How to Choose an Equine Partner
by Raye Lochert
Picking the right horse is a practice in realism. Too often people choose a horse based on color, breed, bloodlines, or just because “they’re so darn cute.” While I have been guilty of all these things in the past there is a movement that has been causing my phone to ring off the hook: rescue horses.
These days you can rescue a horse from just about anywhere—off the track, PMU animals, BLM Mustangs and even from private organizations. I receive notices of available adoptions on a weekly basis. These horses deserve a good home rather than the alternative and the price is right. For a few hundred dollars (or even nothing) you can have your very own horse.
Many of these horses come with little or no training and some sort of problem(s), whether mental or physical. Quite often they end up in the wrong hands and that’s when my phone starts to ring. In almost every case the buyer’s intention was sincere and from the heart: fix the horse up with lots of love and good care. Because the desire is so strong to save the horse, the complete and realistic picture isn’t often well thought out. Love is not enough. The new owner must be able to handle/train the horse or hire someone qualified to do it for them.
PMUs, mustangs, and ex-racehorses can all be very reactive, though they represent some of the best end products from my program. However, they did try me and they tried me hard. I have great memories of a mustang I trained. He was an incredible little four wheel drive machine that would go anywhere, but he took time. I have had PMU foals come through that could not be touched and after 3 months could ride down the trail. I’ve also worked with racehorses that would rather bolt through a fence than be ridden at a walk. Most of these horses turned out all right. At the same time I have had well bred, beautiful horses that were never going to come out the other side in the right state of mind.
I live by a statement that I heard a long time ago: There is a horse for every person, but there is not a person for every horse. Some horses are not meant for a life with people. Not many fall into this category, but they seem to be readily available. When looking for a horse, realize the purchase price is the cheapest part of the deal. Quite often the horses that cost the least to purchase will cost you the most to own. Get one that is good for you and what you want to do. Don’t fall into the trap of having to have that “pretty palomino.”
We had a horse here at the ranch that’s a great example. He was really nothing special, just a pudgy brown horse. But, this horse would do anything and tried very hard to please. His owner brought him to me because of trailer loading and pull-back issues. He’s the kind of horse I love working with because of his willingness and he’s good for just about anyone. At the same time I had a very well bred horse that was completely off his rocker. It took three times as long to teach him anything. He would bolt for no apparent reason and was afraid of his own shadow. But, he’s a real looker—very flashy, very cute and VERY difficult.
No matter how much love you have to give, horses are big, powerful, animals. They function on a fight or flight response and this can be extremely dangerous. If you have the time, ability and finances to train a spooky, fearful or aggressive horse then do it. It can be very rewarding! But if you just want to ride and have fun take the time to find the right horse for you.
Guidelines to consider: take your time; get help from a friend or a trainer; don’t fall for the first one or the flashy one; get one within your budget and skill level; make sure the owner rides it before you do; get a ten day trial; get a vet check and remember the purchase price may be the least expensive part of the deal. You will be together for a long time so pick your partners wisely.
Published July 2013 Issue