deal breakers

Lauren and Sarah are both unicorn horse hunting right now, and have made very reasonable lists of the things they’re looking for in an equine partner.  I’m at a slightly different stage of this process: I’ve got an equine partner in mind, and I’m trying to figure out what could show up in the vet check that will be a deal breaker.

I very much subscribe to the view that sound is a relative thing.  Having a pony for w/t rides for kids and casual trail riding doesn’t require the same level of soundness of a Training-level eventer and that doesn’t require the same level of soundness as a Grand Prix jumper or dressage horse.  I’m not trying to go to Rolex here, I’m trying to do some lower level (and maybe prelim?) eventing and have fun while I’m doing it.  I’m completely realistic about the fact that if I ever gain the skills to event above training, the number of horses who can do that well/successfully/safely/happily are a lot smaller than the number of horses who can make a good run at training, and there’s absolutely no guarantee the one I’m thinking of (big secret there) will be able to do so.

I’m also a poor graduate student, and I don’t anticipate not being poor for a while now.  Sure, my salary might double over what I bring home as a graduate student if I get the right job, but that’s certainly not a lot of money.  Definitely not a two-horse budget kind of money.  So I need to be careful with the money I do have, and get as much as I can out of my equine partner choice.

So, all that being said, you can imagine that there are some deal breakers in my mind.  Things that will just rule any horse out of my consideration, regardless of how much I might otherwise like them.

For example, bad osteoarthritis in the stifle, hock, or fetlock.  I have neither the funds nor the spirit to manage bad osteoarthritis in a six year old.

Degenerative, bilateral uveitis.  I know this can take some time, but I also can’t do a blind horse.  Not at this stage of my life.

Navicular disease.  I’ve read a lot of promising things about navicular changes on the Rockley Rehab Blog, but if there are symptoms and changes, I can’t go there.

Neurologic symtpoms.

That’s my list so far. It’s not an extensive one, but I’ve got more than a week to add to it like a hypochondriac. What are your deal breakers?  What takes a horse off the table completely for you, health wise?  What is manageable?

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13 thoughts on “deal breakers

  1. This is a great post, considering I just did my PPE on Roger. Since Roger is an OTTB who just turned five, he does have some slight wear and tear in his ankles, although he passed the flexion tests with ease…so much so that the vet was impressed with him! The vet also said that Roger shouldn’t experience any lameness issues, and will hold up fine for the jumper-y stuff I want to do. As you can imagine, I ran this through my head 1,000 times, and bounced it off of friends and my trainer. Other than the wear and tear in his ankles (something that most racehorses will have), he had no other physical issues of concern. Will he be able to do the 4′ Grand Prixs? Probably not, but I’m not looking to do a Grand Prix tomorrow either.

    I agree that “soundness” is a relative term, and also depends on one’s goals. Items that were on my deal breakers list: serious soundness issues (either existing or future potential), any mental flaws (crazy, spooky, horrific ground manners, etc), confirmation that was not ideal for jumping, suuuuuuuuuper green, and I didn’t really want a horse that I needed a crop and spurs to get moving. But I wanted a horse with Roger’s personality more than anything….call me crazy.

    I think I ended up with a pretty great guy 🙂

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  2. Neurological symptoms would definitely be a potentially serious issue … but most anything else I’m okay with if the horse is otherwise “sound.” I don’t mind maintenance.

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  3. #1 deal breaker for me is DJD in the fetlock. Or anything in the fetlock. Even though I’ve managed to turn my horse with severe fetlock DJD into a 2nd/3rd level dressage horse, I feel like that’s a miracle and not something I want to deal with again. Plus, I kind of like jumping – even if just for cross training. If you’re going to deal with a horse with DJD, you have to take into consideration their pain tolerance and work ethic. Pig will work through anything joint related, he will not work through foot pain. Which reminds me. No more shitty feet. Please.

    A shitty personality is also a deal breaker. I don’t want to deal with a horse who doesn’t like to work, or want to be around me. Sure, that describes my horse last weekend — but he isn’t usually like that. If I had to deal with the attitude of last weekend all the time, I’d hate riding.

    Obviously other vet flaws you described knock a horse out for me. So does a previous suspensory injury, even if successfully rehabbed. I’ve seen too many of those re-injured with spectacularly bad results. Most other rehabbed soft tissue injuries are a non-issue for me.

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    • Ugh the feet! Murray’s are passable but not wonderful, and I think there’s a lot of good farriery that goes into that. Suspensory injuries are also scary, and I know lots of people will discount horses right away for them, but I’ve also seen a few horses with well-healed old bows go Prelim so it’s one to chew on for me.

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  4. Neuro is a no go for me, also not keen on tumors on a young grey horse. I’m dealing with the bad arthritis in the hock now, but I’m not sure it’s something I would want to do again.

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    • You know, I really appreciated a post of yours I read a while back about Simon’s arthritis and how it is manageable for your goals and you’re both still having fun. It really made me think about soundness and intended use, it was very usfeful.

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  5. I’m not very well funded so pretty much everything is a deal breaker for me… hence why I went for the young sound horse. Of course, that backfired because I’ve spent $$$ in epm treatment and trying to figure out what the heck is causing his attitude issues (looks like it may have been a simple fix- turn out. dang it for all the wasted dollars.) So, it’s always an uncertain thing, but I think you’ve created a good list of absolutely unmanageable things in terms of money wise.

    Like Lauren, my first horse was 14 and had some arthritis issues but it was manageable- he was perfectly sound with proper management (that wasn’t too expensive). I didn’t even go to have his hocks injected until he was 24- and by the time we had set the appointment, his condition had worsened drastically so we made the decision to put him down instead. (I think it was something other than arthritis that caused him to suddenly go really lame, maybe even epm). But until then, it was just a moderate level joint supplement and making sure to warm up slowly. He was a GREAT horse, and we easily did 3’3″-3’6″. He would have been a fantastic eventer. Older horses can be more maintenance, but they make it up for it in their wisdom and experience.

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    • Yeah you know, if I were in a different place in my life/riding, managing arthritis wouldn’t be the end of the world. C’est la vie. You get major props from me for managing that EPM though!

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  6. fingers crossed that you find none of these things in your PPE! i actually (stubbornly) try not to think too deeply on this subject while i’m happily in the land of non-owner status haha

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