self discovery through… horse shopping?

Well, it’s happening. I’m horse shopping. I’ve already been to see two horses, and with any luck will see two more this week. It’s insane. Now that I’ve started arranging to try horses, I can’t seem to stop.

I wish I’d written more about my journey with Fergus this year, but it turns out that farm life — even in the quarantimes — is demanding. Luckily, I invested in a cute little Moleskine notebook (but, in classic Nicole fashion I somehow bought a 2019 one so had to start changing days/dates after Feb 29 this year, which is when I noticed) so a lot of what I learned and discovered is preserved. I’ve spent plenty of time poring over the blog archives and comparing them to my journal and headdesking repeatedly.

If you’d asked me even ten days ago what I am shopping for, you would have gotten some version of the following bullet points:

  • something to go Training on in the next 2ish years
  • a horse who wants to work with his rider, not somebody who has to be convinced to play every day
  • has to pass a comprehensive PPE (this is what I get for having a sports medicine vet as one of my best friends)
  • age/sex/breed not important — but small is great, love me something under 16 hands
  • please not grey

What have I tried so far?

this, I tried one grey this

A green 6yo and a track broke 7yo.

And now we’ll skip around in time for a second — I promise it’s relevant — to talk about the last monthish in Oregon.

We had fires. I grew up in Australia (it’s flammable) and California (also flammable) and I have never experienced fires like these fires. The fires started overnight on September 6th in Oregon with a huge wind storm. On September 7th I worked in the orchard and felt the smoke come in throughout the afternoon. September 8th, I met with a fellow farmer in the morning and he showed me some apocalyptic pictures of smoke-darkened skies in Jefferson. September 9th, I woke up to this.

no filter, not a joke

On September 10th we moved the horses from TrJ’s barn to a lovely barn in Washington (really just over the border). It was a precaution and not needed, but it was very much a “better safe than sorry” situation since there is one road that services 3 large barns, many private homes, and an entire golf course subdivision. Imagining the traffic if we had all tried to evacuate at the same time is the stuff of nightmares.

no no, this is fine, this is definitely not the apocalypse, don’t trip

Anyway, as with all of us affected by significant smoke, Ferda took some time off after the fires. We got lucky and a nice rainstorm cleared out the smoke on September 18thish. So since then we’ve been walking. And ground poles-ing. And playing with the stability pads. And stretching. And calisthenics-ing. And walking.

Yesterday I finally popped on for a bit of a trot. I didn’t like it.

I have enjoyed Ferda for months now. He’s sweet. He’s fun. He’s small. He’s relatively easy to influence with my seat and biomechanics. But it took all of one ride on a horse that matched my biomechanics a bit better to realize that I don’t like it that much.

So I mulled over it for some days and talked to my people. Horses with training typically come with training and musculoskeletal patterns that are hard to break them out of. Maybe those are patterns I’m totally down with. Maybe the aren’t. I’ve been working on overriding mediocre action patterns with better action patterns in Fergus for nine months now and it feels like hitting my head against a wall. The second he got a month off he popped right back in to the old patterns — hard. And those patterns are…. not patterns I chose or love.

one more of greyhorse because it’s what i’ve got that’s not apocalyptic

So now I’m questioning everything — EVERYTHING — about what I’m looking for in a horse. And honestly, it’s made me think deeply about what I really want in my next horse. Here, in this area, for me, it seems like finding a horse who can bop me around training in the next 2ish years might be a stepping-stone horse. Those horses are great. They are worth their weight in gold. Do I want that horse? DO I want the quirks that comes with that horse in my budget?

I’m not sure.

Do I want to deal with movement patterns I didn’t create? What is it worth for me to jump around 3’3″ cross country? Am I willing to play by that horse’s rules (and maybe that trainer’s?) just to do that?

So. Bizarrely. After saying I was looking for and wanted something for months, I find myself thinking I maybe want something else. I’m not sure. Maybe one of the more educated horses I try will be the right biomechanical and body fit for me. But I just don’t know.

kinda what I want is now-me to ride 2014-Murray and make fewer mistakes

For now, I’m keeping an open mind and being probably the world’s most annoying horse shopper. TrJ has for sure given up on me, though — bless her — she still shares videos of promising creatures with me despite the fact that I veto 70% of them on sight. And I’m just… messaging sellers who have horses that interest me that I think I might get along with.

10 thoughts on “self discovery through… horse shopping?

  1. Glad you made it safely through the fires — 2020 has been just one big dumpster fire after another, frequently literally! I’m excited to follow along on your horse shopping journey 😁

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  2. I had an old schoolmaster for the past couple of years to learn the ropes on, and dealt with his body/training issues. I now have two young horses, one off the track with stiffness/soreness/connection issues, and one that I raised from 6 mo old and was just started under saddle. I have to say that I am loving riding the horse that I started the most. She is green of course, but it’s so nice to start with a blank slate and not have to deal with correcting/changing any bad habits or even buttons that work slightly differently than you want them to. Having a schooled horse is very nice in certain ways, but I really feel like in the future I want the ones that I get to start myself so they are molded to the way I ride, and not anyone else.

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  3. I’m excited for you!! Good luck with horse shopping, I recently did it myself and it was an interesting time to be buying a horse. I ended up with something different than what I initially thought I wanted as well, but I couldn’t be happier! You will learn more and more what you really want, but I will say the one non-negotiable factor- totally agree with the passing a comprehensive PPE!

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