Horse #3: N

After riding the first two, I got a bug up my butt about getting a new horse. It was so eye opening for me and honestly my motivation to keep pushing forward with what I have is quickly waning.

As Dusty pointed out, how do I progress in my own riding when I’m constantly in self preservation mode?

So I caved and put out a way too specific and probably off putting ISO ad to local Facebook groups. Which landed me a response for a barrel horse. Odd.


It also landed me N who was 2 hours away. He sounded really cool, so I also booked another out that way that looked promising. More on that one later though.

N is a 16.3H, 16 year old Irish Sport horse. He has gone through novice and is currently a lesson horse for rank beginners through advanced. The owner sent me a video of him taking a petrified looking tiny girl xc for the first time and he looked like a calm cucumber. Definitely worth the drive to check him out.

There are worse ways to spend an 80 degree Saturday than horse shopping in the eventing capitol. I’m just saying.

So N….

I arrived before the seller and hung out by his pasture. He was huge. I think he is bigger than 16.3H but not important. He was super sweet though and came over to say hello to me right off the bat. I really liked that and the calm look in his eyes.

His condition was a bit off putting. Pete, at 28, is in way better condition than he is at 16. He looked every bit 10 years older but was a sweet heart on the ground and didn’t care about the no less than 10 rowdy dogs chasing, fighting and playing all around him.

As I was waiting for the seller to arrive, I took a look around the property and saw this adorable little chestnut gelding with some chrome in a neighboring pasture. He was a lot smaller and more compact and I thought to myself “Why can’t I find a horse like that. That is what I want, not a big school bus of a horse.” Unfortunately, he wasn’t for sale so it was on to trying out N.

It was a bit of a hike down to the arena which was good for me to see as it was a tiny trail ride type environment. The seller rode him first and he looked very amenable to all the things.

When I got on him, I felt ok. Not scared at his size but not yet comfortable enough to ask much. He liked to curl his head to evade real work and that is not something I’ve ever experienced. Typically I deal with the opposite: giraffe high head and hollow back.

His movement was also big. How could it not be? It took a while to get used to the feeling and to be honest I never fully did.

His canter was nice though. The downward back to trot was awkward but that was a reflection on me throwing him away and not him. His hind end seemed to need some building too and I think after conditioning he would be stronger and better able to use himself.

After that we left the lower ring and headed to the jump ring up the hill. I had her lower a jump to baby cross rail height and came around to go over.

And he did once he stopped curling his head in and took notice. It was funny. The seller remarked “I can tell you ride a horse who doesn’t always jump. You don’t need to use such a driving seat and leg to get him to jump”

And she was right. He made jumping insanely easy. Wyatt could jump this horse. I felt so comfortable that I asked her to make it a vertical. He was that easy and had there been xc jumps present I would have happily done them too.

In the end though two things turned me off. His age wasn’t an issue but his condition was. He looked sad and older than he was. The bigger deal though was a certain spark that I’m after. It’s nice that he did the job but he wasn’t looking for the jumps. He wasn’t seeking them or asking to jump. He did it because he is too well trained and inherently obedient not to. I want a horse who loves to jump. A horse who seeks them out and enjoys the game.

I was very intrigued by the future he could provide for me, but in the end I passed. While I want an easier horse than I currently have, I also want to grow as a rider and having a horse that does everything himself regardless of the monkey on his back would be easy but not productive. I want a horse trained above my level, but that will hold me accountable for riding well.

When I sent the videos above (plus another 10) to Trainer she agreed 100% with me and told me to pass. I was a bit surprised. I was thinking she wanted this level of horse for me but apparently not. It was refreshing to see that we were on the same page as I trust her and will walk away if she says to.

It was on to the next farm!


Horse #2: F

While I was at the barn, the seller mentioned there was a mare that would suit me as well. She was already in the barn, so we looked at her first.

F was a 9 yo, 16H TB that was trained at the track but not raced. She was schooling 3′ at home and giving w/t/c lessons to beginner kids as well as taking beginners to shows and giving trail rides. She was taken to a nearby river and apparently loved the water, but she had no actual cross country experience.

I’ll admit to being unimpressed at the start. To my eyes she was a plain brown, large mare with no hair.

As we walked into the ring I was prepared to remain unimpressed as was Trainer, but we were wrong.

Look how long her neck is! And it wasn’t up by my nose!

F went around the ring like everything was no big deal. Past jumps decorated from kid camp days that I can tell you with certainty Gem wouldn’t have even entered that arena decorated like that. She carried herself well and was obedient and relaxed about everything.

Since she was the first one I sat on, I was pretty nervous. She was tall and so very different than what I was used to.

And then I sat on her and felt comfortable from the get go. She listened so well to everything I asked. Once I set her up on a path or at a certain pace and gait, she held it until told otherwise. It was the lightbulb I needed to realize how hard Gem has been.

It’s apparent in these videos how much more relaxed I am on her. It felt good guys. Like really good.

She was so comfortable that I began to push her a bit more to see how she would react. The mere fact that I was brave enough to start upping the pressure said a whole lot.

And F never disappointed. She went around w/t/c calm and relaxed with a gentle mind and a kind heart for my mistakes. In fact, the only negative was that she took a whole lot of leg to get going and stay going. I ended up grabbing a crop to help and I’d think I’d likely need spurs for her. Not the worst issue after my hypersensitive mare, just one I’m not used to and my legs were a bit jello like at the end.

It was neat to ride with Trainer and hear things like “Ride her back toes. Move her forward. Go, go go.” Typically all I ever hear is “Slow down, no slower, SLOW DOWN”. Polar opposites.

After I got off her and we returned to the barn to look over H, she showed her true personality in her stall. She was silly, curious and a doll. I really, really liked her.

I didn’t purchase her either though I was tempted and have gone back and forth a ton since trying her.

At the end of the day though I think she was a bit too quiet for me. She never complained and went along pleasantly enough but lacked any spark. She jumped because it was in front on her and I doubt she’d ever pull a dirty stop or run out but she didn’t have that look in her eyes that showed me she enjoyed doing this. She was obedient because that is who she is.

Plus she has a physical issue that made me nervous. I’d for sure do a PPE on her and figure it out, but at 9 years old she could end up having a very long life as a pasture pet and I don’t need that either. It broke my heart to walk away from her sweet disposition, but after a lot of internal debate I knew I couldn’t take a gamble on a potentially forever lame horse.

So as much as I enjoyed my ride on F, I let her go.


Horse #1: H

I want to chronicle this shopping journey to look back and compare rides and remember what I thought. If anyone thinks this is highly inappropriate, please politely let me know what is wrong and why. I don’t want to hurt any seller or a horse’s chance of being bought and will not get into anything controversial or rude but want to present an overall picture of how I personally felt on each horse and why.

H was what brought me to the barn on Tuesday night. The seller commented on an ISO post and he looked really nice. When I found out how close he was to me, I just had to set up a time to go meet him. What was really funny was that the farm he was at was one we were supposed to look at to buy but the seller kept changing the date for the showing and then we bought the one we did. And I’m glad we did.

But. The horse.

H is a 13 year old, 16.1H Registered Appendix Gelding. He was on consignment at the barn to sell and as such the seller didn’t have exactly all the info.

I take bad pictures

The most memorable thing about him was how measurably uphill he was built. Incredibly uphill. It surprised Trainer. It made him look much taller than he really was.

He was schooling 2’9″ at home, had trail experience and had been to a few small shows without fuss. What really caught my eye was how gentle he looked in the show ring with horses all around.

I was nervous to get on him even though I rode him second (but I list him first because he is was brought me to the farm and I’m still unsure of how to talk about the other one). While he never did anything wrong at all, he had a tenseness to him that made my wimpy self nervous. In fact he reminded me a lot of our Pete. Never doing anything wrong but had the look like he could.

Under saddle he rode well. It took me a while to get comfortable enough to push him but once I did he felt great. He needed a lot of direction and wanted constant feedback from the rider to make sure what he was doing was right, but never put a foot wrong.

You can tell in the videos that I’m tense on him and he still goes around the ring just fine remaining steady and even while the rider on his back does her best impression of a piece of rebar.

When I cantered him…well let’s say it was near orgasmic. He was so uphill that the canter felt effortless. It was impossible not to sit it and my face was in a grin that nearly hurt it was so big. I could have cantered him all day and cantering is my weakest gait.

Eventually I felt ok enough to hop over the tiny cross rail and it felt like it was barely even there. He was so leggy and the jump so small.

In the end though I didn’t purchase him. He did absolutely nothing wrong the entire time. He stood still for mounting and had great brakes. He never said no or made a fuss. I just wasn’t comfortable enough on him. I felt uneasy pushing him through no fault of his own and I’m not looking for another horse that needs that level of input. I want a baby sitter for me.

As I explained to Trainer: he would be a horse to either do amazing things on or to crush what little confidence I do have. I wasn’t ready to take that gamble.

Trainer loved everything she saw though and I hope he finds a great home. I bet he will be a force to reckon with at shows once he finds his person as he had a lot of natural talent and was a ready and willing guy.

Sadly, he wasn’t the one for me though.


Two Rides In And My Whole World Is Shook Up

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?

Wyatt caught another small mouth bass in the pond. He is getting really good at fishing

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.

Hanging with my bud

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.
Tractor dog
  • 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.
You spread lies about me, woman
  • 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.