Horse shopping isn’t for cowards (or fools)

Buyer beware. That’s probably the first and most important rule of horse shopping.

I’ve now jumped into the horse shopping market with both feet because it’s raining here in Northern California and there’s not much to do except surf the internet and look at horses, horses, and more horses on the internet.

I miss having a horse. While it’s nice to be clean, I miss being with a horse each day. I want to find my new horse. Hence: horse shopping.

Oooooh, look, pretty horse! Oh wait, that one is $125K. Yeah, maybe not. Hmm, let’s keep looking.

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Five hours later I emerge from my office with bloodshot eyes and a crick in my neck wondering, where did the time go? Visions of horses dance through my brain, but I’m cranky: I will never find my horse. Every horse I admire is in Europe, or across the county in a small town far from a major airport.

Besides, I’ve shopped enough over the years to know how hard it is to assess a horse based on video and a few conversations with the seller. I dread flying a long way only to be disappointed. Inevitably I will have to do it eventually, but I’m putting it off for a bit.Screen Shot 2016-01-20 at 6.31.07 PM

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Here follow a few absolutely true cautionary tales horse shopping. Two of these happened to friends or acquaintances, and one happened to me (just the other day).

Cautionary Tale #1: My friend had a long list of questions to ask the seller before getting in the car for a four hour drive to see the horse: Had the horse ever had colic? Lameness? Allergies? History of bolting, rearing, etc., etc. etc.  She went through every possible problem she could imagine, and the horse sounded great.  She drove for four hours to see the horse, arrived there, and was looking at him when she noticed that his eyes did not look quite right. Asked the seller about it, and the seller admitted that the horse was blind in one eye.

“BLIND? Blind???? Why didn’t you tell me this before I drove four hours?”

“Well, you never asked if it could see.”

Cautionary Tale #2: Another friend drove several hours to try a horse, fell in love with it, and spent hours talking to the seller all about it. Only after she had become very emotionally invested in this horse and was ready to make an offer did the seller mention, “Oh, by the way, this horse must be fed soft food only. Pellets that have been soaked. If you feed him hay, he will choke.”

My friend went home and thought hard about it, but realized this was impossible not only in her present boarding situation, but in most barns in our area. She had to pass on the horse and had wasted a day of driving and a lot of emotional energy on a horse she could not buy because she could not care for his special needs. Frustrating.

Cautionary Tale #3: Very recently, I found a beautiful horse on the internet at a prominent Sales Barn. 2010 horse (six years old), 16 hands, Black, gorgeous. Very nice mover, decent training, very fancy. I paid my trainer to watch the video and evaluate the horse’s potential, and she thought he looked great: go see him.  I emailed back and forth with the seller working out details of when I could fly to her city and visit, and I arranged plane tickets but fortunately put a 24 hold on them rather than paying for them, while we finalized whether his price was negotiable since we thought he was overpriced. Then my trainer said, “try to get the back story on this horse if you can.”

I asked the question, and a complicated answer came back about how her friend owned him in Spain when he was two, and then she bought him when he was six, then her student bought him, but sold him when he was eight to a lady in Colorado, but now that lady had a grandbaby so she no longer had time for him, so even though it’s just a couple years later, she wants to resell him so she brought him back to the Sales Barn. Hang on a moment, this is not adding up to Six Years Old. I asked, “Please clarify: what is this horse’s age? You have it as 2010 which equals six years old.”

“Oh, sorry, my assistant made a typing mistake. He is 10 years old, not six.”

Yeah, slight mistake.  Details, details, my friend. I don’t think this seller was actually meaning to be dishonest, I think she just had so many horses coming and going that things got lost in the shuffle. But imagine if I had flown to her city to see this horse, and discovered it was four years older than I had expected ? I would not have been pleased, to say the least.

So, the search continues and I ask more and more and more questions before I get in the car or 0n the airplane…

Someday, my Prince (or Princess) will come….

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