Within this past week, I had 3 people call me and tell me horrible horse stories. The sad thing is, most of it could of been prevented.
What most people do not realize, is that horse riding and buying a horse is extremely dangerous if you are not educated. Many of us who want to ride, are older. Yes, I said it, we are old. Our balance and our physical condition is not the same as when we were 20. The problem is our brain, doesn't realize that until we have an accident. For some reason, we think we can still just get on a horse and stay on but we can't. So we need better calmer horses and we need to be taught how to make the correct decisions.
First lets talk about our condition. Since our balance changes, it is much harder to stay on a bucking or crow hopping horse. It is harder to stay on a horse that spins when spooked. It is harder to stay on a horse that bolts. It is just damn harder to get on and stay on the horse.
So what we could ride in our 20's is not the horse we should ride in our 50's. We need something a little slower, something not spooky and something that will be patient as we hang on to them and try to get our behind up in that saddle. We need something we can trust.
Now lets talk about buying the horse. Everyone wants pretty, but pretty can kill. Its not that everything pretty isn't safe. It is just for some reason that some of the prettiest ones are the crazy ones or should I say crazy for our age and ability. So if you want pretty and young and you don't have a lot of money, you will most likely buy the crazy one and not know it.
If you have lots of money to spend, then you will hopefully buy the pretty, sane and safe one.
If you do not have a lot of money to spend then focus on safe. If it has 2 ears and a tail, it will still be fun to ride. Ones that have experience. Ones that are calm, not reactive, not spooky. Easy to handle. Something you are immediately comfortable on.
If you focus too much on pretty or conformation and you don't have the money to buy it or the education to buy the right one, then you will most likely end up not riding in the future but you will have a pretty horse in the barn and the cost of keeping it or now getting a trainer will cost more then you ever planned on spending. What is the point of that?
Ugly horses or ones without the best conformation suit me fine as long as they are safe. This is something most trainers will say, but something most buyers will never say and that is one of the biggest problems I see.
So now about poor decisions. Talk about putting the cart before the horse! Ugh, over and over again, I see people buying horses that are not ready to have a horse. I see people, who think they know horses because they grew up on them who really know nothing at all about them. I see people who think they are doing the right thing to make their horse better but are only making it worse. Why? Because they lack horse education. They would rather make mistake after mistake then get the right help. They will call and ask a millions questions but never come take a lesson. It is just sad.
First they buy the wrong horse. Second they do not know how to handle it, or do not realize the horse is not trained. Third since they do not know how to correctly ride they make a lot of mistakes and poor decisions. They get by somehow until the day they don't get by and then they have a accident. Instead of getting a trainer to help them. They get another horse and the situation repeats.
You have to understand many things about horses to be safe. One, how they think, two how they respond to stimulus and third when it is time to get off, or not get on at all. Also who to ride with and who not to ride with. Sometimes the horse is fine, you are just riding with the wrong people on their wrong horses and they cause your horse to start acting up and then everything goes wrong.
I have seen people out on the trail who do not even have their equipment hooked up correctly. Loose saddle, wrong bit or not used correctly. Buying horses above their level. Not understanding that young horses buck, rear, spin quicker then older horses. Not understanding that weather can make your calm horses coo coo! I see people buy trail horses that never tested it on the trail. Some of the best arena horses are the worst trail horses, and some of the best trail horses are the worst arena horses. So you have to test the horse similar to where you will ride. If you are going to ride out and back on trails when you get home then you need to try that with the horse your testing. If you are going to ride alone, then test the horse alone. It is simple yet not many people get it or do it.
So what's my advice, take lessons, as many as you can. Don't be cheap, save your money and buy a horse that is good for what you want to do. Have someone such as a trainer help you. If you don't ask the right questions, you most likely will not be told it by the seller. Realize that this is something you can do for a long time if you do it correctly. Realize your dream will be very short lived it you do this wrong.
I had one client spend a lot on a calm pretty horse with nice conformation for about $10,000. She went alone and never tested it on the trail. She did ride it in the arena and showed me lots of desensitizing videos and the horse playing with a ball. She brought it to me to help her. I called the previous owner and said what does it do with bikes, dogs, cows turkeys etc. and how does it spook. The horse was 4. She said it never spooks. She said it hasn't seen all those things but it should be fine. The owner did not lie, she just didn't know.
So I knew when I rode the horse, I might be in for a hell of a ride. I rode the horse up the hill and we saw another horse and rider. The horse spooked and spun. Another ride we saw turkeys, the horse spooked and spun. Pretty much anything new this was the answer. So I fixed it, and tried to get some good miles on it before she left but this was not the horse I would of recommended for her. I told her to get a trainer close to her home and stay there till the trainer said she was safe. She was a beginner. I would of got her an older gelding to get some safe miles under her belt, I would of given her lots of lessons. Then maybe years later she could get something like this, but maybe at that point she would understand that being safe, is not about the color of the horse or that buying a young horse is not the best idea for new riders.
The most recent call I got, was someone who bought a young horse. He was 60. He said the horse was great and calm. Gaited well, no issues, till the day he took it to an arena with lots of loose horses around and it bucked him off and he broke his leg.
What he did not realize, was this was a new situation for the horse. He didn't help the horse. He didn't lunge it when he got there, and even though the horse was acting up, he got on anyhow. He missed preparing the horse correctly for the situation, he missed the signs that said don't get on and he ended up in an ambulance to the hospital and a long recovery.
So stop looking at the pretty horses online and get a horse education. Be safe and realize that the safest horses are the prettiest horses, you have just been looking at them the wrong way.
By Gaye DeRusso with The Majestic Rider