For sale: Approved home only

I see this often, and am guilty of including it in adverts myself (at the request of the owner) but to me, it doesn’t need to be said.  Of course you will only sell to someone you approve of,  it’s your horse and it’s your decision.  But what happens when it doesn't go to plan?   I know of way too many real life, not so happy endings and even have a few of my own, where a horse has changed hands to a new ‘approved’ home with promises of forever only for the circumstances of the new owner to change and the horse gets sold on (sometimes multiple times) OR the home is not all it was cracked up to be.  Communication breaks down, horses move on, and damn it if they don’t update their Facebook!  I’ve seen horses sold as paddock mates turn up at competitions three owners and locations later.  It's an easy transition for a nice horse sold as a paddock mate that gives kids bareback rides in the first home, and then moves on to pony club at the next home, and eventing the home after that.  Often the new owner is completely unaware that the horse has a painful underlying condition that ended its ridden career years prior.  Often things get a little lost in translation or there is a legitimate change in circumstances that forces a sale, or the person selling the horse simply doesn't care - it's really hard for me to stomach that one, there are so many fantastic, honest, horse loving people in this industry, but unfortunately there are also others.  Just because a horse doesn’t deposit you on the ground every time you get on doesn’t mean that horse is 100% sound and pain free - some of them are all round good guys that prefer not to hurt us, yet it is us who owe them a duty of care, not the other way round.

It’s the strangest thing selling horses, we don’t sell any of our other companion animals, we sell livestock (often to end up as deadstock) but horses have a whole little world of their own where they don’t qualify as a ‘pet’ to be kept for their whole lives and they are also not farm animals providing a food resource.  The value of a horse varies greatly, from free to literally millions.  Some horses will achieve both values over the course of their lifetime.  I know there will be plenty of people saying ‘I will never sell my horse’ and that’s great - for the horse(s) you own - but for those of us that re-train problem horses or ex race horses we need to sell them in order to help more like them.  It’s a bit like fostering puppies or kittens, once you fail at fostering - as in keep the puppy/kitten - you’re highly unlikely to keep fostering.  In a perfect world you could keep and save them all, but the world ain’t perfect, and there's no such thing as a free horse!

In order for me to help more horses I have to get them to a certain point in their training and then sell them.  Of course I only sell to approved homes, I put a lot of effort in trying to find a good fit for both horse and rider but ultimately I am not the purchaser and all I can do is disclose everything I know about the horse and allow the purchaser to make an informed decision.  And let’s not forget, how that horse behaves for me, when it’s in my paddocks, and on my schedule, can be very different to how it behaves for you.  When you pick a horse up from it’s current life be aware that you’re changing EVERYTHING it knows, new rider, new grass, new tack, new rules, new schedule, new horses - it’s very possible it might have an opinion about this - and it doesn’t mean someone has misled you, or pulled the wool over your eyes.  If you want to purchase a new toy that will be EXACTLY the same as the day you tried it, stick to bicycles.

There’s actually so much to be said about sale and purchase of horses that I’m going to split this and offer up part two next week, if you have ideas about what you'd like me to cover/discuss please comment.  For now let’s accept that ‘approved home only’ does not mean jack shit on an advert.  We’re all doing our best (hopefully) for each other and for the horse in question.  If you are the ‘approved home’ please keep the seller informed (if they have asked to be) especially if things change for you and the horse is moved on.  If you’re selling a horse with limitations either be very, very clear about what it’s life needs to look like, and follow it OR, better still, just keep it.

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