Buy­ing Horses

Dressage Today - - Book Excerpt -

I ’m not your av­er­age buyer,” says am­a­teur Grand Prix rider Alice Tarjan. She knows what she’s do­ing and has an eye for horses with po­ten­tial, whether they come from Europe or the U.S. “I’ll buy them wher­ever I find them,” she noted. “It’s eas­ier to find them over there [Europe], but if I buy them here,” Tarjan pointed out, “I don’t have to im­port them.”

What does she look for in a foal when she makes a pur­chase? She likes can­di­dates who are soft in their backs, but not those who point their toes.

“I want them to go like hack­neys: I want their knees up to their eye­balls,” Tarjan said. “That’s a sign they may be good in pi­affe and pas­sage. You look for a lot of scope,” she said, re­fer­ring to their stride. “They’re not scopey to me when they have no shoul­der.”

But there are ex­cep­tions to that rule—she cited Ger­man Olympian Is­abell Werth’s mount, Don John­son, and Bri­tish Olympian Carl Hester’s ride, Nip Tuck, who was third in the 2017 FEI World Cup Finals.

“They’re prod­ucts of su­per rid­ing. We’re talking about the best rid­ers in the world. They can get on horses who are not terribly in­spi­ra­tional and be com­pet­i­tive,” Tarjan com­mented.

When buy­ing a young horse, she ad­vises, “If you have a choice, you want one with scopier gaits.” The horse needs to be “a good type” and the ques­tion to be asked is, “Can you make him com­pet­i­tive?” The way the horse is built is cru­cial, which is why hav­ing one who is up­hill means he can be trained ef­fec­tively.

As an ex­am­ple of why con­for­ma­tion mat­ters, she ex­plained, “You could train a warm­blood to go fast, but he’s not go­ing to go as fast as a Thor­ough­bred,” which is bred for speed. For dres­sage, “You want a horse with self-car­riage, who goes along with up­hill and scopey gaits.”

She cau­tioned that what she does won’t ap­ply to every prospec­tive owner who dreams of train­ing her own horse. “I’m a dif­fer­ent buyer than your av­er­age Adult Am­a­teur. I can ride a dif­fi­cult horse, and I’m not buy­ing one to be my best friend, my one-and-only horse who I have to love. If it doesn’t work out, I can sell him af­ter mak­ing him a bet­ter horse and then find the next one.”

At the same time, since she’s not a pro­fes­sional, Tarjan notes she has an ad­van­tage. “When you have clients, you have to keep the clients happy and do what the own­ers want. That’s not go­ing to get you to be as com­pet­i­tive as you should be. I can ride the way I want.”

She doesn’t over­dra­ma­tize what she needs to have her horses do. “They just have to go around the sand­box. The sand­box is pretty much the same no mat­ter where you put it. Maybe there’s dif­fer­ent stuff go­ing on out­side it. But if they go in the ring and con­cen­trate on you, then you’re golden.”

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