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"Buying an event horse, an insider's guide"

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  • "Buying an event horse, an insider's guide"

    I read Craig's articles (posted here and I have to say I'm a little put off. I think he broached some topics quite well, like really identifying your wants (scopey and pretty) versus your needs (sane, safe), but the overall tone was rather condescending.

    Additionally, he says that most ammys should spend around $25k, or $10k for a purpose bred 2 y/o, which felt really weird in this sport of "ride what ever is in your backyard." Coupled with the fact that he also says most people don't need a horse capable of Prelim (which I agree with), he is basically recommending that most people spend $25k for a N/T horse. Sure, if you have the extra cash for something fancy, why not? But really, MOST horses can get around Novice just fine, and it doesn't take a unicorn to do T. You don't need a purpose bred eventer for those levels, and you don't need to spend that much money. $10k ought to be able to buy something that maxes out at T, and if you're willing to take green or unproven, you can probably get one free. Now don't get me wrong, I understand where he's coming from as a Professional Event Horse Seller, but I think the low level ammy market values those QHs and Appys and Mutts as much as those purpose bred Breed du jours.

    Furthermore, a few lines really made me
    "It’s hard enough for professionals to make money on horses; amateurs shouldn’t even try."
    I understand the sentiment. People shouldn't buy a horse and expect to be able to sell it and make a profit. That is a point most people (especially parents of young riders!) are missing. I find it rude though that just because someone doesn't make their living being a Professional Eventer, they lack the eye or ability or make a profit from OTTBs or retraining or putting miles on a greenie. I guess I get a similar sense of frustration from this quote as well:

    As for racehorses, amateurs should not go to the track and buy a horse. Nor should they buy a horse that is recently off the track.
    A 10 y/o kid who is just moving off a small pony competing at BN? No, probably not a canditate for a horse off the track. An adult ammy who has been competing for a number of years at the N and T levels??? That is definitely where I would look for someone on a budget. I mean really, you get the sense that he's worried people will stop lining his pocket when they find they can get a horse as nice as that $10k 2 y/o for a 10th of the price, and compete it that summer. Maybe I'm just oversentitive to OTTB criticism.

    None of those quotes really compare to this one, that utterly and completely boggles my mind:

    "In our business, we won’t necessarily let a rider try a horse over cross-country jumps."
    Okay, screeching to a halt and doing a double take. If I am going to be shelling out that $25-50k for my Novice purpose bred, I am damn sure going to ride it over some XC jumps. I'm really shocked at this mentality. Yes, insurance sucks and there is risk of a fall. Gosh, it seems to me that that is something you factor in when you are an Eventing Professional. I just can't fathom not letting someone try a horse XC. It would make me wonder if he is insanely strong, hates water, or has the tendency to dump his rider in the ditch, and I would walk away from that sale in a second.

    Individually, none of these quotes are too horrible (well except maybe the last one), but the overriding theme of the articles is quite disheartening to me. That and the emphasis on making sure your trainer gets his commission kind of rubs me the wrong way. Hey, I'm all about paying for services rendered and having my trainer's input. But you know, most Novice horses who are selling for $25k are probably decent enough that I could toss a dart and pick a suitable one. I would hope that I have enough experience that when I'm shelling out that kind of cash, I give myself some credit, despite the amateur status that renders me blind and deaf and dumb. I suppose that I'm being a little harsh, but I didn't realize that we were Hunters. Oddly, I suppose that $25k isn't too much money comparitively speaking, but for most of my adult ammy friends, that's not even a possibility.

    What are your thoughts? Feel free to disagree, I am open to reconsidering my stance, but I was terribly disheartened with this article. Hopefully it's one of those cases where Equestrian Professionals just aren't good at communication.

  • #2
    That's OK. You're alright to say what you said.
    I went to the site and read it.
    Yes, I think it's pretty bald about profit motive, isn't it.
    Isn't it scary to think he is just ONE of many in the new Professional Riders Association that may take over the leadership of our sport? (evil grin)
    Proud & Permanent Student Of The Long Road
    Read me: EN ( and HJU (


    • #3
      This article was in Eventing magazine a few of years ago. At the time, I found it condescending and it certainly rubbed me the wrong way (I do not believe anyone who commented on COTH about it, liked it). But you have to remember his bias- he sells event horses for a living and so he is not going to advocate buying whatever is in the backyard on the cheap- he gets no commission for that and his horses sure as heck ain't cheap. Yeah, it would have been nice if the article was not so biased and condescending but it is what it is and this is hardly the only piece I have seen from him that comes across to me as condescending to the adult ammie eventer (and the target audience is not experienced eventers clearly).
      No idea where the "you don't get to try xc jumps" came from- he and Jan let me try the horses I looked at over xc jumps and I would have walked away if they had not.
      There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.(Churchill)


      • #4
        I've not read the whole set of articles but they seem pretty sensible and realistic to me.


        • Original Poster

          Originally posted by bambam View Post
          No idea where the "you don't get to try xc jumps" came from- he and Jan let me try the horses I looked at over xc jumps and I would have walked away if they had not.
          Interesting. Odd that he would put that in print if he doesn't stick to it?? I found the article insulting but not overly bizarre until I read that sentence. I'm glad he is more realistic in real life. Like I said, I'm sure some of the tone is just from horse people not coming across well in print, but it makes me wonder how people attract business with such poor marketing skills.

          Oh well. I didn't actually post this thread to "pick on the Pros" or do the "us versus them" stuff. I wouldn't expect someone who sells horses for a living to encourage people to not use their services, but I strongly oppose this H/J business model. Where are the "Eventing on a budget: creative solutions to finding an event horse" articles? Heck, we don't have to go that far. How about injecting a dose of reality into an article about buying from a horse trader?


          • #6
            Well, I have to say, I went to the page and won't be bothering to even click on the articles, as the headers say "Buying and Event horse, an Insider's guide." If they can't check for such major typos right on the front page, I'm not going to bother to read any further.

            Just call me a persnickity English major. (How *do* you spell persnickity?)
            blogging at HN:
            check out my writing:
            Just out:


            • #7
              As the mom of a "10 year old eventer" I think it smacks of the same attitude I find everywhere in america today. "Hire and expert!".
              I am not equipped to handle teaching my children.
              I'm not equipped to handle consoling a friend in trouble. For that they either need counseling or drugs.
              I'm certainly not equipped to handle fixing my plumbing or electricity.
              So why should I feel that I have the necessary skills to buy a horse?
              This is one of the many reasons we chose the sport of eventing. All those experts can just keep telling us what we need to do. But in the end, you can't ride papers and everybody rides the same dressage test.
              So, they start looking pretty stupid when my backyard econonag kicks their $30,000 guy in the buns.
              Oh, and while my kid does it, they develop the skills to go buy the next econo-nag and keep kicking!
              I can't say we will ever reach the top echelons of the sport this way. But boy are we having fun and learning a ton in the process.
              I just don't think spending $30,000 on a horse that can break just as easy as a cheaper model sounds like that much fun.


              • #8
                Okay, I haven't read the article, and I'm not sure I want to, but the actual quotation was:

                "In our business, we won't *necessarily* let a rider try a horse over cross-country jumps."
                (My emphasis.)

                Presumably the market for these expensive N-T horse's are people who are learning the sport and need something that they can learn on. Unfortunately, he uses the term "amateur" as opposed to inexperienced, and unfairly (IMO) casts aspersion on the many excellent riders who don't happen to make any money off of horses. (Not to mention that anyone, regardless of skill or experience, now qualifies as a pro if they have accepted any money for teaching an up-down lesson or two). Anyway, I wouldn't *necessarily* let the wannabe eventer who has barely graduated cross-rails to try my sale horse over xc jumps either!

                I don't agree with the premise of the article, as I understand it from your post: eventing is all about taking the horse from the backyard or the OTTB and developing it, as far as I am concerned. But, a lot of our modern American culture is about having it now and having "the best." Why take your time and put work into something if you can BUY it now?


                • #9
                  I'm inclined to agree with TB or not TB. One of the things I love the most about eventing is the fact that everyone on pretty much anything can be included.

                  Horses/eventing is an INCREDIBLY expensive sport and I fear the day it becomes so elitist that I can't participate anymore.
                  Yes, I ride a pony. No, he would not be ideal for your child. No, he is not a re-sale project...


                  • #10
                    Well, look at it this way. Any potential buyer who would actually believe the information in this article is probably so inexperienced that they probably DO need a trainer to hold their hand, a $25K horse to cart them around low-level XC in safety, and probably should NOT be dealing with OTTBs (or trusted with a potato gun for that matter, but that's another article *grin*)

                    Third Charm Event Team


                    • #11
                      I hate to agree with Craig, but on this one point I do, I have had too many friends and acquaintances that think they can turn that OTTB into an eventer end up hurt. It is not a task for the timid rider. Not everyone can do it and some of our friends need to hear that they are not up to the task. Especially when we are in our 40's and 50's and we don't bounce and healing is a slow process both physically and emotionally.

                      Other than that, I think I read the article the first time and found it insulting overall.


                      • #12
                        I have always said OTTBs are the greatest horses in the world. That said I ALWAYS tell people that they need to go to a trainer/rider/owner that has the know how to reschool them to make them into the type of horses that others can ride. They can be the greatest horses in the world, but DO NOT BELONG IN BEGINNER HANDS


                        • #13
                          Econonag! I LOFF it! Let's write an article: "Finding your own Econonag" and the sequel, "Kicking $30,000 Butt With Your Econonag".
                          Proud & Permanent Student Of The Long Road
                          Read me: EN ( and HJU (


                          • #14
                            I also think you have to remember what he sees day in and day out. There is a big culture of eventing that is "do it yourselves," but if you're in his business you very rarely ever deal with them. Why would you? I'm an adult amateur and even with a 5 figure budget I didn't call on the Craig Thompsons of the world. I didn't even call on the BNT that I've worked extensively with in the past! If these guys don't work with us on a daily basis why would you assume they understand either the mentality much less the size of that market?


                            • #15
                              Can't claim that one! I stole it from a very funny thread in the off course forum a couple of weeks ago


                              • #16
                                "In our business, we won't necessarily let a rider try a horse over cross-country jumps." Okay, screeching to a halt and doing a double take. If I am going to be shelling out that $25-50k for my Novice purpose bred, I am damn sure going to ride it over some XC jumps. I'm really shocked at this mentality. Yes, insurance sucks and there is risk of a fall. Gosh, it seems to me that that is something you factor in when you are an Eventing Professional. I just can't fathom not letting someone try a horse XC. It would make me wonder if he is insanely strong, hates water, or has the tendency to dump his rider in the ditch, and I would walk away from that sale in a second.
                                Keep in mind he says "necessarily", not "definitely not". And I understand that sentiment wholeheartedly. I wouldn't necessarily let someone ride one of our sale horses over xc fences, whether the horse is 5k or 50k, if they aren't riding competently and safely over show jumps in the ring. Not worth the risk of someone getting hurt or someone scaring my horse because they were ridden poorly. So, if someone comes and tries a horse and scares me here at home, if they ask to try it on xc, there is a good chance I'll say nope. But if they get along well and have a good ride here and ask, I'd be far more inclined.

                                I think you have to take most of what Craig writes with a grain of salt. He does say a lot of useful things, but occasionally you get smacked in the face with a bit of ego or pompousness. And while I don't agree with the 25k price tag (because we have a couple of really nice ammy horses that were bought for way, way, way less than that), I do tend to agree, to a small degree, that OTTBs aren't the best way to go for a lot of ammies. Some, sure, but I think more ammies end up frustrated, hurt, or scared with their OTTBs than a lot care to admit.


                                • #17
                                  I agree with TB and I think the buying the OTTB is a big "it depends." Someone who has evented at the lower levels on an older slower horse, has shown hunter jumper, or has done lots of dressage would probably be fine with an OTTB that has had some off track training. They'd need to have a trainer and they'd need to be able to ride forward but isn't that every horse? I don't think going from being an adult ammy who brought your ex dressage morgan to BN before it retired and then buying an OTTB in hopes of actually making the time (not that morgans can't!) is bad pair.

                                  I think the plodding horse that would rather sleep then gallop is just as bad as a hyped up ottb that wants to run at mach 10.


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by GaellentQuest View Post
                                    I have always said OTTBs are the greatest horses in the world. That said I ALWAYS tell people that they need to go to a trainer/rider/owner that has the know how to reschool them to make them into the type of horses that others can ride. They can be the greatest horses in the world, but DO NOT BELONG IN BEGINNER HANDS
                                    I think this is where people diverge. Those that have grown up riding and continue to ride sometimes do not see the issues involved with throwing a beginner or timid rider on a horse that lacks training or more especially needs to be retrained.

                                    I have bought two horses from the auction and have been to the auction countless times with a horse dealer experienced in buying horses from this auction. I would NEVER tell the average person to just go to the auction and buy a horse. There are so many factors, including limited room at some auctions to try horses, unscrupulous dealers, etc.

                                    I would NEVER suggest to anyone to just go to a racetrack and buy a horse - for the same reasons.

                                    These kinds of buys are for people who are willing to resell and willing to take the 'pet' out of the picture. People who are better at judging a horse from the ground. The average amateur does not have the time, money, skill to deal with this. I do not think the average amateur adult that has been competing at Novice or Training for a few years necessarily has the skill and contacts to buy an appropriate thoroughbred directly from the track and retrain it. I think that is a mistake a LOT of people in all disciplines make. Riding that packer around does not make you a trainer.

                                    I do agree with Craig on that. I do thinks $10K for a horse that will top out at Training level is a bit much -but what price would you put on getting the perfect horse for that timid amateur? Craig also does miss the whole backyard horse concept. For Training and below, I think these are fine - someone who wants to be competitive above training or someone that wants a guaranteed clean round on cross country coupled with clean stadium and nice dressage - a purpose bred may be nice to have.


                                    • #19
                                      Craig would do himself a favor by not sounding like such a snob.

                                      But then maybe he's looking for that special breed of 'discerning' client.


                                      • #20
                                        There is a HUGE gap between OTTB and 30k. And I would say if someone paid over 15k for a horse that isnt going above Training, they got swindled! Especially if that 30k horse is also a purpose bred 2 year old, because for that kind of dough I would expect an obvious world class 2 year old, or an already trained mid level packer, not a an average 2 year old that wont make it past Training. You really dont need to spend that kind of money for a sane and sound N and T horse, not even close. I have had 2 very safe, very sane horses like this and both were under 8k.....and they were also both very winning boys! No fairy tale there, thats pretty much the norm IME. We have several LL provincial champs and reserve champs in my barn, all of them under 8k and most of them stock breeds.