First off, I am laughing at that old picture above. You know why I have a death grip on the lead line? Because she literally would NOT stand still… She would just try and drag you around. Oh May. <3
As a result of… a lot of drama in September, I now know more than one person who is unexpectedly horse shopping. What does it mean for the average person to be unexpectedly horse shopping? It means a low budget, practically no time, and the understanding that this is going to be a purchase and then train type of situation.
I would love to have been one of those people that can follow the adage of “Buy something that is already doing what you want to do,” but for many of us, that is RARELY an option. Instead, it falls into more of “buy something that seems like it might want to do the same thing you want to do and train it.”
Do you know if a horse is going to be a good XC horse by trotting it around an arena? Nope. Do I have any idea how much of being a good XC horse is nature vs. nurture? No clue.
So apparently, I have a different view when horse shopping than most people. When I purchased May, it was with the intention of “having a fun project”. Did I think I would own her almost five years later? No. Not really.
When you buy an inexpensive, green, off-type horse, you are taking a pretty big gamble on whether or not that horse will turn into what you really want. Also, that horse might be the right horse until you get to Novice, but when you want to move beyond that, you find you just aren’t sitting on enough talent/ability/bravery etc to make that next step.
As a result, I tend to approach all horses I have ever tried (because I have never had more than a low four figure budget), as a project. May was a project that needed to learn how to steer, but we didn’t really know if she would enjoy eventing. Four and a half years later, I think it is pretty fair to say she is staying.
I wish I had bought my first horse with this mentality. I really do think it would have saved me a lot of grief. He was supposed to be my #Hearthorse that I kept forever. In reality, I ended up just making us both miserable by trying to make the wrong thing work.
So what about you? Do you look at the purchase of a green horse as a potential project that you may or may not keep? Or are you always looking for your next dream horse?
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My experience with Grif and Q has been that they’re both “projects”. And, 7 years later, here we are lol. When the day comes in a decade or so that I’m horse shopping again, it will absolutely be for another “project”. I’ll buy something young and promising and train them from the ground up. Grif is everything I ever wanted in a horse beyond his mysterious bloodlines, and I know I can replicate that again in a horse that will hopefully have a more clear history one day.
Yeah… part of me would LOVE a younger green horse while May is still going. Something to bring up… like a three year old… then I remind myself that I work A LOT and have NO TIME. But the next one? definitely a project 😉
Frankie was absolutely supposed to be a step up horse. He wasn’t green per say, just inexperienced. I figured we’d slap some polish on him and build a bit of a show record, he would take me to the 1.10m, then I’d sell him for a moderate profit and get the next horse. LOL OK right like he could ever go anywhere. Down the line I’d love to get him a brother, but I’m torn – on the one hand, it would be great to have something already going from a purely impatient standpoint, but on the other hand I love the idea of getting a super fancy youngster and having my trainer help develop it into something special. Won’t be a decision for many years, but fun to think about!
For sure! May was a “meh, we’ll get her jumping some stuff and sell her on.” Just kidding… The fancy baby thing is so tempting but also like… so much work. Definitely not a “now” type of decision.
I’ve never actually bought a horse for a specific purpose, I’ve always bought projects. And when I buy a project I’m just looking for a useful horse, one that could do A job and have value to SOMEONE in a sport that I know enough about to at least get them started on that path. Granted, I used to buy and sell a lot of horses and now I don’t… I haven’t bought one in almost 6 years. Things might be a bit different now, even if my budget hasn’t really changed. LOL
Hahahaha. Yeah, I always start with “is this horse useful?” Like May was always pretty quiet and reasonable, so I knew she could, at worst, be a trail horse for someone. Honestly, at best, I thought she would be a good confidence builder to get me going around starter.
It looks like I am odd man out on this LOL! I have bought 2 horses both with the intention of keeping forever come what may. Gem was $800 though…so fancy and expensive isn’t the reason I got or kept her. For me, I’m not dedicated to any specific discipline and I don’t have big dreams for shows or awards. When Gem told me early on that arena work wasn’t her thing, we switched to endurance in which she excelled. Eeyore likes this jumping thing, so we are doing that. If he decided he didn’t and instead wanted to sort cows or something, then I’d switch to what made him happy.
If I ever buy another horse, which honestly may not happen depending on how long Eeyore sticks around and is sound, it will most likely be with the same intention: buy a friend and see what trouble we can get ourselves into though fancy will never be on my list of needs in horse shopping.
I think that’s a good approach too! Just buying something you like and working towards what you both enjoy.
I definitely bought Maestro thinking he would be another horse I kept for the rest of his life, but here I am selling him. While I think he is a great horse, I do not think he’s a great horse for me. Took me a while to get there because I spent a long time thinking I just sucked at riding. I definitely still plan to look for my next partner to be a horse I keep for the rest of it’s life because that’s who I am. Selling Maestro has been really hard for me despite knowing it’s the best decision. I just don’t trust other people to take good care of a horse I care about. I suppose that comes from getting Phoenix back in less than stellar condition – the vet said he wouldn’t have made it another year without my intervention because his feet were so bad. Either way I’m currently along for the ride of horse selling and then horse buying and I want the next one to be a long term partner.
Ugh yeah. I held onto my old horse WAY longer than I should have. Just because he wasn’t dangerous didn’t mean he was a good horse for me. (low bar there) BOTH OF US are a lot happier with our new partners.
I personally love the training process, so for me my next horse would definitely be a project. My mindset thinking about the next horse I want to buy is that I want to buy as close to what I want to do as I can (like they’ve trotted over crossrails and they don’t hate it type thing lol), but they’ll be pretty green. I would like the horse to work out because I’m not going into buying another horse lightly – they’d stay with me forever. However, I know that if we don’t fit, they don’t want to event, or whatever, then it’s totally fine. I’ll find something they do like, start them in that and then put them up for sale. So I definitely have that “project” mentality as well! I think going through the training process also helps to solidify a bond between horse and person, so that’s generally why I prefer a project!
“project” isn’t the exact term i’d use for my own approach, mostly bc it’s been so overused by riders justifying biting off more than they can chew haha, or by riders grossly underestimating what it takes to make money reselling a horse.
semantics aside, tho, i def agree that the buying process should be approached with the attitude that no decision has to be permanent. for my purposes, i did some soul searching on my own horsey hopes and dreams first, then looked specifically for a horse that might be a realistic match (on a shoestring budget, thus the un-re-started, never-jumped-before, and kinda lame ottb LOL). but i was also ok with the idea that we’d part ways if for whatever reason down the road things weren’t working or there was a mismatch between what i wanted and what the horse could do.
i’ll never forget Janet Foy quipping, “You divorce your husbands but won’t sell your horses. I don’t get this.” at a clinic i audited haha. bc yea, not every horse has to be a forever horse and it’s ok to change your mind!! good luck to your friends in their searches!
Dying at Janet’s comment hahaha. I guess Project being “something I can afford and ride, but needs polish”. Because for sure, a lot of people buy more horse than they should.
I’ve only ever bought the one horse and I definitely wasn’t thinking much about what he could and couldn’t do. He definitely was a project, one that my 12 year old self probably shouldn’t have been taking on by herself with only weekly lessons to help. It turned out okay but I know a lot of things that probably should have been done better. Whenever the time comes that I’m going to be buying again, I’m sure my budget wont be much different than what I had the first time. I’d love if it was larger but life doesn’t generally work out like that.
I think my main thoughts for the next horse is personality/temperament. I love Scarlet with all my heart but having a really chill horse from the start would be fabulous next time. The next characteristic I’d consider would be physical capability. Not necessarily talent but is the horse physically able to do what I’d like to do. And then do they want to do it? And then it would be ride-ability/experience level. Likely whatever I get will be green and I’m totally prepared for that. I’m planning on getting some formal training for the next horse to help ease our way into things. But that depends on budget, like everything else.
I think that totally makes sense! Starting with a pretty chill horse definitely helps. It is VERY hard to take a tense horse and get them to relax into work. But a fairly chill horse can be jazzed up a bit.
After that, it’s all preferences (in my opinion)
I definitely don’t mind a hot horse, but I’d like to not have to deal with spooking all the time again. I’d like something with a bit more confidence in the world.
I’ll always have a low budget that pretty much only green OTTBs will match. I didn’t enjoy the process of training with P as much, because 1. I was way too focused on GOALZ, and 2. I started with little to no confidence, and we all know how well that worked out. With Leo, everything has been different. I’m loving seeing the transformation in him and celebrating the little wins we get with each ride. I’ve loved it so much, I’m sort of re-evaluating my overall goals and what I want to do with riding as a whole. We’ll see what Leo decides he wants to do and continuously re-evaluate to make sure we’re on the same page as we move on.
I am firmly in the “if it doesn’t work, make a change camp”. Not all horses are perfect for all people, and vice versa. Sometimes you have to own them to find that out unfortunately. I am hoping that when I look next time I will have the budget and time to buy something that will stay for a long time, however I can’t afford to torture myself for years if it doesn’t.
Ugh that’s such a good point. None of us can afford to torture ourselves with a bad match. And SOMETIMES it does take 6months+ to even learn that it’s a bad match.
After putting Carlos down before I wanted to every horse I have owned (all 2) I went into the purchase knowing that I would sell them one day.
I wouldn’t say that Annie was a “project” in the respect that I’d sell her should she not meet my goals and criteria. She was a “project” more or less bc she was green as grass tho.
And as my first green horse, I kinda under-estimated the journey and how long it really takes to “make” a good, solid citizen. But at the same time, I kinda floundered my way through it and we came out the other side better for all of the crap we’ve been through.
When I bought her, my overall goal was to have something safe, reliable, and fun. I wanted to do a variety of things, but my main objectives were: dressage, jumping, and trail riding, with the future possibility that she be quiet and calm enough my future kids can ride her. I think she’s well on her way – and although I’ve shook my fists in frustration and declared, “I’m going to sell her!” I don’t think I ever could now. We have history and we have a relationship that I don’t think I could easily let go of.
I have to say, the pros that specialize in green horses really make it look easy! It really can be frustrating to bring a horse along correctly, especially if you’ve never done it before. One of those “experience is what you get 30 seconds after you need it” kind of journeys haha
Honestly, I’ve worked with enough greenies and babies to know that it’s not my forte — I’ll always need something that at minimum understands WTC and yielding to pressure. And now that I’m a re-rider, getting back in the saddle after almost a decade away and back surgery, right now I need a horse that really knows its job. Right now I ride an excellent lesson horse, and in the future I hope to lease older “gentleperson and a scholar” type horses — like, someone’s horse that isn’t quite up to competing training/prelim anymore but can happily pack me around starter and trail rides. Maybe after that I can think about buying the project my budget will require!
I think you’re right, though, approaching any horse purchase with an open mind and being willing to at least consider maybe selling it later is the way to go.
Yes! And one day, May will need to be a scholar-type horse for someone like you. 🙂
I think I’ve finally accepted that I don’t do that well with projects anymore. I did when I was younger and had access to a trainer every day. But now that I’m home alone, I look more for something safe that I can have fun with. I’m not sure if I intend to keep them all forever, but I do intend to find the horse that I want to ride for awhile. The older I get, the easier it’s getting for me to understand when I’ve chosen the wrong one though, and it’s easier to know when to sell and move on.
Yeah I think that is a good point. I used to ride alone A LOT. Like the majority of my rides from October to March were alone in the dark. Every time that happened, I was super happy to have a quiet/reliable horse vs. an unpredictable prospect.
Considering I didnt even buy my last horse (Hello Remus), I am not sure how i would proceed. But safe and good brain I would need for sure! I have had horses that were not right for me (leases luckily) and had to send them back. I know what i need and i can’t be nervous on them (Or too nervous ha haha)
Of course I would totally steal May!