I find myself suddenly in the position of having to consider replacing my recently demised mare. She’s gone my beauty, never to return. It is now beholden on me to seriously review what I call the ‘Seven Ws’ surrounding the buying procedure of a horse namely:
’Why?’,’What for?’,’Where?’,’Which horse?’,’When?’,‘With What?’, & finally: ’Whether Not?’
WHY? buy a horse when one can make a phone call, book a ride, drive to the yard and mount up? At the end of an hour or so, one can dismount, then hand the reins to a groom and leave for home. The great benefit of the rental arrangement is the lack of long term commitment. The whole deal has built in advantages. There is no responsibility and if anything goes wrong, one can always blame the barn owner or the trainer. The chances of being offered a difficult horse to ride is lessened and the horse will always be presented in a fit state to ride. Initially the costs look a bit steep but they include a modest profit for the owner and maybe a fee for the trainer. Undoubtedly unless one failed to shop around for a reputable riding centre, in the long run, it will be the cheapest option to get your leg over the back of a wide range of horses.
WHAT FOR? What do you, the budding owner, think you can achieve from having your own personal mount? There needs to be a role for the horse especially since the horse’s capability and temperament have to match up with the owner/rider’s plans for the future.
WHERE? Put more explicitly where does one look for the ideal mount? Is the best buy to be found locally in a known area, nationally on the internet or in the trade press, or is it by word of mouth and personal recommendation?
WHICH? The choice of which horse can often become the nightmare scenario. It is just so easy to pick the wrong horse - which somehow suited the purchaser on the days of inspection but which was basically unsuitable for the role envisaged.
WHEN? It is a fact that circumstances change. Events in one’s personal life must often take precedence. With a young person the barrier can be education, in an older individual it is the job. It can also be marriage, divorce or a pending move.
WITH WHAT? Well, the initial cost is the horse itself but one dare not break the bank with the purchase because the monthly maintenance cost of the horse can become a regular and on going back breaker.
But finally comes along ‘WHETHER - not” namely the final decision as to ‘whether NOT’ to proceed with the purchase of even the ideal horse, which has a proven record in the chosen sphere, which has been found in an accessible location and which can be taken ownership of at any time convenient to the buyer and which has been offered for sale at a fair price.
It can readily be seen that rushing into the purchase of a horse which one has ‘fallen in love’ with , could be a prescription for disaster. There are so many variables in the process of matching horse with rider and circumstances that no two purchases are ever the same. The chances for a disastrous mismatch are ever present.
After all my years with horses I must confess that I myself am still vulnerable to making a mistake. I am too apt to fall for a pretty body. But let us assume I can pass through the first six hurdles and get to the phase of ‘Whether I should go ahead ? The alternative to not saying: ’Yes’ would be to say: ’No’.
On the plus side of the equation I have all the experience necessary to take on most of the horses I am likely to come across as being for sale to the amateur owner/rider owner market. I am not even going to look at proven top notch performance, sports horses. However I daresay, with a little help from my friends, I could pick, husband, train and ride most horses presented to the private owner-rider. Of course, there would be self imposed limits, which hopefully I would be sensible enough to adhere to.
But a well bred horse:
showing a healthy conformation;
maybe a 15h2 up to weight gelding, with a kindly temperament;
known to be forward going and without vices;
for sale at a fair price from a good home for no fault of its own;
- subject of course to passing an in depth veterinary examination including blood and urine analysis.
There is however one extra consideration for an individual of my age:
OK the horse might be suitable for me but am I suitable for it?
And it is at this stage of the process where we broach the subject of the attributes of the owner/rider, (namely me) in the way of physical fitness, temperament, health and wealth. For many reasons, it would be appropriate for me to subject myself to a medical examination comparable with that mandatory for the horse. If I am honest with myself, I might fail that inspection. My big concerns lie in the skeletal structure of my lower back and the body’s balancing mechanism between my ears. There’s also a question about the testosterone machine in my groin - which is needed to provoke the gung-ho spirit used as fuel by an active rider on a sparky horse.
Arguably the major question for a retired man is that of ageing. Will the horse, which is bred in nature to live twenty five years or more but which needs 24/7 care and attention, live longer than its human care provider? After all in taking on ownership of a horse I thereby guarantee its everyday health, safety and well being.
Oh and there is one other consideration: - can the ageing pension on fixed income afford the £5000 a year it costs in Britain to keep a horse in healthy condition (if one does not own the land and facilities)?
It seems to me after due consideration that my going into a new horse ownership venture is only possible if I have alongside a junior partner who would take up the reins, were I to ever become incapable of honouring my responsibilities towards a dumb domesticated animal. And that individual would have to be a like thinker in matters of horse husbandry. Sadly my wife, following an accident during which she broke her leg is no longer willing to ride.
If I had a horse loving daughter, who lived close by, then such considerations would be so mush easier. Sadly I should have thought of that requirement twenty five years ago.
There is one flaw in my thinking. The prime reason for owning my dapple grey sparky mare became the love of her which she invoked in me. Her very need for forgiveness somehow made her something special. I knew only too well, that were she to lose the protective umbrella which I had woven around her, she would soon get herself into trouble. As it was, I could not shield her from a malevolent virus which took her away.
Perhaps that is the way of the world of horses, human emotions so readily cloud the logical picture. Hence I have reached the situation where I know I can probably find the horse, but I am also aware that it would be irresponsible of me, in view of my circumstances, to take on an obligation which I cannot guarantee to fulfil.