Unicorn: found

The search for a new horse can begin to feel as fruitless (and hopeless) and the search for a mythical beast. Will I ever find my horse? Or was I looking for something that didn’t exist?

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Inside me, though, the “still, small voice” that some of us call the voice of God said:

“Your horse is not ready yet. Just wait and be patient. It will come.

One day I went to try a horse only about an hour from my home. He wasn’t exactly what I was looking for (a breeding stallion? really?), but he had some things going for him, so – why not? Well, as it turned out, the trainer wasn’t five minutes into the ride before I told her, “no, thanks.” Way too much STALLION for me, even if I gelded him.

Then she said, “no problem, but I do have this mare…she’s not really on the market, but the owner said maybe if the right person comes along, and I think she might suit you. Do you want to see her?” She described her and the mare sounded PERFECT. Great size, age, color, breeding, experience, temperament.


“Your coat may be bleached by the sun, but you are still beautiful and so sweet and kind eyed. Come live with me and be my girl.”

I rode her and she was FUN! She had a kind eye and pleasant demeanor, and even though she was very forward she felt safe, comfortable, and just plain right for me. I looked at her and could see what she might become some day (future FEI dressage horse, yes!).

My head and heart agreed that this mare made sense for me. While she didn’t have all the training I had been looking for, she has Temperament and Talent in spades. She will be a pleasure to train. And I just plain like her. In fact, I’m falling more in love with her daily.

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Starlight surprising me with a medium trot!

Meet my new unicorn:  Starlight, a black, Pure Raza Espanol (Andalusian) 2010 Mare. No really, she actually WILL be black when she sheds the bleached coat, at least for a little while. I know it’s hard to believe.


Starlight in her new home at Stanford Stables, getting ready for her first ride.


Edie acting very bored with the concrete trashcan: “Ho hum, this trashcan is so boring, Starlight. You don’t care about it all, do you? Want to come closer now?” So many new things to explore at her new barn!


Horse Shopping: proceed at own risk

It’s amazing what you can do via the wonders of the internet! I’m two months into serious horse shopping, and I’ve looked at hundreds of horses. It’s a good thing there isn’t a BUY NOW button or I might have impulse bought one by now in a fit of late night shopping.

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Pictures, videos, emails back and forth! In person, well, since these horses are scattered all over the country, I’ve only actually ridden a few. Sad to report, they often don’t look nearly as nice in person as they did in the pictures.

I’ve become a sophisticated analyzer of video.

AHA! Did you notice they never showed the left lead canter? There’s a reason for that. Did you notice all the cuts in that video? There’s a reason for that: they are taking out all the mistakes and problems. Did you notice they tilted the camera to make the horse look uphill? You think I can’t tell what you’re doing? Do you think I’m stupid? Apparently. Well, I’m not (quite that stupid). Believe me, sellers: uncut video is MUCH more impressive, even if it has a few little mistakes.

I have a Pre Purchase Exam coming up on a wonderful prospect, and yesterday my trainer reminded me, “you ARE going to run blood on her, right?” Well, yes, but I’m not really concerned about this horse having been drugged.

“Oh,” she says, “I always have the vet pull blood on the horse right after I test ride it in case they drugged it. You should have done that.”

Wow, I never thought of that. Too late for that. All these horses I’ve bought over the years, and the only drugging I thought about was someone giving them painkillers to get them through the vet check looking more sound than they actually are. I never thought of drugging to make them more rideable.

But of course people do that! Just, hopefully, not to me. In the past, my vet would always pull blood for the “Tox screen” and hold it for a year “just in case you need it.” The implication was that if the horse went nuts and was not the horse I thought I bought, we could test the blood and see if it had been drugged. Fine. But I never thought of testing it the day I rode it. Mind blown.

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I guess I’m a lamb among wolves. And yet of course not all sellers are like that. Some of them really are like me! Straightforward, wanting the right match for their horse, telling you everything about the horse, having, well, a “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” approach to buying and selling horses. Yes, I would like to buy a horse from me. My horses are always up to date on everything and I’ll tell you everything that has happened to them and any little quirks they have. I want you to be safe and happy and I really, really want my horse to be safe and happy with his or her next owner.

Screen Shot 2015-09-27 at 12.17.55 PMHere’s hoping this lovely prospect mare is just what I think she is, and that my next article can be about my new horse…

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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