I will admit it: I have been a victim of horse fever. Some of you may be able to relate. You can’t stop looking at sale ads and counting your pennies. Every horse looks like a possibility. Sound familiar? Buying a new horse is one of the most exciting parts of being a horse person. I’ve bought several horses in the past few years, but I’m going to tell you about one time in particular I made some big mistakes and learned some valuable lessons.
A few years ago, my husband and I were looking for a horse for him to ride, and horse fever had hit me hard. We had done our research, had a budget, and had a set of criteria in mind for the perfect horse. We planned on purchasing a horse we had previously viewed at a ranch dispersal sale: a big, stout palomino with lots of ranch experience. When the day of the sale came, my husband ended up needing to stay at work, so I convinced my brother to go with me for moral support. Instead of patiently waiting in the ring for my horse to come up, we browsed through all the young colts and fillies awaiting their ring time. My perfect palomino walked into the ring and I patiently waited on the edge of my seat to bid. The numbers started going higher and higher until I ultimately was out of my price range. I was disappointed, to say the least. Instead of leaving immediately afterward, however, my brother convinced me to stay and watch more of the auction. A skinny, wide-eyed colt came in the ring. Only a couple of people raised their hands. The ringmen had their work cut out–until they spotted me. My sad eyes spoke more loudly than I had intended, so they pounced on me and my broken spirit. My brother turned to me and eagerly pointed out what a great deal I would be getting. One more look at the sorrel colt and I caved.
I called my husband and delicately told him I did not, in fact, buy him the gelding we had originally come for, but instead I would need him to bring the trailer to pick up my new sorrel project. He arrived and warily led the little colt to the trailer. Needless to say, it was a long drive home in silence. We pulled up at the barn and I opened the back door. Without unlatching the lead rope, a sorrel lightning bolt flew out the back of the trailer and proceeded to gallop full speed around the property, broken lead rope waving in the air like a victorious flag of freedom. My mouth (and spirits) dropped.
The next year was a blur of frustrating days. Some days it took at least an hour to catch him, and when I finally did, we started from scratch with groundwork and trust-building exercises. Finally, I saddled up and rode. We had good rides in the beginning. He was quick, athletic, and smart, though at times he could easily switch to being untrusting and flighty. Between his personality and my being a greenie with young, athletic colts, we were doomed from the start. After a bad fall and a trip to the emergency room, I decided to throw in the towel and rehome the colt. We simply were a bad fit and had been from day one. I found an excellent home for him with a former border who enjoyed his athleticism and challenges. A year later, tears rolled out of my eyes as I saw them pass by in the OSU Homecoming Parade. Not only had Scout grown up and graduated, but he also had the perfect partner to guide him.
I’ll never forget that horse and the valuable lessons he taught me. It was challenging, but I don’t regret any minute of it. I learned never to be hasty in buying a new horse, and that you get what you pay for in the horse world. I learned how to recover my confidence after a bad fall. And I can now say I have the skills and patience (and good walking shoes) to catch even the hardest-to-catch of horses. Most important, I learned that nothing matters more than choosing a compatible horse you’ll develop a bond with forever.