Riding/Horses

I Don’t Know What I Am Doing

As I reached out to yet another seller only to read through the answers with an ever sinking heart knowing with each response that this wasn’t going to be right either, it dawned on me that I haven’t the foggiest idea what I am doing here.

What do I want?

What do I need?

Are they the same?

Mare is looking HOT this spring!! No filters, no tweaking, she is this legit shiny this year. You’d never know she is turning 20 next month. 

It is complicated by the fact that Gem is difficult. Just how difficult wasn’t even clear to me until after I started riding all these other horses. Even the ones that weren’t a good fit for me were still light years easier to ride. They were, at their core, obedient horses who wanted to do what I asked. Unlike one certain bay mare who basically gives me the middle finger and determines that she knows better all. the. time. About everything.

So the bar is set pretty low and that makes every horse seem sorta like “the one”. I mean, pretty much anything would be better for this sport, right?

Pete is looking mighty fine at 28 as well. Too bad he retired himself last year or I would just use him as my eventing mount. He loved to jump. 

I reached out to a seller with a horse my Trainer loosely knows from a 2 week stint at her place last year. He is going intermediate. He happens to be at the top, but still in my budget. I asked my basic questions, got some answers I liked and some I didn’t and then sat back and thought “What the hell am I doing? I don’t need nor do I want a horse that is going intermediate. I will never go intermediate.”

What is it that I really want? I mean, if all goes well this horse will take me into my 50s. I better like this next horse.

At the start of all this I knew a few things:

  • Basically obedient and easy to get along with. No more fights about pace every single stride. No more fast brain going a million miles an hour faster than I can keep up with.
  • Goes w/t/c easily, no fuss and no issues.
  • Jumping 2’3″-2’6″ with a love for the job
  • Has been out on trails and over a cross country course at least once without showing complete disdain for the job
  • Safe and sane on the ground. Must be trust worthy around my kiddo.
  • No big vices: must stand for vet and farrier, trailer well, go out in the pasture with a mixed herd, no buck, bolt or rear. That sort of thing.

Having now ridden several very different horses I have added the following to my list:

  • Nothing over 16.2H and I prefer a compact build. Really prefer around 15.2-16H
  • Not a kick ride. I don’t want to have to nag my horse to death to get them moving.
  • Also not a hot head, tense mess. I already have that with Gem thank you very much
  • Not already requiring maintenance. I don’t want a horse who is already undergoing special shoes, pads, injections every month and a host of supplements to get around a 2′ course. That doesn’t bode well for the longevity I am after.

Even with all that listed out, I still felt lost this morning thinking about what I really wanted. Within those guidelines is a lot of wiggle room. Does the horse need to have an eventing record or is schooling enough? Does it need to have an auto lead change? Is a professionally trained horse ok or does it need to have ammy experience as well? What type of rider even am I: beginner, advanced beginner, intermediate? Does the ad have to be for a beginner only or would I be ok on a horse needing and advanced beginner rider?

And all this was wrapped up in the greatest unknown: with a different horse more suited to the sport, would I even like it then? I love jumping and all the nuances it brings, but am I brave enough for the cross country course? Is it even important to get a horse that goes cross country?

Wyatt has been leading Gem in and out for dinner each night. She is such a good girl with him and carefully monitors where he is so she does not step on him. Apparently word got out that if you trample my kid you get sold.

While I sat at the red light heading into work, I thought about all of these things. It finally dawned on me as I pulled into my parking lot. What I really want, deep down when being 100% honest with myself is Gem. Only a well behaved version that actually cares about rider input. More like Pete really.

I don’t want a flashy WB. I don’t want an OTTB or even a non raced TB. I don’t want an import. I don’t want something running prelim even if it is in my budget.

I want a run of the mill, home bred, basic horse. A QH, draft cross, appy, mustang type horse. A minimal maintenance, hardy as all get out, no shoes required, no blankets required, can get cut by razor wire and not flinch (ok maybe not that last one) type horse. I want the same lifestyle I’ve had with Gem and Pete, two very hardy self sufficient horses, only with a better attitude and willingness to do the thing.

It will not stop raining. Wyatt is enjoying the puddles to no end. 

I like my current horse lifestyle. I like not worrying about blanketing or shoes. I like it taking 2 months to get through a 50lb bag of feed for two horses. Heck, I could pull all grain and still have fat horses except I like the ration balancer to make sure they get all their nutrients. I like them living outside and doing fine. I’m not ready to take on a horse that inherently needs a lot more than that. Not that those horses aren’t amazing athletes. In fact those horses are way better athletes and will have a more accomplished record than I’ll ever have. It’s just so different than what I’m used to and I’m not ready to make that change right now. Low maintenance allows me to continue doing this horse thing without it feeling overwhelming with the rest of my life.

So I’m ignoring all the ads for OTTBs, Unraced TBs, big warmbloods and the like. I’m sure I’m missing dozens of amazing horses and I know not all horses require the same amount even in the same breed but if I’m looking for the exception to a rule I’d rather find the breed that fits my lifestyle better. I need to find a draft cross, QH, mustang or the like that can cart me around and over jumps. I’m not a competitive person at heart and I won’t be able to make it to enough shows to care about points or year ends. What I want is safety, soundness and fun.

What I really, really want happens to be incredibly hard to find around here. I live close enough to Aiken that pretty much every horse I see is OTTB or WB with an eventing record. I refuse to buy a horse untried and can’t make a tour of the US trialing horses that end up being nothing like the ad. I’m really hopeful that the trip to MD will be fruitful as that farm posts a lot of horses I really like that can jump and have been exposed to it, but are more all around type horses that are safe, sound and sane and are mostly QH or draft crosses. So maybe that will be my answer. Yesterday they posted yet another cool looking horse making me wish my appointment was sooner. Hopefully I can meet up with some of you guys while I’m there and we can have a horse testing party. If not, I may have to move to another state until I find a horse as this area is proving expensive and in another class from what I want.

27 thoughts on “I Don’t Know What I Am Doing”

  1. The right horse will appear but it is good to narrow it down a bit. I too would only be looking at non tb types. They are gorgeous horses and I admire the heck out of them but with my riding schedule and wimp meter I am better off with my fat Quarter Horse. 😉

    When are you here again??In MD I mean.

    Again you will find the right horse to fit in with your herd dynamics (human and horse and dog) (Love that photo of Wyatt and Gem btw). Don’t rush it, it will come.

    The right horse is out there waiting for you to discover him or her.

    It is funny though reading thru your post I was nodding my head. We are a lot alike in that we want simple, maintenance free types. Remus is pretty low key he gets front shoes and he does like a sheet or blanket because baby its cold up here at times but otherwise. That is it. And I know with a fact if I get tied up and can’t ride for weeks even, the horse I throw a leg over after being off for weeks, is the same horse I rode weeks before. No surprises.

    And I think you will love cross country jumping on a horse that enjoys it. Do they have to have gone CC already? Nope A horse that has been over some jumps and trail ridden some probably can go cross country willingly and have fun. Some exposure is all that is needed.. Remus had never even jumped when I got him. He enjoys the heck out of now. Are we ever going big time. Nope again. But we have fun doing what we do. And we aren’t the fanciest jumper which is why I don’t try to climb up the levels.

    Keep on being you and the right horse will come!! Give Gem and Pete a pat for me 🙂

    Happy weekend!

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    1. I’ll be in MD May 11/12 so only a couple weeks away! I’m really hoping they have something I like although buying a horse 7 hours away poses its own issues with the PPE and travel. But I’ll think about that when I have to.

      I think OTTBs are amazing horses I just don’t think I’m the right person to really own one. Obviously there are so many individuals in the breed and I found two lovely, laid back ones but in general the maintenance and overall lifestyle doesn’t suit what I can provide. Some day maybe.

      My concern with getting a horse who hasn’t jumped or been cross country is that I could end up with another Gem. A horse who doesn’t like it. I’m not looking to have to sell so I really need to know that the horse likes this job. Otherwise I’d just keep plugging along with Gem. Im not sure they need a record or to have shown but they at least need to have been exposed and shown that they like it.

      I’m not anti shoes or blankets. Gem has all 4 shod the entire year of 2016 for competition. She gets a blanket on cold wet days. It’s just that she doesn’t really need it to be healthy and happy. I’d shoe her again if I was back to endurance but for what I do now I’d like a horse who could be bare for arena work and grassy trails.

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      1. Oh that is very soon. I have nothing planned that week so just let me know and i will definitely ride down!! And i too hope they have something. And you will figure it all out if you find the right one. My brain is in such a fog now I keep thinking about if i have heard of any horses for sale up here that would work for you. But brain is not working yet this am. UGH Between moving and work my head is spinning!! Good luck!

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      2. We will be rolling in either late Friday night or Saturday morning and my appointment is Saturday at 12:15. I’m not sure what all will be involved or how long I’ll be at the farm but you are welcome to come and join me there or we could do dinner after

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  2. What a great list. It is really hard to sit down and really decide what it is that fits your lifestyle and that you need. Kudos to you for really narrowing it down. I really like what you came up with.

    Just a PS… I almost left a comment on an earlier post (but I didn’t for fear of outcry) and said ‘don’t get an OTTB’. Not that I don’t love them. I do. I have one. But it is a lot of maintenance. A lot. And its expensive and time consuming and not always fun.

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  3. I hear you. I’ve looked at OTTBs, just browsing in case Amber doesn’t improve with surgery, and every single one I find that I like looks, moves and seems to have the temperament of a QH. I guess I love my QHs lol. Which is perfectly fine haha. I know I love the slightly more cow-bred QHs for their fire with that touch of hotness but the still very reasonable QH brain. No kick ride, but no clinging for dear life either lol.

    You’ll find something. It may take a while, but I’m sure you’ll find one that’s sweet and perfect for you ❤

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  4. Arabs are definitely easy with the maintenance factor but they all have their quirks. If you were on the west coast, you’d find nothing but QH ads! I’m sure your search will turn up a golden egg. Now that you’ve really identified what you want I feel like you will have an easier time saying yes or no. Sometimes, you have to go through a few other horses to get a sense of what it actually is you are searching for.

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  5. I’m glad you had this discussion with yourself because it’s a very important one to have, and yes your needs may change but that’s why you can sell or lease horses out and go get another one! 15.2hh you should be able to get a deal on a horse that height though I’d like to add if you get something a bit bigger (even in the 16.1hh-16.2hh categorey) their stride is larger, covers more ground and therefore you don’t actually need to be going faster (though a lot of times you feel like it).

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  6. Oh, so sad about A! 6 years old is way too young for that level of an issue.

    When you are ready, maybe start looking at rescue or adoption agencies? They get a real variety of animals and they fit almost any budget. Petfinder lists horses as well as dogs and cats (not always pasture pets) and that can lead you to rescues in your area. Or start sourcing your ads differently- look for Trail horse or Western Pleasure vs Jumper ads. Find listings from sites where QH are the norm so you have more to choose from. LOTS of horses like jumping even if they haven’t tried it. Prioritize the not-spooky, emotionally balanced horse that is curious and not worried about new things. That one can become an event horse pretty easily. Also, just about any horse can jump 2′ or the height of their point of shoulder without significant challenge. No need to get fancy unless you have goals of 3′ some day. Key to avoid with a QH is halter bloodlines, tiny feet, and a downhill build. Best of luck!

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    1. The horse needs to show a proclivity to jumping so I’m not stuck where I am at now with a horse who hates it and a rider who wants to continue to jump. I do understand your point though and will need to cast a larger net

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  7. Your list is very sensible and makes sense. As I was reading it I was thinking Appendix (QH/TB cross) or a Morgan would be a good fit. But so much depends on temperament. I would weigh that more than training. Horse shopping is hard and frustrating.

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    1. There was a big adoption event last weekend for mustangs. Unfortunately I don’t have the approved set up currently for housing nor do I want an actual wild one. If I found an already trained mustang I’d be all over that. It will take time but I’ll find what I’m needed

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  8. You have a great list here, Sara. I honestly cringed when I saw A was a TB. I owned one OTTB a long time ago with whom it was always one medical issue after another. I spent a fortune on her and ultimately rehomed her as a children’s riding horse bc I couldn’t continue throwing money at her. After her, I always said I would never own another TB. Lily is an unraced TB: I made an exception for her because I knew her well prior to her being mine, and you know her laundry list of past issues. Currently I don’t think she’ll ever do endurance again due to a hock problem that sprung up with her just being in the pasture, which is why she has not been listed for sale. If she has soundness problems, she’ll stay retired with me. The hock doesn’t limit arena riding but I don’t think it bodes well for long distances. Lily is only 11 years old. I have owned her since she was 3. Again: she never raced and she was first backed at 2 years of age. My blog tells the story of her maintenance. You couldn’t PAY me to own another Thoroughbred. They are lovely: I spent 17 years riding hundreds of them in lessons and you can’t beat the work ethic. But all of their stories ended fairly young (not 20s) and in heartbreak. I think seeing so many bloggers with OTTBs and TBs with issues only reinforces the fact that they are high-maintenance horses no matter what you do nor how much bubble wrap you cover them in.

    I second what so many said above re: temperament over current competitive record. A confident horse that is solid over fences in the arena and that enjoys trail riding should be able to go cross country without problems.

    I also have a question that no one else has made: are lessons on school masters not an option in the meantime? It’s the best way of figuring out whether you even like this sport enough to warrant buying a horse to compete in it. Eventing is one of the most expensive of the equestrian sports between the training required for both horse and rider, the equipment, and the cost of showing. Why not take lessons on horses that are experienced and that can give you confidence while showing you the ropes without the investment of long-term ownership? I know some trainers don’t have lesson horses and this might be the case with yours. But it’s still a great way of finding out if you really want to do this before going into it for the long haul, since, as you’ve pointed out numerous times, you’re expecting to keep this horse for the rest of his life. (This is a great thing! But it also puts so much pressure on yourself to make the correct choice on a very final and expensive decision.)

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    1. Great points! I’ve actually been thinking of leasing a horse for a while instead of purchasing. Maybe something that has a lease to buy option if things go well. I know I say I want to event but really I want to school not really compete. I don’t have the time or money to show and would likely end up doing what I’ve been: taking a bunch of lessons, going schooling and maybe a spring and fall show. The issue I’ve run in with leasing is everyone states “no backyards” and only want to lease out in a boarding situation with a trainer. Which I get.

      As for lessons they basically don’t exist around here which I was shocked to find out since up north lesson barns full of great lesson horses were everywhere. Around here there are a lot of trainers, but no lesson barns with a string of horses to learn on. Bring your own horse or don’t ride.

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  9. If you’re willing to lease seriously look into camp horses!!!! I can already tell you that you’re approved for a camp horse!!!! It’ll at least get you started this winter and hopefully you’ll either find your perfect horse or will just love camp horses forever (b/c they’re pretty damn awesome!) I have one in mind already….

    Either way horse shopping is hard! deciphering the ads, knowing what you want, finding that perfect combo that fits your life and riding style… yeah it’s tricky. But the good news is usually the right horse falls in your lap, sometimes when you’re not even looking. Don’t completely pass an OTTB but I agree that you don’t need to go searching for one either. I’ll keep my ear out for horses but Trainer J probably will have heard of them first 😉 Dang I wish Gus was still around b/c I’d let you lease him until you found the next horse! But oh wells… oh keep an ear out for Connemaras!!! Those little guys are freaking awesome!!! Though sometimes their price range can be a bit high just b/c of their breed….

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    1. I’ll pick your brain tomorrow about the camp horses. It may be a good way to get me through until I find what I’m looking for. I’m hopeful my trip to MD will prove fruitful but you never know

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  10. ❤ good for you for being honest with yourself and determining both what you need and want. We have to do that when it concerns another dependent being.

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  11. I’m late to the party here but I think you’ve been doing a really good job of being thoughtful and honest with yourself about what it is you really want and need in a horse. My fingers are crossed that it isn’t much longer before you find the perfect partner!

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