By Sue Palmer
I came across a blog recently from a lady called Vicki Wilson (https://www.vickiwilson.nz), who offers what she calls ‘Sore Horse’ clinics. I haven’t met Vicki, since she lives the other side of the world, but I really like what I’ve read so far of her work, and from what I can tell, she follows a very similar philosophy to me.
I was interested to read her blog ‘How to choose a horse’ (https://www.vickiwilson.nz/blog/how-to-choose-a-horse?), which came through in one of her free newsletters that I signed up to. I particularly like that she talks a lot towards the end about how important it is to recognise the huge change for a horse in moving home. Some take it in their stride, but many don’t. Just because a horse ‘misbehaves’ when he comes to live with you doesn’t necessarily mean that you made the wrong choice, or that you bought him from someone ‘dodgy’ who had drugged him, etc. Horses behave differently in different environments. Vicki encourages the reader to consider how we expect a fostered or adopted child to have an extended period of adjustment to their new home, and so why would we expect a horse not to need something along those lines?
She also talks about how one of the most important characteristics of the ‘right’ horse for you is that he enjoys the work that you are asking him to do. I find some horses who are incredibly sore continuing to compete at a high level with their ears pricked and seemingly thoroughly enjoying themselves, and others who really don’t seem sore at all but clearly aren’t enjoying their ‘job’. Often, a horse will pick up on what his rider loves doing, and he will enjoy the same thing. So if you’re a happy hacker, your horse will enjoy hacking, for example. But this isn’t always the case.
Something else I recommend is to look at the horse’s competition record, if it’s available. If there is an extended period when the horse wasn’t competing, is there a valid reason for this? I advise everyone to get a new horse vetted (5 stage if at all possible), and ideally checked over by a physical therapist (www.rampregister.org) as well for more information. And personally I would ask for the horse’s veterinary history, and if the owner wasn’t willing to give permission for this, I’d question why that might be. My medical history belongs to me, not to the GP practice of where I’m currently living, and I believe that the horse’s medical history belongs to him, not to the previous owner or to the vet practice he was previously registered with.
There are, of course, ways and means for determined sellers to ‘hoodwink’ buyers, and even the most thorough checks will not guarantee you the horse that you think you are buying. But if you can be sensible about it, ruled by head as well as heart, then you have a greater chance of buying the ideal companion to share precious time with.
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