BY LAUREN MAULDIN
If a non-horse person hears you’re looking for a new horse, they often have two primary responses:
- Horse shopping? That sounds so fun!
- Oh my god, they cost HOW much?!
And if you tell a horse person you’re shopping, their first reply is typically:
- Ugh, horse shopping sucks.
So here I am, horse shopping. Because my inner twelve-year-old child is alive and well, I’m a bit excited. So many pretty ponies! Looking at all the videos is fun. Dreaming big dreams is fun. But barely thirty days into the process, I find myself muttering, “this sucks,” more than I’d like to admit. And every time I do, I judge myself for it.
My riding career has had absolutely amazing horses sprinkled through it. They taught me how not only how to ride, but how to live. They’ve won me ribbons, given me physical scars (hey, can’t win them all), but most importantly—healed my soul. I wouldn’t have traded any of them, but as great as they were most weren’t exactly trained when I bought them. Many weren’t even suitable for the job I wanted to do. So it’s maybe not a huge surprise when I tell you that I’ve never paid over high four figures for a horse.
This time around, I’m doing this horse shopping thing a little differently. I know the ring I’m happiest in (hunters with a dab of adult eq). I know what kind of quirks I can (and can’t) handle. I have a trainer guiding and helping me through the process. And perhaps most importantly, I’m dedicating more budget to future horse. Instead of the (usually low) four figure budget I’ve always had, I’m giving myself permission to bump that up to car-level. After all, this is another form of transportation… right? Not a Lamborghini. Not even a Lexus or a BMW. But like, a safe crossover SUV kind of car. One that comes with a lead change upgrade.
To me, this is a lot of money. I’d like to argue that it’s a lot of money to anyone, but yesterday I saw an ad for a horse “in the low side of mid-six figures” for a lease. A lease! The market is hot right now. My budget can’t buy what it could three or even two years ago. When I constantly see beautiful horses well above my price range—or even horses I think I should be able to afford well above what I can shop with—I start to pout. I start muttering, “Horse shopping sucks.”
And that’s ridiculous.
Is horse shopping frustrating? Yes. It’s not fun to fall in love with a horse, spend a lot of money vetting it, and walk away due to a physical issue (ask me how I know). It’s annoying when great candidates go on trial before you can physically get there to ride them. And yes, there is always going to be someone with more money than you. There will be tons of amazing horses that you can’t afford. But being able to take any amount of money—any money at all—and buy a horse with it is an immense privilege.
You know what I did two weeks ago? On less than 24 hours’ notice in the middle of a work week, I flew to go look at horses with my trainer. I sat on a magical unicorn nicer than I ever dreamed of owning. I drove around pretty countryside to look at horses. For two days, I got to leave all my responsibilities and worries behind to go play pony. Even though the unicorn didn’t vet, it was educational and fun and an experience that twelve-year-old me never thought would happen. That doesn’t suck at all.
When you’re searching for the one, no matter what your budget is, there are moments that feel disheartening. But we have to step outside of our ridiculous world and get some greater perspective. The economic climate has been extremely turbulent in the past year. People have scrapped and busted their butt to put food on the table. Forget horse shows. Forget hack winner. Forget any number of “figure” horse shopping. Real-life outside of the bubble is hard. If we get to live in the bubble—in any way—we are lucky.
It might take me months to find the right horse. In that time, there will likely be more failed vettings and definitely more “perfect” horses I can’t come close to affording. But I’m going to be better at being okay with that. While I scroll through all the sales groups, I’ll do a better job at reminding myself how much this doesn’t suck.
I get to shop for my dream horse. That, in itself, is a dream.
About the Author: Lauren holds an MFA in creative nonfiction from the University of California Riverside, and is a lifelong rider and writer. Beyond equestrian journalism, she explores body positivity, mental health and addiction through personal narrative. She enjoys showing on the local hunter/jumper circuit in Austin, Texas.
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