California Riding Magazine • December, 2012

Horsey Humor:
Buying A New Horse

by Bob Goddard

Buying a new horse for your child is an agonizing, uncertain process. How can you be sure that a particular horse is right for you? What if there is something wrong with it? How can you keep from paying too much? And most importantly, how can you keep your kid from hurling herself in front of a speeding cement truck simply because you refuse to jump at the first broken-down, dish-faced nag you come across?
Humorist and one-time horse buyer, Patrick McManus, tells us that buying a horse doesn't have to be hard: "Contrary to popular opinion, it is remarkably easy to buy a horse, but only if you know absolutely nothing about horses." If McManus is right and blind ignorance is truly the key to stress-free horse buying, then my answers to these frequently asked questions will keep your anxiety level low.

What kind of horse is best for children?
This depends on the child and his or her riding experience. For example, if your child is a beginner and is nervous about riding, you should find a horse that is calm and steady and won't feed off the youngster's emotions. A more experienced rider will be better off with a sensitive horse who is able to respond to subtle commands. If your child is a whiney, spoiled brat, a Thoroughbred stallion who bolts at slightest provocation and gallops off into the sunset with your kid aboard, may be the answer.

Should I hire a veterinarian to check the horse before I buy him?
Gosh, golly yes! An inexperienced buyer may miss certain medical problems such as slight lameness, laminitis, allergies, Missing Leg Syndrome, Won't Load Disease, or Carrot Mush for Brain Syndrome. The vet may also want to know how this horse came to have two tails.

What is the best way to begin an inspection of a prospective horse?
The first thing you should do is ask the seller to ride the horse himself. Most sellers are eager to demonstrate what the horse can do and many will do anything it takes to make a sale. Watch closely as the seller saddles the horse. Is he still or does he dance around? Put him through the paces. Make him walk, then trot. Make him canter through the gate. Have him trot around the paddock a few times. Finally, ask the owner to actually get on the horse and ride. When he's done, make him do 20 push-ups.

Why do some buyers insist on checking a horse's mouth? What are they looking for?
The condition of the horse's gum and teeth can help determine the horse's age and the quality of his care. However, if the buyer is a member of the Democratic National Committee, he may still be looking for uncounted votes for Al Gore.

What is a coggins test?
The term "coggins test" is an example of a proper noun being de-capitalized and perverted into generically used terminology much like Kleenex® became "kleenex" and thus applied to any brand of facial tissue. Another good example of this is Thomas "Look At What They Did To My Name" Crapper, a 19th Century plumber and inventor of the flush toilet. Many people assume that "coggins" is the actual condition being tested for and hope that their horse does not come down with a case of the dreaded coggins. Actually, Dr. leroy coggins - the developer of the first test for identifying Equine Infectious Anemia - and his wife betty live in retirement in carey, north carolina. Thus coggins is no longer a threat to horses. However, his test is still valid for detecting this fatal and incurable disease.

What is confirmation and how important is it?
Confirmation is a ceremony of persons at the age of discretion in the Jewish faith. It also refers to the legislative branch's formal ratification of treaties and appointments of the executive branch. Look, it's conformation. Okay? Conformation pertains to how the horse is put together. If this topic is a mystery to you, you may very well be a horse show judge.

Is it normal to fall in love with a horse the first time you see it?
Hell no. Falling in love with a horse is not normal. In fact, it's illegal in most states. If this happens to you, seek professional help immediately. Or write me, Bob the Equestrian, and I'll send you my almost free brochure, Ten Stupid Things People Do With Their Horses To Mess Up Their Lives.