Sunday 1 January 2012

Dear small scale breeder of "fine" horses....

I begin 2012 with a letter that I really should have written back in 2003.

To the kind of crappy horse breeder that depresses the hell out of buyers, makes us think we can't win if we don't buy imported, and ruins the game for the actual ethical breeders working their butts off here in North America to create a reputation for something other than... well...

Dear small scale breeder of fine horses,

I want to start by saying that, in theory, I do admire what you are trying to do. Really.  I am glad to hear you have lush green homegrown hay, bed your horses only on light golden straw, and have100 family owned acres on which your mannerly and people oriented youngstock are free to roam while socializing and "just being horses".  Yada, yada, yada... All that shit sounds great.

I am just a bit confused as to how, during all of this nurturing and caring and bringing along of babies slowly and carefully, you somehow managed to overlook the fact that your horse has a screamingly obvious club foot.
Ooooh I am seeing FEI level Dressage potential, aren't you!
One would think that during all of these line classes that you apparently took Clubby to to give him the opportunity to learn to trailer, and to experience the exhilarating atmosphere of the showgrounds as a youngster, that maybe someone would have mentioned it to you.

Or maybe they did... and really it is my bad for not specifically asking "does Clubby have any glaring conformational defects?" or, maybe "did Clubby always come in last at these breed shows, due to the presence of glaring conformational defects?" or "is my blacksmith going to say "oh for fuck's sake" the first time he meets him"?

I know, I know, I read it time and time again on the message boards.  Sellers complaining about how we buyers just have no clue what we are looking for.  Like, say, if we want a dressage horse with FOUR good feet, you think we would mention it!


Honestly, we buyers are such a bunch of time wasters, just driving all over the countryside kicking tires, begging our veterinarian friends to come out on unpaid shopping jaunts with us as a favour, in November, when they are 8 months pregnant, because we THINK the horse sounds perfect, without doing ANY of our homework...only to have our friends look from the club foot, to us, to the club foot, to us..  in the universal, silent, alternating eye contact gesture that clearly says "is it just me or...WTF?  You needed a vet for THIS?"

Same deal - with Roachy.  The roach backed horse.  I know, I know, my bad again.  As we gabbed away about the wonders of Roachy, we only covered his georgeous steel grey colour, and unbeatable Trakehner bloodlines, floating movement, blah blah blah.  The fool that I am, didn't ask probing questions to see if his back was relatively flat, and his ass was sort of roundish in shape.  For all you knew, I was looking for a horse with a nice little ridge to hang your hat on - this may have been a "value add" in your books.

If I had used my eyes and really, REALLY inspected the running Sasquatch-type pictures you sent, I would surely have noticed his interesting profile.  Or at least the fact that every one of them was taken at kind of a 3/4 side angle, therefore never actually letting me see any profile at all....

Anyway, now that we have established clearly that *I* am most certainly the crazy one here... would you be so kind as to offer me some advice?

When faced with this situation, how would you prefer the (non)buyer respond?

The fact that you called me back with lower pricing even after I said "uuuhh...I really doooon't really think Clubby and Roachy are what I am after" at the end of my visit indicates that you felt my budget was the only thing standing between you and a successful sale.

Not so.

To avoid this confusion..should I have gone "HOLEY SHIT! This is SO COOL!  I have only seen a roach back like that in "101 Conformational Don'ts"!... I had no idea they really existed!"

Or maybe "WOW - that horse's foot looks just like a weird sort of ball!  Not all slopey like normal feet.  How interesting!"

Or what would you have said if I just laid it all out there and announced "Hmmm, nice club foot.  NO.  Why on earth would you even show me this animal for the price you are asking".  I guess that is the right thing to do, be transparent! Assssertive!... but it just seems so awkward, what with the three years of golden straw and frolicking and all that shit. I feel badly for you, really I do.

Don't worry.  Sooner or later someone will show up and be too stupid to notice.  Or maybe you can sell via the internet to someone in the U.S or something, who doesn't actually come on out and look at the horse themselves.  Just be patient.  You jerk.


  1. I have also experienced the club foot syndrome one time when I went to look at a SW. They were asking a significant amount of money for the beast but she had wonderful breeding. This was in the days before the Internet and I made a 3 hour drive over to see her. I politely passed, but an acquaintance of mine actually ended up buying her.

  2. Don't give up. :-)

    We have bought two young prospects in the last year, in your southwestern Ontario region. One from a small breeder and another off the Internet sight unseen (crazy? Yes! Worth it even with thousands for shipping? Yes!).

    My rules for horse shopping (whatever it may be worth for you):
    1. No recent video = no drive
    2. Video must have "conformation triangle" - walk away, across, straight back at camera. Why? Because if I think something is off I can have my vet look at it before I waste gas money.
    3. Continuity chain for lack of a better word - who owned, how long and does the story make sense, I.e. verifiable by google searches, friends, results.

    Look hard at the Canadian warmbloods. Both of ours are. We did not intend to do so but after much wading through unsuitables, these were the ones that consistently looked good.

    We are thrilled with both of ours. Talented, laid back but enough spunk to be fun. Drool worthy bloodlines that suggest that we are just seeing now as green babies will just improve with more work and time.

    You can find talent within your budget. They might need to be a little younger but worth the wait to develop and grow together.

    Good luck! :-)