As someone who buys and sells horses, my nightmare is the client who messages me a photo of some “really affordable” horse they found on the Internet.
I believe that you tend to get what you pay for, and am a staunch advocate of amateur riders not buying slightly broke four year olds because “they’re pretty” and, again, “so affordable!” Unless you want to get really good at buttoning your pants with a cast on, please follow the advice I guarantee your trainer is giving you and save up, look for a horse that suits your needs and budget, and try it…more than once.
That being said, I am my own worst nightmare.
After the usual post-ride glass (or four) of wine with my group of friends, I oftentimes find myself checking my Facebook in the barn clubhouse. Everyone knows that easy access to the internet when you’re buzzed is never a basis for responsible decision making. Some people start calling their crazy exes or ordering weird t-shirts off Amazon.
My problem runs a bit, um, deeper: I can barely contain myself from impulse buying horses on the Internet.
My first foray into this type of terrible decision was after a polo practice when I gathered with my fellow players in the clubhouse for a few glasses of the good stuff. (Disclaimer: despite the amount of social drinking I partake in, I am the biggest lightweight you will ever meet at a barn. I just felt like I should mention that…)
A friend of mine owns a polo pony from a non-profit off the track rehoming service and subscribes to the service’s feed on social media. Without warning, I was handed a phone with full screen photos of a gorgeous albeit very, very young blood bay gelding with the most Warmblood looking face and body I’ve ever seen on a Thoroughbred.
Through slighted blurred vision, I watched a video of a groom trying with gusto to trot this horse in hand down the barn aisle and essentially dragging the horse behind at what looked to be a moderately paced walk. That was it—I was in love.
After messaging the sales consigner on Facebook, I learned that this particular horse was beautifully bred but a massive disappointment to his breeders. He was so slow that he never qualified to race. His post was very popular, she said, and she already had a list of people waiting to come try him in Los Angeles.
Seeing as I live in San Diego, I did the only logical thing: I sent the consigner a couple thousand bucks via PayPal and had the horse shipped to my barn a few days later, sight unseen.
Somehow, the Facebook Thoroughbred was a stroke of luck and is one of the most willing, loving, and talented young horses I’ve ever had. Once I was no longer sipping on Cabernet, I realized that I’m now the owner of a physical equine purchased off the Internet. I chalked this experience up to some sort of HUGE streak of luck or possibly divine intervention for not being sent a crazy animal who would try to end me.
Well, clearly I have absolutely zero self control because a few months later I was sitting in the grass in Thermal, sipping on my second glass of champagne, when I stumbled upon a black-and-white pinto with two blue eyes.
Naturally, I messaged the owner and told her I wanted him. I (sort of) intended to actually try this one, but on the day I was going to ride him he got a chiropractic adjustment and was a bit sore, so I decided internally that this gelding would obviously love to become a polo pony and had him shipped straight out to Thermal. I paid for him with Venmo.
He was certifiably insane when he arrived but was a natural on the polo field. As soon as he started playing, he found his purpose and could be played by absolutely anyone.
I do not have the slightest idea how I’ve gotten halfway decent horses while drunk shopping on the web. It goes against everything I’ve been taught and occasionally makes me question my sanity. For now, I’m taking a hiatus from sight unseen purchases and PayPal ponies.
I mean, until I open this bottle of Chardonnay and forget to hide my computer.
Author’s note: Buying a horse based on photos alone is a terrible, terrible idea. Unless you are prepared to take on significant risks when it comes to health, temperament, and ride-ability, always try a horse multiple times and have a vet check performed before buying it. These horses ended up great. But I would have kept and cared for them regardless of how they turned out. End rant.
About the Author
Erin Lane is what you might call a wannabe pro on a budget. With a 20 year background, she has built a life around competitive hunters, jumpers, and polo. Watch for her new website, The Equestrian Confidential, in early 2017.