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Sale barn advice?

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  • Sale barn advice?

    Hi! I am hoping to extend my family by 1 horse this year. This will be my first horse, and I am in my upper 40's...finally time to follow my heart instead of my kid's! anyway, looking for an all around quiet well trained young horse. I am totally an amateur, will do some dressage, maybe a bit of hunter, mostly be loved on and trail ridden. I will be working with a trainer. qLooking for a barn with warm blood types, partial to draft crosses. Also I havent won the powerball, so looking to stay under 5K. I spoke to Virginia Sport Horses, and they seemed to be on the same page as me, but saw some posts that are making me nervous about them.
    Would appreciate any suggestions, I am in TN but willing to travel to AL, GA, NC, SC, Kentucky.
    Thank you so much!

  • #2
    How long have you been riding? My advice may be a little basic if you've been around horses for a long time, but here goes:

    1. Insist on a trial. It is very hard if not impossible for someone who has never owned a horse to be able to spot things that might indicate a bad match just on a trial ride or two before purchase. I've gotten it wrong 4 times. Please learn from my mistakes!

    2. Do not think of it as buying a horse; approach it as if you were buying a car. Treat the seller as you would a greasy used car salesman. No need to be rude to them, but they will tell you anything. And everything. Do not be impressed when they show you photos of their 4 year old standing on the horse's back without a helmet. It doesn't mean the horse is quiet, it just means they don't like their 4 year old much. Seriously, be suspicious, observant, and ask lots of questions. Ask the same question a few times, worded differently. I can't tell you how many times that resulted in different answers for me. I don't know VA Sport Horses personally, but I do know that sale barns are in the business of selling horses. Caveat Emptor and all that jazz.

    3. Do your homework. Google, search facebook, contact the previous owner if their name is on the papers, and for goodness sake check and verify the competition record if the horse has one. I can't tell you how many times I've been told that a person has owned Poopsie for 5 years and that they've shown here, there and everywhere, only to find that the seller actually picked up Poopsie 3 months ago at an auction. Or that the horse who always scores in the 70s actually only cracked 70 once, with lots of 40s on the way. Or the horse who never stops has as many E's as entries. People lie. Refer to suggestion #2.

    4. When you try the horse, make sure you can do everything that you intend. If you plan to walk/trot/canter and pop over x-rails and trail ride, you MUST do all those things on the trial ride. If you can't, it's the wrong horse. Buy the horse that fits you right now, not the one that will be good "with a little bit of training." People don't buy shoes or pants to grow into. They don't marry husbands that they might eventually fall in love with. But they overhorse themselves (or their trainers do it for them) all the time. I've done it. It was not a good idea, and we did not grow together.

    5. Reconsider the "young" horse. Young horses with suitable temperaments for ammies may not have the training to be suitable for ammies. An older horse may have some maintenance issues, but they also have more mileage and can sit for a few days or weeks if your life gets in the way, and not forget everything they've learned. They have a track record.

    6. Consider a lease. Many people who have the type of horse you are looking for do not part with them because they are immensely valuable. They are out there, but when people get them, they hold on to them. They are often willing to lease though. Or part lease. Also, if a lease goes bad, it's a lot easier to walk away from than a horse that you own. You then have to re-sell the bad fit, and start looking again with a reduced budget. Leasing can be costly too but there are definite advantages.

    7. Find good instruction, and build a team that you can rely on for good sound advice. You need a good instructor, a good vet and a good farrier at minimum. It's always nice to have someone to call when you think your horse is a little colicky or not quite right and you aren't quite sure if it rises to the level of having the vet out. It's also good to know a trainer or a rider whose skills are better than yours in case you encounter a problem you can't fix yourself. Hopefully you won't, but it happens. Especially if you're bad at picking like me.

    Good luck. I sincerely wish you the best and I hope my list helps. Please know that it has been compiled through multiple concussions, tears, sweat, a little bit of blood at times, and much cursing, second-guessing and regretting. I did not stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night, but I've screwed up enough horse purchases to have learned a lot.


    • #3
      If you are going to be working with a trainer, then get that trainer involved NOW. In fact, why not start lessons with the trainer so that he/she knows your strength, weaknesses and preferences. Do not run off and buy a horse without others helping you.

      I have no comment on the one barn you mentioned, but would direct you to the posts here. That should tell you something.

      I am pretty sure you'll be able to find a suitable horse locally with the help of a trainer.
      Where Fjeral Norwegian Fjords Rule


      • #4
        You don't say how long you've been riding.
        But, if you are like me, I rode from 8yo but did not buy my first horse until I was 39.
        I had enough schoolies and shareboards under my belt by then to know what I wanted and did not want in a horse.

        Find the trainer first, then ride, ride,ride, until you come across one that does what you want.
        Leasing is a good way to test how much you actually enjoy owning.

        Do not lock yourself into breed or age.
        My DH evented a TWH who was a so-so gaited horse, but a wonderful dressage and cross-country mount.
        A "young" horse today can be entering the teens and still have lots of good years left.
        *friend of bar.ka*RIP all my lovely boys, gone too soon:
        Steppin' Out 1988-2004
        Hey Vern! 1982-2009, Cash's Bay Threat 1994-2009
        Sam(Jaybee Altair) 1994-2015


        • #5
          I know there are some COTHers from TN that might be able to help. You could edit your title and put your location in. I agree with the advice of the previous posters. I would not go with "young" if that also means green. I would think you could fine something pretty nice in your price range in your area. And TN walkers have the best dispositions! Don't rule one out!


          • #6
            Go take lessons with trainers until you find one that you like, then take months to keep looking and let your trainer put the word out for what you are looking.

            This way, you will be more apt to find your dream horse in the first one, not have to kills several frogs to find that prince.

            In the end, that will save you time and money and heartache.


            • #7
              Don't give up or get discouraged with the horse hunt either. Sometimes it can take a long time to find that perfect match and 10 to 1 you'll kiss a few frogs first.

              Don't "settle" on a horse that you kind of like, or have to talk yourself into purchasing. Just because Pookie is the color of gold and farts butterflies doesn't make him the right horse for you. (Now if he farted dollar bills...).

              Meaty's post is GREAT (and can I borrow the bit about the 4 year old for my sig line... please?!) and touches on everything.

              Have fun with it!


              • #8
                Also for the part where it says make sure you try out the horse doing everything you want to do...

                ...make sure the seller does all of those things for you to see in person first before you get on. Ask me an my once-sprained ankle how I learned that one the hard way.

                I don't have any personal stories about Virginia Sport Horses but I've heard enough hinky things about them from other folks I'd think more than once about trying to work with them.

                Definitely agree you should work with a trainer/instructor first and get their opinion, preferably to go with you to look at whatever you're interested in (if you can't get a trainer, get a trusted horsey friend...) if you're like me, you'll be paying more attention to the horse itself than the things the seller is saying and it's good to have someone to be your backup brain to act as the voice of reason.

                And, honestly, Tennessee seems like pretty horsey country, I'm not sure you need to go out to Virginia to find what you're looking for, even if you do want a draft cross.
                The Trials and Jubilations of a Twenty-Something Re-rider
                Happy owner of Kieran the mostly-white-very-large-not-pony.


                • #9
                  You don't know me, but I'm begging you: don't buy a horse without professional help, and certainly not from a sale barn with a questionable reputation. And once you've got the trainer, get her to help find you a lease and take lessons for a year first. This will give you time to find out whether your trainer is a chump or a moron or a predatory con artist before you she talks you into buying a totally unsuitable horse. As a deluded re-rider, I gullibly went through 4 crap trainers and bought 3 inappropriate horses before I finally hit upon the correct combo.

                  Ironically, my awesome mare did come from a skeezy sale barn, albeit indirectly, so it's not impossible for that to work. But before I bought her I had the luxury of watching a junior rider at my barn win on her for a whole summer, so I knew the drugs had worn off and had a pretty good idea of her real temperament, abilities and market value.

                  Horse trading is not for the faint of heart. Vaya con Dios.
                  Dreadful Acres: the chronicle of my extraordinary unsuitability to country life


                  • #10
                    Please, get some help from a trainer you have taken some lessons with who knows you and what you need horsewise. It will be well worth it and save you from wasting far more then whatever they will charge you for finding you a horse and supervising the transaction.

                    The best sale horses are not advertised and rarely end up in the more notorious dealer barns that advertise alot and offer nothing but substandard horses, high pressure sales techniques like bait and switch and "there are 3 offers in already, if you don't buy now you'll lose him".

                    You need to go private or small bonafide training barns and it's impossible for a newbie to network enough to know what's out there.

                    Get somebody to help you stay safe and happy.
                    When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                    The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.


                    • Original Poster

                      Thanks so much for your thoughtful advice!!
                      I have a trainer, she is young but passionate about horses and seems trustworthy. I took a bad spill off her personal horse about 9 weeks ago (groan) and broke my arm in a few places, so I am a bit worried, as I take twice weekly lessons on this guy. I am "gounded" by my doc until at least January, so havent been back since. I am hoping to go back to her so that I do not have to start my team over!!


                      • #12
                        -Red flag alert! Red flag alert! WOOT! WOOT!

                        My two most costly mistake purchases were with the help of a "trainer.". Definitely a good idea to have help, but I'm not getting the warm fuzzies about a passionate young trainer who put you on a horse that you took a bad enough spill off of to break your arm so severely.

                        Lesson horses for beginners and timid adults are or should be saints who tolerate a lot. Now it could have totally been something silly or even your fault but i feel like there is more to this story.

                        Equine matchmaking is an art. I've never met a young trainer who mastered this. Its one of those things you have to learn by getting it wrong. Don't be this lady's guinea pig. Unless she has a long track record of good matches, find other help. Sounds like you might benefit from a lesson barn or instructor with more choices for lesson mounts too.

                        I hope I'm not making you angry but I'm serious when i say I've done this wrong a lot. It cost me tons of money and my confidence. Wish you were closer, i have a great horse i would free lease to you, and I'd help you look.


                        • #13
                          You would be well served if you listened to Meaty Ogre. Please


                          • #14
                            I agree with Meaty Ogre. (That sounds funny ) There are a lot of crazies in the horse world, and a lot of well-meaning people who don't really have the abilities they think they do. I would be a little leery of having someone find a horse for me that had put me in a postition where I broke my arm. Stuff happens, but...

                            Take your time and find a trainer with a resume-someone who has been successfully instructing, and one who has helped people find horses. I think it's fun to do too, but I wouldn't say I am qualified to really help someone new to the whole thing find a horse that is appropriate for them. While your arm is healing you can do your homework and look for a trainer. If the current one really is a good trainer and it was a freak thing that happened, you can still enlist others to help you in your search.

                            Meet people that are involved in what you are interested in doing. If you take lessons at a barn, let people know you are looking. Riding a lot of horses will help you decide what you like and what you don't like. Ride horses appropriate to your riding level, even if they are not for sale. They will all give you ideas as to what you want/don't want. I would be in no hurry to purchase. Borrow, beg, lease, take lessons. And good luck.


                            • #15
                              Right Fit Equine in NC has a fantastic reputation and I've heard that Crystal is amazing to work with. rightfitequine.weebly.com


                              • #16
                                Can't ride until January? Wait and see how your confidence level survived the fall and take your time visiting more barns and trainers and take lessons from other trainers with different breeds of lesson horses.

                                You may be ready to jump back in the saddle right now but if you have another close call, you may be triple shy - it happens - better to just take buying a horse very slow till spring.


                                • #17
                                  please, find a trainer that you trust and will have your best interest at heart. not her commission. i sell a ton of horses and i am really straight up if i don't think it is a good match, i won't sell the horse. it is so important to know that you and the horse get along and are on the same page training wise, if you are a new rider, you need to get a horse that has been there and done that and maybe ready for a lower level job. please do not buy a young green horse, it will only end up bad and it always seems to get blamed on the poor horses.

                                  ride it like you stole it! "ralph hill"


                                  • #18
                                    Pay attention to Bluey and Meaty Ogre.

                                    Take lessons for AT LEAST ONE YEAR BEFORE YOU EVEN THINK ABOUT PURCHASE!!!!!

                                    You don't know enough, yet, to even ask intelligent questions. And a trainer can screw you every bit as badly as a greasy seller. Even more so if they are in league with the greasy seller (and that's not so unusual a circumstance)

                                    Leasing while lessoning is a Good Idea. Keep the lease term short (not more than six months, maybe even three). Lease multiple horses. DON'T FALL IN LOVE!!!!!

                                    Half-leasing is probably an even better idea during the winter months if you're up North (the opposite might be true if you were down South).

                                    After a year you will know if this is right for you and have an idea of where you want to go (discipline wise).

                                    Remember that you have time and don't get "stampeded."

                                    Good luck in your search!

                                    Mangalarga Marchador: Uma Raça, Uma Paixão


                                    • Original Poster

                                      Glad to hear we are all on the same page here!! I have been weighing my options, as there are a ton of lesson barns out here. I am looking for a barn with alot of horses to lesson on as my next venture. I know everyone has asked, so here's the answer : I have taken lessons for two years, a year down here in TN with a young trainer on a high quality hunter/jumper, two lessons a week, sometimes more. (The three of us had an off day, and I fell. I was doing something I have done a million times, and it just didnt go well this time. I think it was partly the fault of ALL of us). Anyway, I have narrowed down barns and trainers at this point by distance, and will start visiting and hopefully restarting lessons on a trial basis...I dont want to decide on a trainer until I have ridden with a few on a few of their horses.