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A Horse,
of Course

with Don Blazer

A Horse of Course

If there are a million ways to buy a bad horse, there must be at least five ways to buy a good one.

To get a good horse, you have to use a little horse sense. Hard to do, being human. Emotion usually gets the best of us.

It’s natural to be anxious and excited by the thrill of owning a new horse. But whoa, hold it, shorten the reins!

I know the horse is beautiful, and the story that goes with him is reasonable, and he may be sold tomorrow. But you asked, so accept this fact: buyer beware!

Before you start looking for a horse, determine what it is you want. Write down your requirements. Your list should include breed, age, size, amount of training, color, sex, price and suitability for performing in your area of interest. Only you know the answers, and you are the one who must be satisfied.

Knowing what it is you want gives you a direction in which to search.

Bargain horses usually aren’t bargains, so beware of sad stories, auctions and the fast deal. Bad places to start your search.

Your horse may be anywhere, but there is a good chance he is with a professional trainer who specializes in your area of interest. A well-known trainer has a reputation to protect, and seldom, if ever, will he let you get stuck with a bad horse, or a horse he thinks won’t fit your needs.

Make appointments to see horses which fit your criteria, and then go see them--all of them. The first horse you see may be the one you want, but see the others so you’ll know what you don’t want.

Here is the first rule: follow your heart. You will know almost instantly upon seeing a horse if it is one you should consider. If you heart says, "yes, yes, yes," and the next four tests are passed, this is your horse.

If there is the slightest doubt in your heart, after four more tests, this is not the horse for you. You’ll find your horse, if you listen to your heart.

Second test: study the person selling the horse, and take a good look at the horse’s surroundings. If the seller is neat, clean and takes some pride in himself and his facility, then he probably cares for his horses in much the same manner.

Ask to see the horse in his stall or pen. Wood chewers and cribbers leave tell-tale signs. So do weavers and hole diggers. Bad habits are physically hard on a horse’s condition and health, and they are always hard to break. You don’t want those problems.

Ask to see the horse turned out so he can run free and you can see how he moves and uses his body. The horse should be happy to see people, curious, but not jumpy. He should have a clear, bright eye and should be smoothly put together.

The horse’s conformation should be pleasing to you. Conformation faults or less than desirable traits for the performance which interests you can be pointed out during a vet check. If you have conformation questions, be sure to tell your veterinarian exactly what you intend to do with the horse.

The third test is for performance ability and training.

Of course, if you are looking at a horse not yet trained to a saddle, then you won’t be riding. But you certainly can watch the horse being longed, tied, groomed and handled. Note carefully the horse’s ground manners.

If the horse is performance trained, the seller may wish to ride the horse first to show off the horse’s talents. This is fine because it gives you another chance to make some observations. If the seller is a bad rider, chances are the horse has had a bad start and much reschooling is ahead. If the seller jerks, bangs, spurs or hits the horse, pack up. You don’t want that bundle of trouble.

If you decide to ride, then the secret of the test is to see how responsive the horse is to your cues, and how relaxed the horse is as he performs. You want a partner with a good attitude and a willingness to learn.

If the horse is already a champion, then you want a super pleasant attitude to go with his performance record.

The fourth test is the vet check. You only want to know a few things. How is the horse’s breathing, his heart, and does he have obvious soundness problems? (Look at the horse’s shoes. Special shoes mean special problems.)

If there are soundness problems, you want to know how to manage them.

Don’t ask for and don’t accept a pass-fail examination. You want information to consider, not someone else’s choice of horses. You need to make the final decision; it is your responsibility.

There is no way to predict the future or the soundness of a horse, so don’t try. Accept the uncertainty and enjoy what you have at the moment.

The final test is price. You set your price before you started looking, so there should be no question now. If there is, what happened?

Don’t overpay! If you feel you have overpaid for the horse, the horse is going to suffer in any number of ways. Don’t over extend yourself financially.

On the other hand, if you can afford the price, buy the horse. A horse is worth exactly what you believe he’s worth, and are happy to pay.

There’s no price limit on a perfect friendship.

Don Blazer
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"A Horse, Of Course"
Monthly Column
by Don Blazer

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