Sunday, February 27, 2011

Looking for a New Horse

Last time I wrote about my epiphany of not being ready to quit competitive dressage.

Once I’d come to this realization and had a budget to work with, and a very small budget at that, I mentioned on Facebook I was horse hunting. A trainer friend of mine, Molly, whom I’ve known for years, started sending me horses from Dream Horse. One horse in particular caught my eye. The price was in my range, though a little higher than I wanted to spend, but he looked like a sweet fellow. He’d been used as a school horse at a hunter/jumper barn for flat lessons. Molly had been considering buying him for a resale project, but she said she wouldn’t be able to look at him for a while.

I contacted the owner and made plans to see him the following weekend.

In the meantime, I had a lesson on Gailey from my instructor, Kari. In an ironic twist of fate, I’d started her on arthritis medicine, and she was sounder than she’s been in a long time. We discussed my looking for another horse. Kari mentioned that Leslie had returned the chestnut mare to Sandy because the mare had failed the flexion test. Sandy needed to cut back on her horses ASAP so Kari believed she’d offer the horse for an indefinite lease or a minimal amount of money.

Now I had two horses to look at. Of course, I’m a little nervous about the chestnut mare as she’d been vetted twice in the past six months and failed both flexion tests. Now, we’ve all heard of horses that have failed the flexion test but stayed sound forever. With the hope in mind, I tried out the mare on a Saturday. She was lovely, as I expected she would be. Perhaps, a little small for me, but she knew all the second level stuff. Yet in talking to Sandy, she never mentioned a lease, and her price was considerably higher than I’d anticipated. In fact, high enough that I couldn't afford to take a chance if the mare's soundness was questionable. Sandy told me if she couldn’t get that price, the mare would be put in a pasture because she didn't want to give her away.

That evening we went to a birthday party for a friend from the barn. My husband grilled several people on the chestnut mare, including the one who’d returned her earlier in the week. We decided the risk was too great. She was not flexing sound in the hocks, and she was only six. I was sad because she would have been a wonderful horse to have. I also feel sorry for the seller because she believes the horse doesn't have a soundness issue. She had a horse she was hoping to sell in the mid-five figures who is now priced in the mid-four figures and still isn’t selling. What if the flexion tests were wrong? What if there’s really nothing seriously wrong with this mare. She’s also had two sets of x-rays, one vet saw something, another claimed there was nothing. With all this conflicting information what is a buyer and seller to do? Did I pass on the best deal that might come along in a long time?

The next day I tried out Larry, the horse Molly had mentioned to me. Larry was also coming six, and he’d had a partial avulsion in the pastern a few years ago, which as I understand it is a tearing of the ligament which connects to the bone. Larry was bred to be a jumper but the vet recommended no jumping because of the avulsion so he was looking for a home as a dressage horse. He didn't have the dressage training the mare had. In fact, he was quite green though dead broke.

My friend and I saw something in the way he moved that seemed odd, but when he was ridden forward, it went away. Since the owner was willing to allow me to take him home for a 30-day trial, I decided to try him out at Kari’s barn with Kari riding him a few days a week. I picked him up last weekend, and it’s been sub-freezing temperatures ever since with snow on the ground so I’ve been unable to ride him. I lunged him last Monday, and he’d settled in nicely.

Kari rode him on Tuesday and felt something wasn’t quite right with him. She wanted to ride him a few more times before she made her decision, but he felt he had a flat tire. Not necessarily unsound but not right exactly. I plan on riding him tomorrow and all week so we can make our decision. Right now, I’m paying board on two horses, and I can’t afford the expense so I need to make a decision soon. If I'm keeping him, Gailey needs to go home or be leased to someone else.

So that’s where I am right now. More to come...


Francesca Prescott said...

Aie aie aie, hang in there, Jami. It sounds like you're being emotionally thrashed around all over the place, and I wish there was something I could do to help. It was right to pass on the chestnut mare, it sounds far too risky, the last thing you need is an unsound horse. I do hope Larry gives you and your trainer a better feeling this week. Try to stay level headed. I know you will.

You know, sometimes I wish we had a passion for tiddlywinks instead of horses... Far less heartache.

You just have to be patient and have faith. I know it's easy to say, and goodness knows I'm not the most patient person on the planet, but the right opportunity will come up when you least expect it. I'm sending you lots of love.

Alison said...

Wow, what decisions you have to make, Jami! I hope you find the right horse for you--be patient. In the meantime, I feel sorry for these lovely horses who are trying to please multiple riders and doing their best--which isn't good enough. May they find perfect homes!

horsegenes said...

Sit tight and be patience.(That little gem is in my head from my mom.)
There are so many good sound horses out there you can afford to be picky and find just the right one in your price range.

I agree that the vet checks can be challanging to understand. It is almost like they have to find something or they don't feel they are doing their job. I wonder if they vet checked humans if we would all come back perfectly sound?
I would be inclined to believe something was going on if two separate vets found something in the same joints. Even if they don't agree on what it is, they are still seeing something. And if you feel she might be a little small for you then don't settle. I think sometimes we just settle when we find something that is almost what we want instead of holding out for exactly what we want.

Sit tight and be patience the right horse is out there waiting for you to find them. :)

Shanster said...

Well that is disappointing news on both fronts... but keep looking. I know there is a horse out there for you! Best wishes in finding him/her!!!

Terri Rocovich said...

Bottom line Jami, you ultimately have to go with your gut. I tend to be very conservative and cautious when purphasing horses for myself both for myself and my clients. I, like you, tend to keep my horses for their lifetime so I really don't want to but a lameness issue if I can help it and I don't want to buy a horse for a job that is beyond there physical abilities.

Hang in there Jami, have faith it will happen. Some of the best horses I have had have not necessarily vetted completely sound but have had minor issues that were manageable. Hock flexions are usually pretty accuracte indicators of either major issue or a condition manageable by NSAIDS, joint supplements or injections. I would shy away from any young horse with any significant positive flexions since joint issues are always progressive.

Laura Crum said...

I really do think it comes down to going with your gut. Do you like the feel of the horse? Does he seem like he can do the job you want him to do? I did not vet my Sunny horse, but knew that a vet had already diagnosed him with "incipient ringbone". If I had been looking at him for a rope horse I wouldn't have bought him. But for the light trail riding I do, I thought it would be OK--and the horse felt strong and trotted even. He's still going great three years later--though I'm sure he would not pass a vet check, and hard use (lots of loping or much longer trail rides than I do) would probably cause him to break down. It's not an easy call to make--but in today's horse market there are many very lovely, talented, sound horses going cheap, so I agree that you can sit tight and wait for the right one. My biggest bottom line is never buy a horse you don't like the feel of. And the "one flat tire" feeling is not one I like.