Are you ever bewildered by the sheer number of choices we have in our lives?
Have you ever stood in front of the vast shelves of toothpaste; nearly incapacitated by too many choices? Which is truly best? Is there really any difference at all?
Have you ever pored over the cornucopia of wine selections at your local store? Is your ultimate decision based on reason? Past experience? Emotion? Price? Recommendation?
How about the array of all the BEST saddles available? Technology, testimonials, purpose, horse fit, human fit, reputation, workmanship, quality, price…
And horses. The glorious, frustrating, all-consuming search for the “holy grail” – the perfect horse. Buyers mostly agree there is no such thing…and then go on to search for exactly that. Those shopping trips to Europe allow you to look at dozens and dozens of horses in a very short time. This to me is the “kid in a candy store” model of horse buying. But, can you really evaluate which of those splendid equines will be best suited for you? Do you even really know what type of horse would be best suited for your skill level and personality? Are you swayed by the excitement of the auction environment? Do you see auction riders wringing every inch out of their young mounts and convince yourself that you will quickly have the same results? Are you convinced that this son/daughter of this “flavor of the month” stallion is the only horse for you? Do you have time on your whirlwind tour to make a reasoned decision or are you giving your responsibility to your trainer or broker?
There is another way, but it starts with some soul-searching and clear-eyed decisions about what may be best for you and your soon-to-be new partner. There are so many many good horses out there; none of them perfect, but all (or almost all) the perfect match for someone.
Ask yourself some of these questions, and be brutally honest about your answers. Provide your honest assessment to honest sellers so that they can help you find the best horse for you.
-What is my current skill level -What are my realistic goals and timelines for meeting them
-Would I benefit from a schoolmaster now -Do I have the knowledge/dedication to bring along a youngster
-Do I need an FEI prospect -Can I live with serviceable, but not eye-popping gaits
-Does color really matter -Do I see “amateur friendly” as a positive or as a negative
-Can I live with less than ideal type -If I like “hot” or “sensitive” can I ride “hot” or “sensitive”
-Does size or gender really matter -Will I consider a horse with some maintenance requirements
-What is my absolute top price -Do I really understand what pre-purchase exam findings mean
-Does pedigree or registry matter -How involved is your ego in your selection criteria
-Do you have a trainer who you trust to start a youngster, or help you work through any issues that may arise
And the list goes on. Once you have evaluated your individual needs and understand where you may have some flexibility, it’s finally time to shop! Remember - riding should be fun and your choice of partner matters!
I would encourage you to look nearby first. Why? The most important reason to me is that you can visit your prospect more than once, and spend time with them. You can’t know everything, but you can begin to determine whether you will “click” with this horse or whether you have the ability and desire to develop that horse. You might also be pleasantly surprised to find a more relaxed experience if you look beyond the BNT or busy commercial barn offerings. And you will probably be impressed by the quality available nearby. Enlist the support of your trainer, but remember that a few may have agendas that aren’t perfectly aligned with your own needs. There are so many online resources. Why not start there? But please be honest when you talk to the seller. Reputable sellers want to work with you. They want the best for both you and the horse and try hard to offer appropriate matches. In my mind, a good seller will sometimes say, “No, this horse is not suitable for you.”
If you are careful and thoughtful in your horse search, you should be able to minimize the frustration of too many horses,
but none just right for you.