Saturday, December 01, 2007

Horse shopping

We have accidently (on purpose) started the process of finding horse number two.

It started the other day with Peter telling Steve he was getting a 6-year old Paint mare in that he thought we might want to look at. Then my friend Karen told us about a 6-year old Thoroughbred gelding that needed a home. The last cosmic hint was a message from Katie's old coach about a horse they have that is not a good lesson horse, so needs someone else to love him.


I knew nothing when we bought Lena, except that I trusted Ike and Cheri - and still do - and liked Lena as a fellow being. Little did I know all the things I should have looked at. Feet. Teeth. Confirmation. Attitude. Personality.

The latter two have become really important to us because, frankly, we like challenging horses. I see ads for bomb-proof horses that you can (supposedly) leave in pasture for a month then hop on and not have any problems and I think to myself, "Well, how boring is that?"

If we left Lena in her pen for a month without riding her, it would be like straddling a keg of dynamite. Grumpy, unstable dymamite.

But the other stuff is important, too. Confirmation, health of the feet and legs, all of these play into the longevity of the horse and - worst case scenario - how easily you can get rid of them in a pinch.

Lena has great feet, beautiful confirmation, and mostly a good attitude. She is NOT a horse for a novice, but she is also a lot of fun to ride. Horse number two - whoever that turns out to be - has to be high up in the fun factor or the rest won't matter nearly as much, though it will still be important.

I've called both my vet and my farrier. Haven't heard from Dr. Leslie, yet, and my farrier told me not to fall in love with the first horse we look at, which of course I've already half-way done.

The Thoroughbred, of course -- even though there are some physical issues that make him not an optimal choice.

Calabar has a slight club foot, a bowed tendon, and the hoofwalls that go with being a Thoroughbred. But the club foot didn't keep him from winning money on the track (and didn't look as bad as some I've seen) and the bowed tendon is well healed and did nothing to mar the grace and athleticism he demonstrated as he galloped and showed off around the arena. Did I mention he was dark bay with good, strong-boned legs and a white crescent on his forehead? His movements were big and loose and graceful, and he has a certain attitude that would fit in well in our family. (We call it the "butthead" gene.) (And, yes, I forgot the camera again, so no pictures, sorry!)

If we were going to show or compete with him, the tendon and the foot would be a huge issue. As it is, my main concern would be his overall physical health and any risk of reinjury. He'd be a trail horse, with some arena work to keep him in shape and schooled. Would his feet and tendon preclude those activities? Probably not. But how well would he fare on a back-country trip and could we find him a good home easily if we had to get rid of him for some unforeseen and terrible reason? Those are things to think about realistically, without the filter of his beautiful movement and funny personality clouding things. At least not too much.

Last but not by any means least, we also have to factor in whether this next horse and Lena get along - mainly because of the type of riding we'll be doing. Can't have bickering horses in the trailer or on the trail, it won't work.

It's really a lot to think about and balance.

This is not going to be nearly as easy as buying Lena was. Not by a long shot.

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