I searched for four months before I finally found Miles, and my experience was nothing like I expected. Many equestrians approach buying a horse with careful consideration, like I did, but many also just happen into a horse; by which I mean they were not necessarily looking to purchase at all but ended up with one anyway (they’re like potato chips, right?! You can’t just have one!).
Throughout the process, I had a lot of ups and downs, but I learned a lot along the way. Here’s a list of what I did right, and what I did wrong.
Plan, Prepare, Budget
Set a budget from the get-go and stick to it.
My search was made easier by the simple fact that I knew what I wanted to spend. I didn’t stress about spending too much money because I had already allocated a certain amount and I promised myself that under no circumstances would I waiver from that.
Prepare a list of what you’re looking for. And then be prepared to compromise.
I prepared a list of what I wanted vs. what I needed
, and told myself I would need to compromise. Unfortunately, I didn’t fully understand what that meant until I was in the middle of it all. But eventually it did sink in, and I thought long and hard about what I could (or could not) live with.
Set a plan and communicate it.
I knew I did not, under any circumstances, want to horse shop by myself; I always knew I wanted the help and expertise of a trainer. So I made sure I had a good relationship with a reputable professional that included my budget and my list of must-haves.
Where I fell short was communicating. At first, I only discussed what I saw as the important stuff. The problem of course was that I am a novice horse shopper who cannot be trusted to know what’s important. So don’t make my mistake and keep in touch every single step of the way, even if it’s just to say “I made that phone call and I’m still waiting to hear back.”
Trust Your Instincts
Listen to your gut.
As horse people, we are “in-tune” with horses; and most of us get a gut-feeling when things are wrong (or right!). So if you feel that twist in the pit of your stomach, don’t ignore it. By all means try to figure out why you’re feeling that way, but don’t gloss over it either.
Know and trust your trainer.
If you are working with a professional, trust them too. Sometimes the person just outside of the bubble gets the most accurate overall picture of the situation. But beware: knowing how your trainer operates and being aware of this is crucial. My trainer doesn’t want to make a big decision for any of her clients. She will tell you her opinion, but in a way that leaves you to give the final say-so. Unfortunately, her actions always give her away. The day she gave Miles some hay from her own private stash, I knew she was completely smitten, without her having to utter a word.
Don’t Sweat the Logistics
I was very thorough in my search, requiring not only a trial period at my farm, but also a clean bill of health. Up front this caused a lot of work: getting the sellers to agree to a trial, agreeing to the terms of the trial, setting up short-term insurance, finding time to transport the horse, making vet appointments and negotiating additional follow-ups. While it was stressful at the time, I’m so glad I stuck to my guns and made 100 percent sure I was comfortable with everything I agreed to because it ensured that I made the best decision and was happy with it.
All in all, horse shopping at age 16 was much more fun and a lot less stressful than it was this time around. But just like back then, I knew what I wanted, went after it guns blazing and came out on the other size with a partner who will take me to new heights of success.