~about 12 minute read 🙂
Happy Valentine’s Day to my equestrian friends! Needless to say that we are all blessed to have at least one Stable relationship in our lives! (This pun never gets old :D)
Whether we have a special bond with a horse at a riding school or we are even luckier to have the responsibility of an owned horse – we always remember the first moment we felt that connection.
Maybe its only me but choosing a horse (for purchase or livery) is often like speed dating- only with a much greater level of commitment at the end!
There are some or in some cases many prospective horses/suitors which we meet a couple of times before we have to decide which is “The One”.
Whether its love at first sight or at first ride, meeting the horse that will become your dancing partner is one that you’ll remember forever.
I remember the feeling I had when I saw Quanderas for the first time; that pang in my heart that said “this is it”.
You are free to laugh with me, but I feel that finding the right horse is very similar to finding a boyfriend/girlfriend.
They require one crucial ingredient: that is knowing ourselves first.
So when starting to look for a new horse, the first step is accepting our skill level and what horse we need.
What is it that you are looking for in a horse? Are you ready for what you are looking for? – There are the first questions we need to be asking ourselves at the very beginning.
Getting a horse that is too advanced or too inexperienced is risky when you are not experienced enough yourself.
You will often hear stories about an amateur rider that bought a five year old horse and they trained together to the top. It does happen but it is not the optimal scenario.
If this is what you have in mind then, in my experience, you will need a very good trainer and you should expect a bumpy ride.
It is also important to accept that most likely we will have to make compromises along the way. Unless we have an unlimited budget (which very few people do) or we are extremely lucky – we need to decide on which points we are willing to make a compromise.
Often at a certain price point we can find very talented young horses that are not yet trained or older more experienced/steady but less flashy ones. That choice will depend on the goals one sets as well as ones skillset.
In order to spot and decide where one will make a compromise, having a critical eye is hugely important.
It is very easy to beautify everything in our mind! The prospect of getting a new horse is very exciting, especially if you are younger.
However, a horse is a big commitment, both budget and time wise and finding the perfect one is impossible.
There will always be flaws; the question is whether you can live with those particular flaws.
Want a bomb-proof horse? Then you should be prepared that you will be getting some laziness with the safety.
On the other side of the coin, if you’re looking for a huge mover, it is likely that you will get a diva with a big character and/or a bumpy sitting trot!
It’s all about compromises or trade-offs as it’s called in business.
After knowing ourselves and deciding on what point we are willing to make a compromise we all need to accept a hard truth:
We have to be patient because it’s all about timing.
A factor out of our control.
It might be the case that you try a horse, you love it only to go back for a second ride and find out that it was sold in the meantime. I experienced this and it sucked but I had to accept that it just wasn’t meant to be.
Finally, my last but most crucial advice is:
Keep an open mind.
While knowing what you’re looking for is important, you have to let the horses you meet surprise you.
If you are dead-set against mares or you absolutely want a black horse or a tall horse or a short horse, then you might miss the chance of finding the ONE!
It was exactly like that for me when I met Quanderas!
I just had moved to Germany with the two horses I had at the time to compete in CDIs and the European Championships for Young Riders.
Moving to a new yard, with a new trainer, in a new country was a shock but it made me realize that I was never going to achieve what I wanted with the horses I was riding then.
You see, when I started riding them I did not know myself, I did not know what I was looking for or what trade-offs I was willing to make.
In an attempt to find the right one, I visited the Kasselmann Stables.
Even though I know knew the trade-offs and had a better sense of myself, I was still not keeping an open mind.
I was looking for a horse 9-11 years old that could do the Young Rider classes and showed Grand Prix capabilities.
I rode many horses and settled on two. A bay mare and chestnut gelding. They were both great horses. They both fulfilled my criteria. Yet there was something missing.
I could not explain it, I still felt that neither one was exactly the right match.
After riding both of them for the second time, I was still not ready to make a decision.
At that time, Bianca Kasselman came inside the indoor arena and told me: “There is another horse but he is 12 and he cannot do Grand Prix. Do you want to see it?”
Twenty minutes later Mrs Kasselmann rode into the arena with Quanderas. Shorter than your average dressage horse and ever so slightly fatter than he should be.
Yet I turned to my mother and said “Now we’re talking”.
I knew it right there and then. Even before I rode him.
The time was right.
I knew myself.
I also knew the trade-offs I was willing to make. I chose him even though I knew that he was not a Grand Prix prospect, like the mare I had tried.
Most importantly, I kept an open mind. I could have easily declined the 12 (going on 13) year old horse that was not a Grand Prix prospect.
Even though those decisions and trade-offs might not be right for everyone, they were right for me.
I don’t think I could have asked for a better partner even though the other horses I saw were, on paper, better than him.
I am sharing this story because I know that getting a horse is tricky, there are many ‘traps’ one could fall for.
Above all though, Trust your gut.
I’d love to hear about your experiences with new horses! Comment below or send me an email about it or about anything else you like!