Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Going to look

Some of us have had the fun of going to look at horses with clients. Sometimes we go by ourselves to see the horse, sometimes the clients come along. Either way, there are always things that some of us may not pay any attention to and other things that make us want to just keep on driving, not even slowing down to check the address.

For the people just getting into horses, what do they need to look for? What do they need to learn to look past? They navigate the same obstacles when horse shopping as the rest of us may find, but they are more often in the position of falling into the 'traps of deception' some of us have learned to avoid.

Many of these same things apply when looking into boarding facilities. The first thing you should look for and at is all of the horses on the property. Are they all up to weight? Are their feet in good shape? Do they look happy?

When going to a persons house to look at a horse, it is a little different than going to a boarding facility, professional or training barn. At the barns and boarding facility, the horses are generally owned by others. Their owners are paying for their care- quality feed and a clean stall are usually the bare minimums. If the horses are in training they are there to be worked and should be in good shape reflecting this. If the horse owner is keeping them at their home- they are ultimately responsible for the care and condition of all of the horses kept there.

One or two thin horses among a herd of 10 or more, may just mean those horses have weight issues, teeth issues, worms or may be new to the facility. If they are all thin and showing signs of needing better nutrition, take that as a warning sign. Same goes for a farm full of overweight horses. Check into how the facility addresses their feeding program. (Crazy 3 Dayer recently asked about a facility where one person is weighing the horses. This brings up another issue I will address in it's own post. There will be plenty of room for discussion there.)

If the horses all have nice looking, trimmed or shod hooves- their owner has made the appropriate calls, scheduled and paid for the farrier work and is seeing to it the horses feet are taken care of. Again, if you see one or two who don't fit in? They may either be new on the property or there for work with hoof handling issues.

A happy horse is easy to spot, just like an aggressive horse will grab your attention. If they come to the fence, gate or front of the stall to say "Hi!", ears up, inquisitive eyes and hoping you have a treat or a friendly pat- good sign. If all of them stand as far from humans as possible, back turned and a defeated "air" about them, there's a reason for that. But if they charge the fence gate or front of the stall, ears pinned, teeth bared and ready to eat you alive... I wouldn't waste anymore time there. One or two aggressive horses? At a training barn, depending on the trainer, they may be there for that reason. A barn full of horses like that? Something is causing those issues. Probably not something you wish to know about or be associated with.

If you make it to the point of handling the horse, were they easy to catch or did someone have to chase them down? Already caught and tied up when you arrived? The seller may not have wanted you to see how bad it can be. Some horses haven't been handled much or they can be a little leery of new people. If you seem to get along well enough over the pasture fence or stall door, maybe the the seller will let you go in to catch them, letting you both get to know each other.

If the horse is being purchased for riding or driving, make sure you see someone ride or drive the horse. Preferably the seller, their trainer or someone associated with the owner. There are horses out there who may be angels when you are on the ground, but climb on their back and Heaven help you because you are going to need it! Some horses can be ground driven, but not put to a cart. If you are looking at one of these horses, use your head and have some consideration when asking your trainer to handle or get on them.

If your trainer says "Forget it!", take them at their word and call it good. If they get hurt, they lose money- not only on medical bills, but income, since they won't be able to ride anything until they have healed. You most likely aren't paying the trainer until you buy a horse anyways, so don't ask them to do something dangerous for free, just to suit you. That is a quick way to get kicked out before you even get started.

If you wish to compete on the horse- watch them in action. Watch a lesson or go to see them at a competition. Just because Ole Rowdy comes from a long line of great cattle horses, doesn't mean he likes cows. Some barrel racing horses get worked up at the gate and ropers may not like being backed against the rails in the box. It won't be any fun if you buy a horse hoping to compete in the upcoming season, only to find out it is going to take at least one or two show seasons to get them straightened out enough to make them at the very least, only marginally competitive. Some horses are great at home, but take them anywhere else and they just lose it. These are things you will want to know before you decide to buy.

The bottom line about horse shopping is, when you are looking at a prospective new horse, there are honest folks on every level, just like there are those only out to separate you from your money. Once this is accomplished, they could care less about you or the horse. Lessons? Further training? Not going to see either one and if you do, it is going to cost you. But if they have already brushed you off, why would you want their help with anything else?

The horse can be in a high dollar barn, under a big name trainer and still have issues which can be hidden or disguised to even those of us who have been in the industry for a number of years. Find out as much as you can, take a day or so to think about it and don't let anyone rush or push you into making a decision you are not comfortable with.


  1. Good post. Very good post... You covered the most basic principle.
    Open your eyes. Look around. And process what you are seeing AS IT IS!!!
    YAY CnJ!!!
    You got this down Girl...

  2. Also...never ever ever discount YOUR gut feeling. Your trainer (esp the newbies) might want something that is a beyond your current riding level. That isn't always a bad thing..however if you are uncomfortable at ANY TIME..either speak up or just leave.

    Don't be quiet b/c you aren't sure or don't want to hurt feelings. Even if you and your trainer have talked 'bout getting a horse "a little beyond" your abilities. They might be thinking about something completely different then you.

    It's your money, your time and your life. Speak up

  3. The song "Emotional Rescue" just started up in my head.
    No idea why.

    GREAT post, CNJ.

  4. I've seen people "forced" into purchasing horses they aren't crazy about because their trainer "made" them do it. The trainer has ambitions for the rider that the rider might not even have.

    They sell the horse they love because their trainer tells them it's time to "move on" even though they're perfectly happy with their current horse, love him to pieces, and have a genuine rapport with him. And WINNING with him, too.

    This whole horse thing is what you make it. It doesn't have to be about climbing artificial levels - if you've reached a competent spot in your riding and are perfectly comfortable there, there's no LAW that says you HAVE to move on.

    Usually it's the trainer's ambition or pocketbook that's talking to you.

    But people let these kinds of trainers talk them into "moving up" when really, they're having a great time right where they are.

    Beware the trainer who pushes you into a purchase for ANY reason. YOU are calling the shots. Take their advice, but don't follow it if that tiny little brain stem response keeps bugging you.

    Also, everything CNJ said about walking onto a farm with your eyes WIDE OPEN is SO important!!!!! Be honest about your own agenda and abilities, and don't get swept up in a wave of potential-itis if you're not equipped to go there.

    I'd say overhorsing yourself, your kid or your client is your fastest route to unnecessary UN-fun with horses. So basic, yet it happens ALL the time.

  5. Good post ,I like that you are reminding people if your trainer says NO ,then NO it should be . After all when it all goes to sh*T who are you going to ask to fix it ...

  6. Yep..I'm amazed on how many people just get a horse. At the current barn there is a lady who bought a is now 2 yrs old. Owner is JUST learning to properly groom and tack up her horse!

    Another lady is scared of her TB so she bought a QH. QH barely broke and bucked her off during a lesson.

    Now I've gone looking w/o my trainer but took one look and knew hell no.

    Just amazes me. I give all you who work w/dumbasses like me credit! YOU ROCK and thank you for not killing me

  7. I see trainers put students in unsuitable horses often. I don't know if it is a horse the trainer wants? Or if it is some sort of job security? (The, they will need me forever with this horse). You aren't doing the people any favors and you sure aren't doing the horse any favors.

  8. Damn! You guys ALL nailed it. Dead on and drove that baby home.

    I know of one local yocal, everyone either swears by or swears at him. He has been known to sell people horses they can't handle in hopes they aspire to being a better rider.

    Move up past the horses abilities and he does not help them sell the horse, won't 'hold' a horse in his barn for them, won't take a deposit on the new horse, take the old horse as trade on the new one... Yet people keep going back for more. I seriously don't get it.

    C3D- Its your money, your time and your life. Speak up.

    Bingo! In anything we do for enjoyment, when the fun is gone, it's time to move on. When it gets dangerous, you have worn out your welcome.

    If the trainer doesn't put anything into your safety- find one who does! Reward them with your payments and references.

    That goes for trainers too! If the clients don't care, there's the gate- out they go. They aren't likely to pay your medical bills when you get hurt by their horse. Sucks for the horse, but you are still alive to ride another day.

  9. Another angle is the parent pushing their kid into something unsuitable for their abibilty.

    Good example:

    Moderate beginner, nice girl was doing some showing. She wanted the nice AP gelding who was calm and saintly. She was comfortable with him. Mom pushed and pushed the trainer and child into a 7 year old TB mare. Very nice, typey hunter but green and hot.

    Why did mom do this? The AP wasn't the pretty huntery type and the mare was. Looked better in the show ring.

    End result, child afraid of mare, ends up quiting riding altogether. Mare given to trainer.

    I was actually friends with the mother and this really surprised me.

  10. So, I have this order. A black, must be true black, AQHA stallion, preferably of working age, to rodeo.
    Going to a pro-trainer.
    So, I get a hold of some of my friends and ask for some help.
    More like an SOS.
    This is a nightmare order.
    Why you ask?
    Without question, black is the hardest color to find quality in simple as that.

    And I ask HP some questions. Good God can that woman read a picture with no sentiment and be dead on!
    So, I sent her some pictures of my horses and asked her to shred, I mean, critique them.
    Again, the woman knows her stuff and then some!

    Thankfully we both like my bay colt. So, I can live with the assessments on the

    Objectivity is a good thing to have...

  11. Dena- If black is the hardest color to find quality in- blue roan is a mighty close second!

  12. Arrg! I hate when there is a request that include gotta be (insert color here ) I can usually find wht someone is looking for , type, size ability , breed ,age , training ,etc. But like a really comfortable pair of shoes , they don't always make 'em in the color you want!

  13. One of the prospects is in your frozen tundra Fern.
    And yes ladies, I agree.
    I have always for myself looked for the horse I want with no color stipulations.
    And it always comes in a plain brown

  14. CnJ I got blue roans coming out of my butt in the Dakotas.
    How many you want?
    Now I am not promising quality. BEcause it is just about the color right?
    *runs away before I get hit with something*

  15. Cool ! where is he at? I could go have a look

  16. I will wait for a proceed on this from the contractor Fern.
    And if, they do it would be a bonus blessing to have your eyes on the creature.
    I just know Alberta at this moment.
    I will go back and check my info and foward it to you.

  17. If you're THAT fixated on a color, you're not a real horseman. Sorry.

    Heh.... a friend was lamenting the other day to me about how there aren't very many NICE Arabians in black anymore.

    Kind of like when a certain breed of dog gets in a movie and everyone MUST have one.

    Parents who replace a kid's loved horse with a fancier one just to stroke their own egos should be arrested.... I've seen that happen, too!

  18. CP, there doesn't seem to be very many nice black horses in any breed. Whew, there are a lot of ugly black horses.

  19. HP- that goes for the blue roans too! They may be the color, but that's where it all stops short. Screeching halt in some cases...

    CP- I'm not one to hold out on color alone. Haven't found a single color or a marking yet that made a horse run faster, jump higher or any better at working cows.

    But those blue roans sure do look purty when they are put together right. Our neighbor did have a nice blue roan stallion. So blue he was purple to look at. Built as nice as could be hoped for and just drew your eyes right to him. He was the one we found dead in the pasture after a storm.

    In speaking to the owner we found out he was well bred and sweet as could be. He was a stallion and also for sale at the time. Talk about loosing the good ones early.

  20. I do know of some nice looking black Arabians. However they are not cheap. The lady has been breeding for over 30 years and never sacraficed conformation or brains for color. But weanling colts start at $5000 and the fillies at $10,000.

    So, if you all would like to start a pool for me there is a filly I'd really like to have. lol

  21. HP- You mean someone is doing it right and we Can have it all? What a concept!

    Thankfully there are a few of those in every breed. Whew...

    But quality certainly comes with an appropriate price tag. Buyers who know this pay the price without batting an eye.

    Those who feel the need to try and haggle down the price, there's the gate. May it hit ya, where the good lord split ya!

  22. >>But quality certainly comes with an appropriate price tag. Buyers who know this pay the price without batting an eye.<<

    Maybe that should have been- Buyers who appreciate this...

    Those are the people we all hope to meet up with, over a horse.

  23. Jesus Catty now that you have just successfully disqualified every color breed WTF is left?

    No more Appaloosa, Paint, Pinto, Palomino, Buckskin, Grulla, people will ever be considered to be real horsemen from this day forward.

    Fuck me...GoLightly better make that sign to say, "Going Out
    Of Business Soon!!!"

    I am kind of kidding CP. But a girl got eat. Feed her family. And all those other mouths from so many other real *cough*choke*cough*horsemen.

  24. DQ'ed?Wait what did I do? Purty colors isn't enough?

  25. An old cowboy told me "look for the horse that is looking at you."

    As far as picking trainers, be honest when picking one. I've had people show up for lessons claiming that they want to be competitive, then fight any attempt to meet that goal. I finally learned to sit them down and dig out of them the fact that they don't really want to compete at all, they just want a safe saddle horse to doodle around on and have fun.
    There's nothing wrong with that at all! I'm happy to teach at that level also...of course that type of student may blame their trainer for the fact that they're not competitive...did I mention that some horse people are crazy?

  26. Dena, take a chill pill. CP said IF you're THAT fixated on color. And yes, some people are.

    FV- you're still in the game, cuz you see the spots as an added bonus. As it should be.

    Just like the colors, spots, stripes, stockings, star, baldface, blue eyed, socks, stockings or none of the above does not make or break a horse, their talent or abilities.

  27. Kestrel,

    "look for the horse that is looking at you"

    Wow, that is exactly what happened with Spunky and I.

    I was taking a lesson. He was brought into the ring, we locked eyes and that was it. He was five, he is now 27 and still the love of my life.

    Just got back in from shopping and chores, I am reaaaalllyyy tired and off to bed.

    Night everyone!

  28. I didn't say it mean. It was meant to be funny.

    The thing is I find a lot of people when they have ridden a lot of stuff get to the point where they want what they want.
    Kind of like the old couple that go and buy their new Cadillac.
    They have worked that long, saved their money, and they want it the way they want it.
    That perfect shade of whatever it is they have dreamed of.

    I ride brown fcs so I know what she meant.

  29. I have an awful lot of chestnut in my field. lol Funny how many people think I wont buy a horse unless it's red or prefer to only buy red.

    I buy the best horse I can find and just happens to usually come in red. lol

  30. HP red? Eeeeek! That is definitely below brown right?
    Doesn't matter.
    I have more than one of those too when I swore I would have

  31. Is OK... I even know a couple of "color" people who have a horse or two in the barn that don't "match" because they liked it so much!

    One of my dad's cousins officially breeds, judges, shows and deals in palominos, but somehow I see a lot of other colored horses on their website.... and now my internet is kind of FUBAR...

    I would have him start a horse for me in an instant. Unfortunately after they get started right, they go to a WP trainer in their world.... *sigh*

  32. (why can't any of my horsey relatives be into... I dunno, dressage, hunters, Arabian sport horses, endurance, rescue, Andalusians ... NO, they ALL have to be into peanut rollers and breeding to N/H stallions..... ARGH!!!!!)

  33. Just trying to keep the peace and see that nobody takes anything the wrong way...

    HP- Mine never ended up being red. For some reason that's the one color I don't get along with. I'm guessing the hair color and temperment are either too much alike or polar opposites. Tess would be the only exception to my unwritten rule. At least so far, that I know of.

    Bays and greys seem to rule my world. Both turn my head and often catch my eye.

    Pali's? Not a color I would go "in search of", but have a few outsanding horses of the blond, ambitious nature.

    Blue roans though... *sigh* not many worth a second look and even then, that usually weeds out the rest.

    Kestrel- "look for the horse that is looking at you."

    I don't know that those words could ever hold any more truth than they do.

    Seeing how JR and I always seemed to end up working with some of the most brain fried, froot loopy, horses missing a few screws and being a deck short of playing cards- to think our own herd actually has brains can be just mind boggling to some. But then we were able to choose our horses. We always say "They come to us for a reason." There have been a few I would like to question about those reasons, but in a few cases, I'm not sure I want to hear them!

  34. CP- mine too! My dad's cousin, who let me ride his horses at will when I was growing up->

    -leaves halters on
    -has barbed wire
    -keeps the saddles in the hay barn- where a scorpion climbed inside one and stung him while he was riding
    -kept the bridles on nails in the old chicken coop
    -butchered his own pigs and cattle in the back yard- with the dogs who eat the horse manure
    -ties the horses to the feeders until they learn to keep their head over the bin when eating grain- so it doesn't land on the ground and get 'wasted'
    -stitched the skin around the forelock back together with a sewing needle on his one mare


    once walked right between the two mares who don't get along, but were tied next to each other on the hitchin' rail (?), in the middle of a kicking match to settle their 'squabble'.

    How he didn't get nailed? Who knows, but when walking out between them afterwards, the one mare kicked at him- the dirt from her hoof was left on the back of his shirt sleeve. She got a serious ass whoopin' for that one too...

    No dressage barn my future? Leads? Diagonals? Lateral movement? whut????

  35. CNJ! I knew we were related! My uncle was the same way. Strangely enough though, my uncle's horses were pretty happy. They understood the rules and their jobs. I guess because he wasn't sophisticated enough to really screw them up. I have sure loved learning about classical riding...but then I see Rolkur and think my uncles horses may have been the better treated ones after all.

  36. Kestrel- Were you around when I mentioned on fugly, my sisters hubby wanted to buy a mule?

    Without looking at the mule first...

    to use when hunting- to pack the game out on...

    and he was going to keep it in the chicken coop!

    *Passes out the bleach for our rednecked roots*

    There is the good and the bad on all levels. Makes you wonder sometimes if we really have evolved...

  37. With the chickens?! The visuals...snork...sides hurt!
    Would the mule start clucking or the chickens start braying...
    There's always been good and bad with horses, but sometimes I think humans out think the situation. As long as the horse is healthy and happy in his environment it really doesn't matter so much. Horses do not care what color or style the tack is. They just care if it fits.

  38. I don't know if you all remember...

    My student found a horse on Craigslist...entered into a lease. I recommended a vet check. They had the vet check today. The little mare didn't pass. I almost feel bad...she really is a terribly sweet horse.

    The flexion test was really bad. She almost fell. Now...if it was me...I may have gone farther. Might have taken her, tried some legend and adequan...supplements and saw where we landed. The girl wanted nothing to do with it. Can't blame her.

  39. UGH...RED HEADS....UGH...Funny about barb wire. Best friend uses it and never had a problem.

    I used to be the dumbass that walked b/w fighting horses bc my jackass QH thought he was still a stallion and fought with everything. He at barely 15.3 tried to mount a Perchx mare..OMG that was hysterical.

    I rarely ever got nailed but again I also kicked back. Few times I got nailed it was a cow kick and was hugging the horse so it was a glancing blow but let me tell you a swift knee to the belly broke that habit as well as a growl and bite.

    Why do folks think it's weird to bite back? Fuck...i've bite my friggin 100lb dog when he was being retarded and I've bit my 1200lb QH when the fucktard came at me w/teeth bared. Yes I prefer to use my fingers and pinch instead but if I'm pissed I'll bite (CNJ..insert dirty joke here!!!)

    Of course CNJ keeps sending me friggin red heads to look at. My Trainer summed it up..."YOU are not shopping for color..NO one should shop for color..YOU shop for something that won't kill you and you can ride with the damn long legs" This Trainer still rides at an Olympic (and she really does) level..Ummm...OK..tucks tail between her legs and mounts(again..CNJ..insert dirty joke) the fugly chestnut.

  40. Sorry to hear that HP. It's such a heart breaker. Why is it usually the sweet ones?

  41. HP-I'm with you. Would have tried her, but not many folks want to invest that into horse they are JUST buying.

  42. HP- I know a couple looked at a sweet, bred to the hilt Arab filly. PPE? Good thing they did!

    When lifting the front legs and pulling out in front, (like the stretch) she about flipped over. Her front hooves very narrowly missed the vet as she went. They had the sense to ask if it was a hereditary issue, meaning how she was built? Yep! No sale.

    Kestrel- the coop hardly kept their own dog out. Not sure how long it would keep a mule IN???

    1FH- I told you, if you don't want a red horse- go looking for one. Everything you find, will be every other color than red. Always seems to work out that way. And I do send you bays, grays and black horses as well as a few red ones. You do it too! LOL

  43. I don't look for color at all. If I were to pick my fav though, it would be grey.

    The best horse ever in my life is a palomino QH. I never did like that color, knew some really crappy ones, but look what happened. What makes this even more amusing is that I ride hunters and in Virginia. Back when we were showing alot, no one rode a Pally. We kinda stuck out. It was a blast when we did beat the typey bay/chestnut hunters.

    I now have 2 greys, one dark, dark bay and my old pally.

  44. HA! Catty you dodged my uppercut, slammed me with a roundhouse that still has my head spinning, and successfully solicited a new registration and membership for the PBHA.
    I always knew you were a worthy sparring

  45. I forgot. I am with you on the color thing CP.
    I even extend it to the breeds.
    I don't care what as long as it is the best candidate for the job.

    But a girl gotta eat. And if you all missed it. I need another black AQHA stallion for Chicago.
    This one can be young.

  46. Haha!

    Heck you even find judges who are stuck on color. And it's true, cnj, a well built blue roan or shining dun are a joy to behold!

    I remember a column in PH the writer was talking about her loud appy. He was the only non-solid horse at a dressage show, and when he blew up and took off with her, as he was gallopped around the ring, the judge cried out "that's the most beautiful horse I've ever seeeeen!!!"

    I don't see mant black AQHA horses.

    My new guy is a dark chestnut. Maybe liver, I can't decide.