I went and looked at like the 10th horse I've thought of buying in the past six months (one of which I actually got to the vet check stage, but he had ringbone. I also took a few months off in the middle there). This one seems great in a lot of ways, and I'll have at least one friend check him out, too, before I spring for a vet check, but I figure some random people on the internet can chip in their advice, too. Here's his ad.
I'm wanting to mostly trail ride, though I have a couple friends who do endurance, and I'd like to join in on a LD (10 miles or so) this summer, and maybe a 25-mile ride by the end of the summer. I need to get in better shape myself, so there's no hurry to rush the horse into shape, either.
Anyway, I arrived and he was all tacked up, so I'll definitely ask to have him left in the pasture next time, so I can help with catching, grooming, tacking, etc. He wasn't sweaty or anything, so I don't think the owner was trying to pull anything by wearing him out, just thought he was helping by warming him up.
The owner was also using draw reins. I asked about that, and he said he doesn't always use them, but with it being winter, the horse not having been ridden recently (both of those which might cause him to be peppier than usual), and the risk of him slipping (there was patches of snow in the pasture I was trying him out in), he chose to use them. He claimed he'd feel safer if the horse slipped while using the draw reins. (Though to me it seemed more of a risk the horse could slip and end up with a hoof through them or something.)
The owner also rides him with spurs (round smooth rowels like these
). I've never used spurs, so he was relatively dead-sided with me. He's very responsive to voice commands for transitioning both up and down between gaits, though, just not sensitive to turning/bending/whatever based off leg.
He also has nice slow "western" gaits--great for a smooth jog or rocking canter down the trail, but he won't be able to keep up with my friend's Arab's trot.
So, a few questions for those more experienced than me:
Would it be possible to quit the draw reins cold turkey? He doesn't seem to be a stargazer or anything, and I'm not worried about him taking off down the trail.
What would be the best way to get him more responsive to my leg? Get some spurs of my own, but maybe even more gentle than the ones his owner has now, and eventually wean him off them? Just get spurs and use them all the time? Or quit spurs cold turkey, too?
Is it possible he'd eventually be able to stride out (not as much as a quality endurance Arab, but closer to that than a peanut roller)? I'm hoping to be able to take him on the trails before finalizing my decision (they have trails off the property, but unfortunately their only other horse is a TB they don't trail ride because she's too hot, so if I did take him, it would be alone) so I could give it a try. I was riding him in his home pasture with his owner standing right there, so he was a little "sour" about wanting to go back to the owner, the combo of which could have contributed to his slow gaits quite a bit. And due to the aforementioned snow, I didn't really want to push him today, either.
Anyway, he's a great price, and the owner is also selling the saddle I rode in today. He and his family (his daughters are growing up and either in college or completely out of the house) are getting out of horses completely, so I bet I could get him to throw in a bridle and maybe a blanket if the horse has one for $2,000 total, which is about the price range I've been looking in, and would still have to buy tack on top of.
The horse has a very calm, sweet personality. A big lovie, but not TOO obnoxious about it. He is kind of lippy, but knows he shouldn't be and doesn't actually nibble at all, so I think he could probably be talked out of even that habit. (He licked my hand for like a minute straight today, and I let him, to see if he would eventually try to either lip or nip, and he did neither.)
So, what's the vote? Yay, neigh (see what I did there), or other?