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Can finding the right horse be so hard?

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  • Can finding the right horse be so hard?

    I've been looking for my next horse for quite some time now, and STILL haven't found it! How can this be?
    I have looked on dreamhorse, at shows, talked with people, etc. I almost think I am being too picky. Is that possible? If i ride a horse and dont like something about it, but it can be fixed should i proceed?
    I guess i have just approached the part where i want to quit because it's so draining.
    What do you guys do to help with the horse search? What are your theories on 'perfect horses'?
    Why walk when you can ride?

  • #2
    Finding the right horse is impossible! Hang in there. Even though there's no such thing as a perfect horse, when I was tired of the search and I went ahead with an *almost* perfect horse thinking I could make do, it ended up being a terrible decision.

    Keep doing what you're doing and let everyone you meet know you're looking. The best ones always seem to get sold without ever needing an ad. Meanwhile, the longer you don't have a horse the more money you can save and increase your budget.


    • #3
      I guess it depends on what you mean by 'can I be too picky.'

      If that means that you are not being realistic about what your budget will allow, then yes, you are too picky. :-) If it means that you pass on horses if you don't feel a certain spark and draw about them, then no, you are not too picky.

      I looked at about 45 horses in two and a half months, lots of which had zero eventing back ground, last time I went shopping. I found a miserably failed Western Pleasure mare, never jumped and barely ridden out of the ring, 9 yrs old. I knew immediately she was The One. One decade later and a nice filly, plus miles of trails, solid First Level in dressage competing, and up to Training level eventing under our girth, I've never been sorry.


      • #4
        well, that all depends on what you are looking for and what is your budget?and where you are looking. sometimes the nice horses are not with big name trainers. tell everyone who will listen what you are looking for. get the word around.

        ride it like you stole it! "ralph hill"


        • #5
          When I bought my second horse (the first was sort of a fluke. I wasn't really looking), I inquired/looked at video etc of 140+ and sat on 38 of those. When I sat on #38, I knew he was mine. Never regretted that decision at all. After he moved on, the next horse I bought was the 4th horse I sat on and I never regretted that either. When he had to be retired, I bought the next one on just a picture and a conversation, but knew he was right. He is a tough little bugger, but I totally love him. You need to be realistic, but that "spark" can not be overstated especially if you are an ammy like I am and have one horse to compete and hang out with.
          OTTBs rule, but spots are good too!


          • #6
            I was feeling pretty discouraged when looking for my latest purchase. I had been toying with the idea of buying an OTTB I saw online. I looked and looked at his pics and video. I couldn't get enough of looking at this horse. My trainer at the time really hated TBs in general, OTTBs were high on her list of horses to avoid, so I did. Ultimately, I got tired of waiting for that really nice and miraculously affordable WB, so I called about the OTTB. I knew when I talked to the broker (no, not a kill "broker") that he was going to be right for me. Things went a little sideways for awhile and I thought someone else was going to buy him before I even got a chance to ride him. Serendipity was on my side though, and I finally got to ride this wonderfully imperfect horse.
            He doesn't have any major issues, mostly he just needs re-training and experience. He has movement that's good enough to win a couple of ribbons and he melts my heart. I knew the second I slid into the saddle that he was the one. I haven't regretted him for a second. Out of all the horses I perused and called on, for a good six months, he was the first I actually sat on. It was kismet.
            "Rock n' roll's not through, yeah, I'm sewing wings on this thing." --Destroyer


            • #7
              Perfect story. How can I let eventers know of my freelease Friesian WB?

              I dont understand this forum stuff, and I am trying to navigate on a dial up computer to top it off! I read stories about this person trying so hard to find the right horse, and I feel like I have one to share for free...can someone out there tell me how I let eventers/dressage riders know about my 6yr. old Friesian cross mare, who is free to use to the right, motivated rider? (I don't want her to get messed up with bad training or poor handling!) Help! Rebecca in NC


              • #8
                Rebecca - your best bet is contacting local respected trainers who will help ensure a responsible good home for your horse.

                I think it can be VERY hard to find a horse.... or you can be lucky and find the perfect horse immediately. I meant to buy a horse around mid-summer, and started looking in April just to get an idea of what was out there. I got my guy March 1.

                I have spent more than 6 months looking for a horse in the past. Heck, my mom was looking for a trail horse and took more than 6 months to find one, driving around the state to look at horses. I agree with the earlier posts that if you want too much for your budget you're being too picky, but otherwise - wanting the horse who is right for you isn't being too picky.
                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.


                • #9
                  Hmmm. Yes, I think you can be too picky (assuming your budget is not limitless). I have a friend who has been looking for about 2 years and NO HORSE seems to be good enough. And the ones she likes, she isn't willing to pay the price for (even though she claims to have the money). She seems to always find some flaw in every horse she looks at.

                  In the meantime, I looked at only a few horses and bought a youngster that I thought I could work with and enjoy (but no--not my "dream horse"). Her movement was pretty mediocre and she wasn't as big as I wanted. Well, she has turned out to be a really fun horse. In fact, today we went for a x-c school, and she was brave, honest, and taking me to the x-c jumps (and she just turned 4). And, her movement has improved hugely now that we have been doing dressage work and gaining strength. I am pretty sure she is going to end up being a nice event horse for me. But on the day I tried her--I did not think, "this is THE one". Instead, I thought: "I can work with this one and see how she turns out." She had 2 good qualities (her jumping form and her brain) and the rest was going to be "work in progress".

                  Same thing with my older horse (who I adore and is very special). My first ride on her was just "ok" but I took her on trial and in 2 weeks I knew I HAD to buy her. But it wasn't that way from ride #1.

                  So sometimes you need to "build your own" by getting a horse that is sound and has a good brain (and is in your budget) and then get good training for yourself and the horse. You would be surprised how some of the most "ho hum" horses can really be improved by your own correct and consistent work.


                  • #10
                    Some of it depends on luck- but if you know what you are looking for, then generally, yes, it will take longer. Chances are, you've either owned multiple horses before, or you have ridden enough different horses to know what you DON'T want-- and often it is what you don't want that makes the process of buying a long one!

                    There can be the case of being too judgmental- picking apart the previous training a horse has had when the horse still has potential for your interests, for example. Or, being unrealistic on the vetting and expecting it to vet perfect in all areas. Or, having a difference of opinion with a trainer who has other plans for you and your money (happens sometimes- but we hope this is an exception!). Etc.

                    When I was last looking, I looked casually and kept "an eye out", as I was busy doing other things and was not in a rush to buy. The total time looking was about 5 months, and I knew the type of horse I wanted, and I was on a budget (think green ottb budget). I had 1 vetted early on, did not pan out. I looked at some others, and looked at many ads/videos. I considered buying sight-unseen because I was looking for a "type" horse, but I preferred to buy seen, so I could get a feel for the horse and his personality.

                    Well, I got lucky. I saw an ad for a horse still on the track -it LITERALLY said FOUR words and showed a cell-phone pic of him standing by the shedrow- I could tell he was decently built but not much else. My SO happened to be making a trip near that track soon. I talked him into stopping to see the horse, expecting nothing much from the side-trip. When we saw him in the stall, he looked cute and was friendly, but did not seem to be a knockout or anything. Then the barn help took him out to jog and he took on another presence and was suddenly floating in-hand with a wonderful, naturally balanced uphill frame, and I suddenly saw a glimpse of what he COULD be after proper conditioning and development.
                    After 5 months of looking, I knew this horse had the qualities important to me (well-balanced naturally, light on his feet, light in the bridle/snaffle mouth, pretty/kind-eyed, uphill build, long neck & it set on well, dressage/event type rather than hunter type, sensible, friendly, well-mannered, sane) , and while he is not perfect, I have not looked back and wished I got another horse. I have hopes that he will work out for my plans, but as a prospect, so far he is doing his job beautifully and I am happy I stuck to my original raw criteria instead of settling for something different from what I wanted. As with people, I am sure there are other horses that would have worked for me, but also as with people, this one was at the right time at the right place and also happened to be what I was looking for- so it worked. Maybe try not to find "the one" but instead try to find the one that fulfills your reasonable list of requirements.


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Equine Adhesive View Post
                      I have hopes that he will work out for my plans, but as a prospect, so far he is doing his job beautifully and I am happy I stuck to my original raw criteria instead of settling for something different from what I wanted. As with people, I am sure there are other horses that would have worked for me, but also as with people, this one was at the right time at the right place and also happened to be what I was looking for- so it worked. Maybe try not to find "the one" but instead try to find the one that fulfills your reasonable list of requirements.
                      Agree with this pretty much. After I lost my last horse, I wasnt even really shopping but more making a list in my head of the traits I wanted, ie. soundness, conf., age, height, brain ect. I knew the range I wanted those in, but like you might be being, I was too specific. I sat on a few, even one that would have been, with a month of work, a lovely novice/ training horse winning the dressage and going double clean. But he was the easy road to take and I didnt get him because there was no AHA! moment when I rode him. He was missing a spark that I think event horses need.

                      I ended up with a horse that I most likely would have not even looked at if I had just seen him on paper, but my trainer and I walked by his stall and by chance asked to see him out of it. I gave up one of my major requirements, age (which had been 4-7), because he is 3. Looking back though, it was actually perfect because I dont have the finances to compete after all the vet bills from my last horse and the purchase of the new one. Plus, Im getting to bond with Levi and really start from the beginning, which is one of the coolest experiences.

                      I think you will just know when you see him. I know, everyone said that to me too "you'll just know when you are ready" "you'll know if hes the right horse" blah blah blah. I honestly didnt believe them. But then I spent a weekend away at a horse show worrying that he would be sold before I got back and the few days before the vet check worrying that he was missing a lung or something freaky. Thats pretty much when I knew he was the horse. When you loose 10lbs from worrying about not get getting him, then its a safe bet its "the horse".
                      RIP Charlie and Toby


                      • #12
                        It so depends on your criteria.

                        Let's start with what EVERYONE (almost) wants: Yes, finding a 100% sound, big, fancy, young, WB/TB, gelding, well-trained Prelim-or-up prospect, even better with experience, suitable for an amateur, on a budget, is hard.

                        Every aspect that you can "give" on makes it easier. What kind of sticking points are you running into?

                        Third Charm Event Team


                        • #13
                          I think you have to look for that "spark" everyone is saying, but I also warn, be realistic.

                          Somoene once came out to our place, to look at this mare I had for sale. This mare went to AEC's in Training, won a ribbon, and was absolutely a LOVE. She was somewhat small...may e 15.2, or 15.3.

                          Anyway, these people came out in the pouring rain, in 40 degrees. Pulled off the blanket, put her in cross ties, and proceeded to get her ready. Well, you know how cold 40 is in freezing wet weather? Anyway, she stood with her hip cocked, eyes half closed, till they got her tacked up. Went out into the pouring rain with this 12 year old kid, and hacked her all over the place, jumped her around 3 foot, highest the girl had jumped, and mare did NOTHING wrong. They were looking for a Novice horse, and MAYBE, and it was a strong MAYBE, training at some point or other. BTW, standing water 6 inches deep. But it was the only day they could come.

                          It was a perfect match. That mare took wonderful care of this little girl. Then when her mom got on, did the same. But they passed on her. WHY? Oh they loved her, and the trainer loved her enough to bring her own 8 year old to try her, but it was too much horse for them. They passed because she was a roarer. She had a slight roaring problem. She wasn't full paralyzed, but she was a bit loud. We competed that mare in TR3D's and never had issues, but they passed on that reason. It worked out in the end, as I sold her to an amateur woman who just ADORES her, and I know she has a good home forever. BUT, if you get so picky that when the perfect horse does come along, and all, then you might never find one.

                          Good Luck.
                          May the sun shine on you daily, and your worries be gone with the wind.


                          • #14
                            I've found looking for a new horse to be a huge pain in the rear. There are occasional bright moments, but generally it's a slog. People you think you can trust become untrustworthy, there at times seems very little correlation between price and value and it can be expensive. I'd rather give birth to a flaming porcupine. And I'm not even the right gender.


                            • #15
                              If you're looking for an event prospect -- here's my advice -- don't look anywhere you might find event prospects! Sounds crazy but what you REALLY need to to do is educate yourself a bit on what an event prospect should be, and should look like, FOR YOU, and what you want to RIDE vs. what you want to look at. Those beautiful movers and sharp jumpers are NOT easy to ride, nor are they always sound. Someone works hard on those horses.

                              No matter how experienced and smart, a trainer is always going to gravitate towards horses THEY like to ride and train and work with. When you go to an event barn, you're looking at a selection of pre-choiced horses -- that one person (not you) ended up with. Now sometimes you can find the right one at such a barn but most times unless that person is your clone, you just have to fit with one and that's a chance proposition, as most of the posters above said. (Scubed for one).

                              Take a second look at EiRide's post. You really do need to know something about conformation and what you are looking at before you go looking. (EiRide didn't mention she's a long-time rider with a couple decades experience, too.) She knows what she can ride.

                              If you aren't sure what you can ride, get an evaluation from a GOOD upper level professional. Take a lesson. Ask them afterwards for a true assessment of your skills. Ask them what kind of horse they would look for, for you -- where to start, what to do. I don't know a professional event trainer that wouldn't be happy to help you.

                              Use the search process as a learning experience. Ask yourself after every trial, what did I learn as a rider from that horse? How did that horse feel after I (applied the aids, stopped using my leg, went outside the ring, etc.), and what did he look like with someone else on him -- how did he move? How is that horse's movement, and training, related to my likes and dislikes? This will help you narrow down what you really like and what you can live with. Only YOU will know that.

                              Event prospects can be found everywhere. I always tell people, start within a one hour radius of your own home. Check out the little schooling shows and yes, games shows and maybe charity trail rides. Call your local warmblood breeder. Foxhunters, paper chases. Hunter jumper lesson barns. The local penny saver advertiser. Hey, it's not gonna say "Event prospect, 6yo, trained to 1st level, jumps 3', sound", it's gonna say, "6yo QH cross G., needs riding, green", or "5yo mare, TW/Arab cross, too spunky for beginner rider" etc. (I went to look at an ad exactly like that once and saw this gorgeous strawberry roan daisy cutter mover trotting across the pasture and it took my breath away. We set some junk up against a fence post and gypped her over a jump and I nearly fainted -- knees to the chin, soft loose back, snapped up her hocks -- I got her for $600 and sold her a year later to a PC rider who wanted to get her B rating for let's just say add another zero on there, and she's still packing around hunter courses.) Lauren Keiffer just clocked around Rolex on an Arabian! Chat with the feed store clerk and the tack store owners, masters of your local foxhunt, etc. I found a horse in the backyard of a friend, that wasn't advertised, and from all accounts he's going to make a great event prospect.

                              When you find something, take a friend with you who can video you riding the horse and study it afterwards. Ask questions. First impressions are important, record your own first impressions of each horse. Your mind will say, "yuck" or "hmm, this is interesting" the first time you see the horse's head over the stall door. Remember those feelings. Wouldn't hurt to keep a notebook or private blog.

                              My BIGGEST and most important advice: know horses, educate yourself as to what you see vs. what you are sitting on. I don't think most riders are picky -- I think they don't know what to look for. Be open minded!
                              Proud & Permanent Student Of The Long Road
                              Read me: EN (http://eventingnation.com/author/annemarch/) and HJU (http://horsejunkiesunited.com/author/holly-covey/)


                              • #16
                                I think when you are looking for "the" horse it can become paralyzing because there are going to be some tradeoffs unless you have a ton of money.

                                When I bought my Trakehner he was going to be "the" horse. I probably sat on 25 horses and the ones I loved I couldn't afford. He came with some training issues but was worth it.

                                I've also bought several OTTB project horses. In those cases I was looking for good conformation, a good brain and an easy going temperament. Since they weren't supposed to be lifetime horses I didn't sweat over it and generally bought one of the first ones I saw. They all turned into darn nice horses. I just hadn't put so much pressure on myself to find the absolutely right one.

                                My current horse I took sight unseen from CANTER New England to foster and the director told me he was going to be really nice. He didn't look like much when I picked him up but he's turned out to be a great horse. In fact, I told her that the next time I need a horse I'm just going to have her drop one off.
                                Equine Ink - My soapbox for equestrian writings & reviews.
                                EquestrianHow2 - Operating instructions for your horse.


                                • #17

                                  Originally posted by riderboy View Post
                                  I've found looking for a new horse to be a huge pain in the rear. . . . I'd rather give birth to a flaming porcupine. And I'm not even the right gender.

                                  Cracked me up this morning! Thanks for that.


                                  • #18
                                    I don't know if you are being too picky, but gosh, there sure are a lot of folks who are. It does, of course, depend on what you are looking for, but in my experience, I've found the folks who are looking for career lower level horses and/or trail horses to sometimes have the most unrealistic expectations either of what their budget would buy or even of what they'd need.

                                    For example, we had a nice little novice/training horse - he wasn't ever going to go Prelim, but he was sweet, kind, dead easy, the right age/size, and priced fairly. He wasn't particularly pretty and didn't have a strong personality, but was a full on good soul. The number of folks we had who were looking for their first novice horse who passed on him because they didn't "feel a connection" or he "wasn't a 10 mover" was unreal. This horse was a total gem, and took fabulous care of them, and time and again I saw folks pass him up for something completely unsuitable for their professed goals (the 3 year old 17hh sway backed cribbing OTTB filly who was barred from the track for being dangerous - for someone's kid to be a first Novice horse - was a particularly notable example). We finally got him sold to a fabulous family whose kid is just having a blast with him.

                                    No horse is perfect. Every horse will have something about them - maybe they're not going to win the dressage, or they have some jewelry on their xrays or they're the wrong color (true story) or a year too old or not particularly pretty or what have you. But there are an awful lot of solid citizens out there even with those things who can do a job really really well and be a lot of fun, and frankly, if the horse has one of those issues and is still doing the job you want them to do, it's likely something you can live with. I don't look for the perfect personality - I look for a horse that is doing the job I want them to do (or has the potential for a youngster). Personality grows with horses - heck, my Prelim horse, who I absolutely adore, had ZERO personality when we got him. He's still a pretty internalized dude, but after a couple of years with him, I am certain he's a diamond and wouldn't trade him for the world. And I don't think he's all that unique - there really are so many good ones out there. If you're not finding them at all, it's a good opportunity to rethink what your budget is and what your must-have criteria are.

                                    That being said, the process certainly can be frustrating. The number of times I've had horses not be what they are advertised to be is sometimes stunning (note, "experienced Preliminary horse" does not mean it did one Prelim and didn't get past the second fence. Just sayin'). 'Course, it's not really all that different from having folks send horses who are actually limping to a vet check . . .


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by GotSpots View Post
                                      'Course, it's not really all that different from having folks send horses who are actually limping to a vet check . . .
                                      Sadly, too true.

                                      Then there are the 16.2 horses that are 15.2 with shoes . . . the horses that you can see have been lunged into a lather before you arrived . . . the horses that are three legged lame and being ridden by the trainer . . . who then admits "he doesn't always go like this".

                                      Once again, I just want my next horse dropped off at the barn. if it doesn't work out, I'll sell it.
                                      Equine Ink - My soapbox for equestrian writings & reviews.
                                      EquestrianHow2 - Operating instructions for your horse.


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by GotSpots View Post
                                        I don't know if you are being too picky, but gosh, there sure are a lot of folks who are. It does, of course, depend on what you are looking for, but in my experience, I've found the folks who are looking for career lower level horses and/or trail horses to sometimes have the most unrealistic expectations either of what their budget would buy or even of what they'd need.
                                        Oh, I hate that! I had a little girl who wanted to buy a nice mare I was selling--15 hand QH, could easily do Novice with this kid, who rode her in lessons with my coach for several months and fell in love. They were a great match. I think she was about 10 or 11 at the time.

                                        The dad decided he wanted to learn to ride too, and that the little mare was too small for him. He went out and bought a 17 hand OTTB so that they could share the horse.

                                        Bet you know how THAT worked out in the long run . . .