by Laura Crum
Or perhaps the title should be, “Helping a Beginner to Find a Horse”. I’ve written on this blog before about how to find a bombproof horse, and I’ve written quite a bit about the two bombproof geldings (Henry and Sunny) I found for myself and my son to trail ride. Nonetheless, it is not that easy to find such a horse—one that is sound and has some years of use left in him. When, back in June, a woman I know through our homeschool group asked for my help in finding such a horse for her family, I tried to be helpful, but in truth, I don’t think I did her much good.
Of course, had I known of a horse like Henry or Sunny that was for sale, I would have recommended said horse at once. But I didn’t. I knew of a gray horse that was said to be that gentle, but I didn’t personally know the horse, other than seeing him once at a practice roping. Nonetheless I told “Nancy” about this horse, and put her in touch with the owner, reminding Nancy that I didn’t really know the horse.
Nancy drove an hour to try the horse, along with her teenage daughter, who is a fairly competent rider and the main reason the family is in the market for a horse. Nancy herself is very timid and fearful with horses and has no desire to go faster than the walk on a very gentle horse. Apparently on the day they tried the gray horse, the wind was blowing and the horse was jiggy and even the normally fearless daughter was uncomfortable riding him. Not at all suitable said the mom.
I apologized for leading them astray, said again that I just didn’t have time to accompany them on horse hunting expeditions, and (with conditions) recommended a young guy I’ve blogged about before (I call him “Bill”) as a helper. Bill is a struggling young horse trainer. Always short of money, always trying to make a dime. You probably know the breed. Young and charming, basically well-intentioned, a pretty good hand with a horse. Nonetheless, always trying to make that dime. You have to watch him. That said, Bill’s niche is finding gentle horses for beginners and he is good at it. My Sunny horse originally came from Bill, and Bill, though he never owned him, was a huge fan of my son’s horse, Henry. Bill knows how to pick them.
I told Nancy about Bill, and told her just how I saw him. “He is really competent at finding the sort of horse you want, but I would at least vet any horse he recommends, especially if he’s selling it to you or getting a commission on it. I would definitely ask Bill for help (and I did) if I was looking for a family horse.”
So Nancy meets Bill and really likes him. She also likes the older gelding named Walt that Bill wants to sell her. I watched her try the horse—nervous Nancy looked and felt pretty safe on old Walt. The teenage daughter rode him competently. Unfortunately, it didn’t look like Walt was sound. No bob, but an odd shuffle behind. Bill concurred that Walt definitely had something going on high up in the rear end. Bill didn’t know exactly what was wrong with the horse. Walt was in his late teens. The price was fairly high, all things considered. I told Nancy that Walt might be the right sort for her, but I would vet him and try to find out what was wrong with him before I bought a lame horse. If his problem deteriorated, he migt become unridable or worse. It just depended on what the problem was. I also said that if it were me, I might use Bill as a consultant, paying him his fee for this, rather than buying a horse from him. That way Bill’s best interests would be Nancy’s best interests.
I’m not sure how all this affected Nancy. Perhaps it offended her. Perhaps she saw what I consider business as usual in the horse world as consorting with a bunch of double dealing crooks. Who knows? I left on my month long trip shortly thereafter. When I returned, I saw Bill, and he said he had never heard back from Nancy. Nancy has never called me back, either. I have considered calling her several times and I just can’t make myself do it. Call me selfish, but it’s a thankless task trying to help non-horse people find a horse.
No matter how good my intentions are, and how much experience I have, if I don’t really know the horse Nancy is considering, my opinion on him won’t be worth much. Its just an educated guess. And if that horse doesn’t work out for Nancy, or it goes lame, or worse yet, hurts her or her daughter, she’s likely to blame me, or at the very least, think I’m an idiot. Its not easy to find the right horse, even if you have a lot of experience. Thus my reluctance to call Nancy back.
And there’s another aspect to this. Maybe I’m over reacting, but I feel responsible for the horse when I am the one who has placed it in a home with someone who is not a horseman. About a year ago I wrote on this blog about placing a retired team roping horse named Harley (retired because of a suspensory tear) with a woman who wanted to “get into” horses, but, though a good, responsible animal owner, was certainly not a horseman. Lots of people wrote in and said I should give it a try—how else do any of us become horsemen without starting out as beginners? Fair enough. I placed Harley in this home, and they have done a fantastic job with him, rehabbing him and riding him lightly. All seemed well.
However, it was the woman’s twenty something son who was doing most of the work with the horse and now that son is leaving home. I was made aware over the course of the year that this woman who wanted to “get back into horses” was actually quite timid, and was never brave enough to ride Harley, though she let her son lead her around on him. She even seemed a bit afraid to handle him on the ground. And, as I said on the blog, Harley is not really a beginner’s horse. He’s a very well broke horse but he has a fair amount of life.
So now I find out through the grapevine that the woman is trying to decide whether to give Harley back or not. She isn’t sure if she can cope with the horse without her son. To tell you the truth, I’m not sure if she can cope with Harley, either. I don’t know what I hope—that she keeps him (she is giving him a loving home and he looks great) or gives him back (because I’m afraid she may get hurt or at the very least frightened and the horse may get hurt or badly spoiled). However, I really, really do not want to try to find another home for this horse as we tilt into fall, when all knowledgable horse folk are thinking of paring down their herd, not adding to it. So I guess I hope she keeps him. But aaargh! I feel all too responsible for the whole situation, since it was me that arranged for this horse to come to these people. I am thinking that I just don’t want to be involved with hooking up any more non-horse people with a horse. Is that totally selfish of me?
So that’s my question for today. Have any of you been in the position of helping a beginner to find a horse? How did it work out for you? Any suggestions?