The "free" or "fixer upper" horse and newbies an expensive but common mistake.
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.
Very well said! If your scared to ride it at the sellers house... Your going to be just as scared to ride it at your own. I have seen many many people purchase horses cause they are pretty and they never ride them because they are scared of the horse. Common sense is a very beneficial thing to have!
Nicely said HerdBound. I have a question for you though.
In a few years, I am moving to a country that has no regard for horses as anything more than on a racetrack. When we move there, it will be my first opportunity to own a horse.
The problem is, I have been doing my homework and all there are on offer are OTTB's or horribly abused animals (some that rarely see the light of day).
There are a few rescue centre's - run by non-locals - but nowhere I have seen to actually purchase a good 'been there done that' horse that a beginner would need.
What does one do in such a situation?
Import costs are far too high to consider as well.
Turndial, perhaps you could volunteer at the rescue get yourself known and build your own knowledge until you're at the point where you can handle more horse.
Herd bound great post!
I agree with you!
Part of the problem lies with people thinking they are more experienced than they are.
Recently there was a court case where a woman went to try a 'free' horse. The owner had sent it to someone to get rid of for free, and he advertised the gelding as a problem horse, stating that it could really buck for no apparent reason.
The woman rode it and the horse dropped her on the way back to the stables and then trod on her face. She tried to sue for damages (she has had major reconstruction on her face) It was refused in the first and appeal court, judges stating that anyone getting on such a horse is taking a risk and is therefore responsible for their own safety.
Great post. This rings of 'Three months ago my horse was well mannered and lovely to ride when I bought him, now he bucks me off or rears all the time etc'
I bought Duffy last June. I didn't realise at the time how much work it was. I would NEVER buy a skinny horse again. Sorry, but I can't deal with the tears, and the money and work it requires. I love my mare to bits, but 9 months down the line, its been so much hard work and unpredicatble.
Also, there is the thing that people buy these horses that need fixing up seem lovely, and then when they get fitter the personality change is astounding. Or the health problems that come with it.
There are plenty of horses out there, you just need to take the time to find the right one.
I posted a news article about this and we had a sort of mini debate about what is right and wrong, the dangers of trying 'free' horses etc !!:lol:
DuffyDuck I think it is great that you did put the effort into bringing one back...that is awesome! BUT for someone who is just starting out bringing one back that is poor or down in weight can be overwhelming. It is a long, tedious, and has to be done exactly right or you can kill the horse easily :( PLUS as you mentioned a starved down horse acts a lot different than one who is healthy. If you take on a starved horse who is weak and thus acts calm and docile once he feels good again you may find out you are in way over your head. A "project horse" like that is not for a beginner. I feel sorry for the starved, neglected horses just as anyone else does but you really need to know a lot about equine nutrition and general health in order to save one...that usually comes from owning and caring for horses for awhile. I am sure there are some lovely "free" horses out there BUT I think for a beginner it is better to save up your money until you can afford a well trained, well mannered animal, even if it takes you longer than you would like. It is soooo worth the investment.
I will have to admit, I jumped the gun when it came to buying my first horse. I was so excited and let me heart get in the way of my head. I drove three hours in the evening to Ohio to see Freedom. Rode her in this girl's backyard trying to avoid the volleyball net, trampoline, treehouse, and tree. The poor horse was kept in a garage with no bedding, no hay, and no other horses. I couldn't walk away. She was definitely not a newby's horse, but I couldn't leave and say no. Two weeks later, she was UTD and passed coggins and on her way to PA. I will have had her for three months on the 17th and must say she's been a lot of work and a lot of money, but it has been worth it! I've tapped into my savings and have been budgeting myself a little more, but when she comes up to me and just nuzzles me, it's like she's saying thank you and it melts my heart.
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