Buying a horse for my daughter! Thoughts?
After seeing a few duds, my daughter and I went to see a horse last night and are both in love with him. Tomorrow, we see him again but this time we are bringing her coach and possibly the barn owner where we will board until our barn is ready. But because I am just as blinded by the idea of this horse as my daughter, I figured I'd put it out there so you can all bombard me with questions to make sure I'm not missing anything.
Background on me and my daughter: she will be the main rider. She is 10, but has been taking lessons since she was 6 and has recently started jumping. She's done a bit of everything, has ridden over 20 different horses over the years (English and Western), and is very comfortable handling horses on the ground and while riding. I had my first pony when I was 5, then a QH when I was 12. We kept him in the backyard so I did everything. However, I've never jumped or really did anything very advanced. But I'm familiar with day-to-day care and am doing my best to learn the rest.
Our objective: to find a horse that can do some low-level local competing over fences and a horse she can hack out. I will also be purchasing a horse once our barn is ready so I can join her on trails and to keep her horse company. My horse will be a companion horse who will only do light riding. Because the horses will eventually live in our backyard, they need to have nice temperaments. We are more interested in having horses who will live out their lives with us as members of our family than horses that are highly competitive, but also high-strung. As someone who grew up dealing with a difficult, stubborn horse without any help, I do not want to put my daughter in that position. Above all, being around the horses should be pleasant and riding should be fun.
The plan: we have begun planning our backyard barn and pastures/paddock/riding ring. We are getting the permits and our contractor is starting the build in the spring with a projected finish in July. We live on 13 acres and there are lots of trails around. The barn will be a 4-stall 32 x 48' building. There will be a sacrifice paddock which will also be used as a riding ring (120 ft by 65 ft or so) and two pastures that have been seeded this past spring. Our neighbor has an indoor arena and 3 horses and has a coach come in weekly so my daughter will ride there in the winter. Should we decide to purchase a horse for my daughter before our barn is ready, we will board at the stable where she currently rides. The owner is a friend and has room for us. This will allow us to work with an experienced barn owner and my daughter's coach to make any necessary adjustments over the next few months. I have a flexible work schedule so we can go to the barn every day after school and on weekends. In fact, I may never leave :)
The horse: after seeing a few that had red flags all over them, we did not have really high expectations, but were encouraged by the fact that the seller is local and happens to be the coach my daughter started with 4 years ago. She has since sold her stable and built a smaller, private barn. She is an eventer and breeds warmbloods. She has had foals born recently and now has more horses than stalls so she needs to sell a few before winter. This horse is an arab QH X, 15 HH, 8 year old gelding. He is a nice chestnut colour with some of the stockiness of a QH but a pretty arab head and those intelligent arab eyes. Before this current owner had him, he was ridden bitless and had not had his wolf teeth pulled. The wolf teeth are now out and he is learning to wear a bit. Shen she rode him and pulled on the reins, he would put his head up a little and turn it sideways.
Our initial assessment: my daughter (and myself) was able to handle him on the ground and on his back with ease. He has a sweet temperament and likes attention, which we love! He's a smart horse, he can escape from his stall so we will have to put a latch very low on his door so he can't reach, but she says he does not test electric fences. Apparently he likes to take halters off other horses in the paddock! He is currently out 24/7 and is an easy keeper. She got him out of the paddock when we arrived and asked my daughter to groom him. No issues. She was able to pick up his feet and I had a look - they are dry and clean and he is barefoot. No cracks. Beautiful hooves. No scars anywhere on his body or apparent sensitivity. We tacked him up easily (he didn't react when she tightened the girth), and led him out of the barn with dogs and tractors around and he didn't even flinch. In the arena, the owner rode him first, then my daughter. She tended to pull a little too hard on his mouth because she is used to dead-to-the-world lesson horses. He is a sensitive horse. Nonetheless, after about 10 minutes, she was able to put him through a w/t/c and over a small fence. He has a nice, gentle canter and a steady trot I think (but what do I know). He appears willing, shows no hesitation in front of fences with enough energy that she doesn't have to use a crop, but responds to a halt every time. In fact, when she was a bit unsteady at first (remember she's only 10), he slowed down and the owner said he does that when he senses hesitation. My daughter rode him back to the barn through the yard in fading daylight and the beginning of a thunder storm - again, no issues at all. He does not seem to startle at anything.
I've already made arrangements to go look at him again with some more experienced horse people tomorrow. There are others interested so we need to act fast. The price is quite reasonable and the seller is honest to a fault (she has, in the past, refused to sell horses that were not appropriate for kids). She has told me that although he did a few shows last summer, he is not yet a finished show horse, which is to be expected at his age I think. But we are prepared to put a bit more money into training him and my daughter will be riding him under the supervision of her coach for the next few months. We had planned on asking for a one-month trial period, but since she needs the space before winter, that will not be an option. But as I said, if we run into issues, I am prepared to spend money on a trainer to work through them. That said, I do not want to end up having to re-sell this horse if it doesn't work out - it might break my daughter's heart. I will put a lot of weight into the advice of the horse professionals who will see it tomorrow, but again, I put it out there to all of you - am I being blind? Is this horse too good to be true? Is he too green for my daughter?