Posts filed under 'equestrian'

Finding the Perfect Horse…

Is a bunch of bullshit. How else do you think I’d wind up with this beast?!

Don’t get me wrong, I love Hamish…. most of the time.   Well, those first 3 months I didn’t. It was a combination of he was is a bit of an asshole and the fact that I didn’t want get too attached in case it was to be determined his asshole-ness was too much for me to handle that we weren’t a good fit and I’d have to sell him on. If horses were like clothes I’d be wearing him with the price tag tucked in just in case. I’ve finally moved on from that point, but sometimes I still have my doubts.

Originally, I was looking for something older. A “schoolmaster” as they say. Maybe around 11 years old, but considered all the way up to an 18 year old. Something who can do a course of wee jumps and show me the ropes. Something kind and forgiving that will take care of their rider. And what I got was a cheeky, green 5 year old that’s a real “chancer” as they say. To be fair, Hamish does seem to be a pretty honest boy and quite forgiving of me which is really impressive…I digress.

My last horse post was about how deciding to get a horse wasn’t a decision I took lightly and why/how I decided to get that horse. This post will go a bit more in depth on just how much of a process it was to get a horse. And even after this wordy post (really should get an editor) you’ll most likely have no idea of the HOURS spent weekly on: trolling horse sale pages, reaching out to sellers, chasing down videos, emailing my livery yard manager potential ponies, driving across Scotland, and crying (so. many. tears.) that was done in the horse search process.

I started horse shopping July 19th, 2016. I got Hamish November 24, 2016. 4 months doesn’t sound like that long of a time…but it was. Facebook sale pages don’t sort by date added, so I was literally spending 3-4 hours a day combing through the various Scotland horses for sale pages and reaching out to sellers to get answers to my initial questions. My full kind of list of questions was as follows:

  • How long have they had horse?
  • Why selling?
  • Does it have a birth passport or is age estimated on passport?
  • Does the horse live in or out?
  • How is it to hack on own/in company?
  • Did they vet it when they bought it?
  • Does it come with tack?
  • Does it travel in trailer/lorry or both?
  • Who are the horses farrier and vet?
  • Is the owner a member of a pony club/riding club?
  • Does the horse have any insurance exclusions?
  • Has it competed, if so in which disciplines?
  • What name does it compete under?
  • Is it shod all round?
  • What type of bit is it ridden in?
  • Has it carried a variety of riders before?
  • How does it behave in group situations – lessons/hacks

If it seems like the horse would be at least kind of a potential fit (doesn’t need to live in, okay to shoe/vet, doesn’t need a Dutch gag bit), I would then ask for some videos of it on the flat, and hopefully jumping. I would then assemble the answers and the videos to send on to my yard manager (YM) to look over and tell me what she thought.

I found 28 different facebook conversations when I searched “bit ridden” as it was one of the most basic questions I was guaranteed to ask. And a couple of those conversation threads were dealers so I had contacted them about multiple horses over the months. I’d guestimate at least 5-7 others wanted to speak on the phone so no record of that conversation.

In the next step of sending videos on to be judged by someone who knows just a bit more than my, “Yep, has four legs and a tail” I see that I sent YM 23 videos of different ponies. Most of these videos came back with a reason why the horse wasn’t a good fit for me. For example:

  • Too buzzy
  • Too small
  • Too big
  • Too green
  • Too on the forehand
  • Too short of neck with too long of back

The list could go on…. I wish I could I explain to you why the short neck with long back is a no go…but alas, I can’t. And to be honest Hamish has a short neck! But I’ll just trust the expert. Some of the 23 ponies that got a video sent were ones that I did end up riding. In some situations they sounded good enough on paper or others were last minute and convenient to where I was to crack on and get my own video (you’d be amazing how many sellers refuse to send you a video for some reason), or if I hadn’t heard back from YM but was feeling cheeky and just went for it.  Because that’s a risk in itself.

Here’s just a sampling of ponies I looked at…you have no idea…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Within that grouping of 23 ponies that got video emails, twice I got rejected! As in the owner told me no. As if finding a horse wasn’t stressful and upsetting enough…throw in a little rejection for good measure. One horse that seemed a real school master, ex competition horse that was looking for a quieter life and was ideal on paper – the owner demanded to see a video of me riding (after multiple emails and phone calls) before she’d arrange me to come up. After I sent my video she iced me out and didn’t reply to my emails or answer my calls. To be fair, I’m a shit rider. But in my defense, I wasn’t going into this alone. Sucks for her though as I saw her horse listed for months and months after I was rejected. Beggars can’t be choosers hoe!

I got one other solid rejection, I mean really solid. I went out to see him with one of my instructors. Horse was a lot bigger than I anticipated and I had to ride him in a field (which I’m not used to). Now is the time to note just how nervous I am trying out horses. SO NERVOUS. As a shit rider normally, even my instructor commented just how extra shit and nervous I was when we were driving back. I didn’t love the horse but was tired of searching and when it was decided he was quite sensible, but YM wanted to see him inside a school (as he was pretty big and stuffy) I reached out to see if it was possible to arrange him to come visit the riding school. This time I at least got a response…and it was something along the lines of they didn’t think I was experienced enough for him. Even though I told them how much help I’d be getting, lessons on him, support, and brought an instructor for god’s sake.

There was one more rejection when I said it was a livery yard and riding club. I guess sometimes there is “working livery” where your horse is used in lessons as a school horse to get discounted/free livery. And this girl refused to believe that I would be the only one riding him…oh well.

Also in those 4 months the YM also put an appeal out on all her facebook pages to find a horse for me, as well as on a trip to the Ireland/Cavan Auctions where she was horse shopping for a lot of horses, but also keeping an eye out for a horse for me. Still nothing.

Then there was the time I thought I found my horse- She’s a Lady. I saw her on a facebook group page. The guy that was selling her was a right dodger….but I decided I was just being a snob. For the first time in test-driving horses I jumped on and did a little walk, trot, and even stepped it up to a canter. I could have easily gotten on this horse and started popping jumps. She was a schoolmaster. I showed YM the videos, told her I was pretty smitten and she agreed that she looked like a nice type and the price was fair. I did mention that she seemed a little girth shy…so it was determined that I should set up a vetting, go down and ride her again, groom her, tack her up, watch her alone in a stable to see how she acts, make sure the girth thing isn’t a issue, hack her away from the stable alone…spend some real time with her.

Well to start, after my 3 hour drive I got there to find out she had lost a shoe which means I was unable to do the vetting (the imbalance would throw her off and make her seem lame even if she was sound). So I was pretty pissed off. That’s when the dodger got even dodgier. Because of course then he insisted I didn’t need the vetting. And that’s when I learned just how girth shy she was…. when I went near her girth area to groom her she started stomping her feet and twisting around to bite me. I realized I wasn’t fully confident in tacking her up so asked the seller to do it and I’d watch. He first tried insisting we tie her up first, but I didn’t want a horse that HAD to be tied up to tack. He then suggested she get tacked up outside the stabl for some reason. We went back and forth. Needless to say, as soon as he reached under to get her girth she kicked out and became a monster. As a wanna-be first time horse owner, her behavior terrified me. I called the YM to give an update of how my morning was going and it was decided that a) this guy was dodgy AF and b) She’s a Lady is extremely girth shy and unpredictable and she might become She’s a Monster if forced into box rest for a few weeks. It was the right decision, but sometimes even now I think back a little sad I didn’t get her just for the been there, done that part of her.

So, the next trip to Ireland for a sales auction (with a list of about 5 horses to look for already) I went too. I’m really not sure if I was invited, invited myself or told I was going. Whatever the case, the morning we flew out I had serious regrets. I had gotten back from 3 weeks in the US (which was my MIL’s death, running a marathon, playing nurse for my mother’s hip surgery, and the Saturday before leaving- my MIL’s funeral) on Monday and flew out to Ireland on Tuesday. With 3 people I barely knew (despite the 23 videos sent to my yard manager I really didn’t know her too well). I was honestly exhausted and sick to my stomach with nerves. Probably not a great start.

First ones in both mornings….we won’t miss a horse!

I’m told an obligatory photo…

We got in on Tuesday afternoon and would be at the auctions all day Wednesday and Thursday, flying back Friday early afternoon. It’s crazy, fun experience that I recommend to anyone…and there’s horses for all abilities. Ponies in my budget, but I also saw a bid win at £20k only for the reserve not to be met. But don’t be fooled, it’s wicked hard work. Being new to horsing in general I was pretty overwhelmed with about 250-300 horses to look at, with 3 different arenas they travel through and then the auction ring right next to the jumping arena with auctions going all day long. Not to mention it was freezing cold and you’re on your feet from about 8am-5pm, running up to the stables, back down to the arenas. Trying to follow a horse you’re interested in, but also wanting to see if you can meet it in the stable beforehand or chat with the owner when all the horses arrive at different times. We had gone through the catalog and starred quite a few that sounded good…but you quickly go through that list. Maybe the horse is a jerk in the stable, maybe his conformation is shite and prone to injury, maybe it’s jump is massive, maybe it’s canter is too difficult to sit to, maybe the dealer lies and tells you the horse has been out and jumped around the arenas when you know for a fact that the horse has sat in the stable all day. It’s a total crapshoot. I don’t know if any of the 3 I was prepared to bid on were ones initially starred from the book.

Horse #1 was a slow moving gal from a private seller. Definitely something that I could be riding away on immediately. The opposite of buzzy. Problem was, she looked like hell. Definitely had worms, no condition, they didn’t clip her, a mangy beast. I wasn’t excited about her but knew I needed to be rational and she would be a safe bet for a first pony. The YM thought her worth to about £2,500 TOPS. So we bid on her and had a £2,000 winning bid didn’t meet the reserve. We found them afterward and they wanted £3k. We tried to negotiate and give them £2,500, but they weren’t having it so we let them walk away.

Horse #2 I really liked. Probably because he wasn’t a damn grey! We were all set that we were going to bid on him and I was stoked. But the owner was a friend of a friend and we told him how novice I was and he discouraged me from bidding because he thought the horse would be too green for me. Funny enough he claimed he had the perfect horse for me and then I saw the freaking thing and was terrified of it- a massive horse with a MASSIVE jump…. that ended up going for over £8k anyway (WAY out of budget!)

Horse #3 is Hamish. Actually, his official name is Corker Creppello and he had no barn name. Yeah, that’s right, I named that damn grey Irish horse a Scottish name. It was near the end of the last day and he was a bit of a last ditch, hail mary effort. He was in my budget and he’s a nice type. Being only 5 he is VERY green, and to be honest, I’m not really even cantering on him yet. But the nice thing about a young, green horse is that there is LOADS of growth potential. And honestly, he’s made such a better rider of me and given me so much more confidence already (not without knocking it down frequently as well). It’s a bit backwards that we have to stumble in the dark (okay, not totally dark, I take about 3 lessons on him a week, get him schooled by my instructor, and get loads of help from staff…so maybe stumble through poor lighting is a better description) and learn from each other what works and what feels nice.

It’s funny how things changed. I started with a budget of £2K to MAYBE £2,500. That went up to £3,000 – which Hamish just snuck under (and to be honest I would have gone £3,500 because at this point I was so exhausted I just wanted to move on from horse shopping). But my budget wasn’t ever including things like vetting, sales tax (in the case of the auction), transportation home (more expensive when he is coming from Ireland of course), personal transportation to see horse (again, more expensive involving flights and hotel rooms).   It makes me wonder, what if I just had a £4-£5k budget from the start?! Ah well….I did learn a lot in the process! (I am learning that horse people are fantastic and finding some sort of positive out of horse shit and are exemplerary at ignoring blaring truths, most commonly: horses are stupid money pits).

And then beyond budget, Hamish is definitely not an easy schoolmaster. And he is a stupid (but totally handsome) grey. And I know we’re not riding off into the sunset or anything. And though my confidence is up he is a total bloody chancer and every month or so tests the boundaries that unfortunately, sometimes still results in me being a bit scared of him. But almost every horse would do that. Schoolmaster or not…horses aren’t perfect. And I appreciate Hamish’s cheek…He’s got personality and it’s never almost never mean spirited. And maybe it’s my complete naive-ness talking (or just ignoring the blaring turhts), but I’m super hopeful of the future I have with Hamish. Actually, I was just told given a little encouragement to sign up for our first Intro Dressage test to give us something to work towards. Which is a whole new level of terrifying exciting…

Don’t worry, I can’t imagine there won’t be an epic blog post on how right before Hamish and I fell into a pile of shit and then went into the arena where he spooked at a funny looking plant and took off across the highlands dismounting me with a broken rib…or something like that. High hopes right?

 

 

 

 

Behind the Scenes

Wanted to gloss over the bits of life that have taken place in the last 10 months or so (ha!) that won’t make it into a blog post.  Looking back…it seems I really fancy a costume/themed party.

End of June – one of my best friends Merima came to visit.  Expect to see more of Merima on my Croatia recap post.

 

July – We attended a surprise America themed 30th for her husband – hoodie hoo!

July 8 – My cousin and Uncle come to visit.

Have you noticed we take everyone to Dunnottar Castle?

August 28 – We had a Guns n’ Grilling party!  Had a whole mess of us (18?!) go to clay pigeon shooting and then back to our house for a lot of grilling and booze.  Unfortunately, didn’t take any pictures so these I stole from some of our friends.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

September 4 – Erik and Aaron ran their 2nd Inch by Inch Swim Run in Loch Lomond

November – Whilst home in November I spent some quality time with family and got to meet my new little niece.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dec 10 – Made it to the last Aberdeen Perry’s Christmas Party. (They’re moving this summer.)

 

December – Goodbye Hussars.  Ah the downside of expat life.  This was our first friends we were reaaaaally close to that left.  I cried.  It sucked.

The longest, saddest brunch.

December – Enjoyed our time back in the states for Christmas.Dec 29 – Made the trek back to Scotland.

Dec 31 – NYE watching the fireballs in Stonehaven again (see previous year’s blog post here)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo by: http://christinejacksonphotography.squarespace.com/

Photo by: http://christinejacksonphotography.squarespace.com/

Jan 27 – Burns night!

2nd year in a row for a monique lhuillier WITH POCKETS!

Some of the girls – we had 2 tables.

 

 

Feb 4 – AWA’s Mardi Gras Party – we were the pajama themed table.

 

March 4 – Our friends Lillian & David hosted an epic 80’s party.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 24 – We celebrated our friend Seth’s birthday with Curling and Karaoke

Victory!

The person who fell the most was the Scotsman.

Didn’t fall at all this time!

My sweeping partner cared more about posing than sweeping!

 

March – I really started to learn why grey horses suck.

Spring – Lotta horse time.  Luckily, it’s not all lessons and hard work.  I’ve been super lucky to have some friends trust me with their ponies to go on hacks and enjoy the Scottish countryside.

Spud and I taking a break in the River Dee

 

You bought a what?

A HORSE!

It’s time to address the elephant, errrr, horse in the room.  Okay he’s not really in the room, but it’s no secret my instagram is flooded with pictures of a certain mischievous, dirty, cheeky wee beastie.

I bought a horse. No seriously, I bought a horse with my Polish Christmas monies. (What you don’t celebrate Polish Christmas? You’re missing out!) Though to be fair, E was as supportive as a man could be letting his wife gallivant around the country trying out horses, obsessively stalking ads online, and making herself sick and hysterical over the thought of actually getting a horse. And ya know…staying supportive as every single horse owner we encountered made comments like:

“You know what’s easier, just dig a hole in your back garden and dump all your money into that. You’re less likely to get hurt at least.”

“You know they live like 25 years?”

“It’s not the horse that’s the problem, it’s all the shit you think you need for the horse.”

“You know what’ll be less hassle. Take all your money out of your bank accounts, put it in a wheelbarrow, and just light it on fire. There, done. One fell swoop instead of slowly bleeding you dry.”

“Hope you like the smell of horse-shit.”

“Say goodbye to a clean house, dinner on the table, or ever seeing your wife again.”

“I’m sorry mate.”

We already knew E was a hell of a guy, but just in case I had any doubts, he encouraged me to get a pony.

Happy wife, happy life

I know I had already teased that I got a horse, but I thought it deserved a proper post on my decision. Because, a lot of people think I’m crazy…and it’s not to say I’m not, but getting a horse wasn’t a decision I took lightly. I actually don’t take any decision lightly, I’m a bit of a head-case.  Even when we got Stella, on the 5-hour drive back to Chicago I cried and called my mom asking if we should turn around and give her back. I feel like taking on the responsibility of an animal is a very serious decision. You should provide the best life possible for that animal! And I was raised with a dog, cat, and rabbit…it’s not like I never had pets. I just don’t take the decision lightly…. probably a lot of insight on why I don’t have kids to be honest.

When I moved to Scotland I said I was going to start riding horses again. (It’s just a shame it got pushed back a year or so for marathon training.) I used to ride when I was young. Starting around 7 years old until about 15. I never had a horse, though I asked for one pretty much every Christmas in between those years. I would go away to Camp Tecumseh every year and be part of their horse program, my last year going on a horse packing trip in PA. So in preparation for summer camp my mom would let me do a package of lessons to get my muscles working again (PS – lessons are the most expensive part of horse-ing) and when I was little I would also insist on a lesson or trail ride (called a hack in Scotland) for my birthday. I loved ponies. Couldn’t get enough. But every year I asked for one, my dad asked with what money would we get a horse? And I would calculate how much he’d save if he quit smoking. It didn’t go over so well.

It’s a shame though really, because had I known that with hard work, I could have maybe bought my own horse, or at least part-leased one as a teenager, I would have put forth the effort. Because believe me, I was a hard worker. And of course, I would have needed some parental monetary support, but I tell you what, having a horse and working to have that horse would have probably kept me out of trouble!

So yeah, not all horses costs 20K it turns out. My horse certainly didn’t cost 20K.  And actually, it’s not THAT much money for livery. Okay, it’s definitely a figure that has to be evaluated and considered, but it’s not like you’re paying rent for another apartment. Hamish lives on a livery yard, which I guess would be called a boarding stable in America. Basically, I pay horse rent for Hamish to live on massive grounds (like 100 acres) and have access to on-site lessons, indoor riding schools, equipment like jumps, and mostly, help and experience from very dedicated and amazing staff. Now Hamish lives out in a field, all the time…which is cheaper than if he lived in a stable that needed to be mucked out, etc. So yeah, if it’s pouring down rain, Hamish lives outside. If it’s snowing, Hamish lives out. It’s not abuse, he’s a horse. He’s livestock. And I buy him really expensive rugs (called blankets in America) to keep him warm and toasty.

The most expensive part of horse ownership is insurance and injury. No doubt. Horses are stupid and built poorly. They tend to get hurt or break a lot so you need to be prepared for it. But I find that like human healthcare, veterinary care in the UK is LOADS more affordable than in the USA.

Then there is all the shit the horse “needs”. Like the aforementioned rugs. The sprays and potions in attempt to get him clean. The supplements. The saddle. The boots. The shoes (did you know horses need new shoes every 4-8 weeks?) The groomer because I pay to get my horse’s mane done and clip (shave) his coat in the winter. Which at current requires sedation because he’s terrified of the clippers. Terrified in a way that makes it dangerous for anyone to be in the stable with him. So the sedation costs more than the hair cut, but I’m hoping by the end of next winter he’s able to relax and not need sedation to be clipped- he’s just a baby! And then there’s paying for someone to ride/train your pony (especially necessary if you got a young/green horse). And lessons with you and your pony. And then there’s all the stuff you need as a rider…. which I’m still accumulating. Do you know a sexy riding helmet can cost like £600?!?!

Anyway…. I guess as the saying goes…. it all adds up. And so because of that, I need to re-state how lucky I am that my husband supports my childhood dream of getting a horse. Because it’s a monthly drain on his bank account, his time (he comes to the barn 1-2x a week), and his pleasant life because I am home so much less, thus making me an even worse house wife, and more so, I obsess over my horse. A bad day with him totally consumes my mood, I over analyze every thing my instructor tells me, I google horse related stuff non-stop…. it’s just all consuming. On the plus side…. I’m in love! Love, love, love. In fact, I have a shit-eating grin this whole time writing this post.

So I started this blog with the intent of writing about how I came to the decision to get a horse, and then the process that led me to my horse…HAMISH.   But as this is already pretty lengthy, I’ll just end up with why I did decide now was the right time to get a horse.

Well, there’s obviously more pros than cons….and we know which won. I got a horse! The biggest negative of my current situation is that we can’t live here forever which forces a decision sooner than most people who buy a horse expect. In anywhere from a month- to at most a couple years I will either have to sell my horse, or light a whole new wheelbarrow of money on fire to move him. I went in to this trying to hypnotize myself that horses are not pets, they are a leisure item. They are akin to a bicycle or boat. Not a dog. But I know (as does E) that I’m not always the most practical and the heart wants what it wants. So that being said, I cannot for sure say either way what will happen to my horse when we move. And to be honest, I would only be able to make a decision when the time comes because there are a variety of factors that will influence his future.

But the biggest persuasion of getting a horse now is that livery yard/support network I have here. I had been riding at Aberdeen Riding Club for over a year and a half and working there Friday mornings for a year. I had made horsey friends who would help, the manager of the livery yard was helping me find the right horse for me so I didn’t die, and everyone was there to guide me in the right direction. I’d never have more help getting a horse for the first time. And since one of my biggest fears is killing the damn thing (maybe a little dramatic, but that’s me), I knew the yard wouldn’t let that happen. My horse and I would be in good hands.