Let’s Discuss: Spring Chicken or Made but Maintenance?

You may have noticed yesterday that in terms of budget, I classify myself as “champagne on a beer budget”. I won’t go into financial details, but Foster’s inconveniently going to pieces 3 days after I purchased a car (a non-towing car, I might add, with the hopes of buying a truck in a few months) left my bank account in a place where, let’s just say, buying a fancypants new prospect wasn’t going to be happening any time soon. So I’ve been scrimping and saving, and I’ve finally got enough pennies to go shopping. But still, the horses that fit my criteria seem to fit into two categories- that is, spring chicken or Made but needs maintenance.

Let’s go over my (eventual) goals, first and foremost:

  • Be competitive at 3rd level
  • Ride at training level eventing with no jumping faults (time faults will be forgiven)

Given the need for a horse that can sit, with good movement, and can be forgiven for not being the best galloper, that tends to point to warmbloods or warmblood crosses. So let’s look at my options a little more closely.

The Spring Chicken
These typically end of being 3 yr olds at or near the top of my budget, but within budget nonetheless. They may or may not be started at this age. The horses I’m interested in have great conformation and most of them have moves like Jagger.

One of my babies as a yearling

One of my babies as a yearling

Ideally they have good brains, and a good look at how they handle life (as in new experiences, as well as routine life around the barn) can be an indication as to how easy they will be to train. A peek into bloodlines can indicate some idea as to their potential ability, but the key word here is potential. They have not been tested, have not had to answer many of the questions I would ask, but have the flip-side advantage of not having wear and tear on precious legs. There is a risk in not knowing how they will react, but there is also the bonus of being able to make the horse you want from the ground up.

Made with Maintenance
These guys tend to be a little easier to find, but also tend to be a bit more than I’m financially comfortable with. They’re also at or slightly above my age range, being 8-12 years old, even up to 15. They have show miles, good records, great attitudes, and are proven athletes. But they come with caveat, and that is either a questionable soundness history, or a questionable soundness future.

Riding a horse of this type in Intercollegiate dressage, where many Made but Maintenance horses find themselves

Riding a horse of this type in Intercollegiate dressage, where many Made but Maintenance horses find themselves

The pro to these guys is as my friend puts it, they are “sitting on go”. I can immediately get in the saddle, start showing and competing, and maybe knock my goals out of the park in the next 18 months. The risk with them is of course with what happens afterwards. What is the Plan B if and when those maintenance issues flare up and interfere with the work asked of them? Of course there is no guarantee with any horse’s (or rider, for that matter) soundness, but the knowledge of previous issues is both a blessing and a curse.

The Question
I have my own (many) opinions on what I want, and obviously there are outliers that fit neither of these types, but I ask you- What would you choose?

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11 thoughts on “Let’s Discuss: Spring Chicken or Made but Maintenance?

  1. I would have to choose the young one, though I would prefer backed versus not backed. The only creatures I’ve backed are ponies and they are a lot less intimidating than a horse. I think for people who really want to go out tomorrow and show and do well or work on them for a bit, the Made horse is the way to go. There will be the awkward getting to know you period with both horses but Made horses just already have a sense of self and know the answers to the questions typically asked.

  2. I have always wondered how I would be different with a more made horse under me, instead of me charming Murray monster. I have definite, definite thoughts about going for made-with-maintenance myself, as there is always so much to learn from a more made horse (and I could focus on myself/showing). The other thing that would come into it, for me, is whether or not I have the funds/ability to retire, semi-retire, or re-sell and older but made horse in a few years time, or even have two at once. Because then I could sharpen myself up, and move onto a greener prospect while still showing or with the knowledge that my steady teacher would be well taken care of. So much to think about.

  3. I’ve done both routes, and each has pros and cons. On the one hand, it’s nice to have a made horse that knows it’s job. With the made horse, some tweaks and improvements in training might be made, but you basically know who they are from the get go, and there are minimal surprises on that front. The green horse might start great and then as they grow up develop quirks that make them not so great. On the other hand, it’s nice to know that you (should) have a horse that will last you a long while and will only improve in resale value if it doesn’t work out.

    I would definitely go with something that is at least broke and doing walk/trot/canter and has at least been free jumped. I say this because a) putting those skills on is my least favorite step, and b) some horses that seem to have a great brain and talent turn out to be really stressed about being ridden, or they just don’t understand contact, or whatever. It’s really helpful to see what their reaction to their job is before they’re educated enough to actually know what the reaction should be.

  4. For me it would depend on whether I could afford to retire the older horse when he wore down. If you’re only going to have 2-5 years with the older horse, you know the retirement is coming. Since I currently already own a semi-retired horse and have a commitment to taking back my older gelding, I’m not really in a place to take on another older horse. But a few years ago, I certainly would have gone that route.

  5. I would only go the made route if he’s already showing at the level you’re aiming for. Otherwise you’re just paying more for something with fewer productive years and still working towards x. Whereas (in theory) you’d have all the time in the world comparatively with a green bean who isn’t at that level yet.

    I think you should just free lease my Copper and teach him dressage until your horse budget grows to get what you want. 😉 I’ve been told he could do up to 3rd level. I just haz no skills. You know you want tooooooo…lol

  6. We went for green recently – 7 yr old mare that had one colt, then was sent for 90 days under saddle training. I know her history and she has not had the chance to develop any bad habits so I am happy with my decision. I worried about past injuries if I went the made horse way.

  7. At this point in my own riding career – currently enjoying a wonderful long term lease – I would probably explore another made but with maintenance, preferably a lease too, as my next partner. Something that could take me up levels sooner to get me that experience *I* need to then bring along another baby horse. Mostly bc while I love the reward of learning to both install and push buttons together with my mare, I also know that often our combined greenness (and my yellow belly) makes me want to hold back. Your mileage may vary tho!

  8. This is a very tricky question … I’d say look at both and see which horse you fall in love with. You might find the diamond in the rouge- a made/semi made horse with no maintenance (gasp!) in your budget but would of missed him if you were only looking at greenies. There is also a combination of both- an older green horse that has no wear and tear on his joints so will still be competing when he’s in his 20’s (this is how I got Chimi) I know this doesn’t help narrow things down but I think the right horse will come a long!!!

  9. I’ve never had a green horse — I feel like I’m in the learning stage of my riding right now, and would prefer to work on myself, rather than teaching a younger horse. Obviously, it’s a super personal question and either route can go incredible well …. or not.

  10. Pingback: For the love of young horses | A House on a Hill

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