Thursday, July 29, 2010


I'm pretty sure that any of you who have spent time at horse events has witnessed this phenomenon: a woman (isn't it always a woman?) has purchased a beautiful, amazing horse because she can afford it but it's so far beyond her ability to ride the animal that she's either constantly watching her trainer ride (which is wise) or attempting to ride herself and gets seriously injured in the process. The mismatch is so patently obvious that bystanders can't even really admire the horse because of their very real fear for the safety and well-being of the rider.

I've seen this over and over, and it intrigues me. Why do people overmount themselves? I'm not talking about buying a green horse and working on him with your trainer or more-experienced friend. I mean the people who buy horses with international potential to poke around and do intro A and B at a dressage show. The problem with their purchase is that the horse has zero interest in a low-impact career and the ride immediately becomes dangerous.

It seems to me to almost always be late-middle aged women buying fancy warmbloods, but I prowl around the dressage and eventing worlds, but I'm sure it occurs in other disciplines.

There's a new horse at the barn. I think he's a grade appy gelding. He's older, unremarkable, and rather poorly put together. His straight shoulder contributes to his jackhammer trot and his weak hind end is something that no amount of conditioning can overcome. BUT. Someone put time into this horse. He's a lower-level dressage horse and he knows his job. He also knows exactly how to get out of his job, but he's never naughty about it. He is the perfect mount for his owner, a late-middle-aged re-rider trying to get back into the swing of things. He's not fancy, but he's safe and so much fun for her.

I really respect that woman for picking a horse that's suited to her instead of buying the fanciest green thing she can afford.


  1. I think the problem is a) the horse is beautiful and a fancy mover and many of us, myself included, are a sucker for a pretty horse, and if you've got enough money you can buy a really pretty horse, b) the trainer is promoting the horse for the rider - lots of built-in income for the trainer, c) many people overrate their riding abilities, and d) the horse was probably drugged by an unscrupulous dealer when the rider tried it which made the horse easier to ride. Call me a cynic, but I've seen all of the above occur, and it happens in all disciplines. I love it when people do good and even great things with plain-looking horses, or horses that are too small/big, or the "wrong" breed for the discipline.

  2. You are so correct. I just shake my head at the ladies that ride these HUGE expressive horses, torturing them at 3rd level in a DOUBLE BRIDLE because they cant get them on the bit in a snaffle, no helmet, just a tight bun and a sparkly rhinestone scrunchie, and usually appallingly bright red lipstick. Their expensive German trainer yells at them and telling them to do things like "sit up" or "lower your hands" or "lift your chin" (as if ANY of that will actually help!) while this poor horse goes around wondering what became of his life, haha...

  3. hmmm... what about poor kids that buy greenies after taking years off of competitive riding only to realize that they don't have one iota of training capability???

    Yeah, thats me. At least if I were wealthy I'd have a flashy warmblood and matching accented trainer ? ;)

  4. Money, prestige and the concept that the only way to win is to buy the horse with looks and talent.

    I think it's like buying designer clothes and shoes, etc. They may not be comfortable or practical, but they have the "label" and that gives bragging rights.

    Too me the shoes have to be comfortable and the clothes need to fit well and do the job. I'm that way with my horses now too, mostly because I no longer have the courage I had when I was younger. I never could afford "fancy" anyhow, but I was able to make my horses into successful competitors.

  5. Personally, I love those women! I used to ride their fancy horses for them, since they couldn't. They buy nice presents, too. My advice is to make friends with them! ;) I actually bought my Schoolmaster for next to nothing from a middle aged woman who was terrified of him because she was overhorsed.

    Seriously, though, I do see your frustration. Many of those women are simply in love with the idea of having an expensive, fancy horse and not really all that interested in being able to ride it. They want to talk the talk without walking the walk, as it were. Meanwhile us Po' Folks are schlupping around on whatever we can get and working for it. But, we're learning more and we get the satisfaction of beating the fancy horse on our "cheap" horses!

  6. LOL... I agree Shannon...maybe my comment didnt capture that! I LOVE them as well...endless entertainment and yes, the thrill of win is quite a high :) Good for you for getting one of those schoolmasters for a steal!

  7. It is so sad to see. In my last barn, a do it yourself place, it was an middle age woman with enough money and not enough experience that wanted to always be in the ribbons and someone sold her an upper level dressage horse when she could just about do training level. She could not understand why he did not behave for her or why he had bad habits like sticking his tongue out and actually got mad when someone said a more experienced rider made him look great. The poor guy just finally got ignored, for months, by his owner when she gave up. it was a terrible thing to witness! The horse was obviously frustrated and bored and the owner just did not have the tools to deal with fancy horse she got herself.
    It did end on a positive note when the horse ended up being moved to a full time training facility, last I heard he was a happy camper.

    And yes, this is not just a phenomena of dressage and eventing world, it happens in the hunter/jumper world as well. Trainers having to lunge a horse down or having to ride the horse several times a week just so the owner can get on and make it safely over the jumps.

    Good post!

  8. I plead guilty to being a middle-aged woman who likes to mount herself on the nicest horse that I can afford. My next horse will be a super nice horse who has committed the crime of getting older, but who still needs an experienced rider. These poor horses cannot be sold to beginners and their fate is uncertain. Although my dressage riding is almost non-existent, my seat is excellent, my hands are light and a normal horse is not likely to get me off. Then when I have learnt all that I can from this horse, he/she can join my unsound Thoroughbred in retirement. Is this going to be a learning experience? Absolutely!!! Is it going to be 'interesting'? Oh yeah!!!!!

    So some of us middle-aged women with a love of flashy horses are not totally mad. Just slightly!!

  9. Rachel: it's true. You don't have enough money to fit the profile. Also, I tend to not put Granite in the 'dangerous' category. ;-)

    kippen: I'm so glad there are people like you. There are plenty of difficult horses around who need someone to stick with them and enjoy them. Now, if you were to drop 75k on some Grand Prix horse and then proceed to break your leg, then I'd have to blog about you. ;-)

  10. As a groom, I worked for a woman like this. She had *three* horses -- none of whom she could ride -- and was basically scared to death of them. After a year of lessons and horse shows ending in tears, I finally convinced her to go get herself something safe and dependable, and not fancy. So she got "George," and he packed her butt around the 3' hunters very happily. And wouldn't you know, Mr. Clunky-Unfancy-Big-Head-Short-Neck started winning? Turns out, she started beating all her overmounted peers because George made her job so easy. We started calling him "Pretty is as pretty does." :)

  11. They are in all aspects of the horse industry. They are found at barrel racing, reining, h/j and just about every event you can think of that has horses involved.

    Sometimes they ditch the horses at a subtantially lower price than they paid for it, and other times- nobody knows where the horse went at all.

    I know a woman who paid $10,000 (which thy couldn't afford) for a horse that was young, green and no more than a cross breed reject, as her next big, up and coming jumper. They went through trainer after trainer and lessons with each. Now after having ruined the horse to the point she runs away with not only her but the trainer as well- she has decided to sell the horse. I cannot wait to see what the price tag is on the poor mare. Considering she is stil young- around 8-10 yrs old, I doubt there is much hope for her future.

    Kudos to the woman in your barn with the appy!

  12. I'm dangerously close to fitting this stereotype (although certainly not rich! And recognizing things can always go wrong, so far am doing okay with training, etc.), so maybe I should keep out of it. I find the discussion interesting though, and it's struck a chord given the # of comments. Just wanted to note that I've seen lots of young people with rich parents in this category too, and unfortunately I think it would tend to make them hate riding, when a safe, fun horse would have built confidence and saved a horse from being ruined or not meeting it's potential.
    Also, I see nothing wrong with an older person paying someone to train and show a nice horse for them (and the author didn't criticize this). There are worse things to spend money on and it keeps talented young trainers/riders in work and horses. Some of those older gals are tons of fun. I met several when they shared tables with us ringside at the World Dressage Masters in Wellington and they were fun, funny, warm and friendly and still passionate about good horses and dressage even as they recovered from the latest hip replacement. I loved them.
    Good post. Thanks for bringing up an interesting topic. I know your beef is with safety to riders and fairness to horses and I agree.

  13. I went to a dressage show yesterday where I saw this sort of thing. Family with money, daughter probably no older than 17 AT THE OLDEST, riding her 7 year old Friesian STALLION! The muscles in her arms from just half-halting him and the look on her face made me nervous!!! It was crazy!

    Yes, I own a wild beast of a creature, but she was totally green when I got her and we work with a trainer...well that's when she's not taking all my money for vet bills. Now I'm a better rider and can't ride her!


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