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The "free" or "fixer upper" horse and newbies an expensive but common mistake.

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    03-10-2012, 10:33 AM
  #31
Weanling
Well said Herdbound!

I'd like to add too that when you're going to look for a first horse have "goals" or a checklist for the horse. Be picky. The scariest thing I ever heard was from a friend of a friend who was looking for a first horse and I asked what she wanted to do and she said "whatever the horse wants to do" ... she proceeded to bombard me with about 15 ads from Kijiji all advertising horses that were free to good home or under $500. One lady was even willing to trailer her a $200 broken down 21-year-old mare for free 400 km.... 0.0

Know at least this when looking at a first horse:
  • What discipline do you intend for it ~ don't get a horse with heaves and then intend to do barrels with it.
  • How often do you intend to ride ~ an older horse can be great if you're only riding once in a while, but it's not fair to the horse if you intend to ride every day. And vice versa too.
  • What is your skill level ~ if you have 0 experience with horses I highly recommend taking lessons first before buying a horse. Go hang out at someone else's barn for a while, volunteer with the chores and LEARN... skill level isn't just riding but the day to day care as well. Do you know how to bridle? Do you know what a good farrier schedule is like? Can you recognize worms, thrush, and other ailments?
  • Where do you intend to keep the horse ~ boarding is a good idea for first time horse owners, as USUALLY the facility is experience with horses and there are often people around who can be asked for assistance. If you intend to keep it at home, do you have proper fencing, run-ins, and a good source of water.
  • Are you financially able to support a horse ~ if $1000-1500 (the going price of decent, grade, trained horses around here) is too much money, maybe it's time to re-evaluate the checkbooks and see if a horse really is in the budget. I'm not saying you have to be wealthy - I too live paycheck to paycheck some months - but a free horse - even the miracle horse who's healthy, trained, well-mannered one - cost money to keep.
These are just the things I thought of off the top of my head that were brought up with my conversation with this friend of a friend that scared the living daylights out of me when her answer to most of these questions I asked was "I don't know"... I offered to teach her more before she went to buy the horse.
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    03-10-2012, 11:24 AM
  #32
Weanling
PerchiesKisses thank you for the additional info...great points!
     
    03-11-2012, 10:45 AM
  #33
Foal
Quote:
Originally Posted by herdbound    
Taking on the wrong horse is probably the most expensive & dangerous mistake you can make on the road to being an equestrian of any discipline...and the "free" horse can end up being the most expensive horse of all.

It is common sense that you would want a healthy animal so getting a vet on board to do an exam is always a great idea. Most people know to look at the hooves and to examine it for old scars, but the vet is going to be able to find things you can’t see with your naked eye. They will examine the eyes, the ears, listen to the heart to detect defects like murmurs ect and it may cost you a little bit to have them out but they can save you hundreds if not thousands of dollars in the long run by steering you clear of animals that have physical ailments that are going to be issues in their care. I always suggest a vet exam before ANY taking on any horse.

This is the story that I hear that almost always leads to the same sad ending.



“So-and-so had this horse and I felt so sorry for it and they were giving it away and I just fell in love with it. It’s not broke or it’s “green broke”. Right now it’s in there kicking the stall doors off, coming at me with teeth bared and yesterday it tried to remove my head with it’s back feet when I went into feed it.Why? What am I doing wrong? ”



That’s not to say all “FREE” horses are bad…because they are not. Some are great but some are other peoples problems OR have problems because the people getting rid of it didn’t invest the time into keeping it well mannered. They may have just let it run free and over them till it has behavior issues. When people finally face the reality that they really don’t have the time nor resources to care for one, they have often already done damage to the horses training and socialization skills.

A horse is only worth as much as it’s training in my book. Training is like location in real estate. TRAINING, TRAINING, TRAINING…and often a well trained, pleasant, good mannered horse does NOT come cheap. They are what everyone is looking for. So if you are to take the gamble on the freebie, be aware that you could probably be investing in a trainer BEFORE you are going to get to enjoy it. And if you are just starting out with horses, a horse fresh out of training is NOT the horse you need. That horse is for an intermediate to advanced rider who is going to further develop the animal instead of unknowingly ruin it’s training. And if you are just starting out training a horse may be out of your range of skills.

We could compare taking on a free horse to buying a “fixer upper” house. If you don’t know anything about plumbing, electrical work or carpentry your going to end up paying a lot more to save a house in disrepair than just start off with what you actually need in the beginning. The “fixer upper” horse is the same. I don’t care if it’s the most beautiful horse you have ever laid eyes on IF it has a nasty disposition or a firecracker temperament this is NOT a beginners horse…because these issues need professional attention and can be dangerous to deal with. This is an expensive and dangerous trap many new horse buyers fall into, and just like the house, it can be an absolute money pit.

I would encourage anyone getting into horses to find a good rider to go with them to check out the animal. Do NOT get a horse that is not broke as your first horse …please. I know it can be tempting but it is a very common mistake people make. A beginner needs a horse that is well behaved, has been there and done that, and is going to be forgiving of “newbie” mistakes. Take you a good riding buddy and test out the horses BEFORE you pick. And NEVER get a horse you haven’t had the courage to get on at the sellers house. This is another huge mistake people make. They get something to ride, that they won’t ride. It isn’t going to be any better at home…in fact the horse behavior may go down hill for a couple weeks as it adjusts to it’s new surroundings. Having a friend who will get on first and make sure the horse acts “as advertised” is a great idea. Then you take a ride and let them watch the horse from the ground to see how it looks and to watch for any visible signs of disrespect or unwillingness to being ridden by an unconfident rider. If you don’t know someone personally to take some barns advertise exercise riders and such you can hire to come with you and give you an honest opinion on the animals handling.

Never trust anyone’s word on an horse. They lie. And if it’s a “bad” horse they have even more reasons to lie to you. So evaluate it yourself. Let your common sense over ride your heart and eyes too. There is a saying, “you can’t ride pretty”…and that’s truth. I would rather put a beginner on an old swayed back horse with a motherly heart who is half blind…than on a 4 year old hot head who looks like he just strutted of the cover of Horse Illustrated. You have to be honest completely with yourself about your abilities. You will not be able to lie to the horse. If you buy outside of your skill you will regret it as soon as it comes time to start actually enjoying the horse.

No horse is perfect. They all have issues of some sort or another. They all need to be worked . But as a newbie you do not have the skill or the knowledge to keep you safe on a more “rambunctious” or control a more dominant animal. You need to start safe & dependable. Doing otherwise will result in a lot of painful, expensive regrets and very little enjoyment.
I agree completely! One should never try to out smart our common sense. Owning a horse can be an experience of a lifetime. However, the rider/owner must match the horse. Experience is priceless!
     
    03-11-2012, 11:00 AM
  #34
Weanling
My first horse was/is definitely quite the fixer-upper. When I got him, he was a skinny, skittish 9-year-old Off-Track Standardbred gelding who was free and I was a 15 year old girl. I don't regret it one bit. He has cost me quite a bit of money in groceries and a few farrier sessions a little more expensive than others due to some feet issues, but all in all he is an absolutely sweetheart of a horse. I have mostly been training him myself, but I'm lucky enough to have people at my local barn who know how to train horses. Plus, I've sent him away for a few months of professional training. Most "Free" horses aren't going to be the perfect, well-behaved, well-trained animals, but they are usually worth it if you're willing to try :)
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    03-11-2012, 11:08 AM
  #35
Weanling
Quote:
Originally Posted by JavaLover    
My first horse was/is definitely quite the fixer-upper. When I got him, he was a skinny, skittish 9-year-old Off-Track Standardbred gelding who was free and I was a 15 year old girl. I don't regret it one bit. He has cost me quite a bit of money in groceries and a few farrier sessions a little more expensive than others due to some feet issues, but all in all he is an absolutely sweetheart of a horse. I have mostly been training him myself, but I'm lucky enough to have people at my local barn who know how to train horses. Plus, I've sent him away for a few months of professional training. Most "Free" horses aren't going to be the perfect, well-behaved, well-trained animals, but they are usually worth it if you're willing to try :)
I am really glad it worked out for you! That is awesome. You really are blessed because in my experience it just seems far and few between that this happens. Alot of times people get the "free or almost free" horse because they think wow I can afford a horse and NOTHING about horses comes cheap.
     
    03-11-2012, 11:57 AM
  #36
Trained
Free horses are for people who are dedicated to their cause. Most have some sort of problem, not all, you might luck out. Worst case I seem to see is parents who are nagged by their children, "I want a horse, I want a horse"! Parents will try to comply by acquiring a horse as cheaply as possible. 99 times out of a 100, it does not work out, no one is happy, least of all the child who wanted to ride. Waste of time & effort, not to mention risk of injuries. The afore mentioned scenerio is the most painful to see and correct.
     
    03-11-2012, 01:13 PM
  #37
Weanling
Not to mention the shady people who want to get out of the euthanasia and burial expense of a horse that is on it's last leg. I have seen people give away a horse on deaths door to a child or family who isn't aware of this and all they get is a bunch of vet bills and a little kid with a broken heart :(
     
    03-11-2012, 02:43 PM
  #38
Foal
Quote:
Originally Posted by waresbear    
Free horses are for people who are dedicated to their cause. Most have some sort of problem, not all, you might luck out.

This reminds me of FWDEquine's post. :(

I also whole-heartedly agree. Mom's gelding has no known history. He's a sweetie on the ground but flips 180% when tacked up. Did I mention that he was sent from a neighbouring province as a problem horse and had suffered a broken nose at some point in his then, 7 years? He has flashy movement and listens like a dream in halter. Chester was plopped into the boarding herd with my girl Cerra who instantly fell in love with him. (Cause she's a sucker for geldings.)

My parents then decided that town wasn't the place for them and bought a nice-sized acreage. At this point, Cerra was the only horse and I began searching for a companion. (Enter Bailey.) The BO however, convinced my mother up and down about Chester. He's so gentle! And kind! And don't worry about the nose, he pulled back in a halter while being trailered. It's just cosmetic. You would be so good for him! (My mother has never ridden a horse in her life at this point in time.) He also had rear-feet issues and the story the rest of us BOARDERS were told was: "His previous owner was riding him and he freaked out, so she got rid of him."/"Owner's kids were riding and he freaked out, so she got rid of him to be safe." -- Already, different stories and events. FREE HORSE TO A GOOD HOME!

Yeah. No thanks. Dad bought a retired ranch horse for $2,300. He needed farrier work to repair the cracks in his hooves and is partially blind but is DEAD BROKE. I rode him a few times and then decided that Chester could use the exercise as well. No. He pinned his ears at the girth. He was spooky with the tack on, to the point where he spooked and ripped back in the tied halter. I lead him around instead with a bridle on, stop/turn/circle, etc. He is simply too much horse for me (and my parents). This is a free horse.

Cerra, hell, she stood there as I plunked the saddle on, adjusted it and yanked up the girth. (I wasn't exactly gentle with her... LOL) No halter on. And then followed me around for a bit. I bought her for $350 two years ago and since, the seller has expressed regret at selling her. She's got a heart of gold and I couldn't ask for a better attitude. If she had been free, I probably wouldn't have bought her... then again, we all have to take a chance at some point in our lives. Gotta keep things interesting. :P
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    03-11-2012, 09:37 PM
  #39
Yearling
I will first say, "Herbound I agree with 90% of what you and everyone else is saying."
Now having said that, sometimes horses have a way of finding the right place. Hard times, issues, needs training, just plain ole stubborn was my favorite..... These are descriptions of some of the horses I have been fortunate enough to own in my lifetime. I've euthanized more than one 2 weeks into ownership because it was the right thing to do. I'll just say this though....

I wouldn't have missed a single one of them for the world. My current doll will most likely never be able to be ridden. (Do not trust a sellers vet!) But, I don't care anymore. He has my heart on a halter. Vet bills, hmmm yeah, xrays, ultra-sounds, therapy, chiro, anti inflammatory medications, we are even going a round with some hydrotherapy soon.

I've been fortunate enough to ride, train, and own some special animals. Some with astounding potential. But, when it comes down to it, the ones I'll always hold special were those who came with issues, or came at a time in my life where I needed them as much as they needed me.

So sometimes the "cheap or free" horse is worth the newbie trying. Sometimes being outhorsed will humble them enough to smarten up and learn. And yep sometimes it ends in disaster. Horses are like our lives, sometimes you just HAVE to take a chance......
     
    03-11-2012, 09:55 PM
  #40
Started
I have one of each, a freebie rescue that was anything but free, and a tried and true freebie that came to us because he needed a different environment.
It's not for everyone. First thing my trainer said was get rid of her, get her fit and get rid of her, green on green makes black and blue.....well, I had my bruises but my greenie rescue will be with me for life.
     

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