The best route to consistency in equestrian sport — training, competing, even trail riding — is to have more than one sound horse in the barn, ideally a veteran backed up by a young prospect. Many of us, however, find this either too expensive or too time-consuming. We’re content owning one horse at a time, even at the cost of occasional down time.
If you’re a one-horse person, sooner or later that horse will no longer serve your needs. You’ll work hard to find your old friend a good new home and then set out to find a new horse that will allow you to further your riding goals.
Or — much worse — your horse develops soundness issues. You strive to manage your horse so he’ll again be comfortable and competitive. You’re now doing more walking than riding.
These situations haunt anyone who owns a horse. The lameness problems pile up and stretch into weeks instead of days. The short break between selling the old horse and buying the new one blurs into months instead of weeks. The gaps develop the rhythm of a familiar TV commercial, appropriately one depicting the frequent need of a credit card:
• Selling your sweet older horse as a schoolmaster. Agonizing.
• Shopping in Germany for a hot young prospect to replace the schoolmaster. Eye-opening.
• Gradually realizing that the relationship you have with your youngster is not a marriage made in heaven. Humbling.
• Selling your “dream horse.” A relief.
• Buying a cute, good-moving gelding at a reasonable price. Reassuring.
• Sorting out a hind-end injury. Learning about EPM. And ulcers. Expensive.
• Finding that (finally sound) horse a new home. Gratifying.
• Having a dear friend call and say she’s just seen “the horse you always said you wanted.” Fantastic. Passing the prepurchase exam without a blip. Better yet.
• Actually riding every day. Thrilling.
• Getting new tires for the trailer. Repairing the flooring and brakes. Replacing the wiring. Endless.
• Filling out an entry form — and mailing it. Digging out your show pad, stock tie, gloves, breeches. Cleaning your show jacket. Visiting the tack shop. Exciting.
• Going in the show ring for the first time in six years, two blue ribbons dangling off your truck’s visor — and a video. Priceless.