Wednesday 15 February 2012

Do you *know* what the hell you want, Curmudgeon?

I arrived at my friend's farm outside of London, and broke the news to her - as much as I'd love to spend the afternoon canning Salsa and discussing cross-stitch (while Mr. Motard drives combines and grain buggies and other cool things with the boys) what I really needed to do was go horse shopping. See you around.  

What?  You already have a horse.  Why do you need another one?


You have all been here. Insert ...some futile attempt to explain to the non-horsey friend that your Arab pony (what's an Arab?) is not a dressage prospect (what's dressage?), and so you are buying another one... here.  Why?  Well, it has to do with...(oh, look at that.  Her eyes are glazing right over...)

Just stop right there.  If you are a horse person, you have been down this road before. Although your non horsey friends expect you to remember every minutia of the lives and times of their boring children (oh they are SO unique - just like all of the other children), to colour with them and model little plasticine pigs for them, and dig in their cat shit infested sandboxes with glee...they can't be bothered to spend 5 minutes trying to understand what the hell it is you do with your horse.  Enough said.

Give me a sec.  I am making you some magic clay.

Well if you are going to see a horse - can we come?  Little Sally loves horses.  


And so, I headed out to see Ms. V for the first time with a non-horsey friend and her 5 year old daughter in tow.  Yep, there is nothing that someone showing a 2 year old horse likes more than having a non-horse savvy 5 year old on site trying to get their head kicked off during the process.  Sure.  What the hell.  All aboard!

The farm was a very nice private stable, with a beautiful arena.  Only very limited amounts of mud.  Thank the lord.  Ms. V was standing quietly in the cross ties, neatly groomed with a slick show-sheeny tail, and presented to me by a pleasant mom and daughter.  Reason for selling was immediately obvious - the daughter already towered over me.  So although they had bought this horse in-utero... things were not going to work out based on her size.  

So far so good.  I poked, prodded, asked polite questions - no club feet, roach back, or alarm bells of other sorts. She was very friendly and well mannered, which was nice.   The other nice thing was that her dam was also on site, so I got to check her out too, and she was similarly friendly and well mannered.  Neither did anything frighteningly crazy, and flames did not shoot out of any orifices as I had expected due to the Saddlebred influence.  (Kind of disappointing, really).

The one thing that really stood out in my mind - is that she was small.  Really small.  Large pony small.  And she really looked every bit a nerdy, gangly two year old.  If horse shopping were high school, Ms. V did not yet need a training bra without a whole lot of kleenex, whereas the other horses I saw would have already been using tampons and getting Brazilian waxes.  

If you are not used to shopping for young horses, seeing one that is still just emerging from the ugly yak conformation phase does shake you a bit.  Looking at their little dented in knees, giant butts, and sea horse necks - none of this brings to mind the shining finished beast you plan to own.  

Don't panic, Curmudgeon.  Wait until you see her move.  Remember the story of the ugly duckling.  

Off we went to the arena.  

And for the first time, I got a really good feeling about this little horse - you could tell right away that she loved to move.  No longe whip was really required - she took off at a big trot, big canter, monster bucks, here there everywhere - and didn't stop for about 10 minutes, scaring the crap out of my non-horsey friend and her child as they cowered in the centre of the arena.  It wasn't freaky scared running all over the place - it was "woo-hoo, look at me go, I am loving the footing in  here" zooming around.

(I didn't ask myself at the time... "will this horse ever want to STOP?"  Which may have been a valid question. After the balky Platypus, seeing this horse go-go-go was just so refreshing.  There can't possibly be anything bad about a horse who has excessive energy, can there?)

I was also impressed that every time she went to accelerate, she sat down and pushed off with her hind legs instead of just rushing faster with all four feet like Fred Flinstone (no, I know he doesn't have four feet.  But you know how his legs just spin in a circle when he runs?).  Which, of course, gave her front end the look I was after - big and spidery.  Not just dime-a-dozen floating feet.

He moves a little out behind, and is on the forehand, don't you think?

And herein lay the problem.  This horse did not look or move anything like any of the hunters I had ever owned or ridden.  The upright conformation (the seahorse neck came out of her back at approximately a 90 degree angle), the knee action and flinging front legs (no daisies would be cut or otherwise maimed as this horse trotted by)... the snappy hocks - it is what I thought I wanted, but now that I saw it before me, I just wasn't sure.

Because in the back of my mind I kept thinking "what if you hate dressage.  This horse will NEVER be a hunter - she is too small, and she moves like a freak".

There would be no turning back.  If things didn't work out for this girl as a dressage horse, I would be stuck with a small jumper or eventer - two activities I just didn't (still don't) have the balls to participate in.  Even the big clunkers at WXYZ could have made respectable hunters...

I thought maybe I was over reacting, and worrying too much, so I came back a week or so later to see her again - accompanied by a hunter friend.  She was polite, watched quietly, but I could see it on her face... as soon as we got in the car she said I was insane to buy this horse... especially when there are so many good ones over at TnG!  Let's go there!  (oh, fuck ooofffff!!!  Don't worry. I did NOT go there)

And so... sigh....back to   


  1. Your posts are making me grateful for how easy my first dressage horse shopping experience was. I also happened to luck out with a horse who had more potential than I was hoping for, despite my cluelessness on what I really needed.

    Thanks for sharing - I'm looking forward to more of the continuing story!

  2. Actually, from your description, she might well have made a super dressage horse. But practicality had to come in somewhere. Wonder how she would have gone over time with some proper training so she could learn to stretch into a bridle? Did you ever hear of what happened to her?

    Horse hunting is a fascinating and frustrating experience when you have a full set of criteria all laid out beforehand. I've never been quite that picky, which is why I've had nice horses, but not superstars....and kind of molded my goals to the horse instead of the other way around.

  3. oooh, ooh, ooh, is the next installment when the donkey comes in???

  4. ....Jean, you may want to note that the leg markings in the sale photo match the banner at the top of the blog...