To go out and buy a horse Part 3
Why buy at all ?
Why exactly do so many people set out to buy a horse? It is still just possible, to hire a horse to ride. Indeed it is preferable to learn to ride on a schoolmaster to be found in a riding school ie a horse which does little else in its life other than to teach budding riders to sit up correctly in the saddle. There are centres for both the experienced competent rider and the novice to ride out in the countryside. Although in truth the range of activities open to the hirer of a horse as against an owner is restricted and also the relationship between rider and equine will be very different. Riding centre horses are notoriously independent creatures. The hirer of horses to ride must already be competent enough to turn up and mount any horse presented to the hirer. The mounting up can be a tense moment. The emotions moving between horse and rider are very powerful and should never be understated but rarely is a riding centre horse the one to focus one’s emotions on. If you like horses and want to play with them, then you must get your own. But whatever the perceived reasons for taking on the commitment to buy a horse, there should be serious consideration of not only why to buy a horse but why not to buy. A dog is not for Christmas; a horse is not for a fortnight of summer holiday. Owning a horse is a 365 days, 24 hour responsibility taken by a human for the life of a large animal which nowadays is utterly dependent upon humans for its wellbeing. Long gone are the days when horses roamed wild over vast plains in big herds dominated by a stallion. In this modern world, where the owners of horses are insured against third party claims, it is very evident that horses and indirectly their owners can be held liable in law for any misdemeanour. So it is prudent to list just exactly what the buyer of any horse seeks from the relationship. Perhaps during the process there will come the revelation of what the ownership of the horse will cost in money, time and effort. Some folks, whilst desperately wanting to own a horse, do not have the cash or the time or the knowledge to keep one
The buying specification
On the internet now it is possible to refine the search for the perfect horse and interestingly merely the act of filling out the research criteria brings a certain clarity of purpose to the buyer.
Undoubtedly the basic criteria are: type, height, gender, age,
closely followed by: perceived activity and suitability for purpose.
These ideals are usually conditioned by the amount of money available to the buyer to pay for the beast.
Then there is. the basic question of whether the horse is being bought for what it does, rather than what it is. Is the horse to be a “sports horse” or an “allrounder“ ?
Buyers should be very wary of buying on price only. A horse not fit for purpose can be a disaster to say the least. But the buying specification is merely the base starting line for the search. Nothing should be decided until rider has met and ridden the animal.
Every buyer should sit down and carefully compose a specification which suits the rider concerned. The list should also highlight those characteristics which are unacceptable. A great deal of time should be put into this exercise because the key description of any horse to be bought should be that it is suitable for purpose Defining SFP is hard enough, being certain that the horse bought is indeed SFP - will take months.
The nature of the buyer
Essentially all horse owners fit within six categories:
sportsmen, general horsemen, happy hackers, pet owners, breeders and dealers.
Many a horse owner during a lifetime amongst horses will drift from one category into another. Indeed there are a lot of owners who keep a horse at grass, because they just can’t bear to consider euthanasia. A horse bought for specific sporting purposes might not be suitable for general riding and visa-versa. So unless it is understood by the buyer that he/she might be keeping the horse for a limited period only, buying a horse for what it has achieved in the past is a risky business in the extreme. If the performance horse were to break its leg or pull a ligament, then undoubtedly it won’t be performing as well in the future. So being too dogmatic about the physical characteristics, or the perceived reputation, of any horse can be misleading.
So far we have not discussed the most serious consideration for any buyer to consider. The relationship between horse and rider has to be compatible but the rider should be the master. So it is important to assess whether any proposed pairing of horse and rider is indeed workable. Just because a rider has been taught how to manage a horse, it does not mean that the rider will be the boss in the relationship. It is also important to assess how any move of home for the horse will affect its subsequent behaviour. This compatibility issue is a difficult one for any newcomer to the world of horses to assess in the short space of time usually available when buying. But this problem in no way negates the need for the buyer to try to make such an assessment If the horse is an angry horse, then you can quickly find out; if it is an uncooperative horse, then again it is easy enough to ask for cooperation and then not get it. Every buyer must stand back, exclude the looks of a horse and ask himself or herself whether the horse’s attitude to life and humans in general, is as attractive as the horse’s visible appearance might project. The horse’s fundamental temperament must always be assessed; a horse with an unsuitable temperament can carry its rider to disaster.
The advert may allude to behaviour but quantifying temperament is subjective and very much in the mind of the beholder.
The horse’s history
The other key impact on a horse’s behaviour in the stable or under saddle is it’s memory. Horses have incredible memories and not all of them are happy memories. Some of a new owners actions may invoke in the horse bad memories and some of those bad memories might lead to unacceptable behaviour. Some good trainers will point out that many horses may not exhibit a reaction to a fear they have never had because they have no memory of that particular fear. The list of any horse’s fears will only become evident with time. Sadly even the best of trainers cannot eradicate some of the deeply engrained fears which become lodged in a horse’s memory. As has been said, temperament and memory are attributes in a horse which take time to appear and to be quantified. The best person that can help define these fears and memories is usually the present owner but getting such information from the seller can prove to be difficult. The buyer must nevertheless probe for the truth by constant questioning and the observation of the seller and by asking the same question several times. Question and answer is certainly a ploy to be utilised in the horse buying process. Don’t be shy to put under gentle pressure the seller who may sometimes become agitated. Just maybe the agitation develop because the probing is touching a sore spot. The ultimate risk for the buyer is that the seller’s problems will become the buyers once the horse and been bought.
As has been said there is usually a good reason or set of reasons why a horse comes to market. What is likely to a significant extent is that the reasons for sale may not be fully explained. So the only way the buyer can assess if he/she can cope with any problems with a particular horse is to decide for himself whether or not the truth and the whole truth has been told about the horse. Of course some new and capable owners might not have the same problems as the original owner but the buyer should be honest with himself as to his or her own capability when retraining spoiled horses.
Appaloosas have spots - otherwise they are not spotted horses.
An alpha horse won’t ever become meek - unless you break its spirit and then in the process you will break the horse.
It is relatively easy to test a Performance Horse; simply put it to the test.
However an Allrounder calls for a far more circumspect evaluation
to be contd