Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Decisions, Decisions...

Let's see, we left off with me having visited and test-ridden TEN horses already.  

The next prospect I visited was with a local lady who trains horses.  She’s also somewhat of a horse trader, taking horses in payment from people who can’t afford to pay for their training and re-selling them, finding homes for clients’ horses, etc.  She advertised an appy on Craigslist, and I went to go see her.  She was a little squirrely in the arena, and also felt VERY small under me, but I tried her out a second time on the trails.  She was great on the trails, still very sensitive to leg, but not nearly as squirrely as in the arena.  I really liked her, but still felt she was TINY.  She and a friend of mine both swore she didn’t look disproportionate with me, and didn’t look like she was straining under my weight, but I just felt like my leg didn’t have any contact with her, and that I could probably touch my toes under her belly if I tried hard enough—just no substance to her barrel. 

This same trainer had a couple other horses that were more my size, but she had JUST gotten them in and hadn’t had time to evaluate them yet.  I asked her to keep me posted, and also replied to an ad on Craigslist for a purebred Arab.  The trainer got back to me saying she had a horse I needed to come see, so I made tentative plans to see them both in the same day.  I don’t like to have two horses in the running at the same time, as I’m horrible at making decisions, and more horrible about making either/or decisions than yes/no decisions, but what can you do, right?

It was really windy when I showed up to see the Arab, so the owner and trainer didn’t want me to ride him, but the trainer lunged and rode him for me.  He didn’t seem perturbed by the wind, but I was fine with waiting to ride him another time.  They lunged him in side reins, and rode him in a German martingale, which was a bit off-putting, but claimed it was just because they were training him to round up, and that he didn’t need them.  Seeing the conditions and how calm he was, I wasn’t too concerned. 

From there, I went to go check out the other trainer’s horse, a grade horse, probably QH.  She let me ride him even though it was now spitting snow pellets, windier than before, and also nearing sundown.  He wasn’t THRILLED about being ridden in that weather, but didn’t act out at all.  He'd had some training, apparently, because he kept offering to lower his head and such.  I'm not sure how well he was actually CARRYING himself under all that blubber--he was very overweight and out of shape.

A few days later, I rode the grade QH on the trails.  He was pretty amped up and ready to go, prancing a little at the outset, and VERY forward and aware.  He never actually spooked or felt out of control, but definitely needed to be actively ridden and not just sat on.  This is a good sign to me, since I’m looking for a horse that can ride 50+ miles in a day once we are BOTH in good shape.

The next day (and sore from the prior day’s ride), I went and rode the Arab on a calm sunny morning.  He was calm as can be, to the point of being lazy.  Which can also be a red flag—maybe the trainer worked him to death the day before.

Now I had some tough decisions to make.  I still hadn’t tried the Arab on the trails, but would need to decide between them soon (the fat QH's seller was pressuring me because she had other parties interested) and schedule a vet check on the one I’m most interested in.

Here were my ramblings in my head as I tried to decide:
They are priced the same.  One is a registered Arab (the best breed for endurance, but any breed can compete at the levels I’ll be at for the next couple of years, and can theoretically even be competitive in the toughest races—obviously it depends on the individual horse, but more Arab individuals are suitable than individuals of other breeds), the other is unregistered, and therefore of undeterminable breed or age.  The Arab is 8, the unregistered one is presumed to be around 12, both suitable ages, but of course younger is better to a certain point, as it has more years left for competing after a couple of years of building up conditioning.  The Arab is ready to go for the rides I myself am in shape for, but the grade QH would need to ramp up a little slower than that.  But it’s appealing to have a “diamond in the rough” situation, and take photos of him all chubby and then later all sleek and fit.  The Arab is better trained, better trained than I am for sure, but then how much training do you need for what will be essentially a trail horse?  The Arab’s owner wants to know how he’ll be kept, and have right of first refusal (at the same purchase price), and otherwise seems to “baby” him.  The grade QH would be sold without any strings attached, and I COULD potentially profit on the sale someday, or could lose a bunch because he’s not registered and we don’t know breed, age, or history.  However, the Arab would probably work out for me longer-term, and not need to be sold, while the grade QH might top out at 25-mile rides while I want to move on to 50s, and I would need to sell and upgrade.
Decisions, decisions…

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