Adventures in Horse Shopping: The Horse Formally Known as BDH

Well folks, I’m off to the bank to write an awfully big (for me) check. Goodbye money, hello new horse!

Our XC schooling yesterday, which was the do-or-die decision day, went amazingly well. Video to come, I promise!

So the Barbie Dream Horse is mine, and we can officially start calling him by his actual name, Jack.

Jack’s quick stats are thus:

  • 9 yo branded German Warmblood gelding
  • 16.3h (going on 17h it seems!)
  • Former foxhunting prospect, started eventing career last fall.

When I first saw Jack’s video online some months ago, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Foster in some way, despite them being very different horses. But since Foster is still my heart horse, I was super interested in this potentially palomino version. I set up an appointment to see him just a couple weeks after selling Smitty, only to discover that the horse had moved from VA to Aiken and the agent didn’t know where he went. Cue major disappointment.

Then after some stalking of warmbloods on a site I was frequently, I found him again in some of the archives. A phone call, some video stalking, and as you all know, I got to see him on my whirlwind visit to VA. He was the only horse I sat on and immediately felt at home, and the only one that I actually bothered to try my saddle on, despite only having sat on him for 15 minutes. My trainer and vet loved the look of him, and I even had a local GP dressage rider go evaluate him as a possible 3rd level prospect. I went up again, this time with a trailer, sat on him once more, and brought him back for the trial.

Since then, it’s been fairly rosy. Rosy enough, in fact, that I have been chatting with friends about possible registered names. Going with my penchant for alcoholic names (which are lucky, you know. Hey just look at Foster) we were talking about Goldschlager, when a friend suggested why not Gentleman Jack. I loved that idea- not only is it another whiskey (like Kentucky Gentleman, Foster’s show name), but it also pays tribute to Foster in that way. I loved the idea.

And then I got the papers, and what would you guess his name is?

That’s right- Gentleman Jack. I got chills.

So Gentleman Jack, welcome to the family of the House on a Hill.

 

Adventures in Horse Shopping: Jumping Through Hoops

By now I feel like I have a fairly defined process for getting approval on a horse (besides of course the first and foremost requirement – that I actually like/enjoy/feel good about the horse).

So far this process typically starts once I have seen the ad, gotten video, asked pertinent questions, and am planning on going to see/ride said beastie in person.

1 . Vet and trainer have watched sales video and agree that none of its 4 legs are going to fall off in the near future and that it looks like it would be suited for life as a dressage pony

2. Trainer watches video of me riding the horse and approves it as potentially good match

3. My vet speaks with PPE vet about horse and discusses with me any potential pitfalls and sets my general expectation for the horse

Assuming we get through these 3 steps (which plenty of candidates have failed to do, by the way), we then get to the place I am now. So from here, which is essentially the trial/getting-to-know you phase, further hoops arise:

4. Barn manager must agree that the creature is not from the sixth circle of hell and is safe to work with on a daily basis.

5. The dressage trainer comes to meet him in person, typically riding the horse as well as giving me a short lesson, which helps evaluate his real potential for my goals

6. The pony travels to a local cross country schooling venue and is made to jump over solid obstacles and assessed for the probability of its landing me in a casket prematurely.7. I can jump him on my own (with safety net of other folks around) without feeling like I am taking my own life in my hands.

And that’s essentially it! Bonus points for friends approving of said animal being worthy of being stuffed with cookies and posing for endless selfies.

The BDH is going to cross country school next Tuesday… only a couple more hoops to jump through! All fingers crossed 🙂

Adventures in Horse Shopping: The BDH Update

Going with Genny’s brilliant abbreviation, current trial horse will currently be referred to as the BDH [Barbie Dream Horse] until the time that he is either returned to his owner or becomes formally mine.

I had my first real ride on him yesterday, and honestly it couldn’t have gone better. The biggest thing for me to get used to is his size, going from 14.2h TC to a 16.3h banana boat is a little alarming at first. But I’m sure it will come back to me- I just have to remind myself that both Smitty and Foster were 16.2h, and that felt totally fine at the time.

I started out in the indoor arena, favoring an enclosed area as a good place to start, but BDH wasn’t convinced that there was enough room in there to canter, so with a bit of friendly peer pressure from my buddies got me outside where that was space to roam.

Anyways, don’t take my word for how well it went, watch the video!

 

Adventures in Horse Shopping: Bad Luck Blues

Apologies for yesterday’s cryptic post. I’ve been hemming and hawing and not knowing which way things would go, but I just decided to step away from the 4th horse I’ve vetted since retiring Foster last year.

I don’t know what butterfly flapped its wings and created this endless storm of failed (or questionable) PPE’s, but damn it, I’m ready to be done horse shopping. If I found that butterfly, I might be tempted to squash it under my boot right now, the way I’m feeling.

Or perhaps this is just some way of the universe balancing itself out- I mean, I was able to find homes for Darcy, Smitty, and my saddle rather quickly, so surely my luck had to run out sometime.

Whatever the reason, it’s taken a bit of a toll on me. Or maybe that’s last night’s wine talking.

Sorry for the Debbie Downer post, you guys- hoping Mr. Right is right around the corner, but feeling like he’s hoofing his way around the Bermuda Triangle instead.

Adventures in Horse Shopping: The Virginia Trip

Sunday was a ridiculous 7AM-11PM day of driving, adjusting stirrup leathers, and sitting in some really nice saddles on some super nice horses. Rather than bore you with my written synopsis, perhaps it would be better to have you watch this clumsy, slightly unfinished (after horse 3 I was too pooped and the weather was not cooperating with vlogging and navigating) video version of how it all went.

Adventures in Horse Shopping: The Trial Horse Outcome

As you all know, for the last couple weeks I have had the pleasure of riding a certain red-headed pony who hopefully was going to become mine. In the beginning we battled some issues with foot soreness after an overzealous trim, but some padded shoes fixed that and we started our journey of getting to know each other.

Having a trial period with a horse is a wonderful opportunity, as it really allows you to get to know him in ways that a short test ride just won’t allow. I was able to see him in a new environment, experiencing scary things such as giant tarps and deer and cats jumping up and down around the indoor. All of these things he handled with confidence, and his can-do attitude did much to impress me.

The other grace of having a trial period is having professionals come out to assess the horse, teach me how to ride them, and give their honest opinion as to whether or not we make a good team. I had 3 lessons during our trial period, and it really opened my eyes to each of our strengths and weaknesses that only riding a new horse can.

In the end, I realized that the red pony was not the best fit for me at the moment, despite my desperately wanting him to work out. He is a pleasure to be around on the ground, and an incredibly talented and athletic horse with huge potential. However, his past as a hunter jumper meant that he lacked an education in dressage, and at this time I decided that what I really want is something ready to go and show, and through absolutely no fault of his own, he is simply not ready for that.

It was bittersweet bringing him back to his owner, and stuffing him full of treats for the last time. Incredibly disappointing that it didn’t work out, but reassuring to know that he is back with an owner who just wants the best for him and will continue to work on finding him the best home.

Good luck little red pony, and thanks for the ride.

Adventures in Horse Shopping: The Trial Horse Update

I am not quite half way through my trial period with the red pony, and already it’s been a busy time for both of us.

First ride at the barn

He came to me quite foot sore after getting trimmed too short, so much of the first few days together was managing his feet so he was comfortable. After getting front shoes and pads put on he now seems 100% comfortable and I’ve been able to get in more rides, and last night jump him for the first time.

Dressage lesson / training ride

The trial has been an interesting experience so far, centered around jiving what I know about him with what I feel about him. Sometimes it feels like he’s speaking German (eh, Swedish?) and I’m speaking English, at other times we get closer to some kind of mutual understanding- Genglish?

Neck straps for life

The next plan for us is to go school cross country. This is something he’s never done before, but will be critical in ascertaining whether or not he wants to be an Event pony. He looks so good in event tack, that I have high hopes!

Adventures in Horse Shopping: The Trial Horse

Exciting news in horse shopping land! Today I go to pick up a local pony, who will come back with me for a week. During that time I’ll be seeing if we click, getting him assessed by jumping, cross country, and dressage professionals to see if he will be a good fit as an event horse.

In respect to the seller, I won’t be sharing too many details on the blog, since this is a very generous opportunity that I have been gifted. However, keep an eye on instagram and a certain red pony may make more appearances over the next several days.

Here’s hoping it works out!

In Search Of: A Re-Write

In this latest round of horse shopping, much of my criteria has stayed the same. With some exceptions though, and having learned some lessons the last go-around, here’s what my latest ISO ad would look like….

The Requirements:

The horse must be sound, sane, and pass a PPE. Having 4 legs and a brain does not equate.

Secondly, the horse must be gelding. If it doesn’t have the right bits and pieces, trust me, I’ll notice. I have found my tribe in a local boarding barn, and the set up will only allow for an additional gelding. Your horse may be the most non-mareish mare ever to walk the planet, but if it has a hoohah, it’s not for me. And strap-ons don’t count.

Look folks, I’m not growing anytime soon. I fit comfortably on a variety of horses, and those horses are between 15.2 and 17.1 hands tall. I’d prefer my toes not to drag the ground in the saddle, nor a ladder to climb aboard. Don’t try to sell me your “big-barrelled” pony, or your “super safe” 18.2h goliath. Please and thank you.

Did I mention no mares?

4-11 years old. To me, this means old enough to have exposure to life, or at least a little of it, and young enough that the expectations for my goals (3rd level dressage and training level eventing) are still realistic. Yes, yes, a horse older than that can still do these things. But, see above note about expectations passing a PPE.

I will not give up on my eventing ambitions, therefore, the horse must jump. By jump I mean some semblance of bascule, lift through the elbows and sense of self preservation. The scared sack of potatoes you coerced into lobbing itself over a stick one day? No thanks.

Haunches in animated gif

The Preferences:

A good canter. Meaning 3 beats instead of 4. Or 2 (yikes!)

Nice gaits, with an uphill way of going and a moment of suspension in the trot- even if you have to squint to see it right now.

Some jumping experience. Even if it’s 2’3″, that’s something. Listen, folks, it’s been 2 years since I’ve been able to compete- and I am more than ready to dominate that local Maiden track if allowed.

 

The Niceties:

A forgiving jumper. Because I’m an amateur, and I sure as hell have amateur moments. I’m rusty with a serious need for some jumping WD-40. If I have to be spot-on every time to a fence in order to stay in the tack on the landing side, we’re probably not a good match. I’ll get my sea legs back eventually, but I would prefer not to die in the process.

That puppy dog mentality. I like smart- and will handle a fair amount of cheek on the ground. Personality is a plus to me, and I just love the idea of a partner that’s as fun on the ground as he is in the saddle. Sounds like a raunchy dating metaphor, no?

What am I missing?

 

Let’s Discuss: Putting in an Offer

Since retiring Foster, I’ve put in offers on four different horses. The financial decision that goes along with purchasing a horse is a big one, and I may have a way that is different from others in regards to making an offer on a horse.

When I first go see a horse, I am as much assessing the horse for its value as well as for it being a good fit. Just like when shopping for a house, the horse should feel right, but if you can’t afford it, you’re wasting everyone’s time- including your own.

Smitty’s sales photo

With that in mind, if I see a horse that is slightly above budget, I like to reach out and contact the seller. I respectfully (and that is key!) share my interest, describe what I am looking for and mention my budget. Sometimes the response is “sorry, the price is firm at X”, but most times I’m told to come see the horse anyways and we can go from there. To me, being on the same page about realistic expectations for payment is key- I don’t want to waste the seller’s time if I can’t possibly afford the price they want, and I certainly don’t want to waste my time either. So far, sellers have been appreciative of a more candid discussion about this up front, and I appreciate not being toyed with as a buyer.

So far for me, the pre-purchase side of things has been more of a pass/fail type scenario. Having agreed to a price, the assumption is that barring any surprises in the exam, that is the price I pay. If the vet finds something awry with the horse, we can of course have a discussion about how that could affect the price, but typically for me it’s more of a decision about whether or not I can accept the horse as-is altogether as a suitable partner.

Price can be a sensitive issue when horse shopping. I try to be cognitive of the time, emotions, and finances the seller has put into the horse, but prefer to be frank with both the seller and myself about what investment I’m willing to put into the horse as well. There have been several times in my search that a seller values their horse as solid first/second/third level when the training is obviously not there, or that the horse is described as an upper level prospect when the conformation or ability simply isn’t present, and I choose to not engage these sellers as a rule. Let someone else be the bearer of bad news, or let the market speak for itself when that horse doesn’t spark interest at the price they are asking.

Luckily, in general the folks that I work with when I go to see a prospect are familiar with the process of buying and selling and are not offended by someone talking money before the deal is done, or even before someone has sat on their animal. But I’d love to know- what are your experiences with this? Do you have strong opinions about the money-aspect of buying horses? Do you plan to pay full price, or how did you evaluate the horse you currently own before bringing him home?