14 February 2009

A Match Made in Heaven -- Or Not

Here are ten tips to selecting a good riding companion.

1. Get the Right "Fit" People often buy the wrong horse for the wrong reason. Green riders and green horses are usually the wrong shades of green for each other. Over the years, I have seen lots of errors made when people think the horse and rider should learn together. In my experience, an older horse with experience is a far better fit for a new rider -- and often for an experienced rider too.

2. Handsome is as Handsome Does. The plethora of phone calls from people who purchased something incredibly lovely and then can't do a thing with them is stunning. If you see a liver chestnut with a flaxen mane and tail and it happens to be unrideable, it makes no sense to bring them home -- unless you just enjoy looking at your horses then by all means start adding to the herd. Find a horse that matches your skills and learn from them, don't focus only on appearance.

3. Look at Horses and Take an Expert. Spend time looking at horses and if you have a good professional available in your area, take them with you to help evaluate the horse. This one step can save you lots of difficulty later on. In today's market, you will likely have plenty of time to return and look at the horse again. Remember to get a DVM out to check the horse over too. Cover all your bases.

4. Show Horses. If you intend to show the horse, you should take the opportunity to see the animal in that environment. Make sure the horse is comfortable with the whole showing process, including trailering. You would hate to find a great match that you can't take off the farm. No owner or horse needs that kind of stress.

5. You Get What You Pay For. Ultimately you want a safe, sound, reliable horse. Don't skimp on the investment to try and get a bargain. If the deal seems too sweet, it probably is. This is another area that having expert assistance can be beneficial. You can always try to negotiate a different price, but be certain you are up to the task and are offering a fair alternative.

6. Patron Saint of Lost Causes. As much as I would like to tell you that all horses can be fixed, for most people it just isn't worth the extra time and risk. Are you looking at an animal that is dangerous, overly spooky, just somewhat off in regard to temperament? Move on. There are lots of really nice horses available and they will likely serve you much better. Leave the project horses for the professionals.

7. Personality Counts. This applies to you and your horse. Go looking at horses with a realistic viewpoint of what you want to accomplish and what type of horse really suits you. If you are a beginner, a horse off the racetrack is probably not the best first purchase. Are you looking to be a competitive show jumper? Then a Shetland Pony is probably not your first choice. Look for suitable matches in size, energy level, activities and any other aspect that should fit your personality.

8. When You're Green, You're Growing and When You're Ripe, You're Rotten. Keep up your education by taking lessons, attending clinics, seminars and speakers and reading about horses and training. (This also applies for dog folks too.) You and your horse will definitely benefit from a lifelong education. Remember to ask questions because good teachers want you to learn.

9. Pay Attention to What People Tell You. This is another place where your experts can help you. If the trainer, coach, instructor, veterinarian, horse owner is telling you the horse isn't the right on for you, pay attention to that advice. Most of the time, these people are looking out for the best interest of both you and the horse. Try not to take this to heart, but be objective about the suitability of you and the horse.

10. Think. Buying a horse is the time to be smart about what you are doing. Try to avoid feeling guilty or making up some horrible past life experience for the horse that causes you to buy them.

This is a time to avoid being overly emotional, and really evaluate all the aspects of how you and the horse will fit together in a logical manner.

Image is Wing Commander from LIFE magazine photos. You can see more photos of this amazing five-gaited American Saddlebred in the magazines historical photos on Google.

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