The largest group of horse owners in the U.S.A. ride purely for recreation. For pleasure. For the relationship with the horse. To enjoy the out of doors activity.
The people involved in the competitive riding disciplines (Western, English, Dressage, Gymkhana, Rodeo, etc.) usually know what kind of horse they are looking for. They seek breeds recognized for their affinity for that sport. However, it has been my experience that a high percentage of the folks who just want a horse as a companion, and for non-competitive trail riding, often set goals that are irrelevant, or even inappropriate for their needs.
For example, many such people use color as a goal. They limit their search to Paints, or Pintos, or Palominos, or Buckskins, or some other color.
Other people use size as criteria. Others use gender – a mare – or a gelding – or, I’ve had several times when innocent buyers decide they need a stallion for weekend trail rides. These decisions limit their choices.
The breed of horse influences many buyers. They aim, for various reasons, to own a specific breed because they have a mental image of the horse’s role in society, or relate to the breed to a specific individual, or group of people.
Often these poorly oriented choices work out well, but I have seen so many that were bad decisions. Doing countless thousands of pre-purchase exams during my career, I remember how often I concluded my written report with a comment like this: “A healthy, sound horse, but not ideally suitable for casual recreational riding because of … (temperament, lack of smooth gaits, aptitude for competitive events the buyer has no intention of pursuing, susceptibility to certain problems either physical or mental, and so on.)
I remember, early in my career, when one of my clients, a racing thoroughbred breeder, asked me to do a pre-purchase exam on a gentle, well-trained gelding of nondescript breeding, for her grandchildren, who visited monthly, to ride. I detected early ringbone and warned the client, but she bought the horse anyway.
Half a year later she phoned me and said, “Do you remember the horse you examined for my two grandkids when they visited me? Well all’s been well and we all love the horse. He’s so sweet. But, now that they’re learning to ride they like to trot, and I notice that he is a bit lame in the right fore. Can you check him?”
I did so and explained that I had warned her of the ringbone and its probable consequences.
She recalled no such warning. Her decision had been emotional and she had dismissed my negative advice from her memory.
From that day forward, I gave each client a written report when I did a pre-purchase exam, and filed a copy in my records. I also told them that I filed a copy of my report for every pre-purchase exam I did. My practice partners did the same.
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