Horse Shopping Advice Part I: Finding the horse

Spring has sprung here and that means we are all trying to ride as much as possible. Except spring also means rain. So despite all of our best intentions, it keeps raining every weekend. Boo. So maybe soon there will be some riding at home.

In the meantime, we have several students that have been horse shopping. Some to lease and some to buy, they all want a little bit of help. Maggie and I have been spending some of our extra time traveling around and evaluating ponies. With this in mind, I have a few tips for those perusing the internet. We usually shop from the Facebook groups, craigslist, equinenow.com, and assorted other random places. We also talk with boarders and pony club families to hear about other local horses. We generally shop in the low four figures, so my experiences mirror that caliber of horse. For your convenience, my list:

1. Decide what you want, then decide what you NEED in an equine partner. This is a hard one. This is the part where you determine what level you are actually riding at. Trainers are really helpful here. If you are a beginner, than you need a safe, quiet horse. If you are looking to move up the levels in your discipline, you are searching for something entirely different. How confident or timid you are as a rider makes a difference as well. Some riders like to push a horse along, while others are worried when riding a sensitive or quick horse. Think about what would make you happy!

2. Next you need to make a realistic budget. First thing is to decide how much you can spend on a horse, and then save up the balance! You need to have the money in the bank if you’re going to have the best shopping experience. Don’t expect people to take payments.

You should also be making a plan about how much you can afford monthly. Its important to know what type of living arrangement you can or will provide to your new horse. Some horses don’t do well in stalls, and some horses don’t do well in the pasture. Most horses don’t like being by themselves, so its important to be able to meet your new horse’s needs

Ok. Money things tied up, shopping is the next order of business!

3. Read all the ads! Look at all the pictures you can, and watch all the videos that are posted. Gather as much information as you can. Remember, the people writing and video-ing are trying to show the horse’s best qualities and you should read between the lines. If the writer says things like ‘needs experienced rider,’ that should generate a question. Sometimes phrases may be uncommon to your experience, like ‘has a good handle’ or ‘tends to get behind the leg.’ Ask your friends and the more experienced person helping you. Its also good to tell people you are shopping. Often word of mouth gets nice recommendations.

4. Call the seller/trainer. Not a text, not an email. Old fashioned phone. Write down any questions you have about the horse, and ask them to tell you about the horse from the beginning. Tell the seller what you are hoping to do with the horse, and ask if they think the horse would be suitable and happy doing that job.

5. Make an appointment and meet the horse. On the first visit, you can just meet the horse, or bring an experienced friend to evaluate with you. You goal during the first visit is to determine if the horse is a possibility. Follow your gut here. Don’t get suckered into a high pressure situation. Its not a car you’re buying. Most importantly, DO NOT RIDE the horse unless the seller or seller’s agent rides it first. You do not want to get on an unknown horse that the seller will not ride.

Finally, a couple of DON’Ts:
1. Don’t try to negotiate price on Facebook/email/etc before you see the horse.
2. Don’t ride the horse first.
3. Don’t fall in love before you meet the horse.
4. Don’t think people will hold a horse for you without a deposit.

I have some more tips on evaluating and determining the horse’s training in the Part II.

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Style at the [Local] USEA Horse Trial

This past weekend I volunteered at the USEA Horse Trial at Pine Hill. I worked as a stadium timer, so I got to see all the riders go through the course. The course was fairly straightforward, no crazy turns and only a couple of combinations. Most people had no problem with time, and there were only a few refusals/stops all day.

There was a lot of variety in attire though, which I thought was kind of interesting. (I’m sorry to my co-timer, since I commented on the fashion choices of riders all day…). Most competitors were beautifully turned out. Nice jackets and horses braided well. There were a few riders who lived on the edge and didn’t braid their horses, including one rider who chose to braid in the western style (I’ve avoided a lot of opinions of others on this blog, but why???):


Braided horse mane

Most of the braids were classy hunter braids or dressage button braids:

Dressage buttons

Most people did not braid tails, and I think there were several trimmed docks. Several people wore bonnets, and lots didn’t bother. Many horses wore a five-point breastplate and I didn’t see a single horse without boots. There was not a consistent boot that people used, most were some neoprene-like material, easy to hose off after galloping through the water.

Onto rider apparel! With the exception of one rider, everyone wore a coat. The exception showed in a polo. The coats were mostly the new soft shell type instead of the traditional wool blends. It was only 70-75 and partly cloudy, so not a hot day by Texas standards. There were a couple of really interesting jackets:

Similar, from Smartpak

The navy/brown jacket had brown side panels and the rider had lovely brown tall boots. It was an interesting look! The other interesting jackets were a bright cobalt color. Exciting.

Most riders had white breeches, and many of them were this pair of Kerritts:

I didn’t pay close enough attention to helmets, but most riders did not have skull caps, most were more hunter/jumper esq styles. Anyways. I hope you enjoyed this brief look at some of the cool fashions I saw at the show this past weekend.

High Point Farm Bluebonnet Bash Derby. A recap.

Alright folks,
Here is my first post as a personal recap of competition I have competed in.  I will probably write one from Gracie’s perspective later.  These are my thoughts and  perspectives on the competition and in all probability have very little correlation to the actual events that occurred.

After arriving at High Point Farm and unloading the horses I march up to the registration desk to sign my waiver and get my competitor number.  This is the first time it really sets in that I am about to display whatever equestrian talent I have in front of complete strangers. still, to Amanda’s surprise, no butterflies are present in my stomach.  In my mind I have already done the training and the practice now I just have to implement all of that preparation.  With the bucket of participation goodies we head back to the trailer to settle in for the long wait. we arrived around 9 am for ride times that start at 2 pm. Gracie got some treats from the “Bucket O’ Goodies” and it was time to walk the cross country course… It seemed like there was always “something” to be done.

Maggie, Amanda, Auggie, Jackson, Cav, and I walked the course. It was not technically difficult and one jump lead right to the next one.  No real surprises except for the Easter eggs around the course.  There were jelly beans and chocolate kisses in the eggs and I may have eaten the jelly beans out of them and “re-hid” the eggs on the course.  Surprisingly the course was easy to lay out in my mind andI had it on the first walk through.  Jump order, position, lines in and out, and even thoughts about what would give us the most trouble. Never the less, our trainers told us to walk it again to make sure we had it straight.  Next came the stadium course.

Much smaller than anticipated, both the jump heights and the area to jump in.  The course was a nice leisurely figure eight setup. It only had one bending line and that was soft enough to almost not be called such.  Everything looked very inviting and horse friendly and I knew Gracie would not mind jumping any of it. With all the course in my mind we make it back to the trailer just in time to see a friend do her novice level dressage test.  Congratulate her on a good ride and have a seat for lunch at the trailer.

Oh look, its 1 pm!  Time to start warming up the horse. Gracie has a bit of an attitude when not warmed up for about 30 minutes on the lounge line.  So, we get tacked up and dressed up then proceed to walk trot canter in a warm up.  Gracie does splendid!  She is listening and trotting nice and even, she is even getting her canter depart without jumping into it.  So,up we go! Time for the rider warm up before dressage.  Thanks to Maggie we have a nice slow warm up.  All the reminders of hands up, heels down, slow your posting, relax this is fun right?  I hear the call for rider number 40!  (I am number 42) and I start to get excited. This is it. The Dressage test!  Canter circles be damned we are winners!

I stand a reasonable distance from the arena as number 41 finishes her test. As she walks out I begin my warm up trot around the arena.  We are just trotting but it seems like forever before I hear the whistle to start.  RELAX and trot in at A, smile and relax.  Track left at C, smile and relax.  20 meter circle at E, this trot is way too slow. Oh CRAP! Canter between K and A…. Our canter circles suck!  COMMIT!!!!!!  20 meter circle at A left lead, ooooh  this is bad.

Ride to the rail!  Trot between F and B, get back to the rail!  Smile and relax. Walk at C, whew walking is good. H-X-F Free walk, smile and relax, smile and relax.  Trot at A, even trot, same as before. At E circle right 20 meter,smile and relax.  oh CRAP!!!! Canter between H and C… Our canter circle sucks! COMMIT!!!!!  20 meter circle at C right lead, I SAID RIGHT LEAD!!!! OUTSIDE REIN, INSIDE LEG! Was that a BUCK?!?!  Awww Hell….  Trot between M and B, smile and relax.  Down center line halt at X and salute.  WE DID NOT FALL OFF!!!! WE DID NOT JUMP OUT OF THE ARENA! We won at dressage!  No time to glory, go get ready to jump.

Trailer visit to get the martingale and jump strap installed on Gracie as well as her brushing boots. Now we are ready to head off to the jump warm up!  The fun stuff!  Auggie gets to ride his jump course 30 minutes before me so I get a chance to relax and just sit on a horse while watching his round. He did spectacular by the way.  Maggie takes me over to the warm up jumps and we do a few logs and verticals.  Everything is in order, heels down, eyes up, hands up, sit back, wait for her.  Then the unthinkable happens the organizers tell me that they are running out of order and that I am next.  Oops!  I guess mental prep is right out the window…. COMMIT!!!!   let’s go! To the start box.

Yes sir, I am number 42.  He responds with,”30 seconds”.  Waiting… “15 Seconds”.  Move into the start box. “5,4,3,2,1…. have a nice ride.”  Off we go, trotting to the first jump on the cross country field! It feels nice. No trainers, no other riders, just me and Gracie.  Hey Look!  That’s jump number 1 it looks so far away.  We can enjoy the ride.  OH! It’s right here already.  Half halt and push her over the jump. JUMP STRAP! whew, 1st one down.  The second jump is dead ahead. Lined up, on approach, boom! Done! No problemo.  #3 is all the way down the hill and across the field.  I can’t even see it.  I know where it is though.  La la la, trotting the course takes forever!  Oh, snap! where did jump #3 come from!  Line it up, sit down, push her over….  JUMP STRAP!!!! Still on the horse!

#4 is a left turn toward a green box like jump.  Probably the tallest on the course at 2’3″….  I have a feeling she is going to look at this one all the way….  so I sit down and COMMIT to pushing her over the jump.  Wheeeeee!!!!!   Big air and I was not ready.  I get left behind in the jump and her rump pushes me over and out of the saddle…. Thank goodness she has a long neck because that is where I end up.  Gracie is not happy but, we are still in this thing.  Everybody gets right in the tack and we trudge on up the hill to #5 a palisade!  She loves these but, after the fiasco at #4 let’s not take chances.

Sit, push,JUMP STRAP! Clean as a whistle.  Up the hill some more to #6 a baby log! This one was great! someone even got the epic slow-mo of the jump!

 #7 was a hill or water option, We chose the boring hill side.  Enough excitement for one day.  #8 was the last jump into the stadium portion.  A COOP!!!!!   Now, Gracie doesn’t like coops.  She has refused and run out on them before. With that in mind, I set up with the expectation she will run out or refuse.  I give her good solid leg on the right (the run out side) and solid contact with the left rein.  I am ready for this jump! Except she doesn’t do anything funny!  She pops right over like it is no big deal!  Here I am expecting some resistance and get none! Guess what happens… all that preparation only serves to throw me off balance!  Out of the tack I go again!  Losing a stirrup, my seat and, my composure.  We come to a grinding halt as I try to find my stirrup and calm myself.  Now, let’s do the stadium.

Everyone is back on the same page, Gracie and I are ready to go on with our jump round.  I point her at the first jump and we trot up to it and Gracie thought we were done.  She came to a dead stop and picked her head up straight into my face. Ouch! Well, that was my fault.  But my saddle feels funny. I look down through watery eyes and see that my saddle is no longer on my horse’s back but sitting on her right side! Oh crap! My saddle is off of her back! Don’t panic, COMMIT!!! Stand in the stirrup, fix the saddle, move on.  Point her back at the first jump. Push, sit, COMMIT!  Again she stopped dead. Hmmm… Only one refusal left before ELIMINATION… We will not be eliminated.  One more time. Line her up. Kick,kick,KICK!!!! Up and over, JUMP STRAP!!  On to #2,  Kick,kick,KICK!!!! Up and over.  #3, Kick,kick,KICK!!!! Push with your seat! Up and over.  #4 Kick,kick,KICK!!!! Up and over.  #5 Kick,kick,KICK!!!! Up and over. Last one! #6 Kick,kick,KICK!!!! Up and over. And we are done! Not eliminated, not perfect, but done!  Now we wait for results. 


Back to trailer to untack and relax.  We will place somewhere from 1st to 6th. We will get a ribbon. After horses are walked out and watered the group heads to the scorer’s table to await results.  Gabbing and small talk happens and then they post the scores…. I can’t read them because Amanda and Maggie are standing in the way.  Amanda looks at me and says, “you got 3rd!!!”.  My response, ” I got WHAT!?!”.


 How did that happen? We had a horrible jump round. We had a decent dressage.  But we got 3rd! Success! Ribbon and prizes collected and basking in the glory of finishing.  


This was fun and I thinking have to do it again. Maybe with a tighter girth and longer stirrups.  But all in all a rousing good time. Thanks to my instructor and trainer for the pushes and the insight.



I am not ashamed

Tack room organization is something that has become a bit more important as I have increased my collection (and amount of available space). At this point, I have collected almost enough tack for three to five complete horsey get ups. I generally had everything not in active use stuff into a big box (like the 60 gallon plastic storage containers), and the ‘actively’ used stuff out and about.

Recently I decided my portion of the tack room is a wreck, and I should handle it. This was mostly over Christmas. I rearranged the big box, I bought a rolling cart to organize medical things, and cleaned everything I could.

Enter the winter rains. Which, unfortunately caused some issues with my things, as the gutters had a problem that resulted in water pouring down the wall onto my things. Sad day. As I was cleaning up my tack (which had generously grown enough mold to kill an allergy filled child), I was brainstorming ways to further waterproof my things, just in case the gutters had another issue.

And then one day, I was just driving to work… and I saw it.

3DRAWER WIDE CART RE BLACK

In someone’s front yard, a cart appeared! I wanted another cart to organize the horse boots and other miscellaneous things, but I wasn’t quite ready to commit to spending another 20-30 bucks just yet. Luckily, Rob and I were able to grab someone’s trash from the side of the road and call it a day! Maybe if I get things organized well enough I will take some pictures 😉

Beautiful weather and prepping for the show

It seems like the muck has cleared out, and we are in for a spring-like season with lows in the 50-60s and highs in the 70-80s. There is a touch of humidity, but whatever! Its beautiful weather. I hope it sticks around for awhile before the summer comes.

Anyways, we have been busily prepping for Robert’s (and Maggie’s son: A) show this weekend. Sunday we had a jump school. Gracie definitely got better with repetition, but she seems to have some problem with cross rails. She overjumped every single cross rail, and didn’t do anything weird with the verticals. Robert and Gracie both started to get tired after running through the course a couple of times, and they started having refusals. So they went over one more solid jump and called it a day.

Monday I had an impromptu lesson with A, and we worked on similar things as Robert on Sunday.

Tuesday we had our dressage lesson, and we worked on running through the tests a couple of times. Both Robert and A had some challenges with geometry, but it was amusing since they are basically riding the opposite type of horse. Gracie is expressive and opinionated with really snazzy natural movement. A is riding Simon, who has mediocre, rhythmical, daisy cutter movement. We were joking that Robert may see some 2’s and 8’s, while A is going to see 5’s and 6’s.

Tonight Robert has ‘off’ from riding (aikido night!), then Thursday another day riding (maybe jumping in the cross country field?). Friday will be for more dressage and test run through, then cleaning all the tack and packing!

Friday we will also be a little bit brave, and the farrier is coming out. Getting a trim before the show was not a problem last time, as we just asked for the horse to be left a little bit long. Simon is going to get front shoes, since he is sensitive on hard ground, Gracie is going to get a trim.

Anyways, we are excited and busy. Look forward to lots of show recapping soon!

Simpler times!