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Dressage Prospect ... Now What? How to Choose

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  • Dressage Prospect ... Now What? How to Choose


    I am helping my 21 year old daughter with the purchase of a dressage horse. We are trying to get the very best we can afford. Our parameters:

    1) Very kind, tractable temperament
    2) Sound
    3) Good movement (for competitive Dressage)
    4) Big (the rider, my daughter, is 5'10" and not "petite.")
    5) Budget is under $20,000.00 to include transport, vet, etc. We are in Oregon.
    6) Not too many miles; unbacked or very green is okay. Ready to do something with, though.
    7) Mare preferred but will look at geldings as well.

    We really found nothing nearby, so we cast a wide net. We have found quite a few very promising prospects! Now we have a new challenge. They are all over the place and we are honestly unlikely to go see any of them. That poses such a problem, because, all other things being equal, I think the decision would be made at this point based on a feeling of connection that my daughter, the rider, would get with the horse. That's not available.

    I wish I could post links to their pictures or videos here, but it would be inappropriate, I think, to put people's advertisements up for picking on this board. So, some general questions:

    One of the contenders has had surgery for OCD bone chip; never was lame, sound now, great recovery, X-rays and vet available, professional breeding farm has her and they are very straightforward. Her price reflects this situation. She has every quality we ask for, except she is on the East Coast. She is by one of the stallions from whom we were actively seeking offspring. Would you consider her? Would you get more X-rays?

    One of the fanciest, well bred, and evidently sweetest horses is a gelding. I connected very well with the breeder on the phone. His pasterns look kind of low in the picture. Then we looked at a lot of pictures of fancy moving warmbloods and many of them have this same conformation. ???

    How extensive of a vet check would you do on any horse under these circumstances? I'm thinking that just a basic check would be appropriate and if any lameness or seriously bad conformation were noted, we could just move on. No X-rays. The vet could give us a read on the behavior as well. What do you think?

    We talked about trying to hire someone to check out a horse, but that seems dumb. We wouldn't know them anyway.

    At least there are a lot to choose from! And we have been in contact with very helpful, straighforward breeders who have been pleasant to deal with.

    Any guidance?

  • #2
    I did a search on dreamhorse as well as a warmblood internet sale site and there are quite a few that seem to meet your parameters in the PNW. Have you also tried the region 6 website? They have quite a few for sale on there.

    I would certainly do x-rays, especially as this is to be a competition horse. I never expect perfect films but they can help you to know if there might be a problem 6 months down the road.

    hope you find what you are looking for!


    • #3
      If you pm me with more info I would be happy to give you my thoughts via pm, fwiw.

      Re the mare with the OCD surgery -- if she is sound and passes a PPE, the surgery likely would not bother me. But for me, it would make no difference at that point if she were a mare or a gelding because I would not use her in my breeding program. So I would be evaluating her as a riding horse only -- putting her on equal footing with a gelding prospect.
      Roseknoll Sporthorses


      • #4
        I recommend you buy the book 'In One Arena', which has a great deal of advice about how to buy and select a dressage horse for a rider like this.

        A hunt like you are describing can get to be very, very expensive. I don't feel what you're planning is well advised, in many respects. I think there are simpler and far less financially draining ways to get this sort of horse.

        I never think buying a horse without the rider trying the horse is a good idea. Not for dressage, and where the person has some goals and cares if they are met. Not with an unknown seller, who may sell you a medicated horse or one with a serious bad habit.

        I would recommend you be very careful making assumptions about people you talk to on the phone about horses for sale. Not everyone is completely honest...and some are honest in that they believe what they are saying very sincerely, but just don't really have a realistic view of the abilities or suitability of their 'darling babies'. it's called 'stable blindness'; beware of it.

        I also never think a 'preliminary vet exam to narrow down' is a good idea. I would recommend always getting a complete exam, including xrays, and only doing so with horses you are very, very sure already you want to buy.

        I would not do a partial exam to try and narrow down to a 'second cut' group, and would never buy a horse without getting a complete vet exam including xrays. And usually, I would have a vet I hire, that is NOT the vet of the seller, do the xrays and the prepurchase exam. And I would have the vet draw blood from the horse and store it, and I would tell the seller that the vet was just doing a brief health check, then I'd have the vet do the whole nine yards, preferably, on the same day I tried the horse, so that any medication given the horse during my test ride would be detected.

        Existing xrays are ok sometimes, but keep in mind, sellers have 'switched' xrays, or provided much older ones, taken before a problem emerged.

        I would not recommend getting a horse from the east coast. Transportation costs are soaring and having a horse shipped from the east just isn't the best idea when buying a 20,000 dollar horse. You only have 20 thousand, and that's not a lot for a competitive, safe, healthy dressage horse these days, unfortunately, so it it was me, I'd be very canny about how I used that money.

        The first thing I'd do is see if the girl's instructor or trainer looks like he or she might know of a suitable horse. If she does not have a trainer or instructor that would be the first thing I'd address.

        THe trainer will usually get a 10% or 15% commission on a horse he finds (or evaluates for you), but usually the least unpleasant arrangement is getting a horse the trainer approves of and feels is appropriate - establishing the relationship with the trainer first can often be the better way to go.

        There are people who refuse to do that. They feel they don't need the trainer or instructor,'s help, that he or she doesn't really add anything to the process, just wants money, and they'll go find a trainer after they buy.

        That all sounds pretty good til you wind up with a really 'beautiful, gorgeous' horse that is lame, dangerous, or simply cannot physically do what you want to do, and you can't sell him, because the problem is too obvious to everyone else. I've seen too many people wind up that way.

        This last bit will sound very unpleasant and rude, but must be said to each potential young horse buyer - is a 3 or 4 year old really a good idea? Usually, in this situation, an already trained horse (2nd level, 3rd level) is a better choice. People unfamiliar with horses (and many eager young people) tend to think that any problems they had riding were because the horse was not 'bonded' enough with them. and they will 'teach the horse their way', and the horse will be perfect and they will 'bond'. I wish it were that simple. It isn't. I've seen people try to live out that concept so many times - it doesn't work. What works is either buying a trained horse, or having a great deal of supervision, riding lessons, weekly or more often, and a lot of hard work, to learn how to train the dressage horse. It just doesn't work to try and invent your own system.

        To gain show experience at lower levels, many trainers (rightly) recommend a much older, trained, experienced horse...for most clients. It's worth considering, for most people.


        • #5
          I think you are doing too much work for a 20k horse...For me I want to be able to see the horse several times and not have to make a quick decision. Therefore, I would like to stay local. There are a lot of horses everywhere, you just have to talk to people... I think you may end up spending a ton of money to get a 3-4 yr old going, I would like to see your daughter enjoy the horse right away and not see the trainer ride.

          I really don't think it's that hard to decide you like a horse once you RIDE it. I can tell you what breeds I like/dont like, personality, etc. It took riding a ton of horses over 10 years, but I am very glad I rode a bit of everything.

          Maybe your daughter needs to make a list of these qualities. Read Ride the Right Horse for some suggestions. Since you seem very unsure I would enlist a trainer who knows your daughter, but be careful they don't just suggest what THEY like but think of the best match for your situation.


          • #6
            How much riding experience does your daughter have? Is she looking for a young horse to train or a schoolmaster to train her?


            • #7
              more dtaiilsp lease

              How green a horse are you looking for,and how far would you travel?
              breeder of Mercury!

              remember to enjoy the moment, and take a moment to enjoy and give God the glory for these wonderful horses in our lives.BECAUSE: LIFE is What Happens While Making Other Plans


              • Original Poster

                Arrrgh, I just lost a long post I wrote.

                Here are more details.

                My daughter has ridden all her life and we have owned horses appropriate for her level always. That is not to say that the inappropriate projects have not been scattered in here and there!

                She has had a schoolmaster trained through 4th level. She rode him until his soundness issues got in the way. She learned a lot - including the challenges of riding an incorrectly trained dressage horse.

                She was a working student at a "fancy" dressage barn. She rode many warmblood horses, expensive, imported, for sale and in for training, rank and nice, green and trained through Grand Prix. She did ground work and handled babies and stallions there.

                She has started 3 horses from absolute scratch and re-trained 2 ottb's. One of them was sold all the way to PA for a nice sum, and the other one has been a great eventer and pony club horse for her and might be with us for life.

                She has other people send horses to her for training. One of them was a fancy Hanoverian with a lousy work ethic and bad temper. He, along with some of the horses from the working student stint, taught her that she does not want to work with the "pro" horse, even if she is capable. She likes the temperament suitable for an amateur.

                She has taught riding as well.

                She has a lot of equestrian education and skills. Her weakest area, IMO, is in competing.

                Her interest at this time is to use all her theory and learning (she "loves" dressage) to bring along a very, very nice youngster. The idea is to show eventuallly, but really it is "the journey, not the destination" at this stage. She herself will work with the horse, though she has high level trainer and clinics behind her for back-up.

                She and I are both interested in specific qualities and bloodlines.

                Jazzy's Mom, if you would pm me with PNW horses you have seen that you think would suit, I'd appreciate that. I've looked on Dreamhorse and Warmbloods-for-sale. We have not found any except in CA, and getting one from there in many cases will cost as much as bringing one from across the country.

                slc2, our intention was certainly not to use a "preliminary vet check to narrow down." We would not waste our money, nor our & the breeder's / seller's time. A vet check will only happen for a horse that is absolutely chosen. Of course we'd engage an independent vet. In the past, when buying riding horses, we never went into the vet exam expecting to do a full set of X-rays. We would decide on X-rays as indicated by the other aspects of the check, like flexions. We had a limited budget (and we do now! Bummer!) , and the horses had age and miles, and we knew there would be some issues; the question was, were they issues we could deal with?

                My point for now, when looking at unstarted or just backed youngsters, was that if ANYTHING preliminary was amiss, perhaps we would not progress to the X-ray stage but walk away.

                Also there is a good chance that we will get a horse not yet going under saddle, so the issue of riding it first could be moot.

                I guess those are a lot of details! But my real question is, if we actually DO buy a horse without seeing it, how would you narrow down the possibilities? I'm sure some of you have done this with green youngsters.

                Last edited by NightMare; Jul. 12, 2008, 06:35 PM. Reason: I wanted to.


                • Original Poster

                  YankeeLawyer, please check your pm's.


                  • #10
                    your second post clarified alot. i think you should be able to find a nice horse right in the PNW, and maximize your 'horse dollar'


                    • #11
                      I sent you a PM


                      • Original Poster


                        We bought a horse. She is a filly by Rousseau out of a Rubenstein mare. We did have her shipped from far away. She is everything she promised to be. She came from a well known farm where the youngsters are raised with a program, so she is not spoiled or started with any bad habits (we'll try to maintain that!). Of course there is now a while left of still being pretty much a baby, and we'll see how it all unfolds. For now, she is beautiful, fit and healthy, and has a very calm inquisitive, thoughtful, and friendly nature. The guy who hauled her said he could not believe her temperament for her age.

                        Thanks to everyone who participated with tips!


                        • #13
                          Pictures please, she sounds like a very nice filly. I hope everything works out for your daughter.


                          • #14
                            I know we've talked via PM's, NightMare, but I wanted post a public congrats. I, too, have a Rousseau filly out of a Rubinstein mare, and it's uncanny how similar their personalities sound, especially given that mine was orphaned at 3 wks. I think you'll be thrilled with the Rousseau baby's work ethic and very forgiving nature, not to mention their unbelievable movement. Again, congrats, look forward to hearing more from you.


                            • #15
                              Well congrats for your purchase !!!

                              Just a note here; I had my 4 yrs Canadian horse for sale and turned down someone who wanted to buy him unseen simply because I could not figure how someone would buy a horse without trying him in his environment when I know how it takes time for a horse to adapt sometimes.

                              Maybe I come from old school, or I was too cautious. Anyway we did find a beautifull home for him, not too far so I will be able to coach new owner.

                              Fighting ovarian cancer ! 2013 huge turnaround as I am winning the battle !..


                              • #16
                                Leena, I bought both my mares from the same breeder, at the same time, sight unseen aside from some pictures. Sometimes between price, breeding, etc people decide to take the risk. I was one who always SWORE I would never buy a horse without seeing it in person and trying it, but I had to eat my words. I find it hard to believe in the current economic situation that anyone would turn down a sale simply because someone can't come try the horse...but to each his own. Especially with young horses, you can tell a lot from the bloodlines, and if they're not started, what good does going to see them do?


                                • Original Poster

                                  We were not super comfortable about buying the horse without seeing her in "person." Since she is only 2, there was not a question of trying her. Her temperament really came across in the video. We talked a lot to the farm. Both of us felt like we knew exactly what she would be like. She IS exactly like that.

                                  I think a trained riding horse might still be very difficult to decide upon without a real encounter.

                                  It has been a good experience. She is just settling in; she has had to get used to sheep, cattle, my barn full of working border collies - she loves it all. So far the only things she hasn't liked were Rubbermaid troughs and green plastic lawn chairs. I'm sure her taste is too refined for things like that. She is also probably underwhelmed by the "golden" pastures of Oregon, coming from absolute lush greenery.


                                  • #18
                                    Dressurpferd, you see everybody even you have changed your mind...Maybe this will happen to me too !

                                    Fighting ovarian cancer ! 2013 huge turnaround as I am winning the battle !..


                                    • #19
                                      Congratulations, NightMare!! It sounds like you got yourself a VERY nice filly! I also think that getting her at 2 years will allow your daughter to really bond with the horse.

                                      Siegi Belz
                                      2007 KWPN-NA Breeder of the Year
                                      Dutch Warmbloods Made in the U. S. A.


                                      • Original Poster

                                        Here are some baby pictures and one of what she looks like now, pretty much.


                                        I better go admire her, and deliver her breakfast now.