How do you tell a good horse from a bad one? Is there a magic mirror you can hold up that will show you how you and the horse you're considering owning will get along a week from now? A month? A year?
Sorry, but no.
Recently I've had the opportunity to shop vicariously with a friend who has been seeking a new horse. What horse lover doesn't appreciate that kind of fun? I get to look at horse ads and even the occasional actual live equine, and it isn't going to cost me a penny. BOO-ya!
As it turns out, though, I've gotten something for nothing (and I don't mean the proverbial "free" horse). I've gotten an inside view of the current market and of someone else's viewpoint on horses. Though I've worked at a sale barn and had experience buying and selling here at home, and I've watched the process through my daughter's eyes, she and I are very much alike, so it wasn't very enlightening. This time, I learned something that's given me pause.
I ride English for the most part. I've barrel raced, but that was "Westrish"--riding English in a western saddle--so it doesn't count. I have a western horse now, but I'm retraining him, so he doesn't count either. Shopping for a western trail horse has turned out to be a whole different kind of journey. As I wandered the internet and passed on "horse to good home" ads to my friend, I discovered that my idea of a good horse and hers are quite different.
Seeing that (and being almost finished with the process of becoming an Equine Appraiser), and seeing how wide the disparity is, I got to thinking that we need a better system. The horse world is suffering greatly right now due to lack of funds in all quarters. Buying and selling the wrong horses can't be helping. I believe we need:
1. A set of standards that are more objective than "cute horse, loves people".
2. To employ actual appraisers to set prices if we're not sure what the market for our horse is at the moment, or
3. A little training handbook on appraisal that doesn't cost the arm-and-a-leg of the full-bore certification program so every horseman can honestly appraise the horses he owns and those he's looking to buy.
4. More honesty in advertising.
5. More willingness on the part of buyers to put additional training on a horse if he's not quite what they're looking for.
6. Less magical thinking--no loopy equine is going to transform overnight into Your Friend Flicka just because you whispered at it.
So for the next few posts (since I obviously got bored with the spring--now fall--cleaning series), I'm going to focus on those six concepts. With the help of posters from the various forums, I'll try to get a groundswell of grassroots change moving. Who knows? Maybe a few horses will find good homes and a few buyers will realize they're just not ready for a horse. In the end, everyone might come out ahead.