What to Look for When You Want to Buy a Horse

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What to Look For When You Want to Buy a Horse

I wanted my own horse after Glitter, the horse I was leasing, was sold. I liked the Glitter, but she was high-strung and a lot of work. As beautiful and as talented as she was, I thought I could do better. It was hard to let her go, but the person who bought her kept her on the farm where she had been since she was two. I got to see her.

I never again wanted an owner to take a horse away from me. This had happened many times before. I wanted my own horse. I finally had enough money and time to buy and care for a horse. I had found a boarding farm set on 125 acres, lots of open space for horses, and fairly close to where I lived.

Looking for My Own Horse

The owner of the farm had several horses for sale. I asked about two or three. She had one excuse after another for not selling them to me. One of them was her horse, and she would let him go for a huge amount, far more than I was willing to pay. Another, she said, did not have a good mind, as gorgeous as he was and as beautiful as his gaits were. His father was Padron, who had won the equivalent of the Triple Crown for Arabs.

She offered me Padron’s Elegante, or Ellie, a five year-old green broke bay Arab mare. Ellie was a Padron daughter. The owner suggested I take Ellie as a project in the fall and sell her in the spring. That sounded like a good idea. I should have known better. I looked into that mare’s eyes, and she looked back, alert, gentle, spirited. I did not know it then, but I would never let her go.

Ellie passed the vet check with flying colors. “Sound, muscled, well put-together, wonderful gaits, willing. She’s quite a horse,” the vet said. From the moment I got on her, I could feel the energy of her. I also did not know it then, but we connected immediately.

Not an Easy Horse

She was not an easy horse. Her biggest issue was anticipation. She was so tense and smart that she thought she knew what I wanted before I asked her. I think now that the anticipation was about wanting to avoid pain and punishment.

She held her head high, which I was used to having ridden Arabs for many years, but there was something different about her head carriage and the on-going tension in her body. I tried different bits, wondering if she had a low palate and the snaffle bit I used was hitting her in the roof of her mouth when I used the reins. After trying three or four different bits, she relaxed when I got her a double-jointed snaffled that was supposed to not hit horses’ palates.

She still seemed a bit tense and I thought the saddle might not fit well. I bought a new saddle that had air pockets instead of stuffing and that was expandable with inserts. Gradually she became relaxed, but not quite mellow.

My one last experiment was to get her a bitless bridle. Magic. Ellie loves her bitless bridle. Now we truly are a team. She is relaxed, mellow, carries her head well, is balanced and responsive. We are a team.

She loves dressage and is better at it than I am. She loves trail riding. Bush whacking is tops for her. Her small ears are pointed forward, and she in inquisitive and energetic as she breaks trial.

I wrote a poem to  her.

To Ellie

When you spook

and I land hard on the ground

when you stop short from a canter

 and I fall on your neck

when you lift your head out of reach

as I trim your forelock.

Let’s remember the times when I think left

and you go that way When I ask for a canter

and you give it when I touch your brow

and you lower your head

when we’re in the woods

and the sunlight dapples the green leaves

as you step daintily over a wooden bridge.

Ellie Had a Foal, Now a Full-Grown Horse

Ellie had a foal with a gorgeous paint stud eight years ago. His name is Finn MacCool. He is a big red chestnut with flaxen mane and tail, a blaze and two white socks. He is now my good old gelding, willing and sensitive like his mother, but so relaxed and even lazy that it’s hard to believe the two horses are related. Finn and I are working on our partnership, but the mutuality is there and has been within months after he was born.

Sometimes I feel lazy or tired and don’t feel like going to the farm. When I get myself there anyway, there are there, with the wise eyes and gentle nature. Riding them is exciting much of the time and work at others. Being with them is always a joy. Horses are magic.

What it Takes to Own a Horse

After reading my story, I think you have learned what it takes to own a horse:

-love for horses

-money to buy a horse and to pay the bills such as for vet, feed, and tack

-a vet check to make sure the horse is sound and fit for what you want

-a farm with open fields and green grass so they can be horses

 –commitment to the horse’s well-being

-willingness to experiment to find out what works best with your horse

-connection and partnership with your horse

If there is a heaven, let it be a horseback ride in the spring when the plum trees are in bloom and tiny frogs peep so loud they hurt our ears.


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