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WWYD: Buying The First Horse?

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  • RooTheDay
    started a topic WWYD: Buying The First Horse?

    WWYD: Buying The First Horse?

    (Disclaimer: I have an excellent trainer who regularly sees me ride and whose opinion I trust very much. I have discussed this subject with her. I am not using COTH as a substitute for professional advice. With that said...)

    tl;dr: Returned to riding a little under a year ago after a break of more than a decade. Have been looking for a full lease for about half that time, but haven't found anything suitable. When would you bite the bullet and go ahead and buy?

    Long version:

    Rode for about a decade as a kid and young adult, working for lessons and doing low-level H/J on schoolies that maxed at 2'6". (Owning or leasing back then was not an option due to finances.) Was a pretty sticky kid who rode the naughty ones and mostly stayed on, with a few notable exceptions, but never went beyond that.

    Took more than a decade off. Worked on my career and my finances and tried to find a less expensive, dangerous, time-consuming hobby that would be anywhere near as satisfying. Failed. Started back again last March in biweekly-ish group lessons. Quickly realized I hadn't grinned this much in years and rearranged my life to permit as much equine activity as available. Fast forward to today, when I have two part leases (2x/week and 1x/week on a 10yo OTTB and 18yo Appendix QH), lessons most weeks with an Advanced eventer and graduate A Pony Clubber who is far too good to be teaching the likes of me, a Pony Club membership with a group that meets biweekly, and a role as a part-time horse serf.

    Now, I realized very quickly that I needed more saddle time to unsuck, so I started looking for a full lease on something that could take me around BN (when appropriate) about six months ago. Broadcast my goals to anyone who would stand still. Have a number of people, including the owner of my farm, multiple instructors, and my trainer (who are all far kinder to me than I deserve!), looking on my behalf. Nothing has worked out--I've had a couple leads, but in the end, nothing I can move to my current barn, which is important to me because, as a wannabe eventer who has never done more than schooled a few cross-country obstacles back in the day, I am unquestionably in need of continued supervision.

    So this is the point at which I begin to consider more seriously the idea of going ahead and purchasing something suitable. But, naturally, there are a few sticking points that make the timing not ideal. To wit:

    Being good enough to assess suitability: I can competently W/T/C both in-ring and hacking out. I'm still pretty sticky and regularly sit spooks (the 10yo is a bit of a danger mouse at times), and am still amused by it. I've been told by multiple folks that I have some remnants of a good seat and soft hands (as well as that the boy I'm riding is not the easiest to flat), and I am starting to remember how to maintain contact and get a horse round, though my leg and hands are still noisy. That said, due to (lack of) suitable horse, I only started jumping again about a month ago, and while I remember how to set a horse up and retain my determination that Horse Goes Over Jump Or I Go Off, There Is No Other Way, my equitation over fences is just unspeakable. I've tried and am trying to jump more, but so far it hasn't worked out.

    Goals for now vs. goals for later: As mentioned previously, I want to event, and the extent of my experience thereto is schooling some individual cross-country obstacles 20 years ago. My current goal is to safely get around Intro and finish on a number. I understand that any other goals are a long, long way away. That said (in my secret heart of hearts, someday down the road, if ever safe and appropriate), I have aspirations of going Prelim. I'm not at all sure that a horse that I could ride now would be a horse that would have the scope for that... but I'm also not sure I could sell my first-ever horse, the culmination of 30 years of dreaming, to move up.

    The last part of the equation is, of course, money, because I'm aware that that will heavily affect the answers I'll get. The short form there is that I'm fortunate enough that I theoretically can spend what it would take; having kept an eye on the market, it looks like prelim packers are generally around $40K-$50K, novice packers around $15K-$25K, and anything in between is... well, in between. I would prefer to stay closer to the lower end of those two sets of numbers (had had around $30K all in in my head), but am open to convincing. I am hoping the following factors would help me do it: I don't care about sex or color (except not grey.) I would expect to get a TB (which I grew up riding and like.) I don't care if it wins the dressage. With that said, I do probably need at least 16h due to my height, and I do want something that will, as Wofford advises, take me to the jumps.

    So if you were me, what would you do?

    a) Go horse shopping for a _____ level horse costing around _____ with a plan to ____!
    b) Keep looking for a full lease and doing what I'm doing and wait ____ period, then a) if there are no options after ____ period!
    c) Take advantage of the leases at other farms for more ride time at least until ____ standard is met!
    d) Completely other option _________!

    3, 2, 1... go!

  • Gardenhorse
    replied
    Have you looked at Bascule Farm? It’s in Poolesville. I’m not sure which part of Montgomery county you’re in so don’t know if it would be convenient or not. I’m not familiar with it personally, but they seem to have lesson horses and various half lease possibilities.

    Leave a comment:


  • CHT
    replied
    What if you change your goals for your first horse? Instead of a talented TB, what about considering a less typical breed (QH, Saddlebred, Morgan, Draft Cross), that is sane and safe, and will carry you around 2'-2'6" in a non-spectacular manner, and be a blast to trail ride. You can get one like that for under $6000 where I live. The reason I say sane and safe, is that those are typically resalable even if only sound enough to flat. I think buying a tough horse for your first horse isn't the greatest idea, as it will be harder to resell once your skill set outgrows it. Get confidence and miles on horse, and let your horse savings grow to afford a Prelim horse.

    Leave a comment:


  • Crazy4aOTTB
    replied
    What about asking your current trainer to help you with an ISO ad for Facebook. I was recently looking for a horse and had my trainer type up an ad for exactly what I was looking for (age, height, sex, lease/or buy, price range, location and brief description of your riding abilities and what you want to do with said horse). You mentioned that placing the horse at your trainers was very important so definitely put that in the ad! I joined a bunch of local area horse for sale/lease pages and literally got 10-25 prospects to look at!

    Leave a comment:


  • polkadotedpony
    replied
    As someone who couldn’t own due to financial and time constraints up until recently I really feel your pain in the limited school horse and lease department. The reality is our culture has become so much more risk averse (not saying that’s bad, just reality) that off property care leases on nice horses are a rarity at this point. One of my friends lost her horse, is a very competent rider and wonderful caring horse woman with good finances and has been looking for a full lease for 6 months and no dice. The one I know of is to a super talented junior, people really pulled strings for her and the owner lives in the area and is still super involved. I think your original plan was good for what you need but as you’re finding, it may not materialize.

    It sounds like you have a relatively sticky and are brave so maybe someone would be interested in a care lease on their project horse they’ve lost time/finances for if you could put the horse in part training and lesson once a week. Basically someone with a reasonably sensible but green horse that would find the free training/relief from expenses appealing. You may need to hold off on jumping it for a little while as the trainer gives it more miles. You may find it’s too much horse if it’s green or you may really take to it and learn a lot. The nice part is you could always send it back if it’s a poor match.

    I agree with others that without more jumping miles I just don’t think you’re ready to know what you want. I’m sure your trainer is great but horses are super personal so what she thinks is great may not really click with your style. I think you need probably another 6 months of lessons on a variety of horses, not just the same 2 to figure what you really like in a horse. It sounds like you tend to bond and are super responsible about retirement care and I’d hate for you to rush into a purchase now and then feel obligated to stick with a horse that you just don’t gel with, which can really hamper your enjoyment and progress.

    Leave a comment:


  • KnockedOut
    replied
    While I wasn't in the market for my first horse, I did have my aspirations on a goal when shopping for my most recent horse. I had muddled around most of my life on borrowed horses in the 2'6" divisions, but I always had dreams of doing the A/A jumpers at 1.10m. So that's what was on my mind when shopping. I was also pretty set on wanting a lease.

    The problem I found was that the lease options that allow you to basically "own" the horse for a year are really expensive. And most people won't let you take a horse away from their trainer/barn to your own unless you pay a year lease fee. Nice horses/packers/etc are worth their weight in gold and it's not worth the risk to allow someone to take it off property without ample financial incentive.

    At the point where my lease fee was 90% of the purchase price of the same type of horse I said forget it and just bought a horse instead.

    This may not be totally on your topic but I wanted to say it just because of what happened to me and my dream goal. I went out and bought a horse capable of doing what my goal was. Been there done that but at a reasonable price. I moved up and immediately realized I didn't like it at all. The jumps were big, they came up really fast and I just don't think I'm cut out for that. I never before had considered that I might reach my goal and decide I didn't want it.

    Luckily the horse I bought is a nice, safe little three ring horse so I can either do the hunters, or move down and stay at a lower division - whatever makes me happy. Anyway, I just wanted to bring that up since it had kind of taken me by surprise.

    I guess that's a long way to say, buy the horse you need now and 1-2 years in the future. Live in the moment and enjoy.

    Leave a comment:


  • Moonlitoaks
    replied
    If you want to focus on riding, don't buy your own. Ride the schooling horses until you get to the level you want to be.

    If you want your own, pick a horse at the level you and your trainer think is appropriate. Best advice I can think of is to take your time. The right horse will come along. Wait for the one that hits all the required boxes, no matter how cute or sweet that green one is.

    Leave a comment:


  • MegBackInSaddle
    replied
    I'm not sure I have any truly helpful advice. But I do want to say, I love your attitude! Your appreciative, nearly self-deprecating descriptions of where you're at and what you want show a lovely mindset.

    I'm a re-riding newbie. Parents met in a stable, I grew up on horses, mostly green, mostly western. Came back to riding as an adult and went English. Was never an educated jumper, and confidence was an issue one I reached the no-more-bounce age.

    Then...

    I rode my Winnie B. A project horse of my sister's. The first time I jumped her, things were fun instead of scary. I'd jump the three tiny jumps Mom specified in the correct order, then *WAHOO* over a fourth because it was sooooo much fun! The accidental super-long spot was hilarious instead of terrifying. I loved her! She listened at a volume at which I was comfortable speaking (I like a bit hotter vs colder). She was perfect. I rode her daily for a week at a time during two visits.

    And Sis gave her to me. I had zero dressage exposure, zero XC exposure, but I knew I wanted us to try XC. (The "give" was a little complicated. I'm in Ontario, horse and Sis in Oklahoma. I'd never boarded before, only had horses with my parents, etc. But where there's a will...) I found an eventing coach, and less than a year after she landed with me, we had one of the most fabulous experiences of MY LIFE at our first HT (I think Canadian Entry is equivalent to US BN).

    All of this to say, winging it with my responsive, athletic, sensitive, smart girl has been SO rewarding. I'm for owning. I love having MY mare! I set tiny, arbitrary goals. But I don't care if we fail, so long as the journey is fun. And my budget sounds a lot lower than yours.

    Leave a comment:


  • winter
    replied
    I agree that 6 months of jumping at least 2-3 days/week at a H/J barn before you buy is a great idea. Either on school horses or a lease. I understand the paid lease fees are daunting when you compare to the cost of a going training level eventer that would suit your needs, but you will progress so so much quicker if you jump as many jumps in the ring on a broke horse as you can. It will allow you to safely improve your position and It will give you the skills to evaluate the horse you then buy. This will translate into confidence and safety cross country and of course help in the stadium phase. It sounds like your flat skills are already quite good. The best event riders I know are the ones who can also confidently ride a nice course at a jumper show without looking out of place. I also think sometimes a HJ barn is better equipped to give you a good EQ foundation than some eventing barns.

    My sad story that is somewhat relevant to your situation: I tried to re-learn to jump on a powerful spooky 3 year old that I started myself and it was a complete mistake. I then doubled down on my mistake by continuing to start horses and got hurt, never getting any closer to being a better jump rider and also now being afraid. Not that you are suggesting or even considering buying a two year old to start, but I can't emphasize enough how much I wish I had spent that time jumping consistently on a broke horse before I went down the rabbit hole of starting young horses. I had good flat work and continued to bank on that instead of getting as much over fences work as I could. Instead of increasing my understanding of riding to fences I only succeeded in a decade of progressively decreasing my confidence and ingraining bad habits and defensive riding. My position and Eq was good over fences (I think in contrast to what you're saying about yourself) so it appeared that I knew more than I did to my instructors (and myself) but I really had no idea what I should be feeling or how I should be reacting. I thought I had a solid foundation from my younger years when really I did not. Finally, I lucked out in spite of myself with a horse I started who is a very good jumper and am finally learning to jump on a green but talented jumping horse who has enlightened me for the first time what it's supposed to feel like. After a lifetime of riding, I had never once ridden a horse that allowed me to properly learn because I never made access to one a priority because I didn't know just how revelatory it could be.

    The point of that whole story is: get in as many jumps as you can on an experienced jumping horse before you chose the horse that you want to buy because you really need to know what that horse and ride should feel like. Time can go by so quickly when you're an AA, especially if you want to progress, make sure you make the best of it.

    Also, excellent advice that you will have many horses. Do not think the now horse has to be the later horse if you have serious sport goals.

    Leave a comment:


  • RooTheDay
    replied
    Originally posted by IPEsq View Post
    Given how you have represented your riding, especially the jumping part, I think that to get a horse now that would suit your needs now but also be able to move up to Prelim in the future is unrealistic.
    This is what I was figuring, but it's really good to have it confirmed by someone in a position to know what she's talking about. Excellent advice all around. Thank you!

    Originally posted by BatCoach View Post
    Its fantastic to have goals, but I would be wary of getting too hung up on them, especially since that goal is much higher than any level your rode before (in your younger, bouncier days). This will be your first horse, so as much as you are learning and riding now, you will be learning and riding even more, and learning isn't always a steady or fast process. You might find you are perfectly happy at Novice, or that your horse is more suited to just dressage or just jumping and you might be fine with that.
    Sage wisdom about not getting too far ahead! On the one hand, it's very hard to know where your journey's going to go; on the other hand, setting goals can sometimes be useful for its value in figuring out how to get there.

    There's two main cases you address: I don't want to play, and horse doesn't want to play.

    For the first, if I do wind up buying something (even something with the talent for more) and don't want to go above Novice, that's fine by me. I won't feel like I've wasted the horse or failed; I'll just feel like I've learned more about what I want to do. I don't think the horse is likely to pine away wanting to jump an extra three or six or nine inches if it's fat, happy, shiny, well-kept, and getting regular attention.

    For the second, if I already had a horse that didn't want to event, I'd certainly find some other way to work with it, because I know I would be delighted with the animal I had. With that said, given that I am in a position to try and find something that wants to play, I'm going to try my best to do so; if life has other plans, though, I'll roll with it.

    Originally posted by Gardenhorse View Post
    I don’t know anything about H/J barns, but you might look at Waredaca. They have school horses, and along with the lesson program they have some options for private lessons. Although the main eventing trainer, Steph Kohr may be south for the winter.
    Waredaca is an amazing place! Unfortunately, they're a bit light on schoolies who can jump at the moment; some of their Pony Club horses can, but the PC kids get priority there.

    Also, I know you said you’ve networked extensively looking for a lease horse, but you might consider posting on the USEA Area II Facebook page if you haven’t done so already. It has a pretty large membership.
    A really good idea, but I haven't been on Facebook in a decade or so. I've been considering/weighing whether it's worth getting back on exclusively for networking opportunities, but so far haven't pulled the trigger on that.

    Originally posted by Libby2563 View Post
    Greystone Farm in Brookeville and Destination Farm in Dickerson (just across the line in Frederick County) are both eventing barns with a few horses available to ride in lessons.

    As far as H/J barns, maybe try Surmont in Poolesville? They're lower-key than some of the other H/J barns in the area.

    I'll keep thinking...
    Thank you! Destination looks like an amazing place, but would be hard to make the drive work at the times I'd most likely be going. Will look into Greystone and Surmont, and appreciate any other ideas that come to mind! Will also post a thread over in H/J just in case anyone else has some ideas.

    Originally posted by BunnyHugger View Post
    RooTheDay I have no advice, no experience in the eventing world but I just wanted to say... you really should start a blog about your eventing journey, I love your writing style and your self-evaluation!
    You are so sweet! I used to write a fair amount for pleasure, but now with the full-time-plus job, two part-time jobs, return to riding, significant other, and dog, it's harder to find time. I feel so lucky that so many smart people have taken the time to advise me here, though! COTH really is a wealth of expertise.

    Leave a comment:


  • BunnyHugger
    replied
    RooTheDay I have no advice, no experience in the eventing world but I just wanted to say... you really should start a blog about your eventing journey, I love your writing style and your self-evaluation!

    Leave a comment:


  • Libby2563
    replied
    Originally posted by Gardenhorse View Post
    I don’t know anything about H/J barns, but you might look at Waredaca. They have school horses, and along with the lesson program they have some options for private lessons. Although the main eventing trainer, Steph Kohr may be south for the winter.
    Yes, I think Steph is away until March but Waredaca is a good suggestion.

    Greystone Farm in Brookeville and Destination Farm in Dickerson (just across the line in Frederick County) are both eventing barns with a few horses available to ride in lessons.

    As far as H/J barns, maybe try Surmont in Poolesville? They're lower-key than some of the other H/J barns in the area.

    I'll keep thinking...

    Leave a comment:


  • Gardenhorse
    replied
    Also, I know you said you’ve networked extensively looking for a lease horse, but you might consider posting on the USEA Area II Facebook page if you haven’t done so already. It has a pretty large membership.

    Leave a comment:


  • Gardenhorse
    replied
    Originally posted by RooTheDay View Post

    Anyone have any suggestions as to a potentially suitable place in Montgomery County, MD?
    I don’t know anything about H/J barns, but you might look at Waredaca. They have school horses, and along with the lesson program they have some options for private lessons. Although the main eventing trainer, Steph Kohr may be south for the winter.

    Leave a comment:


  • joiedevie99
    replied
    I would start with 6 months to a year at an h/j lesson barn. You'll get exposure to jumping different types of horses, and you'll be able to jump more often than you would if you had your own horse (and wanted to keep him sound/fresh).

    When you're comfortable again, I'd look for the safe 7-12 year old with some novice/training experience, or the 15 year old stepping down from prelim+.

    Leave a comment:


  • BatCoach
    replied
    Its fantastic to have goals, but I would be wary of getting too hung up on them, especially since that goal is much higher than any level your rode before (in your younger, bouncier days). This will be your first horse, so as much as you are learning and riding now, you will be learning and riding even more, and learning isn't always a steady or fast process. You might find you are perfectly happy at Novice, or that your horse is more suited to just dressage or just jumping and you might be fine with that.

    I bought my horse when all the leasing opportunities in my budget were drying up. My great lease horse was being retired, and the next horse had a freak pasture accident making him only pasture sound. I kept getting saddle time by legging up horses coming back from an injury and putting gentle miles on babies, but I was at the point where I really needed a horse of my own to develop with, take lessons on, bond, and just have a fun time! I didn't have the budget that you do, so I had to go bargain basement and accept that he would be a bit of a project, but at least I had a horse to ride. My goal was to ride 2nd level dressage with him, and we will get there, but it has taken much longer than I thought. But it doesn't bother me, I'm in a non-competitive barn and I enjoy the training process.

    I guess my point is that I think you are in a position to get a decent horse w/ the assistance of your trainer. Get something you can ride now and enjoy it. You might find that your perspective changes once you are invested in an animal of your own.

    Leave a comment:


  • IPEsq
    replied
    Originally posted by RooTheDay View Post


    Would prefer not to board two at one time, but it's conceivable. As noted upthread, if I bought something in its mid to late teens, I would expect to retire it--don't want it to end up in a bad place. Not sure if I'd be willing to resell even a younger one, and won't know that until I was facing that decision, but would certainly lease to the right situation (someone like me!)

    Not sure I have the time to keep two in work five or six days a week on top of my actual job--with that said, horses being horses, that wouldn't necessarily be a problem due to lamenesses!




    I feel confident I could find something topped out at N that would be rideable for me and also towards the lower end of the budget. I'd be willing to go higher in the budget to find something rideable right now who is also confirmed at T, maybe with scope for Prelim, but I'm not sure that that horse exists given my current skills. Thoughts on that would be welcome.

    If you get a low level or stepping down horse in its teens, you might be able to resell or lease out if it stays sound enough and is decent enough at the dressage part. Of course, you can't ever depend on reselling anything, because...horses.

    Given how you have represented your riding, especially the jumping part, I think that to get a horse now that would suit your needs now but also be able to move up to Prelim in the future is unrealistic. You might be able to get the scope for Prelim looking at the top of your budget, but what you ought to buy for that level is one that is already confident jumping at that level. If you buy this as your first horse, then it also needs to be tolerant enough of your current skills and be able to get back to Prelim in several more years. That is a big ask. The more advanced the level of the schoolmaster, the bigger the dollars. This one for sure is not going to be available for care lease. A lower level schoolmaster will help you build some skills to maybe get more of a normal (good egg but not necessarily a total schoolmaster) horse for horse #2 to move up.

    Additionally, the more the scope the horse has and the more careful he is, the better you have to be able to ride over the jumps. And you aren't there now. I mean, my last horse occasionally jumped 4' over crossrails. You may be able to ride out a bit on the flat, but you said your jumping position is awful at the moment. Do not buy your someday jumper now. And really, the better the event horse, the more they want you to kind of leave them alone to the jumps. It takes a lot of body control to do nothing on a bold, scopey horse.

    With the right match, it is possible to take a less experienced horse and grow with them. But you really need a full program to maximize the odds of this working. Lots of supervision at the least if not training rides to give the horse confidence at the next level. And finding that horse that is also a good match for where your riding is now is a pretty tall order.

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  • RooTheDay
    replied
    Originally posted by Scribbler View Post

    Ok sorry I must have misread a post or got you confused with someone else! Apologies!
    No worries at all and no need to apologize--I really appreciate your advice, and that you took the time to give it (I always enjoy reading your posts!) I just wanted to make sure I could fix my words if I'd been unclear somewhere and given that impression...

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  • She's Pure Gold
    replied
    Originally posted by RooTheDay View Post

    You're absolutely right that a packer is what I'd need if I were going to buy right now, but I had hoped to avoid needing to retire the first horse in five years or so. It's not out of the question, though--I do expect to have a place where I could do that within that timeframe.



    If you'd be willing, I'd be very interested in hearing more about how this went for you!
    PM'D you!

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  • Scribbler
    replied
    Originally posted by RooTheDay View Post

    I don't at all think that, Scribbler! In fact I thought I said repeatedly in my replies that the idea to go find a good H/J barn and do some additional jumping lessons was a great one, one that hadn't occurred to me previously, and that I just needed to find that barn.

    Where did I say I didn't think it would be useful?
    Ok sorry I must have misread a post or got you confused with someone else! Apologies!

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