I’ve been horse shopping since the start of January. As of now: I’ve seen 5 horses, vetted one unseen, vetted one of seen horses, fallen off once, been to Canada to shop, and have countless videos and pictures etc. I’ve had several be sold before I could get to see them.
|Since I can't share sale horse pictures, this post will have a ton of pictures of Niagara Falls!
I don’t want to go into too much detail on any of the horses because as far as I know, they’re all still for sale. Of the seen and unseen:
- Horse 1 (seen): Coming 4 year old that’s a unique, interesting, and nice cross that should have been a moderately expensive cross. I found out why he was inexpensive- the colt starter that did his base training did a really poor job and his owners aren’t equipped to deal with him. This one jumped out from under me while I was swinging a leg over mounting, therefore I ate dirt. Eating dirt wasn’t what made me pass on him- I got back on, or rather made it completely on. He must have been ridden in draw reins, because he tucks his chin into his chest and doesn’t go forward. He tucked it harder when I put leg on. He is a reactive and unconfident horse that tends to be spooky then bolty, but not forward thinking and needs a complete restart. That is what made me pass. I know I could do it, but I worried what would happen when I made a mistake, because I know I will as a rider. I am sad for him, but his owner is a lovely person who will make sure he’s taken care of.
- Horse 2 (seen): I LOVED him. 8 Year old OTTB, built uphill, his back and hips were even and not dropped on one side, good brain, nice personality, pretty and a unique color, pleasant to ride, should be super fun to bring along. And lame. He was slightly foot sore when I saw him (he’d had significant time off from an owner without time for him, and he’d had 3 rides back in work). No shoes, and it didn’t seem like there was a plan to put shoes on. I suspected front hoof issues because his feet are very underrun and flat, and he was foot sore after 3 rides. I couldn’t see how he could possibly have a positive or even neutral palmer angle. Passing on this one made me very sad.
- Horse 3 (seen): 6 Year old Dutch Harness Horse. We didn’t even ask his owner to ride him after seeing him free lunge. He was way too much horse for me. The owner seemed relieved she wouldn’t have to ride him.
|I have to say, I don't understand anyone who feels the desire to get anywhere near the falls in a boat or barrel. Standing next to this railing had my survival instincts on red alert and I felt a strong need to get away from the falls.
- Horse 4 (unseen): 4 Year old warmblood/draft cross that looked well put together. He was far enough away that I wanted to vet first, then go see him with the trailer. I don’t think I’ll do that again! Long story short, he has eye issues that could lead to uveitis, if he hasn’t had a flare already, in addition to some possible foot issues. Not sure about the feet because we didn’t get far enough to look at those.
- Horse 5 (seen): Also a horse I loved. A very nice horse, slightly out of budget but I think underpriced to right on target. Flashy 3.5 yr old that moved well, was very sound, wonderful brain, snuggle bug, not started but ready to be sat on. He checked all the boxes and looked like he’d be a super fun partner for dressage and non-dressage. He was a super resale prospect that would have provided a really healthy budget for my Silver/Gold horse if it turned out he wasn’t talented enough to go 3rd or above. He failed his vet check in spectacular fashion. Grade 4/5 sidebone on both sides of both fronts, with one of the sides being 5/5. He also had loose stifles and one had already developed a hook. The vet even confirmed he was sound at the moment, but most likely wouldn’t stay sound with the work I wanted to do. He also wouldn’t be a good resale horse.
- Horse 6 (seen): We went to Canada to see an 8 year old American Warmblood. His videos looked great, and he was well represented by his owner and the videos (she properly lowered my expectations before I arrived by saying he can be spooky and naughty when he’s not in work, so she wasn’t sure how he’d act after 2 months of no work, but we’d find out together!). He has solid training, solid show experience, and a fun personality… and I just didn’t like riding him. We didn’t click. I didn’t even care about the small spooks he gave me, or the tiny porpoise moves he did into the canter. He just needs a confident leader who can sit up tall to keep him focused and it’s not even that hard to do. It was a long way to go for a simple “I didn’t click with him”. Maybe it’s me being mostly unfit while trying to change my bio-mechanics as a rider, and him being unfit too, but I struggled to ride him. Sure, I could tap into majority of his skills and get them done. Doesn’t change the fact I simply didn’t enjoy riding him.
I have one in some weird limbo where his owner is trying to get him handled again so he’s not feral for when I visit, and to make sure he remembers he’s a riding horse so I can actually try him out. There are some other beasties in the early stages of fishing for information and media. For the most part, I’m basically numb to the horse search and to the “I’ll never find a horse” feeling. Something I learned after trying to vet a horse unseen: don’t be so eager about any horse you do something stupid. There will ALWAYS be another horse, even if you don’t see him right now.
|So much ice on EVERYTHING!
After seeing Horse 6, I asked a friend if I was being too picky because I felt like I had no real good reason to not like Horse 6. She said “No! You’re basically shopping for a spouse. It has to be the right fit.” I agree with that… I’m speed dating for a spouse who isn’t going to financially support himself. I better really like him!
I reflected on Penn and the trip I took to see him. I liked riding him, I liked his personality, and I just liked everything about him except he felt small. Feeling small was not a good enough reason to skip out on him, so we went forward with that and you all know how that worked out. For better or worse, Penn was a GREAT find and while I don’t regret giving him away, it has been made abundantly clear how difficult he will be to replace.
|Panorama of the Horseshoe Falls
Despite my mixed feelings about the horse I saw in Canada, I loved Canada! Well, I can only speak to the 5 hours or so of Ontario that I drove through, but still.
Everyone is exceedingly nice. That goes for everywhere, by the way. Apparently when roads have a speed limit of 100 km/hr, they’re just suggestions. I was going 120 km/hr around the “Golden Horseshoe” (the half circle around the west most edge of Lake Ontario from the USA at Buffalo to Toronto). Despite being LAPPED at 20 km/hr over the speed limit, every driver was exceedingly polite. I was never cut off or run off the road or pushed around. When we came back into the USA into New York, I was being pushed around and cut off again. Everyone we talked to (hotel, restaurants, and the horse’s owner) were helpful, polite, and easy going.
|I finally got to try poutine!
Around the western end of Lake Ontario seems to be one giant continuous city. We saw numerous groups of skyscraper-esk buildings grouped together... only to find out that they were not office buildings, but apartments and condos. It seems like the cities are trying to cram most of Ontario's population in right next to the lake. We were set to take the 407 around Toronto, but from what we could figure, it was around 0.25 USD per km, and we were supposed to be on there for 61 miles... so I figured out we could take 403 and 401 instead. Wee, new country? No problem, I'll make my own directions!
I also have a new love for Tim Hortons! It's probably sad I've developed a love for it, but I don't care. It’s a good thing there are no Tim Hortons near me though!
|Turkey BLT with wedge fries.
Totally didn't know the side dishes for Tim Hortons are different from location to location. I had a wonderful blueberry muffin from the Tim Hortons at Niagara Falls!
|Timbits are right up there with donut holes from Dunkin Donuts! AND I even liked the coffee (I'm not a huge coffee drinker). Mom said it was really strong... maybe that's why I liked it? No idea, but it was good!
We stopped by Niagara Falls, Ontario on the way home. We decided even though it was a 9 hour drive home with stops, we'd stop to see the falls because we were so close and the horse was a no go. We were also hungry for lunch by that point, so we thought we'd try to have lunch overlooking the falls. It ended up taking us 11 hours to get home with our side trip, but we didn't care. The falls were worth it!
The Canada side of the falls are definitely the side to see the falls from.
The horse shopping continues...