Horse Shopping, Part 2
Horse Shopping, Part 2
Thinking about buying a horse? In Part 1 of this series, a couple of equine professionals discussed purchasing cow horse and roping horses. The series finishes with a look at purchasing cutting and reining horses.
Templeton, California, cutting horse trainer Morgan Cromer doesn’t get in a hurry when shopping for a cutter suitable for one of her amateur customers. The main attributes Morgan relishes in horses are being cowy; having lots of heart and try; the way they move; and how they are broke. Fitting the new horse to her amateurs creates an added challenge.
“We have our strengths and weaknesses, and so do the horses,” Morgan says. “I think the biggest thing is making sure you find the appropriate level of horse for the level of rider. Horses and riders who are already in my barn are easier to match because I know them well. But sometimes, it takes months to find the right horse, and it can be very frustrating when you want to get someone mounted.”
According to Morgan, cutting horses with a prowess for smooth stops and turns are an important asset for the green rider. Those streamlined, fluid-moving horses allow competitors to relax and think about the basics of their run, rather than worrying about being jarred around. Instead of riding in survival mode, riders can concentrate on showmanship.
“A nervous rider on a nervous horse is not a great combination, but finding the right match can be tough,” Morgan says. “I have a guy who gets nervous about showing, so you think you need to find him a pretty calm horse. But if the horse is too calm, he gets nervous that it is too calm! He needs a horse that is going to spark up some for him before he can relax.
“One horse I bought him was too calm, and (the rider) got a little impatient and got to leaning his body around to get the horse started. I’m looking for a new horse for him now and have a better idea of what he needs.
“It is all about personalities, so fitting somebody to a horse that you don’t know is tough. It’s hard enough for me to try to buy a horse that fits me, let alone one that fits other people.”
Back in the day, sellers often allowed buyers to take horses home and test-drive them for a couple of weeks or take them to a horse show. With the escalation of equine prices, that is seldom an option, making the picking and choosing even more onerous.
“I think there are times when trying a horse might fit, but on the more expensive horses, (owners) are really not into doing that,” Morgan says. “A lot of times, it is an amateur, and nobody really wants someone new climbing on their best horse in the barn to try it … especially two or three times.”
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AQHA Professional Horsewoman Tanya Jenkins of Lexington, Oklahoma, prefers to match the horse to the rider rather than vice versa. Like Morgan, this reining trainer prefers to know clients and have knowledge of their drawbacks to be able to find a horse with the features to compensate.
“If my non-pro is an ultimately weak rider, I have to find a horse that can make up for that,” Tanya says. “In that case, I cannot have a horse that won’t lope correctly without the rider constantly pushing him with his or her legs. I need a horse that will pack the rider with ease.”
Tanya, who trained and successfully showed Spooks Gotta Whiz (Spooks Gotta Gun-Prettywhizprettydoes by Topsail Whiz) until he left her barn just days prior to winning the 2010 National Reining Horse Association Open Futurity, also prefers to mount her greener non-pros on horses that are slower thinkers mentally. She wants a horse that is willing to wait for a rider’s signals and not anticipate the next maneuver.
“Don’t get me wrong, I do want the horse to react fairly quickly to the rider’s cue, but I do not want them to over-think what the rider is thinking,” Tanya says. “These horses must be forgiving at all levels. My non-pros will make mistakes, and I need the horse to have the brain to (overlook the errors). If the horse is overly sensitive to a rider’s mistakes, it’s not going to work.”
Because reining is one of the more visual disciplines, Tanya believes mounting her customers on a proportionately sized horse is important.
“If I have a rider who is 6 foot 6 inches, I really don’t want a horse that is 13.3 hands,” she says with a chuckle. “I do try to find a somewhat relevant size for the ultimate match. I have to remember that this will be that rider’s horse for quite a while. Although riders can and do ride horses of all sizes, consideration is also given that smaller horses may have a little shorter stride, making them a bit more rough to ride.”
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Fitting the Bill
There are so many trainers, professional and amateur riders, horses and oh so many variables within the assortment of disciplines. No wonder putting together those six-legged partnerships can look like a jigsaw puzzle.
And if you thought the basic matchups were tough to fit together, the individual considerations just add to the challenge.
“When I choose a horse for a top non-pro vs. a greener reiner, I have a lot more options to work with,” Tanya says. “I can look for a younger, greener horse like a 3-year-old.”
Trainer Les Oswald of Oakdale, California says that the horses he sells to amateurs or lower-numbered team ropers are horses he has had on his place for at least three months.
“We kind of know them inside out because we don’t want any surprises,” he says.
Finding the right horse for a customer is a really tough part of her business, Morgan adds.
“But it is a really important part because the amateurs and non-pros are what make our business roll,” she says.