Blog .:. March 2009 7 Entries

The horse buying process: what I’ve learned from reading forums

29 March 2009 Comments

Here’s what I have learned from reading forum posts about buying and selling horses.

On Sale Ads

  • Buyers: ZOMG! The ads lie! I went to see this 17hh imported warmblood and he turned out to be a 14.2hh grade stallion on crack!
  • Sellers:: ARGH! Stupid buyers! Do they even read the ads? They wasted hours of my time trying my horse and then said that he was “too big.” I said he was 17hh right in the ad!

Buyers, on Sellers’ Photos/Video

  • On Photos: Why can’t sellers learn how to take good photos?! I want (10,000 different things, all in a single photo, to include confo shot, jumping, flatwork, and calmly taking advanced calculus exams).
  • On Videos: They don’t really show how the horse moves, so you have to visit in person anyway. But the seller better have (same list from photo requirements, in three minutes or less) available for me to ignore!

Sellers, On Buyers Who Request Photos/Video

  • If buyers do, and then don’t come out to try the horse: I wasted sooooo much time sending this information out! I hate tire kickers!
  • If buyers don’t, and then try but don’t buy the horse: If they had just asked for photos/video, they would have seen X, and they would have known that he wasn’t appropriate, but they wasted hours of my time coming out and trying him!

On Communication in General

  • Buyers: I called, I emailed, I contacted a psychic, and I can’t get the seller to respond. Don’t they want to sell their horse?!
  • Sellers: I spent six hours answering this person’s email questions, and then I never hear back from them again! What’s wrong with buyers?!

On Showing the Horse

  • Buyers: The horse was a total LUNATIC! We were lucky to escape with our lives! We won’t be buying that one!
  • Sellers: The horse was a saint! The buyer was totally incompetent and he still did everything he was supposed to do perfectly! Why can’t they how perfect he is?!

On Prepurchase Exams

  • Buyers: The PPE showed X. I like the horse, and I might deal with X, but not at that price. And the seller won’t negotiate! They’re delusional to think anyone would buy at that price!
  • Sellers: Buyers WANT the PPE to show something wrong, so they can negotiate the price down. Don’t they realize no horse is perfect?

On Giving a Decision to the Seller

  • Buyers: I always tell the seller my decision, via phone call or email.
  • Sellers: Buyers never call or email. Why is ‘no, thank you’ so difficult?

Honestly… I’m amazed anyone manages to buy or sell a horse at all.

Tagged: Horse Sale Ads, Horses

Everyone gets ancy in spring

26 March 2009 Comments

I gave notice to my landlord and am hunting for an apartment closer to the barn or work.

I’ve cut out some services that I don’t use and am downgrading others. Mostly, this means kicking cable TV out of the budget. I hate TV right now.

This is not (entirely) about buying a horse. It’s beyond idiotic to buy a horse based on canceling cable. If you trim everything out in order to afford a horse, then you’re screwed when prices go up, because you have nowhere else to draw from.

Mostly, I feel a little unsettled, like I need to do something right now.

I suspect my problem is that I’ve lived here for a year now, and I have these nomadic tendencies. Since 1998, I haven’t spent more than three years in any one location, and I’ve spent less than two years in most places. I’m not going anywhere this time, but I think my inner clock is ticking. Not my biologic clock; my… what is this clock? Whatever it is, it’s driving me a little crazy.

Probably just as well I am still renting. In my current mood, if I owned my own place, I’d probably be painting the walls something awful in order to get the sort of dramatic change I am craving.

Must continue to fight the urge to sell my couch. I use my couch.

Must not dye my cats bright blue. This is not their fault.

Tagged: Cats, Horses

Schoolmaster - what does this mean to you?

24 March 2009 Comments

If I hear “schoolmaster,” I immediately assume an older, upper-level (Fourth or above, maybe Third) horse. Generally, I assume the horse has maxed out his own potential as far as moving up the ladder. He may, if you’re lucky, be sound enough to continue showing at that max level, or he may be stepping down the ladder and better suited for teaching you the feel of upper level movements but perhaps not capable of staying in the rigorous training required to actively show at that level.

Having learned his own way up the ladder, he stops being the student and becomes the teacher, bringing new riders up to his level. Thus “schoolmaster.”

The “upper level” is key; I love and cherish the schoolies who teach riders the basics and, lets face it, put in the most hours getting people up to the level where they are capable of riding a schoolmaster, but the distinction is the level of knowledge the horse has.

I ask, because I saw an ad for a First Level schoolmaster. It kind of made me go hrm, and then I thought that maybe the horse had done much bigger things in his past, but it doesn’t look like it. Just a First Level horse. Probably a saint in his ability to pack people around and teach them some basic skills, but it just isn’t “schoolmaster” in my book. Am I a snob? I’m an elitist, aren’t I? I am never going to make it in this “we’re all created exactly equally special and either we should all have titles or no one should” world.

Incidentally, if you are selling, “goes First Level” on a green or younger horse? Awesome. “Goes First Level” on an older horse? That is not a selling point. That’s a big, red flag. Adding “schoolmaster” in there isn’t going to help much, except make it clear that you’re (probably) charging extra for a title your horse hasn’t earned.

Unless I’m wrong. Is schoolmaster a more generic term than I think it is? Does it apply to any horse who has solidly learned his job and can pass on the skills, regardless of level? And what about Second Level horses? I think many people will agree there’s a pretty big step up between First and Second Level, and that it can be genuinely hard for many riders (especially ones who can’t ride and lesson frequently and are making do the best they can) to make the jump from First to Second. Is a truly confirmed Second Level horse a schoolmaster?

Tagged: Horses, Riding

50 Riding Things

23 March 2009 Comments

I found this via Grey Horse Matters, and I’m always up for a meme (especially if I don’t have to pass it along, which I almost never do).

Fifty questions about riding, of which I’ll answer most…

1. How old were you when you first started riding?

In lessons, eight or nine I think. But I had been on a horse’s back once before, riding double behind a friend, and probably at my cousins’ place when we visited.

2. First horse ridden:

Either Smurf (cousins’ horse) or the horse I was riding double on.

3. First horse trotted on:

Same as above, probably. The first horse I remember trotting on was the evil Paddy P. More on him in a moment.

4. First horse cantered on:

Same as above, right down to Paddy P.

5. First Horse fallen off of:

Here’s the Paddy P story! What I remember: we were riding in a field instead of the arena, circling around a tree. Paddy took off on me and made a beeline for the gate. I don’t really remember what happened next, but I do remember lying on the ground and seeing his hooves above me. For years, I had this image of the great big beastie Paddy P who so viciously threw me off. And then one day my Mom handed me an envelope with some old pictures. This is the vicious, evil pony:

Want to bet that when he reached the gate, I slid off over his head and plopped on the ground, while he just stood there and waited for someone with sense to rescue us? I’m telling you—memory is a goofy thing.

6. Most recent horse fallen off of:

A dirty stopper. It was my own fault; I knew he was dirty stopper when I got on, and I trusted him anyway. He ducked out and tossed me; I was later told that it looked to the people watching that I had landed straight on my head, although I actually put my arm out. My arm plowed about a foot into the arena dirt, and I cracked all my knuckles on the right hand (they bent in the wrong direction…). I think I did hit my head and knock myself out for a moment, because the only thing I really remember is a bunch of people suddenly standing around me, very concerned.

I jumped after this fall without any problem (but not on this horse—I never rode this guy again, and had no interest in doing so), but when I stopped riding, this is the fall that became problematic, and the one I can’t get out of my head when I see a jump.

7. Most terrifying fall:

In the long run, the one above. It’s really screwed with my mind. But the Super Saint and I came down in the warm-up ring once, and I was absolutely terrified that he was permanently injured. He jogged sound and we went into our class, but I am not sure there is anything more terrifying than looking over at your horse flat out on the ground and knowing you caused that to happen.

8. First horse jumped with:

Probably a little cremelo named, so appropriately, Creme.

9. First horse who ran away with you:

Paddy P! But the Super Saint liked to run away with me if I took him on the trails, too.

10. First horse that scared the crap out of you:

I feel like a broken record…

11. First horse shown :

A gray part Arab (I think) mare. She would kick anything that got close to her at home, but was a rock at shows. It was an amazing experience for a novice rider, because I knew we’d get in and out of the ring just fine.

12. First horse to win a class with:

Same mare! We cleaned up. I was a little disappointed when I showed the Super Saint for the first time the next year, I admit, and realized life was not all blue ribbons…

13. Do you/have you taken lessons:

Always. I always want to know more, and I admit to being a bit competitive. I have my eye on the USEF bronze medal.

14. First horse you ever rode bareback:

A little pony in Wales, named Sam:

We were staying at a B&B, and the owner kindly let me wander around the fields with him, and even took me out for a longer hack one day. In return, I cleaned all her tack that I could find.

15. First horse trail ridden with:

I don’t remember; I first took lessons in England, and it was actually really common for us to hack out on the roads or trails.

16. Current Barn name:

Now that would be telling!

17. Do you ride English or western?

English

18. First Horse to place at a show with:

The gray mare

19. Ever been to horse camp?

Er… no. Some of the barns I’ve been at have had camps, and I’ve helped herd kids around, but was never a participant.

20. Ever been to a riding clinic?

Yes. The show barn I was at had them frequently, and I attended as many as I could.

21. Ridden sidesaddle?

Not intentionally…

22. First horse leased:

The gray mare

23. Last Horse Leased:

Rogue, up until a month or so ago

24. Highest ribbon in a show:

This was, I think, the same show that the Super Saint and I crashed down in. We’d lost our mini-medal class, I’d lost the year-end Children’s champion due to some brain fart moment in a round, and all this was going on in front of a judge who thought my horse was just the bee’s knees. So on the last day, we did our dressage test but I was pretty disheartened and never did go look at my scores. Instead, I put the Super Saint up and helped get horses on the trailer for the ride home or take down whatever part of the barn decorations we could. It came down to the second to last trailer load, with everyone from our barn gone already. My trainer strictly told me to go to the awards tent to pick up any awards for our barn. I went, feeling miserable.

My trainer comes back, and I’m sitting on a tack trunk with a trophy half as tall I was, a medal around my neck, and a championship ribbon. Super Saint and I had taken champion for our level and the high point award in dressage. I was a heck of a lot happier on the ride home than I’d expected to be!

25. Ever been to an ‘A’ rated show?

Spectated, yes. I don’t remember if the shows I was in as a teen were A rated or not; it was the only circuit we had in any case.

26. Ever competed in pony games/relay races?

Not really.

27. Ever fallen off at a show:

A couple times. In the worst one, both the Super Saint and I went down, although we both got up just fine.

28. Do you ride Hunter/Jumpers?

I did. A part of me wants to do so again.

29. Have you ever barrel raced?

We used to use the pattern to practice tight turns in the winter, so we didn’t have to jump our horses all the time. But we weren’t racing madly through the pattern.

30. Ever done pole bending?

No

31. Favorite gait:

Canter

32. Ever cantered bareback?

No. I haven’t ridden much bareback. The Super Saint had shark withers, and when I rode the Schoolmeister bareback, it was always walk/trot because I was learning how to truely put together an upper-level horse.

33. Have you ever done dressage?

I’d like to think so, but the judges may have been humoring me…

34. Have you ever evented?

No, but I want to very deep down in places I pretend not to know about.

35. Have you ever mucked a stall?

It’s how I helped pay for the Super Saint.

36. Ever been bucked off?

Not maliciously, but I’ve come off once or twice when a horse was a little exuberant after a fence, until I learned to stick with it.

37. Ever been on a horse that reared:

Yes. I won’t ride a known rearer, though.

38. Horses or ponies:

Ponies!

39. Do you wear a helmet?

Every time.

40. What’s the highest you’ve jumped:

4’9”, I think, but only as a single. The trainer just kept putting the fence up. I have jumped a 3’9” course (badly!) when I was supposed to be jumping 3’3” and there was miscommunication with the clinician.

41. Have you ever ridden at night?

Frequently, although always in arenas.

42. Do you watch horsey television shows?

If I come across them while they’re on. I don’t pay much attention to what’s on TV.

43. Have you ever been seriously hurt/injured from a fall?

Only mentally.

44. Most falls in one lesson:

Ten or twelve? The Super Saint had a rounder jump than I was used to, so when I first started jumping him, I couldn’t stick with him. And I thought it was hilarious that I fell off after every jump. My trainer got sick of it and made me keep jumping until I stopped thinking it was funny and found a way to stay on. We didn’t have a problem after that.

45. Do you ride in an arena/ring?

I am an arena flower, I’m afraid.

46. Have you ever been trampled by a horse?

No.

47. Have you ever been bitten?

Hasn’t everyone?

48. Ever had your foot stepped on by a horse?

Hasn’t everyone?

49: Favorite riding moment:

Walking out of the ring after a successful Second Level test on the Super Saint. There’s all sorts of history there. I don’t even remember what our ribbon was, or the score… it was just the feeling of coming out of the ring, looking at my trainer, and knowing the Super Saint and I had just done absolutely the best we could have done.

50. Most fun horse you’ve ridden:

The Project Pony. It didn’t matter if we were basket cases together, one of us was playing therapist for the other, or we were both right on our games—we always ended the lesson well, and I never had to worry that she’d do anything stupid. I still don’t believe the amount of trust I had in the little redhead.

Tagged: Horse Shows, Horses, Horses - Creme, Horses - Paddy P, Horses - Project Pony, Horses - Rogue, Horses - Schoolmeister, Horses - Shara, Horses - Smurf, Horses - Super Saint, Riding, Riding - Barrel Racing, Riding - Clinics, Riding - Dressage, Riding - Jumping, Riding - Lessons, Riding - Trail Riding, United Kingdom, United Kingdom - England, United Kingdom - Wales, United States, United States - Alaska

What is the role of Training Level, anyway?

23 March 2009 Comments

I have to admit: when I hear about horses and riders who spend years and years at Training level, or horses who “max out” at Training level, it makes me wonder who the instructors are and why the riders haven’t fired them yet. I just cannot imagine being content to ride around at Training for the rest of my life, or thinking a horse was only capable of Training. How do you “max out” on what should be basic, fundamental skills?

Perhaps I’ve mentioned this before: the barn I started showing in was focused on hunter/jumpers, but every rider had to ride at least one dressage test each season. The level of the test you rode depending on the fence height you were going to jump. I think at 2’3” and below you rode Training, and at 2’6” and above you rode First. Our instructor wanted to make sure we understood the importance of flat work to our jumping, and to see that there were connections between the disciplines—that dressage was not counterproductive and, in fact, at the low levels was exactly the same as what we’d been practicing for jumping.

So that was my introduction to dressage: a mandatory class before I could show open circuit hunters. A few of us enjoyed dressage, and we’d show the full dressage circuit as well as hunter/jumpers (not nearly as taxing as you might think—even with the dressage circuit, we only had one show every couple weeks over the course of the summer).

Training level, then, was always just a step or a requirement on the way to bigger and more interesting things (jumping, moving up the dressage levels). Maybe it’s the hunter rider in me, but rhythm is not an end goal. It’s a means to an end, something you have to have, but, once established, something you build upon. And this is why I don’t get people who languish in Training level: essentially, at Training level you’re proving you have rhythm and that the horse accepts the bit. You don’t have to ride on the bit, you don’t even have to be accurate in transitions, since you can perform them between letters. I have never met a horse who couldn’t show Training, which is why I don’t understand why people think it’s an accomplishment to prove they have rhythm. That’s nice; now show me you can have rhythm while doing something more taxing than riding a 20 meter circle.

Have you looked at the First Level requirements? You add in some lengthened trot, some lengthened canter, 10 meter trot circles and 15 meter canter circles, leg yield, canter loop… this is not exactly rocket science. Some more balance, more thrust behind, some unwritten expectations that the horse will be much steadier on the bit and possibly showing some self carriage… but good lord, really, what horse CANNOT do this stuff?

I can understand a year of showing Training at schooling shows. That’s where I think Training really belongs, although it’s too much of a money earner for shows to banish it there. I can even understand a year of Training at open/rated shows, while horse and rider are settling into the more competitive atmosphere. If we weren’t throwing some First level tests in the mix by the end of that second summer, though, I’d be giving my trainer the hairy eyeball. And I think that if after those two years my trainer came to me and said, “You should show Training again this [third] summer,” I might shoot him/her.

I will qualify that and say that I’m thinking of a rider who is consistently getting 1-2 lessons a week and is geared up for a pretty regular show season. If it’s a rider with less ability to take lessons, or who is only showing once or twice here of there, then, sure, it’ll take longer.

For me, Training should be part of a basic checklist of skills. Do you know the front end of the horse from the back? Can you ride at all three gaits? Do you know how to ride some basic dressage figures? Yes? Alright; now go do something with that knowledge.

Coming back into the show ring year after year to prove that you and the horse have mastered rhythm… why?

So tell me: if the role of Training level is not, as I’ve been taught and believe, to act as a check of some basic skills before stepping up to the next level, what is the role?

To put it another way: why is it that people seem to think four years of “I’ve got rhythm” is necessary and appropriate?

I obviously feel pretty strongly about this, and I’m really interested in hearing arguments for staying at Training level forever. Obviously they exist, as people do it. And, again, I recognize there’s a difference between a once-a-week rider (in lessons or not) and someone riding several times a week plus lessons. I’ve always had the impression that many of the people languishing at Training fall into the latter category, though, which is where I get really baffled, but if I’m wrong and these Forever Training riders are all once-a-week lessoners… tell me.

Help me understand, please, before my head explodes.

Tagged: Horse Shows, Horses, Riding

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