Saturday, October 24, 2009

When The Search For A Horse...Ends

I had been looking for a long time. Probably eight years. It seemed like it was taking forever to find a horse that was sound and sane. Our horse-buying budget was low, but not impossibly low. Most of the horses we looked at were barely rideable, and the ones I felt comfortable riding were either out of our price range or lame in some way. There was a nice little mustang mare with a really comfortable trot, but she was way too green for a relative beginner who'd lost confidence after getting bucked off. There was a Thoroughbred who was a wonderful ride, but his ground manners were awful and his owners were spending thousands of dollars a year in vet bills to keep him sound.

So I kept taking lessons. Eventually, I found my way to a real dressage trainer's barn, and then found a truly amazing trainer to occasionally take lessons from. I leased a little paint pony for a couple of years, and learned a lot from him even though he was no dressage schoolmaster. I improved him to the point where he had a decent canter, would take the correct leads, and was starting to "get" lateral work. I offered to buy him repeatedly. I said "name your price", but he was not for sale. Other people were riding him, and I had no control over what happened to him. Then the horse market crashed. Horses were cheaper, and more were available. I decided I needed my own horse.

In February of 2009, I was looking through the horses for sale on a website a local barn owner had told me about. I found a picture of a grade Paint mare on a trail ride, standing in a lake. I couldn't really judge her conformation from the shot, but it didn't look like she was built any worse than the pony I'd been doing dressage with. She was eight years old, good on trails, traffic safe, and she crossed water, according to the ad. She was also $750. I figured she was worth looking at.

When I first laid eyes on Sofie, the horse we'd driven two hours to look at, one thought crossed my mind: This is not a dressage horse. I was not of the popular opinion that one must have a Warmblood to do dressage. But the horse I was looking at was obese, with a long back and short legs. Her neck tied in low to her chest, which was massive, giving her a front-heavy appearance. The muscling on the underside of her neck was incredibly over-developed. And her feet had long, overgrown toes and insubstantial heels. They had every kind of hoof crack known to man. "When was she last trimmed?" My mom asked.
"Last fall," the seller replied.

At least she was honest.

We asked the seller to ride her first, so I could see if she was insane, and evaluate her movement. I was expecting western pleasure-type gaits. So when she walked off, her degree of forwardness took me by surprise. "Her walk looks kind of weird. Is she okay?" I asked my mom. I was used to my little paint pony, whose walk was rather lethargic.

The seller moved her up to a trot. This little Paint horse with the opposite of the ideal conformation for dressage was tracking up! How is she doing that? The seller had trouble getting her to canter, but her canter was not flat, forehand-heavy or four-beat as expected. It was uphill! Now I was really intersted. So I put my saddle on over her rolls of fat (which you could literally pick up and play with) and test rode her. She was forward, sensitive and not spooky. I could sit her gaits. She would need training, for sure, but I wasn't looking for a schoolmaster or a show horse. Her feet were crappy, and that was a concern, so we researched and called farriers and sent pictures to farriers and researched and researched. We had to decide quickly, because all of a sudden lots of people were contacting the seller about the mare. We went out to see her again, and she was fun to ride again, and she looked like she had personality and the potential for a sweet disposition. She was too interesting to pass up. I had wanted a horse I could learn from and enjoy, and I got that in spades, though sometimes more learning than enjoying.

1 comment:

  1. Congrats on your new horse--she sounds wonderful. Nothing beats having a horse that's *fun* to ride!