First off, I will admit now that I did not do a super good job of assessing Kachina before purchasing her. When my long-time mare Ellie succumbed to colic, I entered into the horse shopping process with a lot of thought and care. I read ads, watched videos, and drove thousands of km to see a whole lot of horses in person. At each trial I wanted to see the horse do everything from being caught, groomed, tacked up, and ridden at all three gaits. I found one promising horse that I wanted to buy, a gelding named Wilson, but my trial ride had to be cut short due to losing light after sunset (it was at an acreage with no outdoor lighting). I did the responsible thing and set up a time for the following weekend to try riding him again and have a vet check him out, but another buyer snapped him up before my second visit. In the weeks that followed, I regretted that my efforts to be smart and cautious had cost me a nice-seeming horse so I maybe got a little more impatient with horse shopping and a little more cavalier with my trial procedure.
When I tried Kachina I discovered that she was inexperienced, had had a late start, and knew nothing about dressage. However I saw solid conformation, 3 reasonably good gaits, sensitivity to the aids, and a mind that tried to figure out what I was asking for. Luckily the conformation, gaits, sensitivity, and mind that I saw on my trial have proved to be true, and ultimately make me glad I bought her. I may have missed some warning signs though...
|I've always been a sucker for her trot|
I thought I was smart at seeing through horse sale BS, but in hindsight I realize that while Kachina's previous owners weren't straight up dishonest (except about her height, 16.1hh my eye!), they weren't super forthcoming either and were a bit crafty in how they presented her. For instance, it had been rainy the week I tried her so they said their home outdoor arena was soggy and asked if we could meet at a nearby community indoor arena. I was thinking about my last mare who would be spooky especially in new places and figured it was actually a great opportunity to see how Kachina was away from home, it never even crossed my mind that she might be better at the new place than she was at home. Maybe the seller's excuse of a soggy arena was true, but since Kachina has proven again and again that she is better behaved on the ground away from home, it seems a little convenient that that is where I was shown her. Also, while Kachina has never been hard for me to catch, she has been hard to approach for other people. Looking back I realize that I never saw Kachina being caught on her trial. On my trial I did assess how she was for standing, feet cleaning and bridling, but I only saw her do those things at a new arena, not at home. I never asked for a second test ride because I didn't want to risk someone else buying her first. I did do a vet check but the sellers met me at the vet clinic and I hauled Kachina to my barn directly from there (so again I never saw her at home). Basically, the problems I am having now were likely problems when I bought her as well (and according to my records, bridling and feet handling were the first problems that popped up once I started working with her).
So, aside from the ground work stuff, how is the horse I bought different from the horse I have now?
CanteringThe horse I bought could not even fathom cantering on a 30m circle. She had only been cantered out on the trail or in fields and so when I test rode I got her to pick up the canter on the long sides but she couldn't maintain it around the short end. At the vet check they tried to get her to canter while loose in a round pen but she was convinced she couldn't do it so they had to just assess her at walk and trot. She ran into all canter transitions.
|Early canter transition|
The horse I have now is capable of nice canter transitions (sometimes), can do a balanced 15m canter circle, and volunteers the canter when at liberty.
|Most recent canter photo I have, but not even our best|
ContactThe horse I bought did not understand contact. Period. At all. She was only ridden on a loose rein, or a tight rein to keep her speed in check.
|At her trial, I think the photo speaks for itself (not me riding)|
The horse I have now readily accepts contact with the bit and has finally progressed to understanding full connection, not just contact.
|July 2018, and we've made some breakthroughs since then|
Suppleness and BalanceThe horse I bought was good at the walk but at trot and canter she was inverted, hollow, and lacked balance such she had only one gear: fast.
|Early days, either inverted...|
The horse I have now can work in a rounded frame (though we are still working on stretching) and is balanced enough to work in a variety of trots and canters.
|Working on stretch|
Lateral WorkThe horse I bought had never done lateral work, but from the first day I rode her she was good at figuring out that leg pressure in different locations corresponded to different parts of her body
The horse I have now can do leg yield, shoulder-in, and travers, all at walk and trot, as well as turn on the forehand and a primitive turn on the haunches (not going to lie, I haven't done much work on any of these, lateral work just comes easily to her)
ExperienceThe horse I bought had only been ridden outdoors and really wasn't ridden that much. She was unstarted until she was 8 and after that she was mostly a pasture ornament, only going on occasional trail rides. Even with some refresher work shortly before she was listed for sale, I estimate that she may have only had about 60 rides total when I bought her.
|Trial ride - she was always good at this|
The horse I have now is reasonably seasoned. She has been ridden regularly for the last four years, she has travelled to several clinics and shows. She has experience in multiple disciplines, being primarily a dressage horse now but one who also still goes on trail rides, tries cowboy challenge clinics, attempts general performance classes, occasionally herds cows, and is starting to get some cursory pole and jump lessons.
Show RecordThe horse I bought didn't have a show record.
The horse I have now has the following accomplishments on her record:
- competed in 13 shows total
- high scores of 65.5% at Walk/Trot, 64.4% at Training Level and 59.0% at First Level (yes, I know they aren't that high, but we use shows to learn rather than waiting until we are confirmed at the level, the scores still show we are capable)
- 2016 Walk/Trot Reserve Champion for Carrots & Cocktails show series
- 2016 Claresholm Bronze Show Dressage Equitation AA Grand Champion
- 2017 Claresholm Bronze Show Dressage Equitation AA Grand Champion
- 2017 Claresholm Bronze Show Training Level AA Reserve Champion
- 2018 Claresholm Bronze Show Dressage Equitation AA Grand Champion
- 2018 Claresholm Bronze Show First Level AA Reserve Champion
- 2018 Cochrane Bronze Show Training Level AA High Point Champion
It's been a slow process, far slower than I had hoped. I feel like I haven't come as far as I should have in 4 years, and Kachina definitely doesn't know as much as she should for being 16 years old, but at the end of the day the horse I have today is more educated than the horse I bought. That's something worth recognizing.