Tank, the school horse that I ride most of the time

Tank, the school horse that I ride most of the time

So You’re Gonna Buy A Horse?!

I have decided to buy a horse. But this is a new endeavor for me, as I’ve never owned my own horse before. It’s a huge learning curve, but I have a great cadre of friends, trainers, veterinarians, and other resources to call on throughout this process. There are a ton of decisions to be made: mare or gelding, thoroughbred or warmblood, age, training level, etc.? This blog will take you through the journey with me — however long that is.

Well, I’ve done it! I’ve gone and jumped off the decision making cliff, and decided to buy a horse of my very own. It’s a life-long aspiration. I started riding at the age of 9 as a bribe from my parents to get me to move to Lexington, KY. Who knew it would take over 30 years to brew? But here we are. I finally said out loud to someone a couple of weeks ago that I was in the process of looking for my own horse, and that made it official.

The head trainer at the barn where I ride said she knew I had started looking because she “could smell it on me.” Wow! That’s rather unattractive. But I know what she means. It’s like when you finally decide to do something — anything — you just carry yourself differently. And the people who know and love you, who know the question you have been wrestling with, well, they can just tell.

Some would say this is a long overdue event. But why? I’m not an Olympic prospect, so why do I need a horse of my very own? Aren’t the school horses at the barn good enough anymore? Some of my friends are laughing that it has taken me so long to come to this decision. They think I should have done this years ago. Others are laughing at what they think is the insanity of my choice. Horses are like babies — they come naked. You have to buy the tack separately — saddle, bridle, boots, wraps, saddle pads, halters, lead ropes, and on and on. Obviously, that doesn’t come cheap. Besides the expense of tack, in a lot of other respects, this is like having another child: requiring food and medical care and exercise and “quality time.” Goodness knows that my full-time job, 10 year old daughter, husband, 2 dogs, and 4 cats require a significant part of me too. But I’ve made the decision just the same.

Yes, the schoolies are good enough for my level of riding skill. Some of them are actually more horse than I can handle, or want to handle some days. I will always love them for the lessons they have taught me. But now, it’s time for me to learn some things that a school horse just can’t teach me.

Like what? Well, at our barn, school horses can’t leave the grounds to go to shows, so that puts a damper on my ability to compete. And the privately owned horses at my barn are in fairly high demand from others who also want to show. So their dance cards get full quickly, and I would likely wind up bouncing from horse to horse over time. While that would get me a mount for the next show, it’s not a recipe for success in competition.

But it isn’t just the competition thing. I love the idea of spending the day with my family and friends and horse, testing what we have accomplished together. If we win a ribbon, great! If not, it’s still a lovely day in the sun with the people I love.

Part of what I want from owning my own horse is the ability to bond with him. Really bond. Not just get along well while I’m grooming and tacking and taking a lesson. I can do that now with my favorite school horses. In fact, one of my favorite school horses has notoriously bad ground manners, and can be quite ornery with others. But we have an understanding, so he’s pretty well behaved for me.

What I want is that knowing nicker rising up to greet me when my horse hears my boots walking through the barn. I want that silent, unspoken language between me and my horse, telling me when he feels good, when he’s stiff, when he’s excited, when he wants to canter the trail along the creek in the park, and when he just tired and wants to go back to the barn. I want to take a horse that doesn’t know how to show, and teach him that it will be OK if he stays with me. I want to teach myself that I can do this too. I want to teach a horse new skills — everything from the basics like going through trot poles, leg yielding, or jumping a cross rail to more advanced skills like flying lead changes and jumping a full course.

I want a horse who gets used to my aids and my weight and my balance and my voice. School horses do great work teaching lots of riders how to ride. But I’ve seen too many kids who are only there because their mom made them take lessons, who kick the snot of our poor schoolies instead of giving the proper aid for the next gait up or down. I want a horse that hasn’t had to endure that. Not that I will be perfect. But at least I’ll be consistent in my flaws.

So as much as I love my school horse friends, it’s time for me to graduate to a horse of my own. I haven’t met him yet, but I know he’s out there. Welcome to my journey to find him…

Sue