"Mo" didn't want to be identified, but she has certainly identified a problem we have all been guilty of...
Buying a Pretty Horse
We moved to a rural property in Washington state last year and I found myself in the enviable position of acquiring a second horse to live with my 7 year-old TB Tally.
I’m relatively new to the horse ownership and horsemanship in general. I’m the ubiquitous middle-aged horse-crazy female that finally has the time and circumstances to be able to join the ranks of full time owners. I started leasing Tally 2 years ago, and purchased him as my dream horse 5 months later. This missive is not about Tally however, he was more luck and happenstance. This is about my struggle to find the 2nd horse.
By the time we moved to our new home, I thought I had enough knowledge from two years of riding, training and boarding at a busy public stable to be able to pick a good horse. I felt I had seen the attributes of good horses in all sizes and shapes, and almost every kind of bad attitude, poor training problem and lameness issue that I might encounter. I wasn’t looking for another performance horse, just a nice, safe, trained family trail horse. Should be a dime-a-dozen out here, where every yard of any size seems to have a horse or two in the field.
Armed with my list of requirements, I set out to find my perfect buddy. Nothing too difficult - just 16H+, 10+years old, QH type gelding, sound, mellow, good with other horses, trail and husband safe. I let one other attribute sneak into my shopping list: pretty. Why not, I had one big bay already, why can’t I have an Appaloosa, spotted or colored horse to decorate my pasture and show off on the trails? Unfortunately, “Pretty” became my downfall, as I inspected one prospect after another. There was the sweet palomino paint with suspected navicular problems that my vet made me walk away from, the Piebald that was so nasty with his owner in the saddle that my husband told me to walk away after 10 minutes of watching, the palomino-Appy cross that pinned his ears at every horse in the vicinity, and was so poorly ridden by his teenage owner that I would have had to start from scratch with ground training to undue all his miscues, the beautiful leopard Appy that couldn’t pass a flex test on either front leg, and lastly the wonderful cutting trained seal brown QH who taught me what the condition “Shivers” looks like.
Three months into searching, enough money spent on pre-purchase exams to buy an actual horse, and I had nothing to show for it but a strong sense of pessimism and a developing ability to sniff out the dishonest horse traders and ignorant private owners. I stopped shopping for a while, and re-evaluated how I had come to this position. Was my budget too low for a bigger, well trained horse, even in this economy? Should I wait till I had found a trainer in the area? I finally did see a big part of my problem, that I had been unconsciously screening the horse ads for color first and performance second.
After a mental kick in the pants I started over, and within a month found Ringo, an older, well built 16.2H Appendix QH that was everything I wanted, and is the near twin of my bay TB. He had a poor body score from worms, bad teeth and 2 years of no riding, but his quality and kindness shone through.
I took him home, addressed all his problems, and he’s now sleek and sassy and a joy to ride in the arena and on the trails, and Tally loves him. I’ve re-learned to take pleasure in looking at a kind eye and a shiny coat on a plain brown horse. Recently, Ringo was standing tied in the barn, waiting his turn to be let back out to the pasture. He tossed me a “hurry up!” look. I said “hold on a minute Handsome”. He turned and gave me a puzzled look, as if to say “nobody has called me handsome in a long time”.
That’s the day I changed how I define a beautiful horse.