Ammies, How to Avoid Epic Failures or Grow From Them

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BY Jamie Sindell

I’m an ammie who’s had horses in my life since the Back Street Boys were a thing (so a long time). There are days I want to quit and join a knitting circle. Yet, I keep plugging away because I’m addicted to insane horse life. I’ve made costly mistakes that still sting, but they’ve also made me savvier. Here are some of my hot tips for avoiding horse-related catastrophe. 

  1. When you find a trustworthy pro, stick to that pro like Gorilla Glue. No trainer is perfect. You decide what you can live with and what you can’t. A pro who is ethical, in my corner, and has my back like Mike Tyson, is more important to me than an impeccable facility or uber-impressive show results. 

If your trainer is a fabulous rider and teacher but has a skewed moral compass, I say run.

  1. Trust your gut, but not all the time. I’ve learned that trusting my gut is useful but not always. My gut’s too subjective and is affected by beverages like espresso and Merlot. 

A good vet’s opinion to keep your gut in check is priceless as is a skilled trainer’s. If you don’t have a trainer, an educated/overly opinionated/annoying friend will finally come in handy. You just need some folks willing to keep you in check when you want to buy the 3-year-old with one club foot and the occasional bucking quirk (code for wants to kill you on the regular).

  1. Don’t fall in love with a horse before it’s yours. It’s me. I’m the problem it’s me. I fell in love with a fancy-in-budget-import and just HAD to have him for resale. When I vetted him, there were red flags. The vet said everything other than: “Don’t be a fool and buy this money guzzler.” My trainer at the time suggested a second opinion. Foolishly, I ignored the smart vet and paid more money for a second vet. He was willing to indulge my stupidity and said: “Go for it!”

I was desperate for this hunky horse, and it blurred my vision. In the end, the vetting issues impacted his resale value and longevity. We lost a chunk of money, and even worse, my husband will hold this over my head until we die or divorce.

  1. Make thoughtful decisions when buying a horse sight unseen. I’ve absolutely purchased ponies without setting eyes on them. But, one of my failures was a yearling I bought off photos alone. He came from a successful breeder, so I trusted this guy when he promised the colt would be “fabulous” in hand. In the photos, his head wasn’t refined, but the breeder assured me it was regal. He had already entered the pony in Devon. How fugly could the pony be?

I arrived at Devon to meet said pony… His head was a honker. I stood sheepishly at the fence watching the yearling class (he didn’t place, shocker), and the stranger next to me said: “It’s a shame about that one’s head.” OUCH. In hindsight, my decision had been impulsive. 

Maybe taking a risk isn’t a big deal for you. You can’t wait to see what steed steps off the horse trailer and turn the big reveal into an Instagram reel. But buyer be warned if you don’t do your due diligence.

  1.  Heed warnings. If multiple people say the same thing about a facility or trainer, trust them. If a professional is unsavory enough to build a terrible reputation, that says something.

There are so many honorable pros out there who deserve a shot. Just like word gets around about whom to avoid, word spreads about the gems. 

  1. Be cautious. Listen, in any business transaction, people get screwed. I know a woman who lost deposits to three different contractors she hired to build her deck. They bolted with her money. It’s not just the horse industry. 

When you are paying to do something that you love, it’s easy to forget it’s still business. Often the same people we pay become friends and family. It’s harder to be assertive with someone you love to hang with. 

Look out for your best interest. If that means moving barns, having tough conversations with your trainer, passing on a horse that is a lemon, don’t be afraid to do it. This is your life, your money, and your well-being. 

  1.  Be honest with your intentions. This may get you further than you think. If you are honest, kind and respectful, many times those you deal with will return the favor. And if that’s not the case, you won’t have any regrets in taking the high road and being a decent human.

I’ve walked away from horse disasters having lost money and pride. However, I could live with myself.

Please don’t let crummy situations detract from your horse passion. Become wiser and keep doing what you love.

Jamie Sindell is a passionate equestrian blogger. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Arizona and a BS in Animal Science from Cornell University. She has ridden and owned hunters on and off throughout her life. She is a mom of five kids, ages 3, 4, 7, 11 and 14. She and her family reside at Wish List Farm, where her horse-crazy girls play with their ponies. Her oldest daughter leases and boards at a hunter/jumper facility. Her son and husband play with the tractor.