Welcome back to the mini- blog series explaining how we managed to find Annie’s ‘Dream Horse’. Last Sunday left us with a list of 7 potential horses that Annie was willing to test ride and this week I will start to unfurl all of the events that happened- starting with our first two horses. Let’s just say, it was an eventful weekend and we learned some very important lessons along the way!
THE TERRIBLE TEST RIDES
Last Sunday I explained how important it is to request video footage of someone riding the horse before you book a test ride. I cannot stress this lesson enough! Unfortunately there are many people in the horse world who just want to make a quick sale and it is all too easy to create a positive sounding advertisement. Annie and I quickly came to this realization after trialing the first two horses- it was a complete DISASTER!
The advertisements seemed perfect; a 14.2 Appaloosa mare and a 16.1 ‘allrounder TB mare’ by the same owner. I originally phoned about the Appaloosa and I was promised by the owner that the pony was safe and respectable. I was told that an eleven year old girl was currently using the pony to learn how to ride and the pair had been going to little schooling shows on weekends. It sounded so perfect!
On the arrival things seemed a little ‘off’ to say the least. Both of the horses had not been touched as I had requested but the energy seemed completely wrong. The owner was quick to explain that we had come during their dinnertime so both the mares were hungry and frustrated. Tacking up seemed easy enough though so we didn’t ask too many questions there. The owner then jumped on the pony and trotted her down the driveway and back up to the barn as a ‘warm up’. Immediately my alarm bells started going off. The pony’s eyes were bulging out of her head and she just seemed really tense. It was here I made my second mistake- I didn’t get on the pony first. As Annie had some confidence issues I had come a long for support but when the owner handed the reins to Annie, I never spoke up and demanded the first ride. Standing at 5’10 myself, I have very long legs and the pony was quite fine-boned, I thought I wouldn’t quite fit in the saddle. But I now realize this is was entirely the wrong decision- no matter what, the more experienced rider should ride first!
Poor Annie jumped up on this pony and we all followed the owner down the driveway. Now, all the photos of this pony being ridden were within a grass field so I assumed we were all headed in that direction. The stables was at the top of a small mountain and the road we came onto was steeply sloped downwards so the poor pony was slipping and sliding in all directions. Not exactly a great test ride environment. We continued down this slope for approximately five more minutes. The pony was getting more and more worked up and Annie was becoming increasingly tense in the saddle. I then asked if there was a field that we could use to try the pony instead. The owner said her stables didn’t have a field they could ride in and she only ever used the roads… it was time to stop. Annie jumped off the pony and said thank you but no thank you to the owner- the pony just wasn’t the one for her.
The owner was understanding enough but the walk back up to the stables was slightly awkward to say the least. She then asked if we would like to see the Thoroughbred mare she had for sale. I think it was safe to say Annie and I were thinking the same thing…but we had already made the drive out there so it couldn’t hurt to at least have a look at the other horse… right?
BIG MISTAKE! The events that happened next were like something from a Hollywood film! It all happened so fast. The owner threw the tack off the pony and onto the horse in less than a minute. She loosely tied the pony to a post in the stables and led the Thoroughbred outside. The second the horse turned the corner the pony reared straight up in the air, breaking the post she was tied to and took off down the driveway! The owner and Annie were nowhere in sight. I couldn’t just let this pony run free around the yard so I ran after it and had to entice it into the stables. By the time I had the pony safe inside the stables, Annie and the owner had reappeared. Annie’s face was as white as a ghost. She turned to me and said, ‘Tia, you need to get on this horse first.’
It was already clear this wasn’t the horse for Annie but wanting to be polite I jumped on. The owner then led us to a beautiful grass riding field (the one that didn’t exist before). We were then left to try out the horse as the owner turned out the pony (who had started to make a commotion in the stables). It was very clear within a few minutes that the horse was a ticking time bomb. With its head stuck way up in the air to avoid contact with the bit, it was snorting and trying to spin out of a circle. Annie quickly explained to me that whilst I was dealing with the pony the horse had taken off with the owner when it saw a herd of sheep. With this in mind, I tried a few trot circles to see if it would calm down ( I was really trying to find a positive). Although a few 20 meter circles did help a little, it was already clear that this was not Annie’s ‘confidence giver’ she wanted. We both decided it was time to leave.
I jumped off the Thoroughbred and led her back up to the stables and explained to the owner that although she had ‘lots of potential’, she clearly wasn’t the mare for Annie. The owner didn’t seem at all worried, she took the reins from my hands and led the horse into its field which just happened to be next to Annie’s car. As the owner took the bridle off, the Thoroughbred pushed past her, barged through the gate and took off at a flat gallop past Annie and I and all the other cars and literally disappeared into the distance. The laughing owner waved us goodbye as she skipped past us to catch her loose horse…
It took both Annie and I a good hour (and a McDonald’s) to process what had just happened. It was an unexpectedly traumatizing experience but the lessons were learned- you can never believe anything you read in the adverts or hear from the owner. And no matter what, the more experienced rider should ride first. Although both shaken and dazed from the first try, we decided we couldn’t give up now. We had five more horses lined up and the others couldn’t be as bad as this one….could they??