So I rode the paint for over three hours over all kinds of terrain today. I think I'm passing on him.
First off, he wouldn't let me put a saddle on him. Was trembling when he felt the saddle touch him. The owner came over and heaved it on him and he wasn't happy. It was a big, no-so-great fitting Western saddle, which the owner apologized for, but what the hell am I supposed to do with a horse that is scared of a saddle? Then I couldn't get one ear in the headstall. His height wasn't helping (I think he's closer to 16hh now that I've spent more time with him). I could get one ear in no problem, but he wouldn't let me touch the other ear. I suspect an ear infection or something because he had no issues letting me handle the first one. Also, I felt his headstall was on too tight.
We headed outside and it was a windy, nasty day. A few flurries have been falling on and off all day. All kinds of things were rattling in the wind and he was really spooky even though we were just walking circles in a field, trying to decide if he was settled enough to go do the trail. At that point, I almost called the whole thing off. I was trying to picture my daughter on him and knew this wasn't the right horse to boost her confidence. But after a few random spooks, he did settle down so I sucked it up and decided to see just how bad it could get. We rode along the road (which I never like doing) and along power lines, in a suburb, along dirt roads, through water and a lot of muck (we had a hard rain last night). We trotted until my thighs hurt from the darn Western saddle bars. He spooked a a few more times but I rode it out.
But the best part came about an hour and a half into the ride when the owner (riding her Arab) told me she hadn't been completely honest with me and that he's really just green broke. What??? I specifically indicated I am looking for a rock-solid beginner safe trail horse that both myself and my daughter can ride. She told me this long story about how she bought it as a five-year old, but when the vet came, he said the horse was no more than 3 or 4. And other than the one clinic she did with him, any training he has is from her (and she is def. not a professional trainer, which explains why he's a little rough around the edges). I'm guessing the horse has been ridden maybe a dozen times in his life.
So given that information, he actually did pretty well on the trail! None of his spooks were severe and he never unseated me. But he was with his trail buddy in a familiar environment. I need a horse that can settle Harley down, not make him crazier!
I thanked her for the ride, told her I was honestly looking for a horse with a little more training and that I was going to go look at a couple of other horses. But honestly, I think I'm done with that one. If I were to consider him, I'd want to put additional training and desensitizing on him. But I'm not sure it's worth it.
Oh, he was coughing a lot throughout the ride too. Mostly when we trotted. He does have a nice canter though....
I guess the search goes on. Someone contacted me saying they have a nice 18 yr old QH mare for sale... might be worth looking at. But I'm not in a hurry. I'm having so much fun with Harley these days that I just want to finish the barn and paddock/pastures and bring him home.
Also, the rescue QH that used to be a lesson horse? They backed him and are really keen on having me come out to see him. He did well with a rider on him, but is refusing to take the bit. They are riding him bitless. I don't think I'm going to take that one seriously until they have him fine-tuned a little more.*
Horse shopping is so frustrating.