How To Find Your 'Unicorn'

Sep 17, 2020 - 8:05 AM

Team CEO Eventing has helped hundreds of horses find new best friends over the years. But more so, they’ve answered thousands of inquiries, and head trainer and co-owner Megan Moore has kindly shared a short list of rules that every horse shopper should keep in mind.

1. Parameters

Sticking to your “parameters” is only hurting your search. This is like when you have a friend who says they’ll only date a guy over 6 feet tall. Would you turn down meeting your soul mate because he’s 5’11”?

I’ve learned from many good horsemen over the years, and the saying is true: God never made a good horse in a bad color.

[You wouldn’t believe] the number of times that people are looking for a precise height or a precise color, and I think I have the perfect match for them to fulfill all their dreams, but they won’t budge one inch on height in either direction.

I can tell you that my current 17-hand horse feels much smaller than my current 15.3-hand horse. It’s much more about their barrel and their neck set than the height of their withers.

Stop looking for the horse that is “5-7 years old, 16.2-17.0 hands, bay or gray gelding.” You are only sabotaging your own search here.

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Don’t let your “rules” stop you from purchasing the horse of your dreams. Photo Courtesy Of Team CEO Eventing

2. Wrong Questions

When people call about horses, I tell them what kind of rider the horse needs and what it wants to do for a living.

Why does NO ONE ever ask that?! They ask how fancy his trot is or how his dressage score was last weekend or how many ribbons he has or how tall he is.

They don’t ever ask, “Will he tolerate my mistakes? Will he make up where I’m lacking? Can I handle this horse? Does he have the same goals that I do?”

3. Wrong Priorities

I always teach my students this lesson: My “keeper” horse as a 4-year-old was the worst mover in the barn. Choppy trot, canter like a tractor-trailer on ice, pads on his feet, and some seriously unimpressive knees. If I pulled him out of the stall for you at a sales appointment at 4 years old, you would tell me to put him away! Then he won three events at 5 years old. At 6 he’s a dream to ride because we’ve put in serious sweat equity for three years.

I’m going to burst your bubble here. Unless you’re trying to literally win the Olympics, you don’t need the best mover in the barn. Find the horse that makes you SMILE, that you want to ride every day, the one you can train. Beyond that, you can teach it to win the dressage if you work hard enough.

Heck, the worst mover I’ve ever owned won a dozen upper-level events and got our bronze medal in dressage, and if you saw him today you’d swear that was the best canter you’ve ever ridden.

When you’re shopping, don’t buy for the fancy trot. Find the horse that makes you smile.

4. Maintenance

[You wouldn’t believe] the number of people who put in search ads: “absolutely no maintenance“ or ask me if he has to wear shoes.

So you’re telling me if I can find you your perfect unicorn that will make you happy for the rest of his life, and you have to give him hock injections once a year, you wouldn’t do it? Because that’s about what you’re spending on your Starbucks this month.

If you find a horse that will take care of you, you need to take care of it. Period.

5. Vettings

It’s been said by a million people, so I’ll keep it brief. Vettings are a fact-finding mission, not an attempt to rule out every horse you meet. No one can predict the future—I’ve had upper-level horses that would have failed as 4-year-olds who never missed an event in their lives. I’ve seen vets give two thumbs up to horses who dropped dead a week later from a heart problem.

Vets are our greatest resource, but they aren’t fortune tellers. Any good vetting WILL find something. Have your trainer help you understand what is realistic when the vet jargon sounds scary.

Here’s hoping that this list helps someone searching somewhere. Because I know over the years in my career, if I had stuck to my parameters and broken my rules, I would not have bought any of my eventual upper-level horses. I would have missed out on so many special horses in my life, because I didn’t want a 3-year-old, or I didn’t want him to be 15.3 or his ankles aren’t pretty.

When you find a horse that you like to ride and it makes you happy, that’s really all that matters.


This article was originally posted on Team CEO’s Facebook page. Team CEO Eventing is a training facility in Georgetown, Kentucky, and features advanced-level event rider and U.S. Dressage Federation bronze medalist Megan Moore. Team CEO specializes in training, sales, lessons and breeding. Their motto is, “When was the last time YOU had this much fun?”

Category: Columns
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