With all of the purchase options available these days, is it possible to find another ?one-and-only? horse? Modern technology gives horse-buyers literally thousands of options, making that "one-and-only" horse even more elusive.
Whether you're upgrading to fit your current needs, have retired your aged riding horse or have sadly lost your horse partner, successfully locating your next riding mate can be an overwhelming process.
Where do we start in today?s information-rich world? How do we locate an honest seller and the perfect equine fit for the right price? I recently went through this process and successfully found a wonderful horse. Here's my story, which I hope inspires you to set forth to find your next perfect horse.
There's something about losing a great horse. I don't know if it's their beauty or size, the love and trust we surrender to them while mastering the power and grace of an all-out gallop or something much deeper that runs through our blood and lies in the ancient myth of the horse-human connection.
I do know that witnessing my old beloved horse's health decline over three years was one of the most difficult process I'll experience as a horsewoman, yet the lingering illness helped me prepare for her death. That sad time came on a rainy night when my 26-year-old friend could no longer stand up, and I said goodbye to Im Maid Tuff, aka ?Tawny,? my ex-show horse, trail buddy and best friend.
I didn't wait too long to think about looking for a new horse partner. I figured that life can be short, why wait? I doubted that I?d find a new horse as wonderful. Was Tawny my one-and-only? I decided that yes, she was ? while she was alive. No horse would replace her, yet I figured that if the wise old gal could speak to me from above and beyond, she?d say, ?Go. Let my soul inspire you to find your new one and only.?
So began my search. Nine years ago I wrote a primer for America?s Horse for the first-time horse buyer. I took my own advice and approached the process shrewdly, methodically and step-by-step.
The only difference was that now I was a seasoned horse buyer.
A Realistic Vision
Fourteen years of having a horse who aimed to please and never gave me a bad ride allowed me to be very clear about the characteristics I wanted in my next horse. In short, I wished I could have cloned Tawny ? along with a few minor upgrades, of course.
Reality set in as I quickly learned that what I wanted in today?s horse world was expensive, more than three times what I paid for a finished horse back in the early ?90s. I did have timing on my side. It was the dead of winter, and I knew that the chance for negotiating a lower price was greater now than it would be as we got closer to spring when AQHA horse sales pick up.
World Wide Horse Web
Another aspect of horse buying that has changed from the early ?90s is the ability to horse shop on the Internet, allowing me to find horses all over the country, look at photos and in some cases even view videos of the horse for sale. I found a bewildering array of wonderful horses and wondered how I?d ever sift through them all to find the right one.
I quickly realized that I needed to do my homework to educate myself on what was out there. I became focused and processional about the whole thing, starting files on various prospects before making the first contact by e-mail or phone. It was a little addicting, too, as I found myself happily horse surfing in my pajamas in the quiet wee hours while everyone else was asleep in the house.
There are many sale sites, but these three, in my opinion, proved to be the best for what I was seeking ? a western pleasure prospect:
AQHA members receive $10 worth of free AQHA records research to use researching horses by registration number or name, learning information such as pedigree, owner records, performance records, etc. As I found horses I liked, I upped my research budget to $40 and started collecting data.
Scout the Print Ads
The American Quarter Horse Journal?s advertisers show horses for sale with colorful ads. I tend to see the ads and go right to the advertisers? websites where I can find more information.
My town has a weekly throwaway advertisement paper with a huge horse selection. I love to read it. And most feed stores have free horse trader magazines rich with classifieds and photos.
And we all know that a well-designed horse flyer posted to a feed store bulletin board can catch our eye no matter how busy we are.
Put the Word Out
I put the word out locally to all of my horse associates via e-mail. Thinking that I might even need to search nationally, I contacted my trusted Texas friend, Patti Colbert, who retired as director of development of AQHA and now holds board positions on a variety of nonprofit horse organizations. Patti knows the ins and outs of buying horses and is well-connected.
Hearing about what I wanted in a horse, she put me in touch with Suzy Jeane at Down The Rail Performance Prospects in Valley View, Texas, and Ann Myers of Myers Horse Ranch in Ashland, Ohio. Both women responded to my inquiries and were friendly but didn't have anything that fit my needs at the time.
Buying From Afar
From AQHA?s website, www.aqha.com, I learned that the states with the most Quarter Horses are Texas, Oklahoma and California.
So I started my Internet search in Texas, thinking I?d have the best luck in a state with almost 10 times as many Quarter Horses as my home state of Washington. I found some horses that looked interesting, and even called on a few and watched online videos.
As I researched, I envisioned a few buying trips to the three states to try out three or four horses. Though I had never purchased a horse this way, I had heard of folks who had great success. I asked a few horse professionals their opinions about buying from afar.
?I have a hard time making positive comments about buying without touching and seeing,? Patti says. ?I believe personal horses are about relationship in addition to physical traits. Therefore, I don't buy out of catalogs, and I wouldn?t recommend buying a horse sight-unseen.?
With the Internet and convenient websites like Dreamhorse.com, many people these days buy horses long distance or out-of-state. When buying horses from afar, one must make the choice whether to take a trip to see the horse or buy sight-unseen.
?When buying from out of the area, it starts with potential clients finding a horse online,? Denise says. ?Then there's the first inquiry. We chat about the horse, and if they like what they hear, I'll send out a video. If they?re still interested, they plan a visit. Before their visit, we talk a lot about the horse and whether or not to schedule a pre-purchase vet exam. They generally come for two or three days, ride the first day and maybe the second, too. On the third day, we do the pre-purchase vet exam. If the vet comes out, they buy their horse.
?I always look for a good match. If the match is not good, I pull them off the horse and let them know. I don't sell a horse just to sell a horse. I look to create a successful team.?
Ann Myers of Myers Horse Ranch in Ashland, Ohio, has been raising and selling Quarter Horses for 25 years. She has 10 broodmares that produce six or seven colts a year. She sells mostly show prospects ? weanlings through 2-year-olds. She has sold horses to owners from Montana to Australia.
?When someone calls and asks about a horse to buy, I ask them what they are looking for in a horse ? age, sex, discipline, color, size and more. I go over what we have that would fit what they?re looking for,? Ann says. ?Most of our horses are sired by Zips Chocolate Chip and Chips Hot Chocolate, which gives them really nice dispositions. For photos, I refer them to our website. They determine which horses appeal to them, and I'll send a video of the horses that they?re interested in. I ask lots of questions about them, too, to ensure a good match.?
AQHA is on-site March 15-20 at the 2011 Equitana: Equestrian Sports World Fair. Come out to Essen, Germany, and visit AQHA On-Site Services at Hall 7, Booth C32 to catch up on your AQHA business. You can:
* Purchase or renew a membership and get a FREE gift
* Purchase or renew an American Quarter Horse Journal subscription and receive a FREE gift
* Transfer a horse, no matter how many owners, for only $15 per horse*
* Bring your registration papers for expedited service and discounted prices on horses 3 years old and older*
* Look up records on your horse and receive a FREE printout
*AQHA member pricing