It’s important to make the right match

In the past several years, CANTER MA has shifted focus in the way we sell our horses. We used to sell them right off the farm with no retraining for under $1k.

I got involved with CANTER on a whim. Allie, CANTER MA’S Director, had sent out an email asking for anyone who could temporarily board some horses. I emailed and said I could take two and she dropped them off. She really didn’t know me very well at all but I asked if I could do the training and help get them new homes. I believe both of those horses sold in about 4 months and for pretty decent prices. We quickly realized people were more interested in the horses with retraining than those who we didn’t know much about.

Now we really only sell horses that have been able to at least get into the retraining program for a month. We have found it allows us to truly get to know the horse, test the horse out in various situations and figure out what type of career the horse is going to want to have. We also are able to price the horses at market value because they do have retraining and we find people are willing to pay the prices for a horse who has been in professional training and properly restarted so they don’t have to do all the first steps.

We take them out on various off the farm trips, trail riding, little shows and all those first experiences and start to figure out what type of rider these horses will fit. I have always said that one of the reasons I truly love working with CANTER is watching the horses progress during this initial training and being responsible for finding that perfect home. There is no pressure to just “sell” the horse instead it is wait until that right person comes along. We have no reason to be anything but honest. I think sometimes I am a bit too honest but if you want to know about the horses in the program it is really easy to just go and read the blogs. I try to keep a true account of how each horses progresses in their training.

I was reminded of that this weekend when I had a lovely shopper come to try out Diamond and Shoes. She was such a fantastic person and was looking for a horse that she could learn dressage on. She was coming off a pretty easy going and smaller moving type of horse. She loved Diamond’s personality and attitude but found his trot way to big for her level of riding experience. She fell in love with Shine my Shoes. You could see the minute she got on him she felt comfortable and she had a great ride on him.

I had a feeling she might be making an offer and yet deep down I knew I would have to decline knowing this was not the right horse for her. Even though she would be a great home I did not think it would work out long term. Shoes is a fantastic horse but he is also a horse who would test someone that was inexperienced and learn to intimidate them just because he can 🙂

It’s not about just selling the horse and taking the money for us. We want everyone to be happy and we don’t want horses returning back to us because we didn’t make a good match.

She was super nice and thanked me for being honest. All weekend I couldn’t stop thinking about this person and how I can see her getting taken advantage of in the shopping process. I hope she finds the right horse and I feel like I gave her some good counseling on questions to ask and how to figure out what exactly she needs.

Some of my advice was along the lines of finding a horse who would fit her lifestyle and current level of experience. I always advise someone to make a list of questions that you send when you make the initial contact about a potential horse. Tell me what you are looking for in a horse. For example, I want something age 5-10yrs old ranging from 15.2-16.2 h in the price range of under $5k. I have been riding for X years and have experience with young horses (or don’t) and have experience with Tb’s (0r don’t). I would like something that can compete at X level and also trail ride. I have my own farm and have one other horse and the horse would have X living situation.

I know my horses really well so if someone emails me what they are looking or if I know them well enough to know what kind of horse they like to ride I feel comfortable making a suggestion.

I think back to when my friend Alison was horse shopping. She had a super lovely and talented horse that reminds me so much of Shoes. She is super busy running an awesome organic farm and works a full-time job as well. Her goals were to foxhunt and trail ride and she was realistic about the fact that she sometimes could only ride on the weekends. Her horse was not suitable for her lifestyle but she spent several years and a ton of frustration trying to make it work. She sold her horse and knew exactly what she needed. She needed a Diamond H. She casually mentioned to me she was looking and I said I have your horse in my barn right now.

I knew Alison’s riding style, her goals, her farm set up and what kind of horse that she needed. The funny thing was that she told me she wanted something under 16 h and anything but a grey horse 🙂 Oh no 🙂

The horse that I had in mind for her was Top Punch. I had only been on him a few times but enough to know the horse was a total pro and had the perfect attitude for an amateur rider with an infrequent riding schedule. He had a very willing attitude and was super smart. He was 12yrs and had just come off the track but it was clear to me he was a horse who had seen it all and then some. I didn’t think he would be phased by trail riding solo or foxhunting. He didn’t spook at anything and he was quite brave about everything that I introduced him too.

She was set on not owning a grey horse but once she took him home to try him out she fell in love. She was trail riding him around her farm and having fun. I don’t think she had actually had fun out trail riding in a very long time 🙂 He took nicely to foxhunting and has become a great all around horse for her. I took this picture off facebook this morning because it made me so happy.

My mom’s horse is another good example of making a perfect match although in a million years she would never admit it simply because she doesn’t like to admit that I am right 🙂 He was the first horse that I had from CANTER. He had been starved and OMG was he ugly. We joked that the Amish were going to come looking for him thinking he was one of their horses. He may have not been the most attractive horse at that point but his brain was top-notch. He jumped anything I pointed him at regardless of how scary it was. He was a good mover and was nice and soft in the bridle. He was also one of the slower versions where you had to push him. He was good on the trails and anyone could ride him. Seemed like he was going to make a great amateur event horse. He was a cribber. I kept telling my mom I had her horse and she said I DO NOT want a cribber. I finally convinced her to come and try him out and she did end up buying him. She went from being nervous at intro level eventing to winning Novice and schooling training level. I have so much fun watching her out on him because she truly has fun and enjoys herself without worrying about what her horse is going to do. He takes care of her in ways that most horses wouldn’t. She will always say he has faults but if you look at the big picture the perfect horse is the one that you know you can head out to the event course and know it is going to do the job. This picture makes me smile because the first time he jumped it he got down there and went OMG red stuff on top but he went just a bit crooked. I asked my mom what happened and she said she just closed her eyes and prayed he would jump it 🙂

I had released this post but then had to come back and add a little something about Dixie Rumble who was the horse that got this blog started. Dixie was your big 16.2 h bag tb gelding who also started out pretty darn funky looking. You can go back and look at some of the initial posts about him but he wasn’t attractive at first. From ride #1 which happened to be the day that Allie delivered him to my farm it was obvious he had a top-notch brain and loved to trail ride. We went out across the open fields on a super windy day and he was happy go lucky. He lacked confidence and had a few quirks at first. He was also a stall walker which was a major issue in reselling him and why he probably stuck around for as long as he did. I thought he would sell quickly because he was just so sensible but he didn’t. I just kept going with him and we went out eventing and he took right to foxhunting. I had never hunted before but Dixie was the ultimate horse to show me the ropes. He went 1st flight, 2nd flight, took out guests and junior riders. He was just plain fun for me to ride and he knew his job. He had a fantastic year of hunting and then went out and did his first BN event in the rain and won 🙂 I was so proud of him! He wasn’t selling at his price so I dropped his price down and all of a sudden I had a ton of interest. Catherine had been reading my blog about Dixie and thought he sounded perfect for what she was looking for. She called and gave me the run down of what she wanted and did I think he would fit? She hoped to do some lower level eventing, trail ride with friends and just have an overall fun partner who could dabble in a bit of everything.

I thought it sounded like the perfect match and she came down and fell in love with him. She has really enjoyed him and over the past few months she decided she really wanted to event in the spring so she shipped him off to an event to refresh Dixie and at the same time she could go get some lessons on him. I have been getting really awesome reports along the lines of how the trainer loves Dixie as well as the barn staff and that her husband has realized just how happy she is. She described the high that she felt after her last lesson and just how fun and forgiving Dixie has been. It truly makes my day when I get these emails.

We have been fielding a lot of questions about why we now want the horses to come into the retraining program before they are sold and why our prices are higher. A good organization will always evolve to meet the current demands of the market. I believe we are nicely meeting the niche of those who love ottb’s but want something that has already been let down and had a professional who truly understands the TB mind doing the retraining. You can buy a horse without wondering whether it will like to trail ride, whether it will go x-c, can it handle being away from it’s buddies, does it like flatwork, will the horse go forward and accept the contact and does the horse like to jump. We can answer those questions honestly and ensure you buy the horse of your dreams. Then you will go tell all your friends how awesome CANTER Mid Atlantic is 🙂


7 responses to “It’s important to make the right match

  1. Love this entry! I had to field a “why are they priced so high for rescues?” the other day, from now on I might just point to this blog! 🙂

    As for matching – also super important! I remember when Archie got tried by his new person – I SWEAR the horse was smiling. 🙂

  2. Great post Jessica!!

  3. Jess, You really have talent for writing. I think your evaluation of the Canter horses is a wonderful thing. I think they are priced accordingly for that training and evaluation. You have really made some good matches.

  4. This entry made me smile. 20 years ago I was a Shine My Shoes girl, but now I’m the Diamond H kind of girl er, middle-aged lady=;) It is best for all the parties to be honest, if only for the horses sakes. Thanx Jess

    • Jane,
      I am still in the Shine My Shoes category but I do admit there is nothing like a Diamond H when you just want to go out with your friends for a nice trail ride and enjoy yourself.

  5. I will testify to anyone who will listen (and do regularly when given the chance) how pleasant and straight forward my experience buying from Canter through your program was, and how spot on your description of Dixie was on your blog and in person. The horse I have is the horse described, only better, and not only reasonably priced, but a bargain for a package that includes experience at a variety of venues, brains, personality and ammy friendly temperament. And he’s cute!

    • Cathy,
      Love to see you commenting on here! Dixie isn’t cute he is simply gorgeous in my opinion. There is nothing better for those of us at CANTER then knowing one of our graduates has landed in the ultimate home.

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