It stands to reason I'm going to need a horse. It cannot be too dissimilar from buying anything else, right? You get what you pay for and you can broadly compare prices/quality/features and reach a sensible decision without too much risk.
I do hate the term "LOL" but any horse-person reading this is currently doing exactly that. Every advert reads the same:
'Leg in each corner, this lovely stamp of a hunter is a true gentleman. Four wonderful paces, plenty of scope. A real head-turner in the field, will stand all day, has a sensible head. Never nappy, sharp, strong or difficult. An honest horse. Clips and loads. Hunted in Ireland. Home more important than price. £7,000.
'Great!' you say, and off you pop to visit a nag that kicks, bites, looks like a carthorse and changed hands one month ago for a hundred quid including tack and a promise not to bring it back.
And as for 'hunted in Ireland' I am yet to meet a horse for sale that hasn't. They must be running these things out 7 days a week and straight onto the boat for delivery to England.
After a couple of false starts my wife stepped in and insisted we buy a horse the Hunt knows. I was offered an Irish Sport Horse where 3 separate people who have ridden him reported the same features; strong, grumpy, sporting some 'string halt'. Whatever that is.
So, with those recommendations it was 'better the devil you know' and that was the animal for me.
At 13 years old, with at least 5 seasons in the (English) hunting field he knows the job. Not the smallest horse I've seen. Not the warmest smile. Strong? He can be accused of it but then he is highly unlikely to refuse anything. Grumpy? Certainly. Snow white and a pain to clean? Yes. And as for the string halt in his walk, well I walk a bit funny myself and I'm not looking to win Crufts here. The order of the day is to be home with as little damage to both of us as possible.
I was lucky in the end to be given a chance to have him on loan before I bought him, and I don't think he'll ever leave my yard. I did once overhear someone say he was obnoxious...true but let's face it, he is taking advantage of the incompetence of his new rider. To me he seems deadly fast and immensely powerful. I've heard it said he lacks a top gear but I think he makes up for it by stealing an early run up the outside of the unsuspecting (more on that feature later).
What I also admire about the chap is that there isn't a groom in our country who doesn't greet him with a warm cheer of recognition and a story about when they rode/stabled/jumped him. The guy is popular and any shortcomings are my own.