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).


  1. I can see why you want to take her on as a project, I think even just selling her in the spring vs. the almost winter (with nice photos) would make a huge difference. I think you should go for it! Maybe just set yourself some deadlines of what needs to happen by when. I personally ran into the whole getting too attached thing when I bought baby horses thinking I could sell one eventually...haha apparently not.

  2. As someone who had two horses for about six months and is also in a remote area with a boarding situation, I'd be very hesitant to pick up a second. I found that with two, my expenses didn't double--they increased exponentially. It's maybe one thing if you can chuck them out in a pasture at home, but when you're boarding, they cost $$$ every month, PLUS all the unexpected. For me, the added strain to my budget really took away the enjoyment I usually get out of horses and I will not take on a second again.

  3. Personally my two cents is that unless you're making a living as a horse professional, buying horses to flip is an extremely risky idea (for a lot of reasons you mentioned).

  4. agreed with Leah, flipping horses is a tough business. high overhead costs (always more than we expect bc horses), combined with the limitations (esp time!) of what most amateur owners can realistically put into a horse training-wise that demands real value on the market. in my area, there's pretty well defined price ranges for horses based on training or raw talent. meaning there's a general ceiling on price for a horse that can do a training level test or 2'6 jump course. so it boils down to how long it takes (and therefore how much it costs) to get the horse doing those things before it costs more than what it can get in sale.

  5. I would be very cautious. As you mentioned you don't have access to a lot of trainers, also selling her as a dressage/English horse might prove difficult in your area. It is quite risky to take on a second horse knowing you can't afford them long term because horses have a way of screwing up the best plans.

  6. If you want a fun project, go for it. If you want to make money, don't.

  7. I'd like details on this horse! One of my good friends has been casually looking for a project for the last while!

    1. What is your email? or can you contact me using contact form above and I will send you info!

  8. I'm actually in the market for a project horse myself. I'm heading out to look at some TB's this week so I totally get your excitement and hesitations. I second what Olivia said. If you are looking to have some fun, go for it.

  9. I picked up a very pretty, free mare from my farrier with the intent to flip her with my trainer and split what we made. She had three great gaits, was polo broke, super athletic, and loved to jump. She lived for free at my trainer's house, I was pitching in half for hay, and cleaning her pen when I was out there working anyway. My lessons on said mare were essentially free (I worked them off).

    I moved her to the barn and started paying her board when someone was interested in her, and then kept her there so I could ride her more easily when I went out to ride Murray. Then my schedule changed and I had no time to ride her or work her. She figured out pretty quickly that she could intimidate the working student at the barn who was supposed to ride her for my trainer and that created some behavioral problems (easily corrected by my barn manager, but took some every-day management for a while).

    A year later there was no interest in her and she'd made little progress in her training because I didn't have time, and there was nothing my trainer or I could do (short of paying cash, which I wasn't going to) to get anyone else to ride her (my trainer couldn't ride her at the time for a variety of reasons including injury). I gave her away for free to a local trainer (who does this for a living) and ended up several thousand in the hole.

    The local trainer has since sold her for 8k as the smart, athletic, bombproof mare that she really was.

    This is not intended to tell you what to do, but just to share my experience when I was in a similar situation. I was like "This is a great opportunity! I can learn and make some money! Or at least break even, and come out with the learning!" And I learned a ton about riding and training. Those are lessons that Murray could never have taught me, because he just isn't that type of ride. But I absolutely would not repeat the experience, nor recommend it.

    I now know, firmly, that for me a project horse would only be worth it if I didn't already have a horse of my own. I know I will probably be spending X amount of money on riding-associated stuff anyway (through a lease or ownership), and if I didn't have something of my own that I wanted to be showing and getting out with, a project would be a great compromise. With my very own Murray project, I don't need any additional horsey details to be fully responsible for in my life.

    Good luck! Hopefully a good decision becomes clear to you quickly, and this mare can find herself a wonderful new home (with you or otherwise!).

  10. You definitely have a good pros and cons list. Not to tell you what to do, but just to throw more knowledge your direction for you to mull over in consideration with what you already wrote up. I lived in a pretty horsey area, lots of perspective buyers and it still took me almost 6 months to sell Ramone. So you need to take timelines into consideration as well. The overhead on flipping horses can be high. Having a healthy emergency fund is important in case something does happen. Tread carefully! I'm sure you will make a sound decision.

  11. The only times I've done this have been when I was legitimately ok with the idea of possibly owning a second horse forever. Which is exactly what happened with Bridget, ha ha so much for my plan of selling her!

  12. Thank you all for you comments. You make some good points. I agree that it's not a good idea if I was looking to make money, but it was more about the project and getting the nice mare a new home. However work is busy so I think the lack of time may be the deciding factor. I will let you know what ends up happening!

  13. Horses are like potato chips -- it's hard to just have one!