Monday, May 21, 2012

Mouthy Monday

"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.


  1. Lucky you, you wised up in time to find the right horse. I'm sure he's a very pretty boy. I know from experience, the easier they are to work with and ride, the prettier they are.

  2. I see that too often, everyone wants flashy, pretty, what have you but they often forget that you cant ride pretty!

    I have a fleabitten grey who is gorgeous in her own right, well put together with beautiful movement and an attitude to match.

    I also have a basic bay appendix. Her gorgeousness is coming as she gains weight and a personality :).

    I hate seeing the "pretty" horses who have attitude/training/conformation issues being priced above the well conformed, well trained chestnut.

  3. My boy is plain bay, no white markings.

    He's healthy, shiny, and dappled. He's also kind, honest, and willing. He's the kind of horse that will go out and trot and canter for 15 miles with me, and the next day take a beginner out on a walking trail ride with never a foot put wrong. That makes him more beautiful than any other horse in the world.

    In my opinion of course. :)

  4. File under "a good horse is never a bad color"! Glad you saw though the plain brown wrapper to the gem underneath!

  5. My criteria when I went looking for a horse was what I didn't want. Didn't want a sorrel or a Quarter Horse or shorter than 15h or younger than 5. Oh, and no boys please. Sigh. I bought a long yearling that had a month of training on him. He was 14h, sorrel Quarter Horse stud. I just don't know what went wrong with my choosing process. I just had several people say that I just HAD to look at him so just to get them off my back I went to the trainers to. I was not impressed at first. He was a toed out hip high SORREL. There were kids screaming up and down the isle, necrotic Border Collies running in circles and more activity than you can imagine. I found out he was halter trained, backed and had a good wtc in the 21 days that he was there. He was put beside another older stud that was nervous to calm the older stud down.... I bought him, gelded him and never looked back. He did reach 15h though and I must say I have no problem getting on him out in the field! We have jumped, herded cattle/buffalo/sheep, trail road and started dressage. Going to try eventing next year. Best buy ever.

  6. Lori - I love sorrels and chestnuts, my favorite color.
    I have palomino and a dun, go figure.

  7. I have the opposite problem. If it's got spots, or is something other than a variation on basic brown, I'm less likely to look because I assume it's got something wrong with it. I figure people are more likely to give something a second chance and more if it's pretty. On the other hand, one of the nicest horses I've ever had the chance to ride is a palomino, while my stupid, barnsour, crabby old man horse is a chestnut with a head that looks like a shoebox. Then again, he's a liver chestnut with a big star, which I suppose might take us into the territory of fancy:)

  8. Pretty is as pretty does! I have two "plain" bays (with a few hidden or easy-to-miss white spots) and groom another barn full of them. Best hearts and minds around. :)

  9. DarcC and NTAT! said what I was going to say.

    Love it when we find those diamonds in the rough.

  10. I have a 25 yr old Appy mare that I used to think was very plain and definitely not flashy. She is my go to "take a friend on the trail" horse and is more beautiful with each passing year. All I originally wanted was a red horse and ended up with an Appy and a Paint. I have simple requirements for my next horse....good natured and sound.

  11. LOL, love those stories of looking for one thing and finding another. I thought I should be looking for a quiet, calm, 14 hh, 15 + year old experienced horse for quiet trails because I was a beginner. I got picked by a 7 yo, 15 hh, spooky, nervy greener-than-grass gelding and bought him because he liked me when he didn't seem to like anyone else. It has taken us some time and some mistakes but we are finding our way together very nicely now.

  12. Some of my most treasured horses came from the kill pen and some had some serious rehab issues. What did they all have in common? They had the "PLEASE HELP ME" eye and looked directly at me or came right to me.Their "kind eye" quickly appeared once they were home.They have all become gems, repaid me many times over what they "cost" me and have never let me down

  13. "Beauty is as beauty does."

    "A good horse is never the wrong color".

    Following those quotes can save an awful lot of heartache and expense.

    So many novices think they can steal a pretty horse that "just needs a little work", but have no idea of what's involved in "a little work".

    A pretty horse that's affordable is that way for a reason. Pretty horses that are also "good" horses are usually not what most consider affordable.

  14. It took me years to find the right horse. Of course when I did, it was because she came up and all but spoke, "I like you, you're my human now". My jaw dropped & it was love at first sight. We bonded & have a serious constant battle of the wills which I think we both enjoy. She's just a big red-headed quarter horse, but has the best looking back end I've ever seen on a horse. :-) I also have a very pretty grulla gelding who is as sweet as he is pretty, willing, and a very easy ride. The temperament was planned, the color was luck. I'm now having to start looking for my next horse as my old red-head is having to be retired. I hate being back in that place, but color is not a factor. Hooves, cannon bones, angles, build, etc. first, temperament second, and well, it's a horse so no matter what color it is, it smells pretty! LOL

  15. You're right Chiron, if I ever sell my pretty, good horse, he won't be cheap! :-)

    Horse shopping is never easy. It only took me going through a couple of men before finding my true love. But it took 5 horses to find my "match". My pretty boy was planned & bred, but my fiance has claimed him, and told me that now I've retired my girl I can just "break in a new one". Yeah, like it's that easy!

  16. I got the idea of having the "pretty pony" knocked outta my head rather early.
    First, actual, not-pony, that I got was an obese, old-style, Appaloosa with no mane, rat-tail, pig-eyed, platter-footed, with a head longer than her neck and totally convex to boot.
    She didn't even have the fortune of having spots as she'd grayed out.
    She was a bitch, but a damned honest horse.

    After her.. I got my "pretty" horse. Bay-dun with amber eyes, feral markings, and a metallic sheen like an Akhal Teke. Just the right amount of chrome and pretty put together as she could be. She turned out to be severely IR, foundered badly as a fresh three year old and I never got to ride her.

    Then got a seal-brown, conformationally nice, but plain as they come filly when I was 15. She had hardly any white to break up her color and her head was slightly crooked from having been a twin. Did all the work on her myself and even though she was a hard-nosed bitch.. she's been the best horse I've ever had.

    Gimme your plain and your ugly. Ya'll can keep the pretty.

  17. Friends, I appreciate this story and your personal comments. When I go my horse (at 50) I knew nothing. God was clearly on my side and guided my choice.

    Now when I think about getting a second horse, i know too much and know how luck plays such a big part in sane, willing, able and healthy all coming together.

    ARRRGGHHH! Am I ever scared.

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