It’s a cold November night and I’m in a hotel in St Paul, Alberta. The wind is whistling through the window that won’t quite close, and I suspect it will keep me up tonight. St Paul is about a 6 hours drive north-east of Bragg Creek. I drove up earlier today so I can look at, test, and hopefully return with a new team of horses tomorrow.
Shopping for horses is something I have lots of practise at. I haven’t counted, but I must have bought a couple of hundred horses since I bought “Goldrush” at an auction in Wainwright in 1985. The last one was two weeks ago. And then there are just as many that I looked at and didn’t buy. Some worked out better than I could have ever imagined, and some were a profound disappointment. You’d think that all of that practise would make me comfortable at this, but maybe it has just taught me to manage my expectations better than a neophyte might.
I hate buying a horse on first sight. I listen to my instincts, but they’ve sometimes mislead me too. I like to have a look, think about it, and then return with an offer. It is not exactly ideal driving half-way across the province with the trailer and cheque book with only a few pictures (which can be “doctored”) and a verbal description. I bitterly recall a similar expedition a dozen years ago when someone showed me a horse that bore no resemblance to its photo or description and I drove home angry and empty-handed. On the other hand, the price is right and I have a good feeling about the vendor, so here I am. Maybe it’s a bit like internet dating…just you only have a few hours to make a decision on whether you will commit to spending the next decade or two with the other party.
I recognize I have an advantage most horse buyers don’t: I’m not looking for “the love of my life”, but rather someone who will fit into our team. I’ve got a pretty realistic idea on their relative value. I can spot most physical defects, and many character “red-flags”. Lastly, I’ve got time, experience, and some good hands at the ranch available to polish up a horse that may need some work to fulfil its potential.
So, we will see what tomorrow brings…