Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Have I got a horse for you!

How to Be a Savvy Horse Shopper

 Do-si-do and allemand left, y'all!  Partner-changing season is upon us.

Twice a year, horse folks gather their wits and their resources and consider the possibility of a change of horse.   This generally happens in the spring, before show season and as the sun starts to warm the trails and pastures, and again in the fall, when approaching winter means rising feed costs and increased difficulty in keeping those hard-keepers and special-needs animals.

Because the decision is so pressing in its time frame, bad ones tend to be made with great abandon.  If you haven't been following this story, you might want to take a minute to catch up.  It's at once hilarious and a huge alarm bell ringing.

Why do we do this?  Why do we allow ourselves to impulse-purchase something that needs endless care, a whole house all to itself, and all our free time for what could be decades to come?

Part of it is because we love our "stuff".  I've dealt with this human foible before, but here's an excellent article from The Atlantic Monthly that explains why the wanting is so much better than the actual acquisition.   We use our stuff as a means of:

1.  Belonging to a tribe ("I'm a person who owns a critter of some species...I'm an Animal Lover!")

2.  Ensuring superiority over other tribe members or members of other tribes ("My critter is bigger, better, faster, smarter, and prettier than everyone else's!")

3.  Cementing our personal identity ("I'm intelligent enough, wealthy enough, and savvy enough to have found the best thing out there.")

4.  Creating a personal space that shows the world who we are ("I'm over here, covered in manure and horse hair!") and makes us happy for no reason we can point a finger at.

Two impulses on the hoof.
So we go out and buy something we probably shouldn't.  Often the buying is a letdown.  It's the shopping, the coveting, and the attention of our friends to that process that gives us a little social upswing.  Once we've made the Big Purchase, things may go drastically downhill.  So many of us put it off for as long as possible.  I have friends who have been horse shopping for close to three years now without success, but they gleefully share photos, videos, and stories about the next horse they're considering.  I admit, they keep me riveted as I prefer, at this point in my life, to experience all this vicariously between stall-muckings and vet calls.

The article linked at the top of this page has a nice list of things to look at and questions to ask if you're shopping.  I want to add that anyone who goes shopping for a horse without intending to actually buy--the equestrian tire-kicker--needs to stop.  If you're not going to buy a horse, leave the poor sellers alone. They've got enough to do all day without lengthy demos of horses that are still going to be in their barn making a mess at night feeding.  Don't call unless you're serious.  If you shop where you live, your name will get around quickly (we horse folks are chatty monsters), and you'll find more "can we do this some other day?" responses than "sure, come right over" responses to your calls.

On the other hand, don't allow yourself to fall into the trap of feeling guilty for not buying a seller's horse.  Sellers can be desperate.  They can be very sad and their stories very touching.  They can hobble out to the barn on crutches supporting the torn ACL they got riding the horse in question, and they can make you weep with their tales of financial decline.  Some of it might even be the truth.  That doesn't mean you  need to buy an unfit or unsuitable horse.

Go into the purchase with  your budget and your plan firmly in hand, in writing if possible (in triplicate so you've got people with copies standing by to effect an intervention when you stray).  You may find it wise to deviate a smidge, but if you're off and running in a whole different direction, you need to stop.

Think Thrice; Buy Once.

And now I'm going to go out to the barn and deal with my ragtag bunch of impulse purchases.

Happy Trails!
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