Tuesday night I test rode two nice horses that were very close to my home. It seemed silly to not try them. Trainer came as well which was very helpful through the entire process. It also helped that I had just sold Nash and experienced what other people do for a test ride as I was pretty clueless what to expect.
I’m still figuring out what all I feel comfortable sharing online about a sales horse. Just because a particular horse wasn’t right for me or my goals doesn’t mean it was a bad horse and I don’t want to harm anyone in the making of these posts. However, I do want to chronicle what I try and how it went as a comparison through the journey. So we will see what I come up with in the coming days.
For now I want to talk big picture. You see, riding Gem has been my entire adult riding experience. For better and for worse. I knew in theory that she was difficult but since it was all I knew I generally chalked it up to me not being a good enough rider. Which in part is still true to a degree. You can only take so many lessons hearing the exact same thing before it becomes a bit demoralizing, you know?
Going into the test ride I was so nervous I nearly had to pull over and vomit out of my car door. These horses were so different than what I was used to. Would I make a complete fool of myself? What if I couldn’t ride them? What if I was scared to death on them? So many thoughts.
Then I showed up and did what I always do when I’m nervous: I talked a million miles an hour about useless stuff. It’s a skill. Then it was time for the seller to get on and Trainer and I watched them go. Trainer was pretty silent and waited for me to make my own comments on what I saw, what I liked and what I was concerned about. When it was my turn to climb aboard, Trainer treated it just like a lesson. She put me to task immediately and we did walk, trot and canter both directions, tested bend and jumped a cross rail on the short side so that we could see how the horse handled after the jump.
I’ll go into more detail on each horse in another post, but here I want to go over my general take aways from the entire experience.
- Holy crap. Why have I tortured myself for the last 8 years?! I love Gem. That should be apparent, but as soon as I got on these two it was a 2×4 to the head how much easier life is on a horse who is obedient at the most basic level. When I asked to trot, we trotted. We didn’t jig or become a tense giraffe. We trotted nicely at the same pace every stride. Not the “each stride at a different speed to make things interesting” approach I’ve dealt with for nearly a decade. And once I changed gaits it wasn’t the end of the world either. I could canter and return to the trot or walk without a fight. With Gem once we canter it’s game over. I either canter for the rest of the ride or get off. Nothing else can get done.
- Trainer got to see me on a different ride and gained insight. At the end she remarked how nice it was to see me on something different as it gave her a better understanding about what is a “me issue” versus a “Gem issue”. I still like to carry my lower leg too forward and braced and I still lock my elbows but I can actually use my legs and I can actually cue to canter. And steer. And be steady with my body and not flopping all over creation getting left behind one stride and going ahead another.
- I’m not as scared as I thought I was. While I doubt I’ll ever be one for the fast and furious horse (I’m not an adrenaline junky) I can feel comfortable and safe on a horse I just met. Even a 16+h tall horse. I was very worried horses of that size would scare me after riding my tiny Gem for so long. Nope.
- While my eye for conformation isn’t very honed, I saw all the potential pit falls that Trainer did. Part of me was nervous that I wouldn’t see past the new horse thing for what was truly there. Trainer pointed out some conformational things and training scale things I wasn’t aware of, but in general I didn’t miss anything major in my assessment.
- I can walk away without buying the horse. I’m not very good at just looking. I tend to buy. I did take a check with me in case things were amazing, but I was able to walk away on my own and think things through over night. The next day I was able to close the door on one of them and keep it open on the other yet still not feel pressured when I told someone else was looking the next day.
- I want a new horse. This is hard for me to admit. I’m committed to Gem. I feel guilty. I’m having a hard time imagining pulling new horse out of the pasture to ride and giving new horse my attention while ignoring Gem. It’s been nearly a decade of just the two of us. Everything I’ve done, everything I’ve learned has been with her. The good, the bad and the ugly. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without her. And I’m giving up on her. She isn’t telling me she wants to retire. I’m telling her. And it hurts. But I still want a different horse for this sport. It’s insanity to keep putting my all into a horse who is this inherently difficult. Who makes a simple walk trot easy stretch ride at home degrade into a 45 minute battle to just flipping HALT when asked. At 20 years old. I’m tired of that. I don’t want to do it any more.
I have pictures and video to share of the two horses I tried out Tuesday night and will get those up soon. I haven’t bought either yet though I’m still pretty drawn to the one. If the horse doesn’t sell before Sunday I have the opportunity to take the horse xc schooling at FENCE with trainer and if it went well we might be done with horse shopping. There are some concerns that I have though that may kill it off for good.
But more on that to come.