As you probably know from these blogs, we are in the process of looking for a horse. I’m not looking for the next Hickstead because I’m nowhere near in the same class as a rider that Eric Lamaze is.
Ours is a four-pronged approach to the horse buying process:
- Websites — See below
- Facebook groups — There are groups for adult amateur eventers, warmbloods for sale, Virginia horses, foxhunters, you name it!
- Networking — Talking to everyone in my barn who knows anyone, and then talking to the people they suggest I talk to. Hey, it got me a test ride at the Maryland Horse Expo a few weeks ago.
- Virtual networking — I’ve been in touch with notable riders in the discipline I’m interested in, to ask if they have a horse that just hasn’t worked out at the upper levels of competition that might be appropriate for my daughter and me. And while I’m not necessarily getting responses from the “name,” their barn managers have been very helpful and responsive on their behalf.
I want to compete in hunters, and possibly in 3-day eventing. But right now, my biggest fence is still just 2’3″. I used to jump 3′ without thinking about it in my earlier days, but I took significant time off from the sport to have a family, and am working back up to that. I’ll get there. I’m just not there yet.
I have an 11 year old daughter, Rachael, who also rides. But don’t let her age fool you — she’s already 5’3″ and wears a size 9 boot! That means that a pony, or even a short horse isn’t an option. So we’ve settled on something in the 16-17 hand range.
No offense to my thoroughbred friends, but the typically thin legs of a thoroughbred just seem too spindly for what a hunter or eventer is required to do. I’d just rather have something heftier that this would be less of a stressor on his legs. So that means a warmblood or warmblood cross of some kind.
We figured out gender a while ago — gelding. Even if that does mean sheath cleaning!
But right now, we’re in the cursed timed on the calendar when there just aren’t that many horses for sale. There are about five horses that I’ve seen on every single website I’ve been to, and they’ve been there for months. It’s winter. So the serious horses are all in Wellington or Aiken. The rest are hunkered down in their barns, trying to avoid the winter storms that keep pelting us.
So as I peruse the ads available on the various websites, I ask Rachael to see which of the few listing out there are interesting to her.
And that’s where things get ugly…
You see, she’s suddenly decided that this horse has to be perfect. Perfect temperament. Perfect training. Perfect color. Perfect markings. Perfect everything! Just for the record, we have a good budget. But not a “perfect” budget.
I ask, “What do you think of this one?” “He looks too short,” she says. “He’s 16.3.” “Well, he still looks too short.”
“How about this one?” I ask. She replies, “He’s a chestnut. I don’t want a chestnut because all the horses at our barn are chestnuts.” “No they aren’t.” “Well, lots of them are. So I don’t want a chestnut.” “What if he’s perfect in every other way, except he’s a chestnut?”
“No. I’ll wait.” I try to gently remind her that such restrictions really limit our ability to find a horse — that there’s going to have to be something that requires work about him.
“I like this one.” “Yeah, he’s not bad, but he has four socks, and I don’t like that.” “What?” “It’s not cute. Having only three socks is cute. Or two socks and a stocking and one unmarked leg is cute.” Ugh!
We find a good candidate, but later — 16.2 hands, gray, Irish Sport Horse cross, 7 years old, has hunted quite a bit and is thus pretty bombproof. Great! Then a reply e-mail from his current owner tells us that he’s more of a field hunter, rather than a competition hunter. Good over uneven terrain, but a really short stride, and not really trained in ring work. OK, scratch that one. Sigh…
My husband (the non-horsey one in the house) says I shouldn’t worry about it, and just keep looking. He says she’ll love him no matter what he looks like. He’s right.
And so, Pepper the retired barn cat and I move on to the next website. Here are some of the websites I’ve been using for my search.
If you know of another one, please feel free to comment and share.
Sue van der Linden