Trying Horses 101
Trying horses, whether it’s 3 or 13, is exciting and fun, but it can also be stressful and overwhelming. Over the past few years, I have been very lucky to try horses to own, show, and lease. Each time was different from the last because of the horses I tried, my needs and my experience level. A couple of weeks ago, my mom and I went down to Ocala, Florida to try equitation horses, so the process of trying horses is still fresh in my mind. Today, I’m going to take you through my top tips and suggestions for trying horses, no matter the discipline.
My biggest piece of advice is to give every horse a fair shot. Whether this is your first or last horse of the day, always start with a fresh mind for each horse and barn. From my most recent horse trying experience, I would begin by flatting the horse around for a little while and then jump a few jumps. If I loved the horse, I would continue to jump a few courses and potentially move up in height. It’s important to test out the flat and the jump-the flat might not wow you, but the jump could, or vice versa. If knew a horse just wasn’t for me I would let my trainer and/or the horse owner know. This way you are able test out the horse, but not exhaust yourself each time. It’s incredibly helpful for all involved if you give honest feedback. It helps your trainer and the seller know what you’re looking for and what you’re feeling or not feeling in that horse. This can help you refine your search as you’re moving from horse to horse.
Following up on giving every horse a fair shot, always keep your mind open! You may have a horse you specifically came to see, or it may be one that was thrown on your list last second based on your feedback. Stay open about ages, sizes, gelding vs mare – horses always surprise you! Furthermore, the color of the horse does not define them! I know so many people who have refused to look at grays because they get too “dirty” or chestnuts because they are stereotypically hot-headed. If you refuse to look at a horse simply because of the color, you are going to miss out on some spectacular horses.
When working with a brand-new horse, especially one I’m trying, I like to first test their buttons and movement, but then see how they react to the way I ride. Do they shape nicely, listen to my leg, and respond to what I’m asking of them? These are only a few questions I constantly as myself during my trial. Get a good feel and see if you are able to relax on the horse after a bit. I was reminded, however, that it’s almost better to make mistakes because you can see how the horse will react. Anyone who has shown can admit they are a more nervous or alert rider at a show; your nerves when trialing can mimic that nicely. How does this horse react to you when you’re not at your best?
I always love to watch the horse I am trying get tacked up and groomed because I can get an idea of their personality and their demeanor. We spend half of our time at the barn tacking up and working with our horses on the ground, so I love to check out what each horse is like. For example, are they antsy on the cross ties? Girthy? Love being brushed? These are only a few things you can be observing. If possible, ask for a chance to work with the horse a little bit to see for yourself what the horse is like. I was very lucky to have the opportunity to brush, tack, and bathe the horse the second day of the trial and truly get to know him on the ground as well as in the tack.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed when trying horses, likewise it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and forget your priorities. It’s important to keep a steady head and focus on why you are looking in the first place. Ask yourself, does this horse check the boxes of most of the things I want? Keep in mind no horse is going to be perfect and some characteristics you were originally hoping for may be outweighed by other positive aspects of the horse. I will be honest when I tell you it may not be a clear and easy decision, or you might end up choosing something you really weren’t expecting. I’ve heard so many stories of people who really didn’t click at first with their now “heart horse.” Other times, like this past trial, you absolutely know you have found the one right at the start. No two horses are alike and no two trials are alike, but with an open mind and great support from your trainer, your trial will eventually result in a new horse in your barn.
PS. I am so incredibly excited to welcome Lux to the family for the next year!!! I will be posting more about him in the coming weeks:)