Sunday, November 16, 2008

Shopping Explained

Nope, I was not shopping for my horse. And I was not shopping for a horse for me either, although that would sure be fun (My Boy is not laughing.) I was helping my auntie shop for a horse. You see, my aunt, my mom's twin sister, has been taking lessons for a while and her confidence is growing. She has been thinking about leasing one of her lesson horses, or perhaps purchasing a horse of her own.

You might be able to relate to this: someone who is thinking about purchasing a horse probably spends hours pouring over for sale ads, picking out their dream horse. We've all been there! While on one of her many searches, my aunt found a gelding that sounded perfect for her. One small "but"- he was 22 years old.

Paint Girl, my mom, and I convinced my aunt that age isn't everything. Many horses remain sound and rideable into their mid and upper twenties. My sister's co-worker has a 35 year old horse that she was still riding until recently. It just depends on the horse, how it was used, and how well it is cared for. And like people, probably some genetics. Pat Parelli's gorgeous black stallion is at least 20, and doesn't look a day over 5 years old!

The grayed out Paint gelding my aunt found was a roping horse. He was originally a ranch horse in Wyoming. Here is a picture of him from his sale ad, in his earlier years:

My aunt was told that he was pretty much unflappable, still knew how to head and heel, and was great on the trails. His owner had only been riding horses for around 5 years, had started roping on this gelding but had upgraded to a new horse that was younger and more challenging. She had told my aunt on the phone that this guy showed some wear on his knees from roping, but otherwise, was healthy and could still hit the trails all day.

The horse sounded perfect for my aunt in temperament- calm, been-there-done-that, child and husband safe. However, when we saw him this morning as he was eating his breakfast, he moved about his stall and it was obvious he was sore. The night before, he'd laid down in his stall and couldn't get up. Apparently the stall cleaner hadn't put in enough bedding and that mats they use were slippery. One of his pasterns were swollen and he seemed overall in pain. The owners felt bad that they hadn't known he was sore or they would have called and had us come another day. They obviously hadn't given him any bute and said he'd been feeling and looking quite spry the day before. Aside from the present soreness from whatever happened the night before, his knees were pretty knobby. I've never seen knees so knobby on a horse! Probably bone spurs?

Despite his winter fuzz, the gelding sure was a handsome boy with a nice head and kind eyes, but showed quite a bit of good muscle tone for his age. He had a sort of a ranch horse wear-and-tear look to him, though. Like a high-mileage car. He was very calm and a bit like my own Boy in personality- a bit indifferent. They said he had warmed up a lot in the past few years. In the past, he was a "working" horse and not much for affectionate chit-chat or conversation.

I don't think my aunt was too disappointed. Although open to the idea of giving an older horse a continued useful life, I think she was realistic in realizing that although probably perfect for her in disposition, this boy was a little beyond what she was looking for in soundness and age. Especially since she will have to board the horse. If my aunt had property and pasture, it would be possible to ride him a few years until he couldn't be ridden, then just give him the retirement at pasture that he deserves.

My auntie will know when she finds the right horse. For now, she might consider leasing the Arabian she is taking lessons on. I think that is a good place to start. Hey, look where that got me!


  1. The horse I learned to ride on was a roping horse. He is going to turn 28 next year... I rode him until he was 23. He also has knobby knees due to arthritis. When he started getting sore, the vet said it was probably unsafe to ride him. He is happily retired now.

    I hope your aunt finds a good horse. Those old horses sure make excellent teachers and confidence builders!!

  2. Hi Jessie~ I couldn't agree more, I do think the older ones make such great teachers. My aunt is still learning and building her confidence....and learning to ride for the first time in your mid-50's is a different experience than for those of us that bombed around on ponies and horses as kids! I think that is why she wants an older, mellow-yellow kind of guy. She'll find one! ;)

  3. The lesson horse I rode was 35 and a real trooper. And yes, learning to ride and getting one's first horse in your 50s is very different. For one thing, we're very much aware of not only our limitations, but our mortality. Safety becomes, by necessity, your middle name. My Jaz is a lesson horse I had on loan for about 10 months before I bought him. I got to use him, but I paid for everything during that time. In this economy, your aunt could probably get someone to do a similar deal, which would let her try before she buys.

    I need to email you privately with a question.

  4. Your aunt will find the right horse, it just takes time. Old horses are great, we have several. One of our guys is 42 and this is the first year he has had any trouble. I learned to ride on a horse in her late 20's.

  5. Leah~ When I revisited riding in my mid-30's, I found that my confidence from my childhood with horses was less, and I still have some issues with that mortality thing! ;)

    CJS~ A 42 yr. old! Amazing! Is it an Appy? Those Apps....they just keep going and going!

  6. We bought an old roping horse for my boys to ride. I love him. He has been there done that kind of horse. Plus he has an awesome handle. And most roping horses have seen it all and heard it all, and they don't scare eaisly.

    It's sad that the pretty gray didn't work out. Sometimes with age you have to take some of the soreness.

    I do hope your aunt finds a good horse. I always get wrapped up with the first one I see and have to have that one. But look at a lot and go back two or three times to try them out.

    It's good that they didn't bute up the gelding before you got there and pretend that he wasn't sore. Maybe try the gelding out in another week or so. Good luck and happy horse hunting.

  7. Good luck to your aunt finding a horse. She will know when the one is right. I like older horses for myself as they are usually more bombproof and they can go a few days without being ridden and not go into a bucking spree with me! I'm not up for that any more. We bought Buddy when he was 10 and had him for 16 years. I like that 10-15 age group.

  8. Sorry that gelding didn't work out. He sure was a looker from seeing that photo of his early roping days.

    I agree about the older horses, too.
    We are talking about another horse for our kids. And my neighbor's 26 yr old 'worth-her-weight-in-gold' mare is being considered. I've ridden her and so have my sons. She's strong, patient, sure-fotted and healthy. And by looking at her, you'd never realize she close to 30.

    Older horses, if started off slow and easy, can be perfect mounts for beginner riders.
    Heck, there is a horse, almost 40, still competing in Trail Endurance Competitions, and winning, too.

    I second the idea of leasing or buying her lesson horse....just like you, that's how I ended up with sweet paint mare, Baby Doll.

    After a couple months of lessons, I knew we were a good match. And I'm still happy with my choice :)

    New Mexico

  9. Older horses are perfect for new riders of any age! Especially if you can find one that is sound, and even tempered. I always advocate the older horse as a first horse- BUT- please have the conversation with your Aunt about humane euthanasia at the end of the horses life. It should be a discussion that a knowledgeable horse-person ( you) has with her in a real heart to heart. The cost of the horse is not on the front side ( buying ) but on the backside ( dying). I know it is hard, but better to have been prepared from the get go than to wait for the final moments to bring the subject up.
    Good luck with your Aunts search- I know you'll have her well mounted soon!

  10. Yep the 42 year old is an appy, Freedom, he was my vice-presidential running mate. The DOR says he will outlive us all.
    Us appys are hardy guys, we live forever and thrive on air it seems.
    Personally I think we are the best horses our there, but I am biased

  11. Don't worry about dying with an older horse. Young ones die too. I once bought a 4 year old that died at 7 years old.
    My issue with him would be his soundness. Older horses get creaky and arthritic, but if he's unsound, you'll spend a lot of time and money nursing him and not riding.
    Horse shopping is really hard! When you really want one, you can't find anything worthwhile, and when you're not looking, good ones are for sale everywhere!


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