Monday, August 5, 2019

The Search Is Over

No, I did not buy a mare.  LOL. I've loved many mares in my life, but I prefer geldings.

Every so often, the Universe give you a nudge.  You can ignore the "nudge", but not for long.

While in the midst of searching for my perfect unicorn something unexpected occurred.  I received some news I neither anticipated nor desired, my gut reaction was surprising, and this news changed the whole course of my Unicorn search.

I spent a long week feeling that my gut reaction would wear off, and my head would take over and I would realize that I was better off staying the course I'd set for myself and to just ignore this new information.  I began to make a list of pros and cons. 

But as the days and weeks moved on, that gut reaction had settled itself into my heart, and equally into my mind.  In my 4 decades of life, I've learned that when all three: gut, heart, and head are in agreement..... you should probably take notice.

I continued looking at horse ads.  I even posted my ISO ads incase a better Unicorn would show up and I would see that my plan was the right plan.  Every ad that grabbed my attention went through a series of "oooh that one's pretty!  Oh but____________."  If the horse did fit my criteria (very few did), I would then think "Ugh.  Do I really want to start over?  It's such a gamble.  What if it's not the right horse after all? What if? What if? What if?"

The nail in the coffin was when I got a text from my reining trainer that my favorite lesson horse might be for sale.  This horse FIT my Unicorn criteria EACTLY- and for a split second I got excited, but it didn't last.  I knew then that I had already found my Unicorn.

"I want a Kevin."
"I want to take a smooth pleasure horse and teach him Ranch stuff."

How long was I going to say those things and NOT just buy the actual Kevin?

So five years and two buckles later, on August 2nd, I took ownership of Kevin. His Now Former Owner is now his leaser for the remainder of the show season.

Nearly five years ago I met him.   I had lost Junior in 18 months previous and I was still emotionally and financially too fragile to become a horse owner again.  I happened to be at the barn trying out a vintage saddle I'd purchased and he was there as a test-ride for another friend.  I saw his lope and said "OMG can I try that!?!"  I rode him, he tested me, and I declared "If I was buying a horse today - I would buy him right now."    I knew it was not the right time for me to be a horse owner, but I began leasing him just because I liked him and wanted something to ride.

I was given the opportunity to take him to shows and spent the next summer teaching him Trail and Boxing and Showmanship, and how to extend his little pleasure jog.  By the end of the summer we'd earned my very first buckle: Champion Green Ranch Rider.    His owner considered selling him and I considered buying him, but he wasn't "perfect" so I started looking for a Reiner, not a pleasure horse, so I could be more competitive in the Ranch stuff.

I found Huck.  And we know how those two years turned out.

Since my back was messed up and I again needed to recover financially, I asked his Kevin's owner if I could ride/show him again after I sold Huck and that year (2018) we won our second year-end high point buckle:  Open Ranch Champion.

This year I began the search for my Unicorn while still riding and showing Kevin.  I knew exactly what I wanted.  I wanted "a Kevin."  Specifically a younger Kevin.

And then the text came, the day before the show in June, that he was going to have to be sold.  I knew right then that everything had changed.  I was no longer looking for "A Kevin."  I already had my Kevin.

I did much soul searching, comparison lists, and I spoke to lots of folks about their opinions on "older" horses because Kevin turned 15 this year. I was looking for 12 at the absolute max - preferably in the 6-8 years. That was the ONLY piece of my criteria that Kevin didn't fit.   So, Britnie guessed right!

Here's why I decided it was okay to go off-list with age: He's proven he can do what I want him to do.  He's starting to get stiff in one of his hocks so we're probably looking at some maintenance before long. But he's still showing ALL day for both me and his (now former) owner, and he's such an easy keeper.  Keeping Kevin eliminates SO many unknowns - so many potential anxiety-causing possibilities.  I KNOW Kevin.  I know his quirks, I know his stubborn streak and how to deal with it.  I know that we don't have to lunge at shows, I know that he has a tendency to get scratches on his white foot.  I know he likes to be scratched on his chest, his fetlocks, and belly, and that he doesn't like extension cords moving on the ground and he can be a brat to load.  I know that he takes a LOT of riding and consistency to perform well. He's not a horse you can leave sit and then expect him to ride well.

Could I have found another unicorn that would be also easy to keep and easy to show and "better"?  Maybe.  But truth be told, I love this horse and I am not ready to let him go.

I don't yet know if I'll keep him forever or if I'll ride him for a few years and then lease him out to a kid/newbie, or if I'll send him to a retirement field.  Maybe we'll get another 10 years of showing together.  Maybe we won't.  I am concerned about his teenage status, but with good care and good living, he will be just fine. I would have NEVER sold Junior, and he would have been 19 this year.

I thought I wanted a young prospect to take up through the ranks.  Instead, I'm keeping my best buddy and continuing on the path we started 5 years ago. 

Sometimes you think you want something and then you get lucky and get what you need instead.












Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Unicorn Acquired.

Surprise!  I bought a horse!



Full story coming, but first I'd like to play a little game...

My criteria for New Horse was this:

1. 15h MAX. 
2. Gelding
3. AQHA (or minimal/solid APHA) GELDING with good extensions at all Western gaits. 
4. SMOOTH ride at all gaits. 
5. Four-Twelve years old. 
6. Easy going, been-there-done-that type with no maintenance and no shenanigans. 
7. Under 8K. 
8. Within 3 hours from Columbus, Ohio.

New Horse fits 7 of these 8 criteria.... 
Which one do you think I compromised on? 
Leave your guess in the comments!

Happy Riding!

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Adventures in Horse Shopping


If you've ever posted an ISO (In Search Of) ad or have ever read an ISO and it's comments, you KNOW they can be infuriating.  Either the add is too vague so every horse suggested turns out to be wrong, OR the ad is exacting.... and every suggested horse is wrong!  

Damned if you do and damned if you don't!  

Even though I know this to be true, I posted an ISO ad on a handful of heavily populated facebook groups, just to see if a miracle would occur.  

Here is the add:

ISO: Smaller Smooth Gelding: 15h MAX. AQHA (or minimal/solid APHA) GELDING with good extensions at all Western gaits. SMOOTH ride at all gaits. 4-12 yrs old. Easy going, been-there-done-that type with no maintenance and no shenanigans. Under 8K. Within 3 hours from Columbus, Ohio.

Seems pretty clear, right? 

Now, to be fair, I'm aware that I'm looking for a Unicorn.  I did not expect my inbox to be flooded with horses fitting the criteria, but I was hoping that people would READ before commenting.  Of course, I was wrong.

Here are the responses I received: 

Horse 1: 6K trail horse in New York State. Has had "minor" hock surgery.
Horse 2: Iowa.
Horse 3: 2 year old.
Horse 4: 16 hands
Horse 5: "Would you stretch your budget to 12k?"   
Horse 6: Mare.  
Horse 7: Cribber.  North Carolina.
Horse 8: 16h Mare.
Horse 9: Washington State
Horse 10: North Carolina.
Horse 11: Appaloosa. New York.  12.5K
Horse 12:  "A little higher than your budget."  Utah. 
Horse 13: 12.5K Missouri
Horse 14: 10K 15h 3 year old
Horse 15: 16 years old. Oklahoma

The ONLY promising lead: Then there was one comment with a semi-distant photo of a 5yo $4500 horse ACTUALLY IN OHIO!  I asked for more info in the comments. The commenter said they were at a show and would be "Sunday or Monday" before they got back to me.  I commented again on Tuesday saying that I PM'd and sent a PM.  That day they updated their profile picture but didn't respond to me.   Today is Thursday.  🤷🏻‍♀️


I promise I was very kind to all of the responders, and I really do appreciate the folks that reached out, even the ones too far away.  Many of them were very nice horses, but just not my criteria at the moment, and I don't yet feel the need to settle for something that isn't what I want. 

The thing for me about distance is that I NEED to ride the horse.  With my back issues, it's important that the horse is comfortable for me and that's hard to find.  If I have to travel to see the horse I need to be able to bring my saddle so it needs to be within driving distance, and then since I don't have a trailer I'd need to get the horse shipped at the minimum cost of $1/mile.  It just adds SO much to the cost, and my budget really is firm. 

What has your experience with ISO ads been like?


Here's a picture of sleepy content Kevin out in the field, because nobody likes blog posts without photos. :)  We head to our 3rd Ranch show of the year this weekend, and it occurs to me that I haven't posted about the first two!  Expect a Show Post dump next week!  Happy Riding!



Saturday, February 9, 2019

Diamonds in the Rough vs. Store Bought Diamonds

I've been casually horse shopping for, well, my whole life. 

My first two horses were what I'd consider Diamonds in the Rough. As I'm gearing up to be a horse owner again, I've been wondering if I should stick with that routine, or do I just go to the diamond store?

Junior was 7, broke but unmannerly and unrefined, and cost me 4k.  He was being used as a trail horse.  Five years later we were showing the full slate of all-around pleasure classes and placing well in most of them. I had some training rides put on him in the beginning but I never sent him to a trainer.  Before I lost him he was appraised at 8-10k. 

I don't have the original photo he was advertised with, but it was pretty "backyard".  I mean he didn't look like a professionally marketed horse. 

Huck was 7, very well trained, but nearly feral from two solid years of solitude and minimal human interaction and cost me 4k.  He was sold as a "trail horse with reining training".  We attended many clinics and had many lessons and several different trainers hopped on him during the two years I had him, but I never had him in training - I'm still not sure if that was a mistake or not. 

This is the photo he was advertised with when I bought him:


And here are the gorgeous photos he was advertised with when he was sold again 5 weeks after I sold him. 



I don't know how much he went for, but I think we can all agree that he looks like a fancy expensive show horse in the last two photos, and a dumpy yard ornament in the first. His blaze and how wide his feet were set were what made me look past the horrible camera angle and sour expression.

This last year I also brought Kevin back from an overweight/unbalanced pasture ornament to a soft balanced handy horse and we won the Open Division at our Ranch shows.  He's never been to a "ranch" trainer, but he was professionally trained for pleasure by a reining trainer.

Even from the start of my riding career I was riding borrowed horses that were never as fancy as the other kids'.  I LOVED the horses I got to ride and they were good to me, and so was the wonderful woman who let me ride with her.  I was so proud as a 4Her to win champion or res. in ALL FOUR divisions at my last 4H show, on a $500 borrowed horse, in borrowed tack. Champions in Showmanship and English.  Reserve in Western and Contesting/Games - all with the same horse. 

So you can see, in my history I've always had to make the horse.  I've never been handed a professionally trained horse in show-ready condition and gone into the discipline they're trained for.  This is what I call a Store-Bought Diamond, and isn't it what everyone wants?  Is it what I want this time?

My current plan is to become a horse owner again "in the fall".   It's a soft goal meaning somewhere between now and next winter.  The longer I wait the more money I have available for the purchase price, since I've been squirreling away money since I'm not paying board. And I'm sure I'll need some new equipment, at least a new saddle pad... it's time for a 5 Star......

Will I buy another diamond in the rough?  A horse with good blood, good bones, that fell through the cracks, or just with untapped potential?  Or will I splurge for the store-bought diamond and for once in my life not be the kid on the backyard horse?   Or do I splurge on a fancy youngster and put it in training until it's ready for my getting-older-every-year ammy butt?

Here's my unicorn list:
MUST-HAVES
AQHA or APHA solid/minimally marked
Gelding (I'm too moody for mares)
4-8
14.2-15.2
walk, jog, lope, back, lead change
Smooth gaits
Pleasure horse brain
Ranch horse athleticism
WANTS
Pretty - open to all colors, but needs to catch my eye. Life's too short to ride ugly horses.
Good Hair
No pink nostrils - they always look dirty
Not too much white - see above
Excellent conformation - sue me, but conformation class is an easy way to get points
Barefoot - baby sliders during show season are fine, but I don't want to have to shoe.

So do I buy another <5k 10-15k="" and="" buy="" diamond="" do="" go="" i="" mark="" nbsp="" or="" p="" polished="" project="" the="" to="" up="">They all cost the same to feed. 
What's your show-horse buying strategy????