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Reading between the lines seller's make about their horses

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    Reading between the lines seller's make about their horses

    During my horse hunting over the last several months, I have had to learn to "read between the lines" of what sellers are actually saying about their horses.

    One comment that I have heard recently about a couple I am considering is "the horse lacks self-confidence." Getting clarification on how this is exhibited by the horse is vague. Is he timid, spooky, not focused, lacking training, etc?
    When you hear a horse described this way, what do you infer it to mean?

    What comments by sellers have you found to be tricky to decipher?

    The horse shopping experience has been an eye opener...
    My abilities to infer and sniff out BS have certainly improved.

    Happy riding,

    Last edited by chebeau; Jun. 25, 2019, 05:52 PM.

    I would interpret this to mean the rider lacks confidence

    Honestly, I wouldn't really believe anything anyone says about their horse. Pro sales agents know how to put a good spin on things, and ammies who are selling a horse that they aren't enjoying riding can believe and say just about anything.

    A few weeks back, in reference to buying overseas or sight unseen, one of the posters who is pro or at least semi-pro said that they research the seller, not the horse. Meaning they want to find breeders they trust. It's really good advice though. So I would say ask for clarification, but use it as an opportunity to research the seller. Listen more than you talk, and see if what they are saying corresponds with what you know about horsemanship.

    "Horse lacks confidence" can be code word for just about any kind of behavior. In addition to obvious things like he refuses jumps or spooks at his own shadow, "lacks confidence" also gets used in some groundwork and horsemanship programs as the default excuse for any bad behavior. The point being that if the horse had total confidence in his rider, he would walk through fire for you and obey your every wish and command, so if he isn't, then he lacks confidence (and needs more time in the round pen learning your body language, or whatever).

    In general, I would listen to whatever the seller has to say. I would quietly evaluate it for consistency and believability. Then I would watch them ride, and keep my eye out for bad habits *in the rider* that might suggest why the horse is behaving like they claim. And then I would ride it, and make up my own mind.


      Not related to sales, but I recall being puzzled when my horse’s trainer said that when he was breaking my horse.
      To me now, it means a animal that has a consistent environment and fair treatment, knows what he can do to get praise and what behavior he shouldn’t do.
      The horse knows that he will be treated fairly and Knows from experience he will be safe (not placed in scary situations) with his human.


        without seeing the horse interact within a herd I would assume the horse said to lack self confidence would be a lower herd member.... which is not a bad thing. One of the most versatile horses we ever had was a low ranking herd member, she was very obedient, very consistent.

        And we have had one that was very self confident... nothing was impossible for him...but neither was it impossible for the low ranking horse, he just had a flare of get out my way , he worked at being on top where as the lower ranking member everything was pretty easy for her she just did her job and looked pretty with an attitude of what's the fuss and could I have another peppermint, please


          I would think this means that the horse takes his confidence from the rider, perhaps is the type that always seems to be worried. In turn, the rider needs to be a brave, confident, and encouraging leader for the horse so he can face those situations and succeed. Basically, not a good match for a timid rider or someone who needs a confidence builder. That would be my interpretation.


            In my experience these past three years from both buyers and sellers in specific incidents-
            Very calm and laid back= sedated
            good in an arena= spooky everywhere else
            no go= will buck you off when you mount
            what's the least you will take? = [not always but most times ime] gonna flip him
            will you accept a good check?= how gullible are you?
            just needs groceries = multitude of undiagnosed health issues
            ready to finish = if you can catch him to start him
            Caring for Clifford, my big red dog and assorted monkeys, I mean goats. Protected by a few loyal Anatolian Shepherd Dogs and Kangals.


              Great dressage prospect - hangs so badly jumping a crossrail in flat cups is risky
              Needs experienced rider - rank
              Needs confident rider - less than 10 rides total
              Great trail prospect - barely broke, not suitable for any arena discipline
              The plural of anecdote is not data.


                Ya know, it's a real witch to write honest horse ads when you know every statement will be amplified to the 10th power in the buyer's mind. I mean, I get the old hoss tradin' tropes and their handed down truths, but on one thread we get crucified for not being honest and on another straight allegory is attributed to those most basic of equine "truths".

                Lacks self-confidence = Needs his hand held at times, or all the time, or just for the first time around a new ring, or at white picket fences with purple polka dots.

                What this means for you: You cannot come out of the corner, take your leg off, drop your reins, and come up with 0 decisions and expect things to go well. Horses that lack confidence must have decision makers in the saddle. Some are good with just that, some require those decisions to also be correct.

                Many of these horses do find their confidence, others get better but still revert when unsure. The rest will probably never be a true "amateur" ride.

                The question you actually want to ask, no matter what the horse's weakness is (and he will have 1, 2, or 3+ depending on your budget), is how does this horse react to being challenged/scared/uncertain?

                Therein the truth lies.
                EHJ | FB | #140 | watch | #insta


                  Well, yes, dags, because if you write an honest ad that says something like "requires a positive ride" for exactly the horse you describe - sweet, willing, but not an automaton, requires direction - you will get inquiries about whether it's suitable for an 8 year old beginner and asking when can they try him. When they show up, they will not have a coach and it will turn out the 8 year old has had 10 lessons at the local up-downer barn. Ask me how I know.

                  I'm an equal opportunity offender - I have just as many foolish, clueless buyer stories as I do sketchy seller stories.
                  Last edited by McGurk; Jun. 25, 2019, 01:19 PM.
                  The plural of anecdote is not data.


                    Unfortunately I don't have time to bring this lovely boy along = because I have to drive into town for PT every day since the last time he bucked me off

                    Needs someone to bring out her true potential = way too much horse for poor little old me


                      Originally posted by furlong47 View Post
                      I would think this means that the horse takes his confidence from the rider, perhaps is the type that always seems to be worried. In turn, the rider needs to be a brave, confident, and encouraging leader for the horse so he can face those situations and succeed. Basically, not a good match for a timid rider or someone who needs a confidence builder. That would be my interpretation.
                      This. One who will jump anything if you put your leg on and ride up to it but who will stop if you start fussing and take your leg off. Nothing wrong with this if you're the right kind of rider for this kind of horse.
                      "The Son Dee Times" "Sustained" "Somerset" "Franklin Square"


                        The new one is “Horse is for sale due to no fault of his own” I have seen countless ads with this phrase. I do not get the point of this. It is not like the horse has any choice in the matter. Can anyone enlightened me?


                          Originally posted by PonyPenny View Post
                          The new one is “Horse is for sale due to no fault of his own” I have seen countless ads with this phrase. I do not get the point of this. It is not like the horse has any choice in the matter. Can anyone enlightened me?
                          People (stupidly) think this is the opposite of "this horse is evil and I can't wait to be rid of him." They think it's a nice way of saying "I am not selling this horse because he's a bad horse, I am selling him for some external reason having nothing to do with him."
                          "The Son Dee Times" "Sustained" "Somerset" "Franklin Square"


                            Originally posted by PonyPenny View Post
                            The new one is “Horse is for sale due to no fault of his own” I have seen countless ads with this phrase. I do not get the point of this. It is not like the horse has any choice in the matter. Can anyone enlightened me?
                            It is supposed to convey the idea that the seller otherwise loves the horse and wouldn't sell it, except for extenuating circumstances unrelated to the horse itself, such as financial issues, (seller's) health, relocating for job/school, etc. Frequently buyers will ask why the horse is for sale, and this is sort of a way around that question.

                            Unfortunately, the phrase, as you mentioned, is popping up everywhere, so it seems like sellers feel the need to include it along with "up to date on teeth/worming/vaccines/trim" and "ties, loads, clips, trailers, bathes"
                            "So relax! Let's have some fun out here! This game's fun, OK? Fun goddamnit." Crash Davis; Bull Durham


                              Originally posted by PonyPenny View Post
                              The new one is “Horse is for sale due to no fault of his own” I have seen countless ads with this phrase. I do not get the point of this. It is not like the horse has any choice in the matter. Can anyone enlightened me?
                              Because horse's do indeed have "faults" that make them hard sells. Spooks, bucks, fails PPEs, stops, bolts, requires riders to actually ride, etc.

                              Not new terminology. Often accompanied by "Back on the market" to indicate the reasoning buyer backed out was not failed vettings or misbehavior. Or used to explain away certain biases that keep chestnut mares and thoroughbreds on the market for forever. Or, in its purest sense, owner is moving/divorcing/graduating/dead and the horse, despite doing everything right and being The Greatest Boy Ever, finds itself for sale.
                              EHJ | FB | #140 | watch | #insta


                                My least favorite sale word is "unicorn." I never want to see that in an ISO or sale ad ever again.
                                "The Son Dee Times" "Sustained" "Somerset" "Franklin Square"


                                  ^ I just don't want to EVER see any more pictures of anyone standing on a horse's back, or videos of same.
                                  If thou hast a sorrow, tell it not to the arrow, tell it to thy saddlebow, and ride on, singing. -- King Alfred the Great


                                    As a seller, I try to write my ads to get a conversation going. I have sold lots of horses over the last 20 years and most buyers have lots of hopes, dreams, and expectations baked into their search. My job as a seller is to find a situation where the horse can be successful, so there has to be a fit. Fjords have a reputation as being "born broke" and completely docile. Some are, but most take a basic degree of handling and riding ability to be successful. Fjords are smart and can be pushy if allowed to. I get lots of "I'm a timid rider" or "I need a unicorn." My experience is that most of these folks can't ride, don't want to learn how to ride, and have this romantic notion of communing with their horse while trail riding alone in the woods. I had one timid rider get on a horse who was so tense, the horse literally started calling to his buddies and would not steer at a walk. This is a horse trained in dressage and eventing. I will say no to a bad fit. I will say it right off the bat because I do not want to waste my time or your time with a fit that does not work. I am not trying to be difficult, but the horse should be the winner in the sale. So my suggestion to all buyers is to CALL the seller and talk to the seller. Forget emails or texts; you learn more from speaking when screening than anything. And for those who say phone calls are inconvenient, it is less inconvenient than a visit when the horse/rider are not a good fit.
                                    Where Norwegian Fjords Rule


                                      back to the original question... one of our schoolies is the epitome of "horse lacks self-confidence". He's trained to the 9s but is such.a.worrier. He's so afraid of making a mistake that he takes a chilly rider to perform to his potential. I am not said rider- we light each other up as he will feed on rider emotions. We inherited him, did none of the brain-frying. He's such a pretty mover when he trusts the rider.


                                        Original Poster

                                        Other comments I have had:

                                        Needs an assertive rider....I assume the horse balks or refuses things being asked or has tuned the rider out or just doesn't know what is being asked and how to respond.

                                        Another seller says her confidence is shaken by her horse, and she came off a couple times. While doing some digging, I found old FB live videos of the horse and her. Seems she came off frequently and probably was asking too much of the young horse. He looked rattled. Heck, the cart she was using on him broke in two pieces. Probably not a good fit between horse and rider, and definitely greener than I am wanting at the moment.

                                        IronwoodFarm I totally agree about calling and talking to them. I listen to see if I am getting consistent answers, take notes as I go, and then review them later against the sales ad or what they have messaged me. I try to ask similar questions to see if I get the same response. Sometimes it is like talking about two completely different horses.

                                        I am not a fan of hearing them called unicorns, heart horses (then why sell?), or seeing someone standing on the horse's back or seeing a toddler or baby on them. I'd rather seem them showing how easily they can have their hooves handled or being tacked up or just good video of walk, trot, canter....

                                        I do want actual conformation shots of the horse without tack, and that can be hard to get. Makes me wonder what they hiding when I can't get them.

                                        Today, I met one of horses who was described as needing self-confidence. Sweet horse.... seemed dull to any cues or aids given by the rider on him... learned he can be terribly herd bound (does what he can to get to the other horses)..I think he had 90 days of solid training early on, but he wasn't consistently worked with and spent time as rent a ride trail horse in the Smokey Mountains. He has potential, yet I don't want the headache of a herd bound horse.

                                        Love reading all of the responses....

                                        Happy riding,