My quest to jump 1.30s has been stalled by horse injuries. Both the eventers are in rehab, and my young horse Lenny has torn a pectoral muscle. All will make a full recovery, but it’s left me twiddling my thumbs and itching my feet!
So, I’ve been off exploring options for getting access to some horse power! The first of course is to buy some. But how on earth do you go about finding the right horse? Our shopping trips in the UK visiting nice sounding horses from the equestrian websites, in our budget range, have been pretty disastrous, with the majority of horses being either very quirky, unsound or just very average.
It has occurred to me that generally the problem with the UK market is that unless you go to a specialist producer, we tend to buy horses with the intention of keeping them. Therefore, many that end up on the market do so for a reason. I think we also have a rather unrealistic view of the value of professionally produced horses, because we all know they are really expensive to produce properly!
So, expectations adjusted, we set off to Ireland, where all horses are FOR SALE. That’s just the culture, yes they ride them, love them, compete them, but if the price is right, the horse is on the market; I think this is the reason why some great horses tend to be found here. Of course, there are plenty of dodgy ones too, but there are definitely a higher percentage available to purchase.
So, correct budget, some inside info on the good guys and the cowboys, and off we go. In one day trip (£20 Ryanair) from Edinburgh, we have found 5 horses which would all suit perfectly. Now the next problem, how to you choose the best one?
I was given some fantastic advice recently from a friend I met at the Monart sales, “Find a matching canter…”
What’s that then? Well, it would appear that it’s not as simple as a good or bad canter, the golden nugget you are looking for is a canter that instantly feels good to you. You can get into canter easily, you enjoy staying in canter, you just want to do it for ever! You want one you feel the urge to slightly ride forward, not one you want to hold back, and that’s your matching canter! And it’s not to do so much with your standard of riding, but more body biodynamics and weight ratios etc. Really interesting concept, and so that’s the horse I have bought!
And here he is, Olaf, my new pony who matches my canter!
But, what if you aren’t in a position to buy? Well I’m also embarking on a leasing deal of a lovely top class showjumper called MFS Dandyman. Leasing is really popular in the US, but for some reason, not so common here. The way my deal works is that I pay 25% of the value of the horse per annum and insure him. For that I have full use of him for the agreed purpose (in this case showjumping) and I can limit both my financial outlay, and my risk – in case our canters don’t match – or he becomes permanently unsound, or my circumstances simply change.
Dandyman is lovely, a real top class jumper and I would never have the confidence to buy a horse like this without a lease arrangement, because I just don’t know if I’ll be good enough to do him justice. I have promised his owners I shall surround myself with experts to ensure we end the lease quickly if it looks like I am devaluing Dandyman in any way. I think the key to a successful lease relationship is openness, communication and honesty from both parties.
If it works well, it could be the best of results for both parties. I will get the chance to sit on a world class horse, and his owners will generate an income from their passion and hobby without having to part with a horse who they dearly love and who is a big part of their lives. Here’s hoping we can make it work!
So there we are – two strategies for acquiring top class horsepower…
Now I can get back on my campaign trail. I’ve put on a stone in weight already with having no ponies to ride!