Just like every other horse crazy girl, I wanted to own a horse. I begged and begged but my mom never budged. She was a single mother and taking on a horse would be like taking on another child. Eventually my mom and I came to a conclusion. If I saved up enough money to foot the initial cost of the horses and the bill for a year and a half of board, vet care, farrier, etc. then I could buy a horse. Now I saved and saved for just over two and a half years. I literally saved every penny that came my way. Now by this time I had been at my barn for a little over two and a half, almost three, years. I decided that I wanted (or needed) a change. I wanted to ride horses that challenged me as a rider. Now don’t get me wrong, those school ponies were challenging, but I needed something more. More independence. So I continued saving for a horse but I also looked into leasing a horse. Let me just say, the horse community around me is not very big, so finding a horse suitable for a half lease was difficult and I only came up with one result: a huge OTTB mare. I had been riding 14 hands and under for the past almost three years so I was like: “Yes! This should be great!” Well not quite. I set up a time to look at a horse I had a feeling was to much for me. Amateur mistake? Maybe. To this day I don’t know whether to thank myself or degrade myself honestly. Anyways, middle of July came and my mom and I were driving out to see this horse. She was only about 20 minutes away from my house which was nice, but the whole 20 minutes I sat there nervously. Had I made a mistake?
Fast forward to arriving. We drove down the long drive and parked next to a slightly beaten up round-pen. From left to right in front of us, there were three pens, a hay shed, and a bright crimson colored tack shed. A tall, seal bay horse was tied to one of the hitching posts with a young women brushing out her already glimmering coat.
I jumped enthusiastically out of the car and tried to calmly walk towards the horse and her owner. The horse whipped around, best she could, and snorted. She looked at me long and hard while the woman continued to tack her up. After meeting the horse and her owner we walked up to the round pen. The tall Thoroughbred was let go into the round pen and my ohhhh my, she galloped around for 10 minutes straight.
Not a good sign. But it was all good. Just like anytime you go to try out a horse, I asked the young woman to get on her first. She talked while she rode in the walk, trot, and some left lead canter. She gave me lots of pointers, my brain was over flowing with new information. Ten minutes or so passed by and I finally got on. Everything went well and I was on and walking. The round pen was a good size so we had plenty of space to move out nicely in the walk and trot. I rode for a good while before deciding that I was done and got off. While helping untack my brain kept repeating three words: She’s to much. She was to much, to be honest. But my stubborn self couldn’t get that stupid horse out of my head. The whole time we were on vacation after that, I though about her.
Sally, Sally, Sally.
So like any unintelligent human, I when to try her out again. The exact same things happened. The same things happened up until September, when we signed the lease. The lease was on a month to month basis, so if it became to much, we could back out whenever. My father payed $100 for the lease and every 4 to 6 weeks I payed $75 for her to get adjusted by the chiropractor.
Long story short, both Sally and I got bored of just riding in the round pen. She had gotten much better and was able to canter on both leads & jump just fine. But she was still so much horse. When she was given to the young woman that owned her she hadn’t been restarted after coming off the track. Sally sat for 6 or 7 years until she was restarted as a riding horse. Then she sat for another 6 months for so when the lady that owned her decided she was to much. To much energy, to much anxiety, to much of everything! But me, being a determined little shit, I decided to give this horse a second (or third?) chance. Sally wasn’t the horse I wanted. Fact is, she was far from it. I wanted a nice but challenging horse that would jump the moon for me. Sally the exact opposite. She kicked out, she bit. She was a nervous wreck and didn’t trust me. But, I had just left the barn that I was at and had no other horse to ride. Yes, selfish but I didn’t care.
It was a good thing I stuck with her. She has been the most challenging horse I’ve ever ridden. I’ve ended up on the ground, I’ve been bruised. I’ve wanted to give up. But, Sally taught me how to ride. She was ten steps up from school ponies and made me want to quit. But she truly taught me how to ride. She has bucked, kicked, bitten, and everything in between. With sticking my heels in though, I’ve learned so much. She has taught me more than 75% of what I know today. And let me just say, it’s the horses that leave us in the dust after a bucking fest that make us true equestrians.
I’ve never had such the reward that I got from Sally. She went from a real wreck of a horse to a literal puppy dog. She follows me around and trusts me more than anyone. She’s become one hell of an eventer and we’ve gone home with many ribbons. But to see such a change has been the most rewarding thing ever. And, now I have a best friend for life.
Needless to say, before you buy a horse consider leasing. Whether it’s a half or full lease consider it. Because you don’t want to buy a horse that your either going to grow out of skill wise or height wise. Or both. When you buy a horse, that horse better challenge you and make you a better rider, not cart you around. The best advice I’ve ever heard, not that I knew that at the time, was:
“I bought my first horse at 18 years old. I had been riding for over 10 years. The horse I bought came straight off the track and was mentally and physically the most challenging thing I’ve ever had to deal with. If your going to buy a horse honey, don’t do it now. Lease a horse, just experiment riding around! See what you really want to do.”
*Horses name has been changed for privacy reasons