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What is your biggest challenge finding a dresage horse?

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  • What is your biggest challenge finding a dresage horse?

    I am interested in learning about your common challenges from a "buyer's perspective" surrounding the purchase of a new dressage horse.

    So if you recently purchased a new horse, I would like to discuss where the challenges occurred and how you overcame them to find success. (Note: names of farms, trainers etc should be left out) stay with the issue or problem.

    If you are actively searching for a horse and having problems finding your perfect match. I would like to know where you are in your search and the nature of the issue. (Example) "I am test riding horses and when I get there they weren't what I expected". (Note: names of farms, trainers etc should be left out)

    Additional question: How did/are you conducting your search? Predominately on your own or predominately using a trainer/professional to help?

    Please relate actual experiences.

    Last edited by ImpulsionUnlimited; Jun. 22, 2010, 02:51 PM. Reason: additional question

  • #2
    Cost was my biggest barrier.

    What I wanted: 8-12 yo, 16-16.3 hh gelding trained to around second level with descent gaits and an amateur-friendly brain for under $15,000 including shipping/vetting/my travel.

    What I bought 3 months ago: 5 yo, 16.2 hh gelding barely training level with descent gaits and a great brain.

    I had to fly from NJ to CA to find him (that was ok b/c I took the opportunity to visit my 98-yo grandmother who lives out there). I paid ~$2500 more than my budget all in.

    Horses that met my criteria were generally $25,000 and up.

    I did find a very nice horse who fit everything in my criteria, including being within driving distance and price, but he failed the vet miserably.

    I had been sort-of looking for 6 months and seriously looking for a couple of weeks before finding the first horse and another 3 months before finding the horse I ended up buying.


    • #3
      Soundness!! Seems like no matter what age, training level or price range I shop in, many horses just are not sound. Even those that have "clean x-rays" according to the ads. Got the x-rays in prior to a vet check, and yeah, not clean, but the quality was so bad my vet couldn't tell if it was the x-ray or the horse, so PPE proceeded. Turns out it was the horse. He flexed a 4 out of 5 on the front leg in question - and this was a recently started barely 4yo colt. My vet ended that PPE at the flexions and surmised that the horse's long term prognosis was very bleak.

      Provided the horse could actually pass the soundness barrier, the next big stumbling block was price. I wanted a horse that had FEI potential. I wasn't looking for a horse to take me to the Olympics, just a horse that I had a shot at moving up through the levels on this time, rather than one that was going to top out at 2nd. I also wanted one with a decent brain/temperament. Those criteria send the price skyrocketing. I would have loved to have found a horse that was around 6-8yo and schooling 2nd level, but I just didn't have the finances for that. I ended up with a very green barely 4yo, but he is sound, sane and has great movement.

      Another thing that really made the search difficult was the honesty/dishonesty of the seller. Some sellers are right up front and open and easy and pleasant to deal with, while others are, well, just a nightmare. The problem is figuring out which ones are being on the level and which ones are trying to deceive you. It makes the whole process stressful and unpleasant.

      Lastly would be outdated ads/websites. There are so many ads out there, but a good majority of them are outdated. Some horses have been sold, or are no longer for sale, or the prices have changed, etc., yet sellers can't be bothered to update their websites or remove/update sales ads. For all the e-mail inquiries that I sent out on potential horses I was interested in, only about 1/3 of the sellers ever bothered to even respond to me. Even a simple "I'm sorry the horse has been sold" response would have been appreciated, but half the time, the only response I got was the ad would be removed from Dreamhorse or whatever site I had found it on - so the seller clearly got my email, and just didn't want to respond to me. Ads on websites are particularly hard to tell if they are up to date or not - unless the ad states something along the lines that the horse was born in 1998, and later calls the horse a 4yo. Then you knew that page hadn't been updated in a LONG time. Short of things like that, it was really hard to know when websites were up to date.

      It took me 8 long months of hard searching to find my new horse. It was extremely frustrating, and this horse better last me a long, long time, because I HATE horse shopping!!



      • #4
        Well, since most of the US has a lot of pockets of no horses to look at, you have to look over such a large area that videos are VERY important. I wasn't going to spend lots of travel money to see a horse that I couldn't tell if it was worth it to see from the video.

        PLEASE don't be the person chasing the horse around the pasture AND the video camera operator at the same time. A jiggling camera from you running around while taping just does NOT show your horse's gaits very well!

        PLEASE don't do slo mo--99% of horses look really good in slo mo, but see them real time and it can be a completely different story--only 40% of them still look good!!

        PLEASE get all three gaits, the walk and canter are equally if not MORE important to see than the trot.

        If it's an unbroke youngster, I really don't want to see their gaits with their tails and heads in the air excited and frantic for their mama's or herdmates as all get out. That is not a true reflection of their gaits!


        • #5
          For me, it was lack of professionalism. Whether it's a video, returning phone calls or emails, representing the horse, or plain old "looking the part". It is so much easier for a seller to earn my trust if everything is done in a professional manner. It says volumes about yourself and the horse.

          Secondly, speaking from personal experience, misrepresentation of a horse. It was like throwing money to the wind and I had no recourse at the time. Every time I read a story on the COTH of misrepresentation, my heart sighs . . . Oh boy, I've walked in your shoes. Betrayal is a hard emotion to overcome.
          "You gave your life to become the person you are right now. Was it worth it?" Richard Bach


          • #6
            When I was breifly considering buying a horse to replace Gibbled Gelding, the biggest issue I had was with how people interpreted what level a horse was "trained to".

            Example: Video of a horse Trained to 3rd level. I saw NO extensions or even medium gaits, and no flying changes. In fact, the canter transitions were all through trot. But it had the start of a half pass at trot...so it was trained to 3rd level! A client (a while back) went to look at a Trained to 4th level gelding...who didn't have a flying lead change, and hadn't shown past 1st.

            I would be interested in seeing a dressage specific website that listed what skills the horse had such as flying changes, shoulder in, whatever, rated as "confirmed" or "Schooling" with perhaps a place to put what scores those movements where given at a show if applicable.

            In the end money was the deciding factor and I opted to bring the old grey mare out of retirement rather than continue with the pain of horse shopping.
            Freeing worms from cans everywhere!


            • #7
              Oh, yes, I was going to add what CHT said, in the videos, if the horse is doing "X" level supposedly, SHOW THEM being ridden at that level, and correctly executing those movements and having the requirements. Even better, a video of them doing a TEST at that level. Even if it's at home. The proof is in the pudding and if a horse can perform a test of the level, I would say then they truly are that level and not just working on some of the stuff.


              • #8
                Ah, this is currently my world! I am actively looking and it is brutal. I have been scouring the internet, talking to everyone I know, my trainer is searching searching searching.

                Online videos have REALLY helped us save a lot of time, you can gather enough about a horse to decide if it is worth the time to go see them.

                However, the problems we have had have been

                1. SOUNDNESS of the horses, they look great on the video, they feel great to ride but the PPE's are just shocking. When we get ready to sell a horse in our barn we do a simple PPE so that there are no surprises when potential buyers vet them out.

                2. All the good ones go so fast, I have yet to be able to get to a horse I love from an online ad. It seems that word of mouth/e-mail/friends is the only way I have located horses in the past and the only horses I have gone to see so far have been via word of mouth as opposed to an ad.

                3. Dropping prices too late - I have gone to look at horses that are lovely but a little too pricey and I have hoped in this market they would be flexible, however it seems that some are not and even after 3-4 months on the market a horse in full training is still the same price! Then, whoever goes to see the horse after that long they finally make a deal with and drop the price tremendously. I understand wanting/needing to get a certain amount for a horse, but you lose money and so many potential buyers by waiting too long to be flexible.

                4. Trained to 'X' level - Please show off your horse in the video, it is great to see gaits but if you say your horse is trained to a certain level, please show us some of those movements. If your horse has changes, shoe this in the video or buyers will assume they are not solid or you are not being truthful.

                The horses we have made the time to go out to see have had nice videos that show what the horse can do or show a nice test at a show, that seems to be the best draw. It is hard to turn away from looking at a nice ride!


                • #9
                  Category "actively searching". Well, I am really my own biggest challenge. I "fall in love" with the pretty ones and the sweet ones. Sweet does not equal work ethic, and pretty is as pretty does, and I'm not experienced enough to tell the difference in a couple of test rides (in most cases). Hence this time (this is only my second horse, my first is my just retired OTTB) I put my coach in charge. He knows my ability and he has that 6th sense for horses, I trust his judgment.
                  "Reite dein Pferd vorwärts und richte es gerade.” Gustav Steinbrecht


                  • #10
                    My horse shopping ended up far easier than expected because a woman who rides with my trainer had my boy and decided she thought we'd be a good fit. She didn't have any need to sell him, so she didn't really market him when he was doing well showing, but was thrilled to see me end up with him.

                    When I was looking, I was willing to look in several states, but most of what I saw was either far out of my price range or extremely overpriced for what it was, even if within my price range. I wanted either a green young horse with more potential or older, better trained, with less potential, schoolmaster to learn on. Most ads/videos I saw online, just the way the horses were ridden was enough to make me rule them out. So many of the horses were riding with their heads getting ripped on constantly, and I didn't even want to look at a horse who was used to that. Half the horses also looked lame, or like they had a severe conformation flaw which would leave them lame soon. I discovered from looking at shows and videos that there are a few trainers in the state who I would be THRILLED to get a horse from based on their lovely riding, but that there are more I would never want to buy a horse from. None of the trainers I liked had any horses in my price range for sale (except the one I got, who my trainer had ridden last year.) I started looking at some young/unbroken horses, and found some absolutely lovely unbroken 3 and 4 year olds who were in my price range, but the training to start them would have put them above my price range. I still strongly considered that, though, as the horses were nicer in person than in photos and video, were allowed turnout most days, knew how to "be horses" in their interactions with other horses, yet were friendly and great about handling. They were also all absolutely lovely movers who didn't just have extension, but looked as if they could get their hind ends under them as well. These were the only young horses I found advertised who would have posssibly suited my needs in the multiple states I searched - so for some reason, anyone else with nice youngsters either wasn't selling them, or didn't have them advertised anywhere I could find.
                    Originally posted by Silverbridge
                    If you get anything on your Facebook feed about who is going to the Olympics in 2012 or guessing the outcome of Bush v Gore please start threads about those, too.


                    • #11
                      Have to agree with the above posters that the videos that made the horses most appealing were those that showed a well ridden test (either at home or at a show) at the level the horse was advertised to be. A horse advertised as a 4th level horse with a video showing a 1st level test was troublesome. If the horse was an unshown green youngster, then a simple video showing w/t/c in each direction.



                      • #12
                        Originally posted by ImpulsionUnlimited View Post
                        If you are actively searching for a horse and having problems finding your perfect match. I would like to know where you are in your search and the nature of the issue. (Example) "I am test riding horses and when I get there they weren't what I expected". (Note: names of farms, trainers etc should be left out)
                        I am actively searching. I think my biggest problem is being in California where trainers and owners seem to want 12-20k for unstarted 2-3 year olds, and it seems anything under saddle that can do a training level test and score a 65% is 20k+. I did find an unstarted 4 year old that was everything I wanted and I almost stretched my budget to 20k, but the pre-purchase was totally unacceptable.

                        I agree with those that say there are so many lame horses, videos are so poor, and sellers hide so many things as far as the horses conformation faults and injuries and blemishes.

                        I just want a horse with the potential with really good riding to get to second level, that will go for trail rides and jump small jumps, and that is sound and resell-able if needed (meaning no terrible xrays). I am also looking for something small that is a mare which seems to be the opposite of everyone else on that planet! I still think I am going to have to burn through my budget traveling
                        On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog


                        • #13
                          When I was looking for horses (just bought my current horse a month ago-- we are going to dressage at lexington shortly-- ) I had a really hard time finding ones that were actually doing things. I wanted a 3-5yr old started under saddle, and going w/t at 3 or w/t/c at 4 and 5 -- more training the older they were. As I went to look at horses I found so many that were advertised w/t/c that WERE NOT doing that yet. Dont tell me your horse canters undersaddle if it only will do it in one direction, and sideways at that.

                          Also, a lot of horses are priced very high for what they are. I got my mare for well inside my price range (I was looking at 15-25k got my mare for 18) and I feel like she was priced properly-- she has actually been to a couple schooling shows under saddle, as well as having been to some recognised shows in hand at 2 and 3. Most farms were asking more for less proven horses, which I find a little frustrating at times.

                          I tried one horse that actually went lame while I was riding it, i could feel it, it could be seen on the video, and the trainer got back on it, when I refused to continue riding the lame horse... to try and prove to me the horse was sound.... That turned me off more than the sudden lameness, which turned out to be a bruise from a rock he had stepped on... which I might have overlooked and come back to see the horse again if I hadnt been so shocked at the trainers behavior.


                          • #14
                            why are they lame?

                            Just wondering where most of you are finding these lame horses. Are these horses living in barns with little to no turn out? Just wondering, since I come from So Florida where my horse was lucky to get 2 hours a day out in a small paddock, to Montana where, at the dressage barn that I work at, ALL of the horses are out 24/7 (in twice a day for grain & to get checked) and there is little to no lameness. EVER. Back in FL lameness was so common, and every issue was seemingly investigated EXCEPT turn out. (My navicular gelding became completely sound after moving here and being out on pasture most of the time). You guys ought to be looking in states like Montana & Idaho. I have a feeling you not only would find the prices to be more reasonable, but the horses mostly sound as well!!! Just sayin....


                            • #15
                              I've encountered all the things written so far. My complaint is not being able to get a good conformation photo of the horse. I have found sellers to be uncooperative about supplying information requested. Maybe they feel like they're being interrogated or maybe they think I'm a tire klcker.....dunno. Before I go off out of state horse shopping, I need to have a good idea that the horse I'm seeing is likely to be what I want. Therefore, I need to ask some pretty specific questions up front, and I expect an honest answer. I really hate this business of concealing important information and then telling me at the last minute.

                              Except for young horses being sold by breeders, I think there is likely something wrong with all sales horses and I'm very suspicious. I spend hours checking out the horse and the seller before I even contact them.

                              Another thing that really irks me is the absence of prices in the European ads and that apparently you need to be dealing with an agent to buy European horses.


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by CHT View Post
                                When I was breifly considering buying a horse to replace Gibbled Gelding, the biggest issue I had was with how people interpreted what level a horse was "trained to".

                                Example: Video of a horse Trained to 3rd level. I saw NO extensions or even medium gaits, and no flying changes. In fact, the canter transitions were all through trot. But it had the start of a half pass at trot...so it was trained to 3rd level! A client (a while back) went to look at a Trained to 4th level gelding...who didn't have a flying lead change, and hadn't shown past 1st.
                                Mostly this. I looked at many "3rd level" horses that had no lengthening, much less an extension. It took me over 2 years of pretty active looking and flying around to find the boy I bought 2 months ago. I spent more than I had planned, but he vetted cleanly and has been an absolute angel.

                                The most egregious incident I had was after flying up to spend multiple days trying several horses at a BNT who promptly increased the prices of the horses when I arrived, after I had confirmed prices before buying the airline ticket, arranged for days off work, booked a hotel ...

                                There is no way to overcome the lack of ethics of others, but you can warn your friends and neighbors It turns out in my case, that had I asked a friend who lived in the area before I hooked up for dinner one night while on the trip, I would have heard about this particular individual and probably not made the trip. In short, ask around; a lot. Ask friends to ask their friends.

                                As far as overcoming the overly creative "horse trained to X level" I learned to ask questions like; has the horse been shown at this level and can you supply copies of the corresponding score sheets. Also asking for videos showing movements by the level also helped. By asking very specific questions, I was able to quickly move on to other prospects.


                                • #17
                                  Recent horse shopping experience:
                                  Looking for 6-9 yr old ammy-friendly with all third level movements and potential to get at least to PSG/I-1. Figured since I was looking in Florida in the winter, should not be a big deal. Here's what I found: For the most part people were honest in the discussion of training. Only one was not where I wanted; too bad because she was everything else and the training gap included some signs of connection problems.
                                  Actually vetted another mare, she took a couple funny steps when I first mounted then was fine, did all her things. Did not vet so well, hock issues, vet said "serious maintenance"; p.s. the mare was afraid of vets w/ needles. PASS.
                                  Tried a lovely gelding, rode great, set up vet, saw him hacked and otherwise exposed to a busy situation at the vet clinic. No big deal. Vet exam got all the way to xrays and found OCD lesion on stifle. PASS.
                                  A couple that we called about were admittedly not quite right so never went.
                                  Ended up going from Fl. to California to buy a lovely mare, 8, verifiable show record thru 4th and one PSG test within my price range (barely), vetted first then went to ride, as there was no doubt that the ride thing would go fine. The budget buster was transportation - I didn't have the heart or the nerves to have the horse on the road for a week so I had her put on a plane. Though I grumbled about the $ I never thought twice about the decision.

                                  My conclusion is that the horses in Fl in winter are more expensive than horses other places; I also wonder about the lack of soundness in these young horses; I agree w/ earlier post re limited turnout, and also perhaps pushing them too hard to get the movements that raise the price.

                                  I thought it would be fun shopping; it really wasn't. Glad its over and glad I got on the airplane!
                                  We don't get less brave; we get a bigger sense of self-preservation........


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by springer View Post
                                    Just wondering where most of you are finding these lame horses. Are these horses living in barns with little to no turn out? Just wondering, since I come from So Florida where my horse was lucky to get 2 hours a day out in a small paddock, to Montana where, at the dressage barn that I work at, ALL of the horses are out 24/7 (in twice a day for grain & to get checked) and there is little to no lameness. EVER. Back in FL lameness was so common, and every issue was seemingly investigated EXCEPT turn out. (My navicular gelding became completely sound after moving here and being out on pasture most of the time). You guys ought to be looking in states like Montana & Idaho. I have a feeling you not only would find the prices to be more reasonable, but the horses mostly sound as well!!! Just sayin....
                                    Wow; a very interesting perspective. Don't mean to hijack the thread, but I just wanted to express my agreement with Springer. What drives me crazy is that so many people do not simply acknowledge that horses are just plain designed to be moving around all the time. So many people would rather protect their pristine pastures than turn horses out on them. I just don't get it - at all. I know they risk injury, etc., but as you rightly point out, it's also risky keeping them inside all the time. My vet's main prescription for several (not all, obviously) different types of lamenesses is, "turn him out for a year and then see how he is after that." The most sound, loose, happy, connected, and elastic my mare ever was happened when she was turned out 24/7 for several months in a row. It was really eye-opening for me.



                                    • #19
                                      I just sent a horse to a well-known dressage trainer to be sold. We had him for 2 years and he NEVER took a lame step and he had been in full work. I picked him up today after 2.5 weeks at the sales barn because they said he was lame.

                                      NOW: he is SO body sore. Not lame, but his whole right side is sore. He has a gash on his left hind, a 10 inch scrape on his right upper neck and a huge scrape above his eye. What on earth happened? They said he must have rolled on something in the paddock, but they are beautiful, level and all grass. I think he got cast. I pray he'll be OK.

                                      What a horrible experience.
                                      \"I refuse to engage in a battle of wits with someone who is unarmed.\"--Pogo


                                      • #20
                                        Horse shopping for me is a buyer beware situation. Verify everything you can. And talk to as many people as you can as you become more interested in a horse.

                                        Misrepresentation regarding level of training is my chief compliant when horse shopping. These things are easily uncovered once you see the horse but it is a huge waste of time for the buyer. You can verify show record on USDF so it is easy to see what level they have shown at and their scores. You can also see breaks in showing which may lead you to other questions for the owner.

                                        Second compliant was misrepresentation of health of the horse. If I got to a stage where I was interested in a horse I always asked for access to vet records and pretty much people gave permission for my vet to talk to their vet. Found out 2 interesting things from this.
                                        1. Some owners gave you the vet who did shots, Coggins etc, not the vet who dealt with soundness, internal medicine issues. So we would have to go back and ask for another name. This always made me very cautious.
                                        2. Some owners would give you the info and you would find out all kinds of things the owner never mentioned (eg hospitalizations, injuries etc). I guess they thought you wouldn't call. The call backs to the owners on these issues were always interesting.

                                        For me the whole process was very frustrating and a study in human psychology. It is discouraging how some folks have not qualms about passing an undisclosed problem onto someone else.