So, an update (with pics below!). I went and saw Sugar today and I was truly wow'd by what a well-mannered horse she is, let alone a well-mannered 6 year old mare! The owners and I each worked her in the round pen and under saddle. First of all, she is a dream to work around; she will stand patient for days, when you lead her she is the kind of horse that stops when you stop, backs when you back, etc.
In the round pen, she was incredibly well behaved and never broke her gait unless asked to. I actually do things a little differently than the owner (I never let horses change direction with their hindquarters facing me) and when I asked her to do these things, I could tell she was reasoning out my commands and managed to turn towards me every time.
In the saddle, I have to say, she is not as forehand-heavy as she seemed in the video, but it's there. The owner mentioned that they sometimes work her in a snaffle to help, which was good to hear, but she still needs work on that hind end. That said, she has a be-a-u-tiful jog and trot, and collects when I ask but clearly I would need to work on her holding her collection. I think that will also come with consistent collected riding to build the necessary muscle. She never picked up the wrong lead at a canter and she's actually quite comfortable, but I didn't try flying changes on her. As for the walk-to-canter, I think that relates back to her needing to strengthen her hindquarters and work off of them. When I asked, she kind of slips a half-stride of a trot in between, but the owners claim she can do walk-to-canter (and given I haven't ridden in 8 months, it might have been my cues/seat).
What really impressed me was that in the arena [after having been ridden earlier that day], Sugar didn't break gait or give me any more than I was asking for when we were moving in the direction of the barn. And, when a spookyscary things quad roared right by the arena, she started to spook but immediately gave me her full attention when I asked for it. Lastly, I was really impressed with her willingness to listen to my cues, or reason them out if she didn't understand them even (ie. she didn't understand neck stretches touching her nose to my toe, at first). There is no question that she is intelligent and a quick-learner.
Now, the problems. Of course, she's downhill, needs more training ($$), and is at the top of my budget. I'm going back tomorrow to take her out on the trails and see how she does. Here are the promised pics-- any insights?? I'm struggling because she is the first prospect horse I have actually hopped up on, but I am so impressed with her demeanor and willingness and I know people are waiting to see her if I don't buy...
PS, I attached a picture of her front hooves. I don't think her fetlocks are dropped? But I am by no means practiced at spotting them. Thanks for listening to my rant, all! :) All of my friends and family are in NY, and I'm in AZ, so it's been tough not having horse people who I am close with to go shopping with me.
 If her toes look long, it's because she's due for shoes on Thursday. :)
Last edited by existentialpony; 12-05-2012 at 12:10 AM.