I’ve written before about how I came to acquire May (story here. Spoiler alert: Sangria was heavily involved.); however, I have seen a lot of posts lately about wish lists from horses. Michele blogged about finding a horse online, Tracy posted about her Unicorn List for horse shopping, and Amanda wrote about her perfect horse as a response to Olivia’s post on the topic.
It got me thinking about my own brief and painless purchase of May. (looked at one horse, traded my previous horse for her, made 0 negotiations on price, did not vet check… still cannot recommend this method EVER.) On paper, my previous horse should have been everything I ever wanted.
- Well Built
- Quarter Horse (papered)
- Schooling Show Experience
- Not spooky (turns out though, he was also VERY sensitive)
- Athletic (3’+ was no issue for this horse)
- Brave and Honest
- Vetted Clean
I took my time with him, but after 3 years of him proving to me that he did not want to be my horse, I bit the bullet and put him on the market. (or more like I cried for 3 months and then put him up for sale). He now has a wonderful home with a teenager who absolutely adores him. I follow him on social media, and it is incredible how much happier he is.
However, when I decided to sell him, I was left with a dilemma. How do I NOT do this again? I started with the things he had and that I had to have again:
- Not Spooky
- Brave and Honest
- Easy to live with
Honestly, on the ground, my previous horse was the easiest horse in the world. Farriers loved him. Vets could do all sorts of things to him without medication. He would turn himself in and out to his paddock. (Although, I learned last week that May now handles her own turning in and out situation. Works for me. We all know she isn’t going much farther than the next patch of grass.)
I then added in the things that would have made my partnership with him successful:
- Lack of tension (Notice I didn’t say No Thoroughbreds. Below is a (10 year old!) video of me competing a thoroughbred that I rode for not less than 8 years.
I realized that his tension was the number one reason we did not get along. Nothing I did seemed to ease his tension. I tried everything I could think of, but we just could not get through that tension. 3 years later and with a lot more knowledge of Dressage and training under my belt, maybe I could deal with it now. However, I know I would not want to. I am an amateur. I have to WANT to work with my horse.
So what else did I add to the list:
- 15 – 16 hands
- I am 5’3″. I really do not need height and was quite a bit intimidated by my last horse)
- 6 – 12 years old
- I have ridden A LOT of young, green horses. As a junior, I put a lot of “firsts” on a lot of horses, but I also could ride multiple horses, 6 days a week. Now, I cannot commit to being at the barn as much as a really young horse needs me to be, and I cannot afford to put something into a program with a pro.
- Not gray
- After owning a gray, I actually wanted a plain bay… Oh well. I found something yellow.
- Ability to become a packer at BN
- First of all, I COULD NOT afford a made packer at any level. (seriously, May didn’t steer when I bought her).
- Second, IMO, a horse needs a bit of athletic ability beyond the level you are competing at to be considered a “packer” at that level. (i.e. the ability to easily bail you out of a bad situation)
- Right now, I would consider May to be a packer up to starter level for an intermediate level rider. I have, intentionally, made her too sensitive to the aids for a beginner, but I have seen her pack advanced riders around after they have taken an extended break for one reason or another.
- Unfailingly Sensible
- I am not going to use the word “quiet” here. I don’t necessarily need a “quiet” horse. I do need a horse that is still thinking even when pressure increases.
- Really good eventing horses are able to think through complex jump and Dressage questions when the pressure is on, and it is not a skill that is easily taught.
Things I would not put up with under any circumstances:
- A horse that rears
- Heavy amount of maintenance
- Not to get into the politics of it, but if a horse cannot comfortable run around BN without heavy and expensive vet care, maybe it is in their best interest not to event anymore
- Something super HEAVY
- Physically carrying your horse around a XC course is not fun. Sure you can lighten a horse up with a lot of dressage, but I have found that if this is their default way of going, it will surface again. (often when they are tired)
- Something careless over fences
- May and I knock rails… a lot because I miss a lot. However, she has the ability to get out of her own way on XC. Horses that cannot do that make me very uncomfortable to jump.
I then scoured the internet and found… May. How does she stack up?
- Sound – I have injected her hocks once, and they will need to be done again next year. However, I think that is fairly reasonable right now.
- Not Spooky – Lol. Nope. Definitely not spooky.
- Brave and Honest – Always. I have to really mess up for this horse not to jump. And then, it is usually in self preservation.
- Easy to live with – exceedingly. my farrier can do her on the cross ties, my husband can lead her around without issue, and she ground ties wherever I put her (with our without a halter).
- 15 – 16.1 hands – Yup. We are around 15.2. (I think, I have never measured her.)
- 6 – 12 years old – In theory, yeah. No one has really any true idea how old she is.
- Not gray – … not Bay either.
- Ability to be a packer at BN – Totally. I just need to like… jump stuff to make this happen
- Unfailingly Sensible – this is probably the hardest thing to evaluate when shopping. May is sensible, but she can flip me the hoof if she hasn’t been ridden regularly. She doesn’t run away or buck or rear or do anything really naughty. She kind of just.. tunes me out? It’s a tough sensation to describe to people.
I think I did pretty good! I continue to window shop on the internet, looking at horses that fit my criteria, and they are few and far between. (at least at the price ranges I could even consider paying at this point in my life). What about you? Do you keep a list of what you wanted/want in a horse?