I don't beat around the bush, my responses are straight forward and blunt, especially if the welfare of horses, or humans, especially children, are at risk.
Recently one of Hubby's co-workers asked for some advice on buying a horse. He and his wife had decided to buy their eleven year old daughter a horse. Presently, they have nowhere to put the horse, but are working toward building a run-in shed and putting up fencing. Hubby had filled me in beforehand. I was already cringing during the intro chat but........Hubby referred the fella to me. Hubby is still relatively new to the whole horse thing, he usually defers horse questions to me. Hubby's specialty is premise maintenance and construction. He's great at that.
"Bob", not his real name, called me, well, Hubby called, but anyway......Bob asked my advice on buying horses. His first question concerned the age of a horse, as in what's a good age. He said they were looking at a 2 year old. I cringed. I told him for an inexperienced, young rider I would suggest anything between 7-15 years that has been ridden alot. He told me his daughter has been riding the neighbor's horse and knows all about horses. OKEY DOKEY. Has "Janie" taken any lessons in the past? Naturally, the answer was no, but she has learned about some horse care through a group she's in and from the neighbor girl. I am trying to keep my voice calm at this point, figuring I'm talking to a completely inexperienced person when it comes to horses. The family lives out in the country and own property. I thought maybe they'd been around horses in their lifetime. Evidently, only goats.
Though I've not had my fair share of riding lessons in my adult life, a child's parents I will always advise, GET LESSONS. Learn how to ride correctly. Learn about horse care before jumping into horse ownership. At the facility I worked at for a few years, I helped teach kids beginner riding lessons and horse care, I know the importance of safety. To this day I am amazed that parents will simply buy their kid a horse without themselves even knowing much about horses.
My next question concerned gender of the horse. I asked if they were looking at a gelding or mare, and hopefully not a stud colt. Bob hesitated and told me a gelding, he thought. hmmm. I wasn't convinced he was sure that's what the horse was. I told him the difference between a gelding and a stud colt, in case he wasn't sure and just didn't want to admit it to me. I also told him, in no way shape or form, in my opinion, should an eleven year old be trying to deal with a stud colt unless they were going to geld him soon. I could tell from the silence I might have hit on something there.
I also mentioned that if he could find a good trainer for a two year old horse, he would probably be better off to send it there before taking it home. Bob said he felt his daughter would be able to handle it. I feel I'm getting no where now.
Bob asked about saddles which I thought should be the least of his concerns at that point in time, but gave him my insights since he asked about the synthetic vs leather. I thought for a young girl a nice light synthetic would be ideal. We used them for our classes and for the 3 years I was at the facility, they held up well with little maintenance. Not like the leather anyway.
My personal inquiry to him was about a helmet for his daughter. Bob told me she didn't have one. I stressed the importance of getting her a good fitting helmet. He said he'd have to see how SHE felt about that. I was basically deflated at that comment.
OK, so zoom ahead to present time., probably about 2 months from the original phone call. Hubby informed me Bob had purchased a 2 year old mare, which I informed him at two, we're talking filly, but that's probably a mute point. Janie had been riding the filly at it's place of residence since Bob doesn't have their place set up yet. Bob said the horse's main problem was that is wanted to stop and eat grass. I'm getting this picture in my head of this little eleven year old girl, no helmet, pulling on the horse to stop eating grass......................these kinds of stories do make you cringe. It's hard to say how that little filly will act once it leaves it's farm. The man who owns the filly told Bob that she does OK with a group of horses. We all know as horse people, you ofte need to read between the lines when it comes to horse selling. Can't you see all the warning signs here? Hubby told me yesterday Janie was trying to ride the filly but the mare was being moody. I don't know the specifics of what happened, I can only guess. UGH! I'm sure none of them know what to do in that situation, or any of the situations that will probably come up.
I feel bad for the eleven year old girl who has dreams of that perfect horse until it does something not very cute, since it will probably have very little guidance and will act, well, like a horse. I feel bad for the horse. I hope the end result is better than my imagination of events.
I know myself, I have learned SOOO much about horses in the past five years. I was immersed in them through working at a riding facility. I learned things I didn't know, especially about behavior, having witnessed them first hand. I understand why people have problems when they simply bring a horse home or get the daughter a horse for her birthday.
Horses are not like dogs! They are big! They often won't stay when you tell them too, unless properly trained of course. They aren't always ready and willing to take on the day. My biggest concern for Janie and her family is that they get this filly home but she doesn't act "right". They don't know how to deal with her. Someone gets hurt or the horse gets forgotten because things weren't as easy as they thought they would be. Why oh why don't people at least find out what they're really getting into? I cannot imagine an eleven year old girl trying to manage a two year old horse of any kind, unless she's had proper training herself. To me, this situation appears to be a train wreck, one way or another, in the making. I hope I'm dead wrong but right now, things don't look to be on the brighter side.
I've sent my horse magazines to Janie and family. There have been some really good articles lately in Horse and Rider and Trail Rider. Maybe they will take the horse on as a family project. Hopefully they'll get the filly a buddy, if not another horse, then one of their goats. I also sneaked a DVD in the magazines about riding safely.
We all make choices, but as for myself I try to be informed. OK, I bought a 2 year old with very little training, but I was forty four years old and had spent a summer immersed in horses, as well as 3 years after that. I told Hubby to let Bob know I would be glad to help Janie with teaching ground manners to her new horse. I'm not one to teach much more than beginner riding, but I feel I have a good method with ground manners.
I may have overstepped my boundaries with my suggestions and advice anyway. You know, people often hear what they want to hear, and do what they want to do. Hubby mentioned that pricing of the 2 year old had alot to do with the purchase. That saddens me too, especially when an eleven year old child is involved. I remember telling Bob he may have to pay more for a well trained horse, but it would be worth it in the long run for his daughter.
It's times like these you wonder, should I give advice or not? I was asked, so I gave it as I see it. When it comes to the safety and well being of a horse and a child, I will always be blunt and truthful. I hope Janie's dreams of a perfect horse aren't doused. I hope no one gets hurt, including the horse.
Please, please, if you are thinking of buying a horse, but have no background or knowledge of horses, read up, or find someone who can help. A horse is not a dog! It's not that simple.