You couldn't even pay me to ride a *moderately* spooky horse. Heck, even a "sort of" of spooky horse would get a total pass from me. But then, that's me. My first horse would explode out of nowhere. Spooks, bolts, shies. I fell a LOT in the year that I owned him -- I was 11/12 at the time -- and now in my late 30s I'm STILL traumatized from it and have flashbacks to that feeling when I ride.
Spookiness is the main risk that, no matter how good a rider you are, you're still taking your life in your hands with. A violent spook can unseat -- and seriously hurt -- ANYONE.
Ribbons don't mean much if you have a wreck and do irreparable damage to your body/brain.
This rings home for me. I've honestly been lucky that I haven't fallen more. I keep deep in the seat with this horse because I never know when something could happen. I'm glad to see there are a lot of people who aren't into spooky horses, it's a very nice reality check for me. A lot of people in my barn either are the type who would put their life on the line for a competition or are professionals.
And believe me...I used to sweat with terror walking into his stall when he first came. This horse eats like a wolf on a carcass and eyeballs every man, woman, and child that comes into his space with threat in his eyes. Now, he is happy with me coming into his stall, because I'm the fun treat woman. BUT. If the horses on either side of him look at me after I've given him a treat, he tries to maul them through the bars. He is...something else for sure and I may be lax on him because I know being 'boss' won't work on him...but who knows how he will be treated next. Very sad, I think.
Pass. He's an expensive horse that CAN be good in the show ring but is NOT solid in the show ring.
There are better ones out there, but yes, expect to pay a fair price.
To be honest, I think this horse would be a great horse for a professional. But I have also seen professionals miss lead changes on this horse because he doesn't take the queue...so who knows. I'm no professional and not a trainer by any means, so I think I'll agree with the consensus here that this horse is a pass. It makes me sad in a way, because where ever he goes next will probably not be as kind to him as I have been. This horse tolerates me, likes seeing me come to the pasture because I'm his treat lady...but his unpredictability just...doesn't work for me.
Oh, I would expect to pay for a nicer horse. I'm willing. But...was a little shocked that the price on this horse didn't come down after my trainer admitted I'd been a saint through the leasing period in winter and that he turned out to be a much more difficult horse than she thought he would be on first look (we got him in the end of last summer, so for a week he was an angel with bad ground manners...then the temperature dropped the day I signed the lease and the flip switched for the next 6 months after). His sale price is in the lower five figures, but not in the teens. I was essentially paying $1000 every month just in lease fees. I personally don't find that cheap considering his drama, but some people might I suppose.
What changes between his summer routine and his winter routine? Does he have unlimited hay or pasture access?
I would guess this horse has ulcers. I would also guess that he is very unhappy being stabled. Is he ridden in an indoor arena during the winter? I suspect he is burned out. Perhaps even has an underlying lameness or other health issue.
He just sounds like a very unhappy horse. Unhappy with his life.
I'm guessing if you turned him out to pasture for about a year, you might have a happier horse.
Anytime I have a horse that gets really spooky, i immediately suspect gastric ulcers. My mare had severe ulcers and was a spooky mess. My rescue horse also was a wreck due to ulcers.
I would be looking at everything - from tack fit, to the bit used, to pain responses. What is he fed? How often is he fed?
It is not normal for a horse to change from one extreme in the summer to a different one in the winter.
If I bought him, i would probably find a different stable and get him turned out year round. I would probably treat for ulcers and figure out what in his routine is upsetting him while leasing, before buying. See if ulcer treatment improves his behavior. That purchase price would need to be low.
That said, my first horse could spin bolt right out from under you and she threw me every year. But those spooks were predictable because she only spooked when ridden by herself and something popped out at her on the trail. She was perfect with another horse, provided that horse didn't spook. She was a great city horse- traffic, car sirens, lawnmowers, and fireworks never bothered her. Just not confident by herself. Good in an arena.
Honestly, I would pass unless you are certain you can turn him around with a change in management. He just sounds like he is mentally a mess and unhappy about something. Like he is screaming for help and no one is listening. Is his temperament something that would improve with a life change? I don't know.
That is more than just being spooky. I had one horse that would make up ghosts and do all sorts of nasty pranks-rears, bucks, the airs above the ground. He was a mental case. You could see the look on his face, right before he pulled something. A personality defect. His mom was not like that so it must have come from the sire. I definitely wouldn't want a horse like him. He went to a lady who rides racehorses. Tossed her the first ride but she took him home anyways.
Oh, yes. We realized that he loves his pasture time and that it helps calm him immensely. Unfortunately, we don't live in the south, so pasture time only comes in spring/summer for this horse. He's in his stall all winter and ridden in the indoor arena...but so are the other horses. Turnout is almost impossible outdoor in the winter due to our ice problems and our indoor arena doesn't seem to satisfy him like the outdoor turnout does.
He came to our barn with ulcer meds...my trainer figured it was because they figured he had ulcers due to his personality. Well, clearly the ulcers either never went away or he never had them. I had him taken to the vet before the spring show season to get his hocks done, the chiropractor came etc. I agree with you in that he is unhappy about something in his life. Honestly, I think he just wants to be left alone.
But...with what you said last...a horse making up ghosts? Yeah. Last bad spook we had a few days ago, we were trotting indoors due to the outdoors being a little soggy. Without warning he leapt and bucked and darted sideways. The pro giving a tuneup ride to an older horse was a little ways behind me walking on her horse and was like 'WOW. Way to stay in the tack! What did he spook at?' needless to say, she's new to our barn. I had to tell her, 'Absolutely nothing. This is how he was all winter. This is normal for him.' I ended up having to get off him after he degraded even further during that ride.