For starters, it's helpful to remember that requirements often change over time and are highly individualized. A horse in my youth was a Dream Horse at the time but he would not suit me now. As a twenty-something, broke, working student aspiring to turn my passion into a living, any ride that I lived through and learned from was a good ride. Now that I hold all three USDF medals and am approaching midlife my needs are not the same.
You may have longed for an FEI horse to compete Grand Prix at one time and realize now that's the last thing you're interested in; or you may know that you're happiest working independently trying to figure it out on your own, and seek out professional help on an as needed basis. Or you could be looking for a school master that you can learn from through someone else’s training efforts.
The point is Dressage Horses aren't a one-size-fits-all kind of deal.
We have all heard the value of planning in life decisions. We believe the reason 90% of serious horse buyers don’t own their Dream Horse after 90 days or make the wrong decision is that they have no “defined” plan.
Jeff and I routinely see better planning done in preparation for a horse show than buying the horse! Show us someone who has been looking for months and striking out and we will show you a flawed planning process.
Buying your Dream Horse is an emotional decision. Emotions are your friend and at the same time an enemy that cannot always be trusted. In horse buying, emotions must be managed to lead to the best decision. Emotional management begins with self reflection followed by written planning to maintain focus while screening then trying horses.
Your Dream Horse could be one that takes you from here to retirement, or one that gives you a burst of learning and accomplishment and prepares you for the next level in your riding pursuit. Some dressage horse seekers are burnt-out on the frenetic pace and demands of the competitive dressage and want to retreat to a quieter, slower pace. Some just want to have fun and do a few local shows. Others would be bored to tears if they weren't competing in Florida CDI’s or Devon bound. What are your goals and time frames? Write them down, please!
What are your Goals for you and your new partner to be?
Some of us love to work with sensitive, huge moving horses that can explode and be channeled into a jaw dropping performance, while others need a friendly, supportive horse that couldn't care less about our worst mistake.
Sitting on an 18 year old schoolmaster in lessons to learn movements is not the same as training a 3rd level very fit sensitive seven year old. Run this by your trainer and get honest feedback as any tendency to overstate abilities can get you into trouble later on and possibly hurt.
As you begin to write your plan, it's helpful to think about your new dressage partner in two separate categories:
In your first category, you'll list the "must have" criteria you will use to pre-evaluate horses:
Next, summarize your hard criteria into a written statement and refer to it daily for a week or longer to test and refine your must haves until you are certain and committed that it is truly what you want. Now is time for second thoughts, NOT when you are actually shopping.
Be as specific as you can. For instance, "I want a gelding that is competing at second level or higher, has gaits I can sit, will tolerate my ...losing my balance, tendencies to hang on a rein, that is not over 17H or under 15.2H.
A well thought out scope of “deal killers”, also makes it easier to identify potential horses and avoids wasting your, a professional’s, or the seller’s time, effort, or your money on the wrong match.
Budget is a major consideration for most buyers and it has to be realistic relative to the hard criteria. So, remember as you are deciding, must have criteria directly influence price and availability. When you begin shopping do not assume that prices are negotiable and shop within your budget.
Next, before you finish your profile and descripion for your match, let's revisit our process and identify some 'soft' attributes of your Dream Horse. After all, it's these soft elements that make great partners.
On this list, you want to dig into what makes your ideal partner appealing:
go to DressageHorseMatch.com and complete a search using your hard criteria and making no selection in "Bugetary Range". This will give you a list to help you see if your Bugetary Range is in line with the market for your required needs.
Congratualtions! If you are following the advice in this post: