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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Let's discuss Horse Shopping!

A great time of year is fast approaching in the mid-Atlantic region - prime horse shopping season!! What is this 'horse shopping season' that I speak of??? Well, the days are a bit longer since the clocks changed (stupidest tradition ever btw), so that means more light to ride after work and school! Also, the competition calendar is chocker block full of fun stuff to do for every level and ambition of rider each and every weekend from now until October! The weather is getting better, well, or at least in theory it is! :/  This is a winning combination - better roads, good weather, more daylight...yeppers, you need a new horse! So rather than mutter and rant about the lousy winter we've just had, I'll get to the point of this blog...

How do you go about choosing your new partner? Here are some thoughts that are very important -

That article touches on a a policy that Mom and Dad have had for years. "There is no such thing as a perfect horse." Nope. No way. No how. Nobody is going to convince me there is a 100% perfect horse. Here's why - all horses are individuals, like people are. Each one is a bit different with their own likes and dislikes, challenges and gifts. It is up to trainers and coaches to help nurture the talent and personality of each horse to be an acceptable equine partner for a new rider.

So The Typical Horse Shopper Experience goes like this -
1. You have $xxxxx to buy a horse. Let the fun begin!!!!
2. Begin the search
3. You find "The One" or TO for short
4. You request more photos, information and about 10 hours of video
5. OMG TO is PERFECT on all the 'must have's on your list
6. You go try TO, schedule the PPE, the PPE happens and...
7. Something, somewhere is amiss with TO and your list between steps 1 and 6
8. Dispair, heartbreak and a sense of indignation towards the seller and TO as you feel betrayed
9. You walk away from TO and The Dream and start over with a sense of futility and hurt with a bruised wallet.

So now what would be a good solution for this situation?

The Mom & Dad Horse Shopping Protocol might be helpful -
Waldaire - 1st ride!
He checked 5/12 boxes! No regrets!
1. Make a list of 12 qualities/traits/features/skills that you want in your new horse.
2. Assemble a group of 3-4 horses that check at least 10 of the boxes.
3. Get more information on all of them, i.e. go try them in person. Bring a friend and/or your trainer.
  3A. If these horses are 3000 miles away, make sure your budget can flex enough to afford multiple visits, your vetting costs and/or shipping.
  3B. If the budget is tight, start over in a more local area or adjust your finances.
4. If the horse checks 6 of the boxes, consider yourself blessed. Buy the horse.
5. If the horse checks 4 of the boxes - Buy the horse and with proper training and care, mold it into a 6 out of 12.
6. If the horse does not check 4 of the boxes, move on.
7. If your search takes more than 6 months, go back and revise your list.

That's it. A checklist and prioritizing your list of important qualities in a new partner. M&D are smart people, really.

A few side notes -
If the vetting finds alarming details, talk to your vet in a rational calm manner about possible scenarios.
   There is no crystal ball and horses are resilient, fragile, tough and delicate creatures wrapped into 1,200 pound endearing packages. They can not read radiographs. They are athletes - just like you, The Rider, are!
   Talk to the owner/seller/current trainer/rider, if you have established a relationship with them. Try not to feel betrayed/hurt/disillusioned - more than likely, whatever the detail is - it was a surprise to the seller as well.
   If there was negotiation room or a counter offer, weigh your options. Look into insuring your purchase perhaps. If you have a queasy feeling, walk away in a courteous manner with polite communication with the seller.

If you are new to horse shopping, read the article that is linked above several times. You would be wise to have a trainer or more experienced friend be your wingman in this adventure.

If you have a budget of 30K, look at horses that are not at the top of the budget. Set aside 15-20K and look for horses that with a bit of training (because you're a good rider) will become the 30K horse. Also, in shopping slightly below your maximum, you are leaving a good amount for competition fees, training and the 'in case' scenario.

  What is this 'in case' scenario? Well, I'm going to tell a few tales of the unscrupulous horse goes with some fictional characters for reference.
Suzy = Shopper    Harry = Horse Dealer
#1. Suzy was diligently going through her M&D List and found "Fred" on Harry's website for 25K. Fred was checking 8 of the 12 boxes. Suzy makes an appointment to go try Fred. Suzy likes Fred quite a bit and schedules a vetting. Nothing alarming pops up on the vetting, but Suzy has a feeling that that pretty black horse "Tom" that was being schooled while she rode Fred was The One. Tom was priced significantly higher (45K) than Suzy was planning on spending. Suzy ends up buying Tom for 45K.
In reality, Harry had found out what Suzy's budget was and wanted to maximize his profit.

#2. Suzy finds "Tom" on Harry's website for 45K. Suzy flies to try Tom over a weekend. Tom is great. He checks all the boxes, is vetted w/ radiographs and full vet history that Harry can send on to her vet for review. But at every trial ride, Betty, (the BMW driver with lots of jewelry) is parked ringside watching. As Suzy leaves the stable to catch her flight home, she hears Betty say to Harry (loudly), "Whatever Suzy offers, I'll pay 10K more!" Suzy buys Tom for $57K as she really fell for Tom over the weekend and she knew Betty was planning on snaking Tom.
In reality, Harry had scheduled Suzy's rides on Tom with Betty as well as the amount of the "offer" and timing of the announcement.

#3. Suzy finds "Dick" on Harry's website. Dick is fancy. Dick is pretty. Dick priced well within Suzy's budget. Dick has a prestigious pedigree. Dick is priced very inexpensively for his age and in contrast to his Sales List cohorts that are not nearly as pretty, well bred or imported.
Suzy smells a rat and walks away from Dick and Harry. Suzy is a smart cookie.

So that is enough story telling for today. It's my birthday and I want to get out and ride. It is almost above freezing, so that means it is warm...I think. Maybe.

~Happy Riding!~

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