Think of your horse and remember they do break.

I was terrified when I decided I needed another horse because Snake’s soundness was becoming less and less reliable. He will always be with me, no matter what, he’s my heart horse and holds a very special place in my heart. As he became lame more often I consulted with several vets. I settled on Old Waterloo, they really know the Sporthorse best and I really like their team. When I ask what Snake can and can’t do I got the answer I knew was coming. The vet said no eventing for him, ever. Small jumping here and there for fun, but eventing was absolutely out of the question. And that’s okay. He did a great job in his earlier years and there was no reason for me to push him and break him down later on for selfish reasons. I wish he could event because he’s be one heck of an eventer. For now we will stick to hunters, trails and dressage; and just give him time to rest and heal up. He’s an amazing athlete who wants a job so it is now just a matter of figuring out what the best and safest job is for him. I want him around as long as I can. I won’t allow anyone to push me into making a choice that will damage his quality of life. There were a few other factors, like a farrier really messing him up, but that’s a whole other story. With that I will say be the most educated horse owner you can. Our horses count on us to be their advocate. Take the responsibility seriously.

I got Snake from Steven’s father and he was a reiner. That’s hard on the joints but that horse loved it. He also worked cows like a champion. (As he should, his Sire was a two time world champion in steer stopping.) But it never occurred to me to do x-rays on Snake. He was always sound, never had any issues that I noticed other than stiffness and he worked out of that. But having current rads and knowing what is going on inside made me decide then and there, I’d always make sure I knew what was going on with my next horse, even if there was nothing to worry about.

But now what was I to do? I wanted either a very well schooled dressage horse or an event prospect. I didn’t want to buy anything over the age of 6, and a super nice and trained dressage horses are big bucks and not likely to be found so young. So it looked like I was going to go the eventer route. I knew I wanted green. I didn’t want to have to untrain bad habits. I knew the horse would have to have the conformation to hold up to the high physical demands of the sport. Eventer confirmation is actually pretty intense and it is much different than that of other disciplines. You really need to be on the ball and know what to look for and what your level of riding will top out at, or where you are willing to stop. You can get a great Training Level horse but if she tops out there and you want to keep going there’s going to be problems. Don’t expect that horse who has served you well moving up the levels be pushed too far and have her breakdown or struggle. That’s totally unfair. But it happens. ALL. THE. TIME. Please, keep that in mind when horse shopping and when you are asking things of your current mount.

I dreamed of a wonderful imported Dutch Warmblood or something like that, but again that’s like throwing money in a fire. One breed I’ve always known to be great at eventing is the Irish Sport Horse but you don’t see them all that often in the US. (At least I don’t. I’ve only ever come across two before Bella.) Untrained they still cost a boat load so I never thought I’d even have a chance to even look at one. Horse buying can be a scary business, so I was really worried. They can be sound and perfect one day, pass the PPE,  and the next have run through a fence and ended their career before it ever started. What happens if you just spent 20K on an unridable horse? Insurance, sure, but it doesn’t help soften the blow. So, the search for my new event prospect began….

When I saw Bella Bay, a 4 year old ISH mare,I knew she was worth the risk just by her pictures. I had been looking at her ad several times a day fretting about what to do. I couldn’t stop thinking about her and I had yet to meet her. My Grandpa went with me on the 2 hour drive to see this horse. He’s not a horse man persay, but he is about seeing his Granddaughter happy. He knew I was so excited to meet this horse and he went to support me.

First and foremost she had personality and presence. She was sweet, kind and wanted attention. She knew when she was being watched and turned on the charm. You can’t train that and so few horses have that. That is Snake to the letter, so I didn’t know if I would ever find anything that even came close to his greatness. She had so much charm she thought she’d flirt it up with my Grandpa, asking for pets and batting those lovely little lashes.

I felt she moved nicely and her conformation was good for the level of eventing I would do. (I’ll never be facing crazy huge fences.) Uphill, medium length back, deep girth, shorter cannons, beautiful shoulder, her neck tied in well to her body, and she was pretty! She seemed to have sense and that’s a HUGE thing I want. I need her to help get us out of bad spots. She has some flaws but no horse is perfect. Her feet need work. I think she’s kinda cow hocked,  and a few other negatives. But there wasn’t any that made me say no way. She’s catty, thoughtful, she uses her body when she free jumps, so let’s hope that happens under saddle.

I’m getting a full work up this week so we have a baseline on her for the future. I did not do this with Snake so when he started to go down hill, there wasn’t much I could do to stop or reverse damage and I didn’t know what it looked like when he was sound. For him now it is about control and comfort. It was a hard lesson learned and I won’t make that mistake twice. I for sure bought Bella off my gut instinct so a more in depth post PPE might turn up something scary, but let’s hope not. And if it did, we’ll deal. She can be a dressage queen and still excel at that. I have no problem going that route if needed. But I want to make sure that I do what is in HER best interests and not what I THINK I want. I never want to be the horse owner who rides their horse into the ground for selfish reasons.

We see this so often in the horse world. People think they have the best of the best when in reality if you really look the horse is hurting.  They horse could be working at a better level if a few steps back were taken, or the horse wasn’t being pushed too hard. Or they are asking them to compete in something that is so not their bag. Why do this? It frustrates your horse, it makes rides not fun for you and you risk damage to your horse in the end. I’ve see vets tell people their horse shouldn’t be an eventer, or reiner, or whatever but the owners brush it off and carry on. They say, “So what? This is what I want to compete in.” Inevitably their horse breaks down and they talk about how heart broken they are. Or there are the people who are really so blind they just don’t see it and they honestly believe that they are the end all be all in horse knowledge and do whatever they want consequences be damned.

It just makes me upset when I see people running these lovely, kind, hard working delicate creatures into the ground. But what can you do? Not much. Just do what you can for your horse and do the best you can.

And in the interests of education, we need some photos. Here are some on Snake’s rads. Not horrific, but not good either. You’ll see why he needed injections, ringbone and more. It is pretty interesting. And these are just the feet. I need to get the hocks rads. Those are even more interesting.

And let me end this by saying, I am not perfect. I have made my fair share of mistakes. Most of the time I honestly thought I was doing what was right for my horse but it turned out it was the wrong choice. It trusted people who I shouldn’t have. I have pushed when deep down I knew something was wrong. But I can fess up to this. I can respect other people’s opinions and I value insight of others. Even if it isn’t advice I don’t take I think it is often still important to consider. The difference lies in this, I try not to repeat the same mistake twice for the sake of my horses. If more horse owners could do this I think the industry would be a much better place.

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