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?

Adventures in Horse Shopping: Regrouping

So, you may have known, or guessed it, but last week I did a pre-purchase exam on a horse. And since I’m not overflowing with joyous announcements right now, it should also be somewhat obvious that I decided to pass on the deal.

I feel like the horse market moves in cycles- most days I obsessively casually browse my top horse-sales sites and go through the same “seen it, talked to the seller, watched the video” role call of the horses available. And then all of the sudden there’s an upswing and there will be a lot of good prospects appearing online.

Right now, I’m still trying to assess the financial damage done by the PPE and plan my next move. I hope to meet a local horse sometime this week, weather allowing, and I also have asked a couple of the working-student friends I made in Ocala to check out a prospect there.

I have eyeballs all over the place looking out for that perfect pony, and I am so appreciative for that. Hopefully there will be another surge of horses hitting the market and the right one will be amongst them!

Adventures in Horse Shopping: Post Aiken Discussions

Aiken is my last big horse shopping trip for a little while, and with good reason- it is both mentally and physically exhausting to spend an entire weekend running around in search of the perfect horse, and photographing 5 other horses to boot.


I am somewhat recovered enough though to provide a little insight into the trip. Overall I sat on 5 of the possible 8 beasties I was there to see. Of the other three, two were sold or pending sale as I arrived, and the other was clearly not the right fit so I opted to focus more on the ones that were. This also gave me a bit more time to meet with Beka of The Owls Approve and enjoy a quick lunch at the Aiken Brewing Company!

And this folks is why you don't do portraits at noon XD though Beka of course looks cute!

And this folks is why you don’t do portraits at noon 😄 though Beka of course looks cute!

The horses I sat on were all wildly different from one another- a wizened caretaker push-type ride, a fiery little thoroughbred, a green broke baby, and others.


In the end I was shocked to find not one but two horses that I would happily call mine.


No more details yet, as I’m still discussing with the A team, but no matter how it turns out in the end I still think Aiken would be considered a success!

Adventures in Horse Shopping: The Aiken Plan

Besides Ocala, Aiken is the next best winter eventing mecca. Soft footing, decent weather, and plenty of horse show activity to introduce young horses or leg up old mounts.

Luckily, I’m hitting horse shopping on the last swing of the winter season, right before all those otherwise snowbirds head back north with their ponies in tow. With this in mind, I made it a priority to get down there while the density of potential horses was still to my advantage.

The drive from Raleigh to Aiken is roughly 5 hours, so I’m making this trip worthwhile. Unlike my Kentucky trip, I won’t be seeing do many horses, but peppering photoshoots in and amongst some strong candidates to offset the cost of hotel and gas.

I’ve lined up 5 contenders to sit on, ranging from 5 to 11 years old and a variety of experience, though all are definitely eventing-inclined. I’m also doing 5 different black background shoots before and after the horsey mania.

Watch instagram for occasional updates, otherwise I will share how it went with you all next week!