Friday 3 November 2017

Project Horse?

So, I saw an ad, and unwittingly, plans are now swirling in my head.

The ad is for a "beautiful, smart, athletic 8 year old mare". It is a terrible sale ad, that explains that they are selling her because she is "too smart for inexperienced kids" even though they "have no trouble with her". It mentions age and colour but there is no reference to training, breeding, height, temperament etc. There are 4 pictures in the ad: 1 is a super weird angle of the dirty horse in her pen, 1 is a side view of the mare wearing a saddle with a kid sitting in it, but the kid is wearing sneakers and a skateboard helmet, and the horse is covered in mud, is standing awkwardly, has a halter on, and is eating hay from a pile on the ground. The other two photos are crooked headshots. Like I said, it's a terrible ad, and if that's all I saw of her I would just keep scrolling by.

However, the thing is, I know this horse. She's boarded at my barn and her pen is kitty corner from Kachina's. She's a sweet mare who always seems interested in people, and I feel so bad for her because her people barely ever come out. And by barely, I do mean barely. This mare has been boarded near Kachina for over two years and I have seen her owners a total of 3 times (and I never had the chance to talk to them so I do not know the owners at all), I've never even seen the horse in the arena or ridden, just visited in her pen. There's plenty of other friendly horses at the barn, and even some other ones who are also ignored by their owners, but I have a soft spot for this one in particular, I don't know what it is, I just like her vibe.

So, I kind of want to buy the mare, work with her for a few months as a project and then sell her to a great home.

I know this is a stupid plan because:
1. I cannot afford two horses for anything more than a temporary period of time
2. I've never sold a horse and it's entirely possible I will become attached and then have two horses forever. This could also happen if an injury or behaviour meant that I couldn't in good conscience sell the mare. I cannot afford two horses forever.
3. I've never seen the mare outside of her pen so I know very little about how she moves and what kind of training she has
4.  I'm not a horse trainer
5. I barely have enough time for one horse, not to mention two
6. It takes a lot of skill and luck to avoid being burned by buying and selling horses, and I don't know that I have either

These are serious and big things and so I should probably just walk away now, but...

Reasons why I am maybe convincing myself that this isn't a stupid plan:
1. Her current terrible ad and lack of recent work does not bode particularly well for her getting a good home right now
2. Her price is low enough that I feel like I could realistically tack a couple thousand on to it once she had a few months of regular work, maybe a couple clinics and shows under her belt, and an ad with photos of her clean and actually doing something, and she would probably be more desirable at that point than she is now, even with the higher price. A couple thousand is what it would cost me to board her for 5 months while I work with her so those aren't bad numbers.
3. I know it would make me a better rider to ride more than one horse (especially because from the ground I can tell she has a really different personality from Kachina).
4. 8 is a really good age, even if it takes me a year or two to put some training on her she will still be marketable at that point (see, this plan is already escalating from 5 months to 1-2 years, it's got a mind of its own)
5. Even though the ad shows nothing close to a conformation shot which is normally a big red flag, this mare is actually put together pretty nicely. She is a decent height (probably around 15.2-15.3hh), with balanced proportions, good legs, an uphill build, no obvious blemishes and a fine head (those last two can't be said of Kachina)
6. While coming out ahead or even financially is the goal, I'm okay selling her for a loss if I need to, as long as I get to have some fun with her and then find her a good home
7. I like her

The bottom line is that she's a nice horse who maybe doesn't have much of a future right now. If someone else sees her potential under the literal dirt and wants to make something of her then that's great. However, if nobody else steps up, this might actually be an opportunity for me to improve her lot in life. As much as I would love to help out every poor horse I see, I am not financially able to do so. However this is a case where I may be able to help out a horse I already have a connection with, and a horse who has the potential for resale. Plus I do think that it would be good development for me as a rider and horsewoman to work with another horse.

To be clear, Kachina isn't going anywhere, this would be buying a second horse, not replacing the one I already have.

I'm not completely irresponsible, so there are a few things I would absolutely want to check before writing a cheque:
- does she have papers? (not a deal-breaker if no, but would affect price)
- confirmation of foaling date (if she's older than 8 that may change things)
- can she walk/trot/canter with true gaits? how nice of a mover is she?
- is she relaxed under saddle? (I already have one tense bundle of nerves, don't need two)
- can she respond appropriately to leg and rein aids? (doesn't need to be super educated, but I know from Kachina that the timeline will go up exponentially if these basics aren't correct)
- can she pass a vet check?
- can I use any of my existing tack on her? (requiring a new saddle changes the costs of this plan significantly)

All of these questions should be fairly simple to get answers to, but I'm still not sure if I should even take that first step of contacting her owners. The ad has only been up for a week at this point so I think I will wait at least a few more weeks to see if anyone else good nabs her first (someone who is maybe actually looking for a horse ;-) ), but in the meantime I would love to hear your thoughts. On a scale of 1-100, how crazy of an idea is this? Have you ever bought a short term project that worked out?

Finally, if you think this horse sounds nice and want to buy her yourself (and save me from having to do it), let me know and I'll send you the link to her ad.

P.S. I was out at the barn the other night and went up to the mare to look at her with a more critical eye. Kachina spotted me and came up to the fence and started nickering at me, I think she was jealous and it was pretty adorable (and another indication that Kachina has firmly adopted me as her person).

Thursday 2 November 2017

Mini Updates

Hello, I'm still here, still riding and doing horsey things, just not being great about blogging about them or getting any kind of media. Here are some mini-updates about things I haven't written about yet:

Despite a bad lesson with E in July, I decided to ride with her again in August and things went much better, so I then had another clinic with her in September as well. There are things to be desired about her communication style but I can't argue with results and her method is doing good things for me and Kachina so I plan to keep riding with her.
Then, at the end of October I hosted and rode in another clinic with Sandra, my all time favorite trainer. Lots of insights to write about from this clinic too.

In the middle of September I competed in a one-day show. I scored a disappointing 59% and change in all three of my tests! It wasn't a bad show by any means and I got some productive feedback but I really wish I could have broken 60%.
Show planning for 2018 is already underway.

Kachina's feet were super super dry and hard this summer, so while they looked okay, now that things have been getting wetter and softer we've been unearthing some issues. Kachina has remained sound but she has some thrush issues that seem to have been simmering under the surface (our farrier has been unearthing spots in fresh sole during trims). We have drastically shortened her trimming cycle so we can clean up her feet a little every couple weeks and I have been treating them in between. Kachina only marginally coped with foot handling at the best of times, so now that we are poking at her hooves more often and her soles are more sensitive too, she is not impressed. This has led to ground work sessions reminding her about manners and how yanking her feet away when she feels like it is not allowed. Some days I only have time to deal with her feet and her manners and then I need to go home instead of ride. I think things are improving but I will find out more at her next trim next week.

One of my goals for Q4 was to participate in 2ptober. I completed my baseline but I didn't two-point again for the rest of the month and didn't submit a final time. I feel bad about copping out, but the truth is that I had good reasons for it. As I mentioned, treating Kachina's thrushy feet was a priority for October. Also, last October two-point was useful to isolate aids and get my seat out of the way, but currently with our training progression Kachina actually needs me to be super present in my seat, legs, and rein contact which I can't do if I'm focused on two-point times. Also, for my own position I need to focus more on sitting right now. I want to send out giant congratulations for all of the winners and participants in 2ptober though, you guys rocked it!