“The time has come” the Walrus said, “to talk of many things. Of shoes, and ships, and ceiling wax, of cabbages and kings.”
— Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
This is a long-ish post with few pictures. But it’s important to me to think it out loud, so to speak, so here it is.
Recently, Murray’s owners told Alana that they wanted to know what the plan is with him. Was I going to buy him, or should they put him on the market? Ever conscious of possible conflicts of interest, Alana deputized our assistant trainer to talk to me about this development and feel out what my plan is.
So… what is my plan? Time to be honest here, my parents don’t read this (and if they do, hi mum and dad! Don’t worry, it’s not your money!)
Err not quite.
This is not the perfect time for me to buy a horse. I’m facing some huge-maybe life changes this year. I’m probably graduating, and we all know the job market for new PhDs is super fantastique. Boyfriend is hoping to go to graduate school, I want to move wherever he goes with him, and we currently have no idea where that is. So there’s the no job, the move, and the fact that boyfriend’s grad school will likely move us to the most expensive places in California (coastal cities) where horse boarding is not that friendly. This would mean less money, more costs (board on the coast!! GAH).
But on the other hand, maybe nothing changes. Depending on what happens with my newly-shipped samples, I could still be a grad student next year. If I graduate, I’m applying for a job here that will pay more than my grad student stipend and give me consistent hours with no “homework” (OMG so excited, though I’m sure I’ll be bored in two months). If boyfriend doesn’t get into school, he moves here with me! All of these things mean equal money or slighty more money in the future.
I’ve been paying Murray’s bills for more than a year at this point, and financially, I’ve managed well. I didn’t finish the year debt-free, but that was more due to my little Vietnam conference/vacation adventure that kinda blew me away than anything horse related. And after a year of expenses — everything but the insurance — I feel like I’ve got a pretty good handle on what it means to keep this horse. I know what it’s like to scrimp and save and be extremely frugal, so if I need to make some life changes to make things work out this year, I can do that.
So on the money side of things, I think it’s a wash. Horse ownership will add a few hundred dollars a year (insurance) to the expenses I’ve already budgeted for and managed so far. And I literally can’t make a decision until I have more information, which won’t happen until at least March, so in that regard, things are on hold.
Then there’s another big question: Do I want to buy this horse?
There are a couple of sub-considerations to this question. Number one: Budget. As per above, my budget is quite small. Like, get a cheap OTTB off the track, small. Win the horse lottery and get given a horse, small. Rescue a horse from a hoarder, small. Okay, so maybe not quite that small. But Murray fits my budget, so that part is not really necessary for consideration.
Next up: Talent. Is Murray phenomenally talented? Probably not. I think we all know that the pool of horses that can compete at any given level shrinks drastically as you move up beyond about 3′ or 3rd level (totally ballparking that) dressage. Is he talented enough to take me where I realistically want to go with him? Yep. Alana thinks he is definitely going to be able to take me Training and even maybe Prelim, if the stars align a little. Is this a guarantee? Nope. Is any horse a guarantee? Nope.
Third: Soundness. Yet another gamble, and I’ll be doing a pre-purchase. Basic flexions and some rads. I’d do it with any horse I was buying.
Fourth: Personality. I know you haven’t known us for long, but you can probably already tell that Murray is a bit of a weirdo. This weirdoness is likely a combination of a genetic deck-stack for a big ego (Alydar by way of Benchmark AND Theatrical are very close in his pedigree) and late maturation, and a crappy start at life by a farm that, to all outwards appearances, does very little with their yearlings. I’ll tell you a secret: I’m a weirdo too. And I really like this weirdo horse. But beyond being weird, he’s smart! Really smart! And I love smart.
Sure, he doesn’t always make things the easiest, though he’s taught me a lot doing so. He’s also reduced me to tears more than
once or twice I care to admit. But to be honest, I’m not sure I would appreciate a less quirky horse. When I’ve ridden my friends’ more normal horses, I find myself utterly-irrationally frustrated with them about things Murray can do that they can’t — why can’t you leg yield straight?! You don’t even have a compromised brain as an excuse! (To my friends reading this: my apologies.) That almost makes it sweeter when we do get it, and these days, we get it more often than not. Sure, he still won’t let me put his dressage girth on without at least a little bribery, and today he may or may not have lay down in the stocks during his dental (then gotten up and realised he was too drunk to get back to his stall without help), and has on occasion tried to pick up a jump pole on his own… but do I want a more normal horse? Would I like a more normal horse? Would I have this much fun with a more normal horse?
Fifth: what happens to this horse if I can’t keep him in the future? I don’t know about you, but this weighs hugely in my mind, thanks in large part to the above personality considerations. Murray is not an easy sell, and finding an appropriate rider right now would be pretty challenging. However, I have assurances from Alana that she will help me with finding Murray the perfect home after me — if that is ever a question — because she wants to see him land in the right place. And what if I have to retire him for some reason? Well, there’s options there too.
To be sure, Murray has made a ton of progress this year, and it’s pretty badass how much he is willing to do for me. But — and maybe this highlights me as a huge weirdo — I’m kinda trying to keep that emotional-fluffy-bond-y part out of this decision. The goals I have for my riding don’t leave me the luxury of buying an equine partner just because we’ve galloped through clouds and farted out rainbows together: we need to be able to continue to make progress together.
So that’s where I’m at. Waiting for the pre-purchase (probably next month, depending on a big check I may or may not get for a photography gig), and weighing my options. I’m definitely on the side of buying him right now, but the exam will be very telling. Possibly more telling will be whether or not I can say no if the PPE turns up something bad.
Did I forget anything? Are there other considerations I should be making?