Monday, June 15, 2015

Distance: Buying a horse from far, far away.

If you read my most recent post, you know I found my dream horse in Canada. He checked off everything on my list of qualities I wanted in my horse except convenient location so I just decided that I had to go for it.

Buying a horse from far away and from another country is a little complicated but nothing I couldn't handle (says the naive first time buyer). There were three hurdles I had to get over - the vetting, transportation and paperwork for the boarder.

I flew up to Toronto with my trainer to try Crafty and we both loved him. I contemplated going back up for the vetting and possibly even driving my trailer up to drive my horse home but it was at least a 12 hour drive each way and I had no idea what it was like to cross the boarder with a horse. In the end, I wanted to get things moving forward and didn't have the ability to go back up for the vetting with my husband traveling and three kids to think about.

The trainer who showed us the horse was great. She crosses the boarder frequently to show in the US so was pretty unfazed by the process. I found that comforting. She gave me a long list of vets I could call and was very honest about which vets she uses and which she didn't know at all. I chose the vet closest to the farm where Crafty lived which was 20 minutes away. It was seriously remote and the other vets were an hour to two hours away. I had no references for this vet but she had come from Kentucky, was used to working with race horses and I decided expediency was worth the risk of an unknown vet.

The vetting was incredibly stressful. I hated not being there. The vet was actually great, especially at working to represent my interests. A couple of little things concerned her and I was trying to decide if I wanted any x-rays but she had to leave for an emergency call. I worried about letting her leave without doing x-rays so I called my vet in a state of rookie panic.

My vet, who was in the middle of showing her own horses at a jumper show, was wonderful but I was a train wreck. She was watching my videos between classes and texting her office to tell them what x-rays she wanted to see. I was upset because I just wanted my horse and I felt like for his price and for what I wanted to do there wasn't anything we were going to find that would keep me from buying him.

The Canadian vet went back the next day. We discussed her concerns and decided to x-ray the horse's left leg starting at the hoof and working our way up to the knee. That was the extent of what we planned to look at and my vet was comfortable with that and with the reasoning behind the decision. I didn't want to spend so much on the vetting that I wouldn't have anything left to do maintenance type things later. I felt I would rather get my horse home and have my vet watch him go and do x-rays here. I have no doubt he will need some joint support or injections of some kind but none of that worries me and he is sound on hard ground so what could go wrong? Also, the back x-rays my vet was interested in could not be done with the old equipment available to the Canadian vet. Again, I felt if we needed to do those X-rays at some point I preferred to do them at home with the treating vet having control over the images taken.

This is not necessarily a wise way to go about your vetting. Ideally, I would have been there. In a perfect world I would do X-rays, take it one thing at a time and make informed decisions. However, at my request, the horse would not be ridden again until I got him home. Right or wrong, I wanted to move quickly. If I were buying a more serious competition horse or spending a larger sum of money, I wouldn't have done it this way.

In the mean time, I was dialing the numbers of every transport company in Canada trying to find a truck heading south. They were awful. No one was calling me back and they kept telling me how busy they were driving horses north from Florida. I thought that was a bit absurd since surely the trucks had to go back south! Eventually one of the companies directed me to another that carries race horses down to Saratoga, New York pretty regularly. That did the trick!

A good transport company makes the whole thing so much easier!!!! I used Doyle's and they were great. They went up to get Crafty on a Tuesday afternoon and kept him overnight at their base near the border. Wednesday morning, they took his papers to the government office to be signed and crossed the boarder. I met them in Saratoga that evening, loaded Crafty onto my trailer and headed home.

The paperwork isn't terribly complicated I'm happy to know now. I had the vet rush the coggins so that took a couple of days. Then the vet's office did a health certificate. Someone needs to take the health certificate to the government office to be stamped. The trainer would have done it but it was quicker for us to have the transport company do it because their base is less than a mile from the office.

I have a friend who spent the early spring horse shopping in Florida, South Carolina and Virginia. She was looking for two horses - one for her and one for her daughter. She felt pretty strongly about being present at the vetting and ended up walking away from a lovely horse because of a side conversation she had while she was there. Another horse she vetted long distance but a trainer she knew well was there on the ground to make sure everything went well. That horse ended up not working out either but for different reasons.

Buying horses is emotionally challenging. The addition of distance into the equation simply increases the complexity of those emotions. If you are a first time buyer, try to find something within reasonable driving distance. Think about the cost of travel, time, emotional distress and wear on the horse when considering whether to save a little money by going a little farther. And be certain to involve your trainer or other chosen horse expert! It probably cost me $500.00 to bring my trainer with me to Canada but I would never ever have bought a horse, especially at that distance, without her consent. I just don't know enough to do it on my own and I need her to ask the questions I don't think of regarding work history, fitness, soundness, etc. I also needed her to ride him. She has ridden countless horses over the 30+ years she's been riding so she has a much more developed ability to feel a horse out and see what he's about.

If you need to buy a horse from far away, go for it. Take a deep breath, be patient and work through the steps. Surround yourself with people who know what they are doing and listen. And good luck!


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  3. I think when you find the right horse for you, as long as it isn't near impossible, transporting the horse a long way shouldn't put you off too much. It will be worth it for you and the horse in the long run! Jordan

  4. That is one brave move. To buy a horse from so far away. The transport cost alone would have worried me into buying one a lot closer. But now that I know which transporter you used, it might make me slightly more tempted to do it. Thanks for sharing this; it opened up my mind to the option.

    Elvira Mullins @ Nelson Vets