Today is exactly three years since I bought Pea so I thought I’d share my thoughts on finding ‘the one’ (of the equine variety!) Obviously Pea is my first so I feel quite unqualified to talk about this so I’ve consulted some of my favourite internet and real life friends to get their perspectives.
In an ideal world.. get to know them!
I was lucky. I had been leasing Pea for a year and a half before I bought her. I knew her about as well as I possibly could and was sure she was the one for me. My thoughts about buying her started long before I actually did.
Pea’s internet doppleganger Henry, from Henry Dressage Cob, had a similar story. His mum Shelley said
‘I weekend loaned him for a while and riding school owner said he looked happy, so one weekend I asked her if you ever did sell him can I have him. That afternoon after having a think and chat with some people, she came to say yes you can have him!’
Buying from a friend or someone you know, having already seen the horse with a different rider, is also a good start. The best Pony Club ponies get passed from family to family as their riders outgrow them and plenty of competition horses and ponies move on to people who already know them. Although in different homes, with different riders, horses will act differently, the more you know about a horse, the more likely it is you will be able to make the right choice!
In the real world.. conduct a careful search!
If you are not lucky enough to have found a horse through your yard or friends you are likely to have to resort to looking for horses in the wider world! For advice on this I hand over to Leanne, owner of Bourton Vale Equestrian Centre (my yard) and general horse guru!
‘1. Be realistic. The perfect horse does not exist, but one perfect for you does. Decide what’s most important to you and be prepared to be flexible on the least important.
2. Read adverts thoroughly and prepare questions to ask before wasting your time or the sellers. Listen to the answers and ask for more specific details – “goes around a set of showjumps” could mean literally that.
3. Someone else’s perfect pony might not be yours! The fact that Neddy tows his current owner to the nearest piece of grass at every opportunity might be acceptable to them, but not for you!
4. Research! Facebook is great for this! Ask someone in the pony/riding club/hunting field who might have seen them out and about.
5. Always take someone else with you to view, preferably someone more experienced, but a witness and an outside pair of eyes is always useful. Try the horse in the circumstances you will be riding in – in fields/alone/in company/ on roads, and always ride past home on your return to check for nappy behaviour if that’s on your unacceptable list. Ask to see the horse caught, tacked up, ridden – and look for signs that they might have been ridden or lunged prior to you coming- a freshly washed one might have been having sweatmarks removed!
6. Go back and try again- honest sellers will be as keen as you to make sure you match, dealers to protect their reputation and private to ensure their “darling” isn’t going to be sold on.
7. Get a vetting – but bear in mind point 1 when you get the results.’
Be open minded
If you are looking for a 15.2, bay gelding with four white socks and a star and a BE record, you’re likely to be setting yourself up for disappointment or at the very least, a massively restricted search. Try not to rule out colours and breeds because you never know, you might miss out on ‘the one’ because of it. Charlotte, from The Forelock Journal, said
‘When Hamish was advertised for loan at our yard I wasn’t actually sure about trying him. He’s a thoroughbred and I’d have classed myself as a nervous rider at the time. He was so calm, kind and patient from the moment I was around him and I just knew I wanted to take him on right away. He just knows me and I just know him. I can put my finger on what it is, but we have a very special bond.’
Keep in mind the ‘stretch zone’ theory
For a bit more information about this theory have a read of Tips from HOYS but essentially, in my opinion, you want a horse that keeps you in the stretch zone rather than the safe or danger zones. Pea and I have plenty to work on together and she can certainly keep me on my toes but I knew when I bought her she would never throw anything at me that I wouldn’t be able to cope with.
Don’t sweat the small stuff
When I started riding Pea, people used to ask me when I was going to get a ‘proper horse’. I still get questions and judgements about the fact that I’m a 5’6 adult with a 14hh pony but I really couldn’t care less. In my opinion, providing you are not too heavy for your horse, it shouldn’t matter if they are small, tall, fine or chunky providing that they are right for you. I see far too many teenagers thinking they need a thoroughbred because that is the image they want rather than thinking about what horse is actually right for them – don’t fall into that trap.
When you know, you know
Most loving horse owners won’t be able to quite pin point how they knew their horse was the one for them, they just knew! Francesca, from Country Frantics, said this about when she tried Buddy (her first horse)
‘I felt confident on him out on a hack straight away and he completely looked after me, it was like I couldn’t be without him now he had entered my life. I bought him 2 weeks later. He understands me and is the male horse version of me in every way!’
And sometimes they chose you
When Francesca met Adie, her RSPCA rescue horse, he was the one in charge of the decision making
‘When I met him for the first time it was like he chose me, he put so much trust in to me and he couldn’t stop following me and rubbing his head over me. I knew I had to take him home so I did!’
Thank you to today’s contributors for sharing their experiences and advice. Please check out their links!
Shelley from Henry Dressage Cob
Leanne from Bourton Vale Equestrian Centre
Charlotte from The Forelock Journal
Francesca from Country Frantics