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Marissa Raymo will discuss everything about horses, including horse health care tips, training tips, equestrian friendly trails, horse buying info and much more.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Truth in Horse Advertising & the Importance of a Trial Period

Please excuse my temporary delay in blog posts. I have recently been dealing with a bit of unexpected horse drama....

For years I've dreamed of finding my next George - a horse that would steal my heart and help me recreate the magical moments of my childhood with my little pony. And after months and months of searching for "the one", I thought I'd finally found him last month.

The ad bragged of everything I wanted, everything I need at this point in my life. A horse that is level-headed and low maintenance, safe enough to throw my less experienced husband on yet well trained and fun for the experienced rider, and absolutely loves attention. Sounds perfect, right?

Well after putting up with an unnecessarily complicated appointment process to meet the horse (had to be available at the drop of a hat for the owner, only to be made to wait by other prospective new owners that just happened to come at our appointment time - unexpectedly), we were "chosen" as the new owners. 

Our deposit receipt was then written on the back of a scrap piece of paper that I scrounged from the bottom of my purse, as I awkwardly had to correct the seller's accidental $500 overcharge on the "Amount Due Upon Pick-Up" portion of the "receipt". And despite the dozens of red flags, I still continued with the purchase.

Very shortly after we brought the new horse home, more red flags started to pop up. First, the horse who "never kicked", began kicking at me during feeding time and showing several other signs of food aggression. I attributed the supposedly uncharacteristic behavior to switching from free feeding to twice-a-day, even though we were feeding him a more than adequate amount. So we tried to work through it. And just as it started to look like it was getting better (about one week into having him home), one of his "uncharacteristic" kicks caught the back of my arm, chipping two bones and taking a huge chunk out of my patience (and my wallet!). 

After giving the horse that week to settle in, I took him out for a couple of rides around our property and in the arena area, and that was when the horse that "never spooked" began to spook. And not only did he spook, but he also began showing signs of barn sour, and would bolt at the first sign of the way home. After another week of working with the horse daily, trying every food aggression, barn sour, and bolting remedy I could think of, I hit my breaking point. I should also mention that I eliminated pain or discomfort as a cause by purchasing all new tack specially fitted to the horse and watching for any signs of discomfort prior to taking him out on the trail.

So I decided to take him out on a short trail ride with one of the other horses to see if the comfort of a companion would eliminate the spooking and bolting. Didn't work. In fact, about halfway through the ride, a leaf rustled in the woods and the horse that "never spooked" went nuts.  As he turned to bolt toward home I tried everything I could to calm him down - I turned him in tight circles, I "whoa-ed", I see-sawed, and the more I tried to stop him, the worse it got. He bucked, jumped and spun until I was on the ground. And the first thing I thought when I hit the ground? "THANK GOD I ASKED FOR A TRIAL PERIOD!"

I can only hope that my experience will encourage others to insist on a trial period and save someone else from the heartache I experienced. Though many of us consider our horses a part of our families, they are still animals and will at times be unpredictable. And even if the seller takes great care of their animals and seems to be pretty honest, would you be willing to bet the sale price on it?

Just a few examples from my recent journeys....

- The ex-show horse that was to be sold for trail riding and flatwork only (just not suitable for hard training) that was actually showing very clear signs of lameness and should not have been ridden at all. 
- The 3 year old "bombproof" trail horse that spooked within 3 minutes of the seller getting on his back and would not walk down the driveway. 
- The "mouthy" Morgan that needs an experienced rider and sometimes nips a bit but is not 2 months later from same seller as "FREE TO ANYONE WHO CAN HANDLE HIM" because he is displaying dangerous aggressive behavior.  Hmmmm.....

So the moral of this story? 



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