    I’m not specifically a Hunter rider, but I’m going to weigh in here because I’m a wussy adult re-rider who *needs* safe and sane to be comfortable in the saddle. I’ve been lucky to accumulate 3 great-minded, safe horses over the last 7 or 8 years, so even though I don’t consider myself an expert, I guess I have an ability to “pick ‘em.”

    I think Renn/aissance pegged what I essentially try to do. When trying to find a good-minded mount, I do what I can to safely test them, then gauge their reactions. Extra bonus if you can do so off the farm where they’re housed, but that isn’t always an option.

    And take into account the age and experience of the horse when testing it. I wanted next to no reaction what-so-ever from my riding-age horses when I looked them (again – I’m a weeny re-rider. Most people would be fine with a little spook. I, on the other hand, wanted nothing more than a snort-and-spook-in-place type).

    For a more “baby” aged horse, I’d maybe expect a little bit of antics, but I expect them to come *right* back to Planet Earth, and stop and *think* about what just happened. Then be willing to go back to work.

    That being said, I seriously lucked out with my baby (bought as a yearling). She is just like the horse ToTheNines talked about – will walk right up and sniff things I walk her up to. Heck, the first week I had her, I was doing groundwork and had her halted on the line and one of the barn dogs chased a squawking, flapping chicken *right underneath her belly*! And she stood there. I’ve found she’s unflappable when her brain is on work. If I let her mind wander, she can be a little reactive (for instance, I was hand-grazing her once and an Alpaca walked around the side of the barn. She spooked backwards a few steps, but then stopped, snorted, and went back to grazing). But, as long as the recovery is there, I’m quite happy with her at this young age.



  9. #9
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    Interesting topic - seeing what I have and being in different groups over the years I feel I have a solid opinion of what I think and am learning still more every day.

    Having back yard horses, having trail horses, riding with schooling show trainers, riding with A trainers I have observed things.

    Horses develop bad habits because of humans.
    Bad training happens and is hard to undo.
    Good trainers are worth their weight.
    Most horses don't want to be bad.
    Being in a consistent training program in an A barn can make a calm horse without drugs.
    Most horses like to be busy.
    Finding a balance of work, rest, play for any horse is necessary to keep them happy, healthy and sane.
    A horse sits and doesn't get the work he/she needs they can become difficult.
    It takes a lot of finances to own a horse.
    Some horses can be more up than others so it's the rider and trainers job to match up the right horse to the right rider for the right job.
    Some don't want to take the time to match the riders with horses or the hard work it takes to get a horse calm for the Hunter ring or admit the horse needs a different job and that's where you can find problems.

    Of course this is all IMHO........
    Train like you have never won and show like you have never lost!!!


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  10. #10
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    I am going to answer with two different horses, and I think I am not the only person to make the compromises from these stories.

    Horse 1- This story takes place in the late 80s/ early 90s, horse was purchased by my parents with a trainer to guide when I was about 15. In order to get the good brain and ability in our budget, we compromised on soundness.We were looking for a horse that I could do 3' to 3'3" medals and 3' hunters on a limited budget- very limited even for that time. The goal was to be competitive at A shows right off the bat, since I only had 3 more years of being a junior left. We found a horse with a fantastic jump, VERY broke, VERY forgiving, and could go from the trailer/ stall to the ring with just enough warm up to get the muscles stretched. Always quiet, always exactly the same no matter the situation. In order to get the horse with that jump, stride length, and brain on our budget, we compromised on soundness. We had to be very conscious of how much we jumped between shows and keep on top of shoeing and hock injections to keep my horse comfortable. I bought him as a 12 yr old horse that had done jumpers and big eq previously and needed to step down.

    Horse 2- my current horse. My goal this time was great jump, big step, good mover, brave, on the young side (5-8) and inexpensive. My goal is ammie owners at the more local A shows, not heading to the big AA shows. I found all of those things in 1 package, but this horse is not as quiet as the most competitive hunters. My horse is a worrier. She is not spooky, but she can be rattled on course when there is a mistake and get inverted in a corner, or not balance smoothly in a line and we end up deep on the out. Some of it will likely improve as the horse becomes more experienced at showing, but she'll always be sensitive.

    The point of these two stories is that when you find the horse that has the quiet attitude AND the great jump, mover, etc, if they are already going they will be EXPENSIVE.



  11. #11
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    "The point of these two stories is that when you find the horse that has the quiet attitude AND the great jump, mover, etc, if they are already going they will be EXPENSIVE."

    Or older. Years ago, I bought my a/o horse at 12. Last year, bought my old lady horse, who was 14. I don't think enough people are willing to do the maintenance on these wonderful older guys.

    Maybe a common theme here? Unless you are doing the A shows, put "The Jump" lower on the list and "The Mind" higher!
    Rest in peace Claudius, we will miss you.



  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by ToTheNines View Post
    "The point of these two stories is that when you find the horse that has the quiet attitude AND the great jump, mover, etc, if they are already going they will be EXPENSIVE."

    Or older. Years ago, I bought my a/o horse at 12. Last year, bought my old lady horse, who was 14. I don't think enough people are willing to do the maintenance on these wonderful older guys.
    Exactly. You're looking at moderate 6-figures for one that has the mind and is fancy. It's like this—fancy, quiet, and cheap. Pick any two. If they're fancy and cheap, they're wild. If they're quiet and cheap, they're not the winner.

    ToTheNines does make an excellent point that many people are reluctant to buy something over 12. Meanwhile, I'm winning plenty on my 16-year-old AA Hunter.



  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by ToTheNines View Post
    "The point of these two stories is that when you find the horse that has the quiet attitude AND the great jump, mover, etc, if they are already going they will be EXPENSIVE."

    Or older. Years ago, I bought my a/o horse at 12. Last year, bought my old lady horse, who was 14. I don't think enough people are willing to do the maintenance on these wonderful older guys.
    I concur with your thoughts but as you read on this very forum if you maintain horses with injections etc you are a jerk. I am on the side of maintaining these guys because they usually love their work and can teach riders so much.
    If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.


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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tha Ridge View Post
    Exactly. You're looking at moderate 6-figures for one that has the mind and is fancy. It's like this—fancy, quiet, and cheap. Pick any two. If they're fancy and cheap, they're wild. If they're quiet and cheap, they're not the winner.
    You forgot green

    Fancy, quiet, cheap or green.

    I found a fancy, quiet, cheap horse but he IS green..... So that means more time and money in hopes it all works out.
    Train like you have never won and show like you have never lost!!!



  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by mvp View Post
    #
    So I want to know how you savvy people identify that horse that will go from his bed to the hunter ring with no drugs or prep.

    Or, if you don't buy that horse, what made you deviate?
    99.9% of the ones that are fancy enough to show need some form of prep, whether that's lunging or riding in the am or whatever else the particular person is comfortable with, which obviously varies greatly. But I've only ever seen two horses capable of going from the stall to the ring competively, and they were both 7 figure animals.
    Doing it right is a lot of work.


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  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by doublesstable View Post
    You forgot green

    Fancy, quiet, cheap or green.

    I found a fancy, quiet, cheap horse but he IS green..... So that means more time and money in hopes it all works out.
    Eh, I'd argue that fancy, quiet, cheap, and green can be one of the most expensive combos of all. You got lucky.



  17. #17
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    When I started looking for my OTTB project horse, I went to try my guy, Roh. I was pretty sure he had a good brain after riding him but confirmed it when he walked right up into the trailer in the middle of the road, in the pitch dark, during a snow storm. I didn't hear a peep out of him for the 2 hour drive. It wasn't that he was was slow or quiet when I rode or handled him, it was that he took everything in stride. Now he most definitely could be described as slow and quiet and he'll (hopefully) make a very cute and VERY quiet 3ft hunter. Roh will go from the stall to the ring with no problem, but he's not going to be competitive at a big AA show.

    On the other hand, when I tried my jumper she was very hot and dragged me around the course. 2 months later we would sometimes do a hunter class for fun and did pretty well. I never would have thought she could lope around a course quietly and easily but after settling into her routine she quieted down a lot. This also was lower level hunters, just the 3ft, but a fancier version of her would have been fine in the 3'6'' (brain-wise.) This was her: http://sphotos-b.xx.fbcdn.net/hphoto..._4912898_n.jpg

    Again though, both these horses were never going to be AA show winners. It is so much easier to find a horse with a great brain for the less competitive stuff. The the horses with the brain and attitude to not need prep and the fanciness and scope of a top hunter is going to break the bank.



  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by mvp View Post
    So I want to know how you savvy people identify that horse that will go from his bed to the hunter ring with no drugs or prep.

    Or, if you don't buy that horse, what made you deviate?
    Not that I am all savvy, id-ing a horse that can do this is difficult because they are animals. I have one that is only 5 years old and can go right to the ring from the stall "sometimes". But just like me, horses can be unpredictable and moody. They can come out fresh for whatever reason and you can see they need to have some turn out or a quick longe or a pro ride

    I have another that can be "hot" but if you longe him I have nothing left to ride. So taking the edge off under saddle is better for this horse.

    I don't feel like I deviated from wanting that, I just know my budget and if I like the horse or not.
    Train like you have never won and show like you have never lost!!!



  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tha Ridge View Post
    Eh, I'd argue that fancy, quiet, cheap, and green can be one of the most expensive combos of all. You got lucky.
    I always thought the six figure horses were six figure horses because of all the money invested in shows and training.... maybe that's why so many people import?

    Or I guess the answer to the OP question is........ LUCK
    Train like you have never won and show like you have never lost!!!



  20. #20
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    Related question... once you have the horse you have, what can you do to help them develop that blase attitude?? Handwalk them around new places? Buddy system with other horses? My daughter will tend to get nervous when her horse goes on "high alert" in a new place -- but it seems like in the long run, exposure to new places is needed to help the horse's comfort level. How to safely accomplish this?



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