*Image by Thelwell
One of the smartest things a potential buyer can do is try to get a history on a horse. Of course, it’s easier to get one if you are buying the horse in the US. Many times, the seller will advertise the horse as Second Level when he has never even the inside of a dressage arena. In Europe it is often more difficult to get information on a horse, which is why it is important to have an advocate if you are buying abroad. I know some horror stories of horses which are beautiful but a little “screwy.” This, of course, doesn’t show up until around 30 days after the sale. Here we have websites which list all the scores of a horse. Go to centerlinescores.com or USDFscores.com and type in the horse's name. They will have a complete show history of that horse for USEF recognized competitions. A second option is to get on the phone and ask around. I saved my friend a trip to Ohio by calling a friend out there to get some info on a sale horse. She told me to not bother.
So do your homework, and good luck horse shopping!
*Image by Thelwell
Give it that stiff upper lip. Don't make faces. Pretend like it isn't happening. Try to go smoothly forward and carry on. Don't circle to repeat. That is an error. Try to quickly get the horse under control and move into the next movement. It probably doesn't look as bad as it feels. If the horse flips a lead, always correct it or you will get a low score on the subsequent movement. If the judge thinks that the situation is dangerous like rearing, he will ring the bell immediately for elimination. If here is more than 20 seconds of resistance, that also is elimination. Otherwise just try to ride through it. Problems usually work themselves out after a movement or two. Good luck!
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In response to my last blog on horse sales, I got a very interesting e mail form a noted trainer in New England. Here are some of her ideas. She writes that the commission is part of doing business. Every time we buy a bottle of milk, we’re paying the middleman and we don’t complain about that . She thinks that purchasers should want to pay the 10% to an agent who is representing their best interests! There is also great value in buying from a reputable dealer who is not the owner of the horse. This dealer to whom you may also pay 10% should be someone who you know wouldn’t hide the facts. Good dealers won’t represent a poor horse and won’t misrepresent the weaknesses of a good horse. Often both parties have earned 10% and the buyer should be pleased to pay it. My feeling is that trusted dealers can increase your chances of making a good purchase. Horse dealers earn their living through sales. They spend a lot of time researching the market, and looking at horses. I personally had a very good experience with a dealer in Holland who found a wonderful horse for me, went to the vetting and took care of all the shipping. It was worth every penny of the commissions I paid.
Illustration by Thelwell.
So you want to import a horse from Europe, but you’re wondering how the Europeans do business? Here’s the inside scoop, based on interviews with a number of riders, trainers and dealers. First of all, it’s amazingly difficult to get information about how the process works. People are reluctant to talk about commissions, dealers, and who gets what for doing what. In some cases, the buyer knows little about the details because she has turned over a lot of the decision making to her trainer. But one thing is very clear: you must have an advocate in Europe who knows the ropes and will be looking out for your best interests. It’s crazy to take the leap by yourself without a knowledgeable person you can lean on and trust.
Another big thing I learned is that there are very few, if any, guidelines regarding commissions. While the 10% rule is pretty much the norm here in the USA, that’s not the case in Europe. Over there, anything goes. Many of the more expensive horses are considerably marked up. And when a sale is imminent, a lot of people who may be only remotely connected to the horse will come out of the woodwork, looking for their share of the loot. Dealers go around scouting out horses — they even visit the farmers — and assemble a group of horses at a sale barn for buyers to try. Currently the market is tight because the Asian countries are buying up a lot of horses. So I repeat: find an advocate. It can be a trainer who knows the ropes, or a reputable dealer you can trust. But don’t go it alone if this is your first foray into horse-trading abroad.
You might be paying as much as 30% in sale commissions on a horse purchase! There is little written on the subject; information is usually by word of mouth. There are various scenarios. Of course the best deal is when the horse is sold directly from seller to buyer and there is no intermediary and no commission. If the purchaser works with a full time trainer, the trainer will usually want 10% of the sale. If the seller also has their own trainer, that trainer can also want 10% or more because they have contributed to the training of the horse and thereby increased its value. So now we are up to 20%. If a horse dealer is involved, he also gets a percentage, usually 10% or more. There can also be a finder’s fee that goes to someone who facilitates the sale. This can be someone who hears about a horse and puts the two parties in contact with one another. It might be as simple as a phone call. This can average up to 10% as well. There is also a process called double dipping where for example, I am negotiating a sale and I ask both the buyer and the seller for 10%. This is illegal in most states. Its smart to ask up front what the commission fees are and are they already included in the sale price. Get it in writing before you make the transaction. Who you make the check out to also sheds some light on the transaction. If you make out the check to the dealer or trainer, as opposed to the owner, you can’t be sure how much the horse has been marked up. There have been some recent lawsuits involving horses whose prices have been doubled.
(Next time, THE EUROPEAN CONNECTION, how it works)
Illustration by Thelwell
Fly hoods are the vogue! They come in every color complete with emblems and bling.
The USEF states the fly hoods are permitted in the competition ring and the warm up. They should be “discreet” and should not cover the horses are very helpful when the bugs are bad. However, they have become a fashion statement and alot of riders are using them whether there are bugs around or not. Consider carefully before you use one. The hood ties create a line at the point of the throat latch. If you don’t have a correct top line on your horse, the fly hood can accentuate this lack of connection. If the poll is low, It is more obvious. It can also call attention if the nose is behind the vertical. So make sure that your horse is really through and “on the bit” correctly before you add it to your show attire.
Well, its not exactly cheating but you can do some things to help yourself. In the Training level canter departs, absolutely use the corners to assure the correct lead. If you wait till after the corner you can really get screwed up. In the turn on the haunches and walk pirouttes, you can fudge the size a little when they are called for on the quarter line as opposed to the long side where it is very obvious if they are too big.. In leg yields and half passes, the rider can usually start a few meters early so the track of the movement isn’t too steep. If you arrive on the centerline a few meters late, its not the end of the worlf as the quality is the most important thing. If you have double half passes with a change of bend, you will notice the professionala arriving a few meters before they have to change the bend to give themselves more time to make a smooth transition. To shorten the distance of a trot lengthening, you can try leaving the corner a few minutes late and arriving at the end of the diagonal a few meters early to shorten the distance. Just don’t make it too obvious. After the bell rings, don’t rush down the center line. Use the 45 seconds if you need it. And attention senior riders. If you are feeling creaky going into an extended trot its legal to hold the bucking strap for a few strides aa long as you still hold onto both reins. But most importantly, everyone remember to use the corners and short sides to set things up!
Illustration by Thelwell.