Buying advice, please?
So, I looked at one mare, never heard back from the owner. Looked at another mare, even scheduled a vet check, but the owner wanted to show her to some more people, so I canceled the vet check, and sure enough, she sold her to someone else.
Today, I looked at two geldings, and heard of a third.
Horse A, 15 yrs old, 15.1, stocky build. Hadn't been ridden in a few months, but free lunged nicely in the round pen. Has clearly been taught well. His head bobbed a tiny bit at the trot on a few separate occasions, but his feet were atrocious and it just seemed to be a case of tender feet that would come and go as if he stepped on a rock, got sore, and "walked it off." Owner got on, and he crow-hopped a few times. She wasn't sure what was wrong, was positive the tack fit (it's what she normally rides him ind), but said since she never rides him in the round pen (only lunges there then hits the trails), she would try him out in the driveway area. He was ouchy on the gravel, but did fine with her in the grass--didn't crow-hop anymore. My friend rode him second (he's a one-person horse, and she's more the size of the owner, and I'm quite a bit bigger, so I figured it'd be better if his first stranger was the size he's used to). He did fine with my friend, absolutely no crow-hopping, and she rode him past and away from his buddy, who was tied up nearby and absolutely freaking out. Horse A, though, was an angel, personality-wise. She returned, I got on, and he crow-hopped a couple times on the flat. We went up the same hill my friend rode him on, and didn't crow-hop much. Reached the top, turned around to come down, and he kept crow-hopping. At first, I didn't want to "give in," but it really seemed to be a pain issue, not an attitude thing where he was trying to dump his rider, so I got off. We untacked him, and the owner even hopped on him bareback.
Personality-wise, he's great. He appears to have some nice training (sidepasses, spins, was soft and supple in a sidepull). He definitely has not-so-good-feet right now, they were pretty chipped up, and ouchy, and he hadn't been trimmed in 10 weeks. I didn't see much to BE trimmed, so it's like he needs shoes, even when not being ridden. He's been exclusively trail-ridden, which is what I want to do with him. One concern is that she strictly walks on trail, and I'd like to do some trotting and cantering when/where appropriate, and possibly get into some longer-distance riding, which would involve quite a bit of trotting, I'm assuming. But when my friend and I trotted him away from his buddy, he was neither resistant to it, nor in a hurry to go anywhere, so I'm not too worried about that. His feet/back/whatever are really what worry me. The owner kept downplaying it, insisting he's never been lame, ever. I tried to make it clear I wasn't accusing him of being permanently lame, just suggesting maybe he needs a chiropractor or farrier to take a look. The owner made it very clear that she doesn't NEED to sell him, blah, blah, blah, so I don't think she'll be very amenable to a trial, meeting any conditions (have him shod first then re-evaluate sort of thing), or coming down on the price at all. She's asking $2,500, which is more than reasonable, but the top end of my budget, and means after outfitting him with tack, I won't have any left for a truck and will have to save up from scratch.
Horse B is 16 years old, 16 hands, and has also been exclusively trail-ridden, including overnight trips, and highlines and hobbles. She even demonstrated hobbling him. He's been without any significant riding for two YEARS, however. He doesn't seem to have anywhere near the training horse A did. He neckreins alright, but seems pretty dead-sided. The owner couldn't get him to canter under saddle, so she got off and lunged him, and he did fine. Neither of us ended up cantering him under saddle. She suggested I ride him out of the roundpen and into a pasture they're currently not using. He was a little gate sour at the various open gates in the pasture, but actually seemed more inclined to trot out there. Too inclined, maybe. They had him in a tie-down, and I found out why--trying to slow his trot, he threw his head up in the air and evaded the bit. That's not an issue I know how to deal with, nor do I know how difficult it is to re-train. His feet seemed much healthier--he'd been nearly as long without a trim, but his feet looked well-used, but not all chipped up, and he wasn't tender, even on the gravel. The owner brought up that she would be willing to let him go on a trial, which means she cares about him, and is confident he's a good horse at heart. It means I could take my time with a vet check, have a couple people evaluate him, and begin working on the head raising thing. She's only asking $975, and her demeanor says she might even be willing to come down (or at least deliver him for me) for the right buyer.
Horse C is apparently very big (was bought for a man who is 6'7" and not fat, but not scrawny either). I haven't met him yet, but my friend told me about him. Apparently the current owners bought him very cheap even though he was lame when they went (he was a long distance away and they came with trailer, so just took him anyway), and he did something that scared them. Not sure if it was a no-big-deal-just-scared-a-newbie sort of thing, or a deal-breaker sort of thing. But my friend mentioned him, and he's currently owned by the people who owns the property she boards at, so I can take my time checking him out and trying him, if I want. Price would be unbeatable (probably a few hundred bucks), but what if he has real lameness issues? I'll find out more about the behavior that scared them, of course.
I have long legs (36" inseam) and am very overweight, so am looking for a nice stocky horse, both so my legs don't dangle way below his belly, and so he can carry my weight. Horse A felt like a better "fit," but he's only packed around his current owner, who weighs half what I do. Horse B looks less substantial at first glance, but has packed his owner on multi-day pack trips, and she probably weighs what I do, or close to it. He didn't seem to have any issues with her or my brief rides on him today. I rode once or twice a week for a couple years over 10 years ago, and then have been riding a couple times a week for the past year and a half or so, but the latest stint has strictly been trail riding. I've had exactly two lessons in that time, and therefore don't have much confidence to be able to "fix" a horse myself. Horse A, if not truly lame/sore, is probably more of a push-button situation, but I wonder if I'm too big for him, given what he's used to. Horse B has some possible training issues, but I have access to more experienced people, both amateur and paid trainers, so I need advice on how hard it would be to get him to carry himself and not evade the bit, and also advice on how big a deal you think the head-bobbing (it was seriously barely noticeable, and intermittent) and crow-hopping (much more of an issue) are, and what I should consider regarding Horse A.
Thanks for any and all advice! I'm terrible at either/or decisions, which is why I've been considering once horse at a time up to this point. Now I've got trade-offs of stockiness, soreness, training, sensitivity, price, etc. to consider. :-)
I got tired just reading your post.....all 3 of those horses would send me running, not walking. I have a friend who has one of the best trained, sweetest horses for sale out here in OK and she's only asking $2500 for him. He'd die and go straight to the Devil before he'd buck, he's never been shod or sore a day in his life.
My advice, Keep looking!
How much is shipping from OK to OR? :-) Problem with "keep looking" is all the next ones on my list are at the top of my price range. Funny--the nicer horses are also more expensive. :-)
Oh, I was kidding. While I'm sure your judgment is wonderful, I still don't want to buy a horse sight unseen. :-)
I hear a bit of potential in horse A. The crow hopping would concern me a bit but I do know some very nice, very well trained, high dollar horses that still get to feeling good and crow hop occasionally. It's not like they are being malicious or anything, they just feel good and express it by crow hopping. So I would actually have to see exactly what was going on before, during, and after a crow hopping episode with him. Tender feet is an easy enough fix if there isn't something deeper going on. I think, if it was me, I would ask either a very experienced horseperson or a trainer to go along with you to evaluate and check him out again. Someone with that much experience should be able to spot if the crow hopping is a behavioral or a pain thing and might be able to give an educated guess on how hard it would be to fix/deal with.
Those others, I really don't think I would take a second look unless you are planning on spending some serious cash in the upcoming months on training and vet/hospital bills.
I am SO not an expert (hence posting on here), but I really feel that horse A is in some kind of pain. He crow-hopped when first mounted, settled in, then did it again with me (and I weigh nearly twice what the other two riders do). Problem is, his owner doesn't seem to want to look into it, nor does she sound likely to let me take him on a trial. But yes, I could get an experience person and then a vet out, I suppose. :-)
Don't get in a hurry...depending where you live, in my area riding season is just getting over and people are wanting to get rid of horses instead of feeding them.
Be patient the right horse in the right price range will come along.
I think shipping it running at $1.25 a loaded mile but if someone is filling a trailer you may get a lower rate.
Well, after scheduling to see three more horses, I met horse C briefly yesterday, and rode him tonight. Turns out, by saying he was too much for them to handle, it's just because they're newbies and he needs a confident rider. I was nervous at first because of those comments about him, and he was pretty amped up when I got on, and pranced around the driveway before we left on our trail ride, but while he had quite a bit of energy for the first bit of our ride, he was a VERY good boy. I think he has a heart of gold, and just needs some miles. He settled in very nicely, though it's obvious he doesn't have much experience on the trails.
One thing that amused me is that he felt absolutely no obligation to stay on the trail. He'd wander off of his own accord, or just keep going straight when the trail turned. :-) Oddly for a former ranch horse, he also doesn't neck rein. He feels like he's been taught to drop his head with a little contact, but didn't like having much contact. If I pursue him, I'll have his teeth checked.
He was definitely very "looky," but even when we passed a strange person and two dogs, his head went up, his ears were very forward, and he snorted a bit. Then he decided he wasn't scared and just went past them. :-) We watched another horse cross a ditch, and I asked him to give it a shot, but he kindly refused. I didn't push it since he's not my horse, but he didn't freak out or anything. I bet he could be persuaded without much effort.
I'll probably do at least one more ride before deciding whether to ask for a trial, just take him, or keep looking at the other horses I have lined up.
We also trotted out a couple of times, and he never once felt out of control, and he had a nice trot (to me, but I'm no expert). Didn't canter him. He seems to know where his feet are and pay attention to them. The woman riding behind me commented to that effect when we walked through a rocky area, then we trotted down a path that was mostly sand, but with a few large rocks poking up here or there. He didn't dodge the rocks, but passed right over them without once chipping or clipping them. I think he only stumbled once the whole ride (over two hours, I think!), and that's 'cause he was looking at something to the side and not paying attention. Much better than most of the dude horses I've been riding lately!
So, he's far from perfect, but his downfalls are things I can live with until they're improved upon, and I can probably handle the training with a little advice. I didn't feel that way about the horse with his head in the air.
The biggest concern I have is that he apparently has a club foot. The woman we were riding with (not his owner, but another boarder/renter on the same property as his owner) said he is better with the shoeing he's had with his current owner, and he never felt lame to me. Of course I'll have a vet and/or farrier take a look, but how big a problem is this for long-ish distance trail/endurance riding? I'm not going to be doing 100s anytime soon, but would definitely like to try a 25 next summer, and maybe a 50 by this time next year if that sounds do-able. If he's capable of that, but not more, and I get really into it, I can always upgrade.
Also, he's a chestnut, which is my least favorite color. :-)
What do you guys think? Should I keep my appointments with these other three horses, try this guy for a while (I'm welcome to ride him on trails from their property anytime I want, and will probably end up boarding him there even if I buy him, so I can basically trial him however long I like), or do you think the clubfoot or anything else I've mentioned means I should give him a pass?
I wouldn't encourage you to buy a horse sight unseen, but was just pointing out that there are horses out there with the training you want in the price range you need. Just might not be withing an hour or 2, so you might want to expand your search just a bit.
As for a clubbed foot, I had a mare with a HORRIBLE club and she never took a lame step in her life and was always in the front of the pack out and back. She loved to go and was one of the more sure footed horses I've ever ridden. My vet rated her club at a +4 which he said is as bad as it gets before it knuckles over. She went barefoot her whole life and kept that foot worn down to almost normal most of the time and it never slowed her down even a little bit. My farrier said that shoing her would have been worse for the club than leaving her as was.
I got her as a rescue and was really hesitant about riding her, but I'm very glad I was persuaded because she and I had a lot of fun out on the trails, up hill, down dale, through the creeks over the rocks, you name it. Little Miss Odie-o-doe was one of the best horses I've ever had.
Here are some pics of her, you can really see her club. If the horse you're looking at isn't any worse and your vet agrees, I wouldn't worry.
See how she could move?
This is the kind of terrain we rode in everyday. She never took a lame step.
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