Every day when I wake up, the first thing I do is check WhatsApp for new horse videos. I receive footage of jumpers from France, Germany, Netherlands and finally in my base country Belgium, and already my internal rolodex is scrolling through names, those of breeders, brokers, owners, etc. who might be a good fit. Mug of coffee in hand, this is the first step of the process in finding someone's dream horse. My name is Anne-Sophie Milette, and I am a horse agent or, like I like to say a Horse & Rider Matchmaker.
For me, the hardest part of finding a horse for a client does not come from the lack of horses, but from finding the right horse-rider match in the right circumstances. A horse that will make you accomplish your goals, a horse that will make you laugh and maybe sometimes cry to finally make you evolve as a better rider and therefore person. There is something really magical, almost romantic, about finding true connection between a rider and his or her horse. I would like to share my top two pieces of advice for finding your "horsemate."
1. Know what you want vs. what you need
Whatever your reason is for finding a new horse, whether it is buying, leasing or just having lessons on, never forget your end goal in this future partnership. If you aren't sure of your target goal, first identify these 3 Ws prior to starting your search: Want, willingness and window.
A) What level do I want to accomplish with this horse?
B) How willing am I to be flexible on a horse and therefore what kind of horses suit me?
C) What is my window on compromises?
Let's start with the wants. The first step is to quantify what you want in your partner. If you are a competitive show rider, knowing what you want starts by targeting the level you desire to achieve: 1.30m jumper, grand prix dressage horse, etc. If you don’t compete, the principles remain the same, but you have fewer boxes to tick.
Then ask yourself: Do you need a teacher, a winner or a prospect? Most of the time, future clients dream of a brave, amateur friendly, young grand prix prospect, or in other words, a unicorn. The combination of those characteristics is possible to find, but it comes with a heft price tag. Unless money is of no issue, you will have to stick to one hat and define what kind of horse you are willing to buy.
Willingness: “the quality or state of being prepared to do something; readiness.” The idea is to identify your limits on a horse, mentally more than physically. We've all had moments when we just did not feel comfortable on a certain horse. Some of us are better to deal with this discomfort or fear. Knowing yourself as a rider is your first piece of homework. Am I ready for a sensitive horse? Will I stand strong in my saddle without pulling in the mouth by stress when my horse spooks at the in gate? Luckily, willingness should grow as you get further in your practice, but bad situations on unready horses quickly reinforce a rider’s bad reflexes. Are you really ready for a young horse prospect?
In show jumping, when you are climbing the levels it should go pretty smoothly with the right horses and training, but over 1.30m things start to get tricky. The margin of error at that height of jumping becomes almost inexcusable. This is where you should give more consideration to the teacher horse — a strong warrior who has been there and done that. Maybe these teachers don't have the flashiness technique or the prettiest face, but what truly matters is that they have guts and all the power (scope) in the world to take you out of daunting situations.
Your team is your key to success. This expensive sport can cost even more with the wrong choices of horses. Make sure to surround yourself with reputable people and be open to listen and learn from their expertise.
Unfortunately in your quest for your future partner you will have to make some compromises and gauging the key points on where you want and can make concessions along the way. Determining your window of comprises will facilitate your purchase process.
2. Be open to new knowledge
At a certain point in your horse journey, you might have the impression that you’ve got this — that you know yourself inside and out also know what type of horse suits you. This is a great achievement! But it not mean you should be closed to new knowledge.
Since all horses are unique, it is imperative to try the horse thoroughly and put it in different situations that will make your purchase less risky. This way you will tick the boxes of the wants list you made earlier. Some of you might be looking for the same criteria of your previous horse, because it feels safe and comfortable. Even then you should be open to try something outside your comfort zone.
If your trainer, agent or other helping professional sees something in a new potential match, give it a try. Let go of your preconceived ideas and let yourself be guided by the professional team you choose to surround yourself with. Your team is your key to success. This expensive sport can cost even more with the wrong choices of horses. Make sure to surround yourself with reputable people and be open to listen and learn from their expertise. You might even find your true horse soulmate at the end of your horse quest.
Read this next: 9 Things I’ve Learned During My Years Selling Horses
Photos by Ahmed 44 Photography.
Written by Anne-Sophie Milette
Anne-Sophie started show jumping at the age of 11, despite coming from a non-horsey family. She has developed her own ‘best-of-breed’ approach, guided by instinct, experience and good counseling. After performing at top levels and training with the best in the business, she is now based in Belgium where she rides professionally and is specialized in finding the right horses for her international clientele. You can learn more about her at www.topnotch.horse.