Pa-eternally laboring in the infinite creative and sustentative work of the universe
The horse you describe (and you too BankofDad).... is out there...
and doing exactly what you want to do.
Trick is to keep looking, make an appt -- go ride,and go ride again..
and do your ride as you would *at home* -- then, continue until you are sure its a match. A good seller wont mind taking the time to let you explore.
Id say thats the biggest factor in making a selection -- even professionals dont make a decision in 20 minutes unless there are glaring issues.
Having a nice horse is an awesome experience -- when there's no hassel, just tack and go riding -- and spending long periods of time in the saddle.
I, too, was looking for a nice, quiet horse after being diagnosed with MS and Addison's disease, which could make turn an average injury into a life threatening crisis. It took some time, but I consistently trolled ads on sites like Dreamhorse, using the Advanced Search function and plugging in 2 as the max. temperament (on a scale from 1 to 10 with 1 being quietest). I eventually found my little beastie, who was advertised as an Appendix but looks more foundation QH and had no papers. Paid $900 for him green broke, and he's spooked on me maybe three times since I've owned him (four years). I call him the cow because, well, he acts like one. But our first time out at a local dressage schooling show he got a 64%, and is a heck of a lot of fun to train and ride. They're out there... I'd try looking in local backyards for those been that done that horse that the kids have outgrown.
I'm in the same boat OP. I've been looking for 6 months, have probably seen upwards of 25-30 horses and lost thousands on multiple failed pre purchase exams. I also bumped my budget to 20k in the hopes I'd find something quiet and competitive at mid level dressage. No such luck or seems - all it's done is made me bitter and resentful. I've decided to take an indefinite hiatus from horses and pursue all the other things I've always wanted to do but have never had the time or money to do. I wish you the best of luck OP, I know how hard it can be to find that special partner - I hope the right one comes along soon
I had the same issue and I decided to buy a young TB gelding to bring along.
My guy (from our own jleegriffith) is very quiet and brave, and generally a pretty good citizen. He can be a little forward, but a lot of that is greeness. Otherwise, he has a tiny spook when being led around in a new place but has never done anything under saddle.
A lot of the TBs I saw were dead.quiet. because they have pretty much seen every scary thing possible on the track. They clip, they tie, they load, they stand for vet/farrier/grooming, etc. Something to think about.
The reason there aren't many quiet sane horses on the market is once we find them we keep them!!
I have two , which I bought for temperament first and athletics second. Put alot of time having trainers school them. I'm older and ride casually . I lease them to keep them active & fit. Once a year I get offers for them. They are nothing special - can do low level dressage, and h/j-, trails, drill team, trec, but they are incredibly safe, with good minds and kind stall manners.
In your case Leasing first, is the best way to go IMO. If you love the horse and the owner likes/respects you, put in a 'first option to buy". This way you really know the horse & medical history. I've seen many owners sell their horse to a leaser rather than a stranger. Look at leasing as going "horse shopping". It takes time to really know what you've got and buying is so final and such a 'crap shoot' (pardon my language.)
As an owner, If I were to sell, it would be to a leaser I grew to know & observe their relationship with my horse.
Glad to see so much love for OTTBs! I rode at sales barns and rode tons of amazing ammie friendly OTTBs. My first horse, after 20+ years of riding, was an OTTB mare I bought 8 years ago to sell. She was always easy-peasy. She's not dead, so yeah, when the snow slides off the roof of the indoor, she can spooky, but heck, so do I! I part lease her to a 13 year old advanced beginner, and now my trainer asked if his somewhat older wife could ride her, too. Anyway, I would contact a reputable TB rescue and detail what you want. Since you don't mind flat-only soundness and don't need 16+ hands, I bet the rescues, like New Vocations, would be thrilled to be matchmakers for you and your lucky horse!
Loshad, what do you think is a reasonable price for this elusive critter? I'm open to spending a little more but unless I'm missing something, I shouldn't need to pay 10k for a non- fancy horse that doesn't jump or trail ride and may not be 100% sound, especially one that might be 15.1 or 15.2H. Honestly though I'm open to looking at stuff a few thousand over my budget because if I found the perfect one I could make it work. I'm STILL not finding anything.
I missed the bit where you were willing to go a little younger and greener -- that opens up a whole other bunch of horses. If you get a nice quiet greenie and have your trainer work with it, we could be talking 3 figures rather than 4.
However, from what I've seen, a quiet, nicely trained, servicably sound dressage horse is going to head more toward low five figure territory than mid-fours. As someone said up-thread, we're all getting older and creakier and don't bounce nearly so well as we used to. That having been said, sometimes people are willing to part with these guys on a lease or for under asking to the right home.
You might put a note on the VHSA riders Facebook page -- there are people on there from all over VA who might have what you're looking for. You might also get in touch with the CANTER folks -- jleegriffith on here usually has some stunners that have been restarted beautifully.
According to the Mayan calendar, the world will not end this week. Please plan your life accordingly.
Have you considered a Halflinger? I just bought my new boy in March & can't say enough good about him. I'm older, chickener and a bit "sturdier" these days. My days of 16.3 TB crosses are over, selling my last 2. My pony is everything you describe, albeit a bit shorter. He has been shown 1st level & BN eventing, out on trails, ocean, etc. There were quite a few great sounding ones out there when I was looking.
I've seen people with good success converting some basic western type with lots of trail miles and good buttons pre installed as well as hunter under saddle stock horses...
But the gems are out there if you are willing to do some of the finishing work. Just have to find the right mind and maybe a little outside of the east coast. I have seen lots of nice ones in this area.
I would suggest you look at QH's or a stock breed that has been used western, say for reining and ranch work. Reining horse's have a fairly easy understanding when transitioning them to lower level dressage, you'd be surprised how much they already know. Horse that have done ranch work have seen it all and are expected to be solid citizens, usually they are. Also, you might consider a pony horse from the track, some of them are laid back, have seen it all and are used to crowds, noise etc.