Saturday, July 13, 2013

Shouldn't Sane be at the Top of our Horse Shopping List?

"She found a horse."  Apologetically, she went on further, "She has a lot going on in her life now so he is a sane calm guy."

I've heard similar conversations to this many times and its something I don't understand.  Why do we have to "apologize" for having a sane horse and why isn't "sane" at the top of our horse shopping list?

Usually when you ask someone who is shopping for a horse they will give you a list a mile long -- a certain breed, height, color, training, etc. but rarely is sane at the top of the list -- if it makes it at all.   And then if they end up purchasing a horse with a little less "pizzazz" and more on the side of sane and calm, the purchaser feels like they have to justify why they compromised on the pizzazz.  "He's not super flashy but in a a few years I will be able to afford something a bit more flashy.  He's what I could afford right now."

I get why a professional dressage rider is going to look for that little extra oomph that is going to give them the extra flash in the ring.  I read something recently (not sure where or what the exact quote was) that a good dressage test is one that is just on the edge of disaster.  That is probably true of the top levels.  

The majority of dressage riders though will never reach the top levels and certainly are not riding them now.   Looking at the results of the last few schooling shows, there were NO riders past second level and a high percentage of riders were at Training Level or below.

Probably most of the riders don't just do dressage. Many of the horses may be family horses who serve roles giving pony rides, trail rides in the woods and sometimes just friends to their humans on a bad day.   Even the ones that are strictly dressage horses are probably ridden by owners who have responsibilities outside the ring -- children, work, elderly parents... well.... life.   These responsibilities and the fact that most of us have to work within the confines of weather prevent us from riding everyday and sometimes mean that we don't ride even every week.  So what should be the most important item on our shopping list?   Sanity!

Not to say the other characteristics aren't important.   Certainly we want flexibility and impulsion.   And there is nothing wrong with liking a bay over a grey or vice versa.  I just think we need to put sanity first.

And for once... I'd love to hear....  "She got a new horse.  Just wait until you see how SANE he is!"


  1. Completely agree! A friend of mine who is older was talking about possibly selling one of her horses. Her choices were the sane, well trained older horse or the young and slightly crazy less trained horse. She was really leaning toward selling the older one. I would've taken her sane, older horse in a heart beat.

    Personally, I think there are a lot of horses out there that could be sane with the right training, and the right owner. The problem is that a lot of us are unwilling to acknowledge that we lack the time, money, or skills to make it happen. I'm guilty of over estimating my skills in the past. But the trick is to recognize when you're over your head as quickly as possible, and either pay for the help you need, or get a horse that better fits your skills.

    Making a mistake in buying the wrong horse is forgivable, continuing to make the same mistakes and expecting different results is insanity.

  2. What a great addition to my posting! I forgot the very important part that if they underlying sanity is there, it may just be a training issue and its very important to get the help you need and be forthright in what you can and can't do. Perhaps the right word isn't "sane" but really "trainable". You want a horse that is willing to work with you and if you don't have that then you aren't going to get very far. Thanks for the great comment.

  3. When shopping for endurance horses, we call it a good mind. Soundness is always first in my book, but having a good mind is second on the list. If they can't/won't learn, what's the point? A horse with a good mind will take care of himself, meaning he's not going to do anything that will get himself hurt (crashing into things, falling off things, etc.), and as a bonus, hopefully he'll take care of you in the process! :0)

  4. Amen! I just wish more people would celebrate their horses's mind rather than downplay its importance. I had an old Appy that may have been one of the ugliest horses I've seen (that's another story but she had a big head and no mane or tail) but her mind was stellar. She saved me from many a mishap and until I got another horse, I thought I was a great rider. It was only after the second horse that I discovered that I just had a great horse that made me look good.


I love to get feedback and hear about your journey-- please share!