I’m going to sound incredibly ignorant here, but I honestly thought horse shopping would be fun and easy.

I’ll wait for your laughter to die down before I continue. Better now? Okay, good.

The first horse I bought was selected from a string of school horses that an older barn in Raleigh were liquidating. My trainer brought me over there, and I liked the first mare I sat on because she did “dressage movements” sideways that I thought felt really neat. Spoiler alert – this was less impressive in the hunter ring.


My second horse I found in the paper. After the hot OTTB mare, I wanted something quiet. When I was cantering Elvis in the round pen trying him, the horses in the pasture right next to him started galloping. I said “Easy” and he stopped. Sold.

My third horse was brought in by my trainer. My fourth horse was found on Cragislist, and Simon just kind of showed up in my life one day and refused to leave. When I think about it, I’ve never really horse shopped… especially with as many pennies as I have scraped together now.

When I started this process, I thought that the pennies I had would give me a lot of options and I’d have my pick of all the ponies within a few hour driving radius of me. Easy peasy!


Except then I remembered I was shopping in hunterland, and my pennies mean nothing. It seems my budget can buy me a pretty average Thoroughbred or Quarter Horse without a lot of show experience. Want to know what I already own? A pretty average Thoroughbred with a lot of local show miles. Sooooo that’s awkward.

The ISO ads I’ve set out on Facebook are pretty simple.

ISO: Hunter prospect. Needs to be roughly 16.2hh+. Started w/a developing change preferred. To be finished by amateur rider in a program, so good brain a must. Prefer AQHA/APHA but any breed considered.


However, the reality of my search is not that simple. I’m kind of driving on gut instinct and what makes me personally excited… which varies from horse to horse. I’ve gotten those butterflies over everything from a smancy baby QH to a somewhat plain horse going 2’6″ with a change. If I were to write an honest ISO ad, it would sound a lot more like this.

ISO hunter unicorn to help me get over the trauma of 2015. Can be anything from a track broke to seasoned show horse so long as it’s in my budget and makes my little heart go pitter patter. Needs to be giant – the bigger the better. This could be tall big or chunky big or preferably tall & chunky big… however it can’t be big and bucky because that’s a long way to fall. Doesn’t have to win the hack, but has to be calm enough to actually participate in the hack since I haven’t completed an under saddle class in about three years and kind of miss it. Preferably palomino or spotted… but more realistically would love some chrome. Want a horse that picks up his knees over 3′ but doesn’t crack his back, because equitating is hard yo. Lead changes don’t have to be auto, but they need to exist. Bonus points if they exist consistently and are easy to get. Would like to walk down the lines (see previous section on “big”) because owner really enjoys going slow.

Most of all, want a horse that can help me accomplish some hunter show goals in the 3′ local and 2’6″ rated divisions. Will be lovingly admitted into the nerd herd and promptly doted and blogged about.


Surprisingly enough… I haven’t found that horse yet. In all seriousness, I’m pretty much looking nationwide for my unicorn at this point. If you know of something that could work, shoot me an email or Facebook message (I’ll discuss budget off the blog… my Dad reads this shit). In the meantime, I’ll be asking for videos and perusing Dreamhorse if you need me.

45 thoughts on “ISO

  1. Something my trainer has mentioned to me- she LOVES taking event horses and turning them into hunters. We’ve had quite a few come through our barn and been extremely successful in the hunter/eq rings. They might not be marketed as hunters so it may take some searching, but could be another place to look! I’m totally biased because we found Frankie being sold as an eventer, but the barn he came from had TONS of hunter prospects that were not being sold as hunters. For real, they had some super fancy babies.

      1. Let me know next time you’re in VA 😉 Re: the lead changes, agreed that they often don’t have auto changes, but they look to be easy to teach- they have the balance and the muscle for it!

  2. Feel ya, I want the shorter version of what you want, because I like the ground being close. Shopping ponies sucks unless you have serious $$$ and even then there’s just more to decide.

  3. Kudos to you for being way more succinct with your ISO post than I was with mine! I’ve had some luck in posting my “super honest ISO” – received almost 30 PMs with horses (some appropriate, some not so much). Could be worth posting yours 🙂

    1. Man, maybe I should post it hahaha. I definitely haven’t had that much interest. Send me any you think aren’t good for eventing but will make a hunter? 😉

    2. This is what I came here to say. Post your super honest ISO. At worst, you’ll make some people smile. At best, someone will have exactly the right horse.

      Best of all? An honest ISO makes it obvious that you aren’t here to spend $$$$ and win all the things. 🙂

  4. … come to think of it, I’ve never actually been horse shopping. All of my horses landed in my lap.

  5. I feel your pain! Horse shopping *sounds* like it should be so much fun, right? It is basically the dream come true for every pony-mad inner child. But then reality hits. And it is much more like saddle shopping. Or shopping for bathing suits.

    The only thing worse would be trying your search, with the same parameters, here in the Northeast. Because prices here are batshit crazy. You literally cannot buy anything that isn’t broken, crazy, small or backyard-bred for under $20k. I’m serious.

  6. It’s a total crapshoot. Peebs was the first horse I sat on and I knew right away he was it. But another girl in our barn looked for over 8 months before finding Mr. Right.

  7. Tagging onto the Eventer turned Hunter thought….we’ve had some dressage horses turned hunters come through the barn. Auto-lead changes yo! Would give you that prospect feel over fences with some solid flat background!

    1. My trainer loves to get her hunter babies from a lady who dubs them dressage drop outs! They don’t have the right look for that ring, but do awesome in H/J land. Something to consider.

  8. Wanna trade Simon for my sometimes pissy but really too fancy for me wants to be a hunter mare? 😛

    Only mostly joking.

  9. Right there with you. It’s like, I”m spending ALL THIS MONEY on my hobby… WHYYYY is it SO HARD? Horse shopping is the worst. Unless, I image, you are a Gates or a Springsteen.

  10. Definitely try checking out horses in the NW. I’m from Oregon and I’ve seen some pretty awesome horses that are totally local recognized appropriate that are going for about half what they are in the Texas/Oklahoma area simply because there are more trainers and there are more options. I highly recommend NW Rider’s Classifieds as a place to start!

  11. Dang. Wish you were closer to VA. I’ve got an appendix that just came in to be sold who is literally your unicorn!

  12. It’s so frustrating how horse shopping is just not any fun. It should be. But it’s endlessly aggravating. Does your trainer not have any connections? When we were looking for a horse for my husband, my trainer knew of a bunch. They were all arena only and not capable of endurance so we skipped them, but paying the commission to get insider knowledge can be worth it.

  13. I’m just popping in here to put in another vote for posting your honest ISO add 🙂

    And, good luck! I haven’t had to horse shop and I think it would drive me crazy.

  14. I have never actually horse shopped the way normal people horse shop. Out of all 13 horses I’ve had, I’ve only actually ridden two of them before I bought them. I’m not sure I’d know what the hell to do if I had a real budget and could actually shop for something specific. Just the thought of it seems terrifying.

  15. Jessica Redman in MD has the best looking grey TB right now. Her prices are around 3-5K. She ships horses all around so wouldn’t be hard to add another 2K to the price and get it shipped. Love following her on facebook, I only watch through facebook, but she seems to be really good at matching horses with people.

      1. And she has that TB/shire if your price range is $25,000. Doing eventing, but look at those knees and she is flashy too!

    1. I bought a horse from her several years ago that was not what she said it would be. She sold him to me as restarted and jumping courses and when I got him he barely knew how to steer and certainly did not know how to jump PROPERLY – he knew that if he was pointed to a jump that he was supposed to go over it, but I mean he was Green as grass. His price was very high for what he actually was.

      I know others who have had similar experiences. If you can’t go to Maryland and try them – assume they are basically not restarted.

      What she gets in sells immediately, so I would only say to try her if you’re prepared to buy something off a photo that was just off the track a week ago.

  16. You should actually post that second ad. It would get a lot of attention and someone might read it and go, I know exactly that horse, and send it your way! I’m serious!

  17. I’m no help bc I fall in love w everything and have owned… Nothing. But I hope you get your unicorn addition to the nerd herd soon!!!

  18. Ya know, I was driving to work this morning and I thought of also on FB as Jessica Redman.

    The owner is extremely reputable, represents horses accurately and usually has 16.2+ geldings for sale, Appendix and OTTB, with the occasional warmblood. Horses are priced affordably and are usually prospects. Might be worth a look!

  19. There is a trainer named Cathy in this area that finds really nice horses- they range from cute ponies, Hunter prospects, potential 4* horses (one she had in training and sold just ran around Rolex) and everything else in between. If I was looking for a horse she would be one of my first stops to see what she had. Plus she has one for sale right now that might fit your description??? It’s worth a look!

    Good luck on your horse hunt!!!

  20. What you’re looking for seems like it shouldn’t be too hard to find! Of course, we always think that and it always ends up being more difficult than we expected.

    I do so enjoy vicariously horse shopping through my blogger friends though, so please feel free to keep is in the loop.

  21. Oh, you decided to buy instead of lease I take it? I am sure your pony is out there! I looked at a lot before I found Sydney. My want ad would sound much the same!

  22. You can have Tanner 😉 His honest for for sale ad would be:

    Meets your requirements of being AQHA (appendix – but I never got the papers put in my name), above 16.2hh, has chrome, and most likely the cream gene (papers actually say brown – pally dam).

    Sometimes spooky. Might be sound. Old-ish. Can jump hard. Lead changes not finished. But I never had the $$$ to have trainer ride him while he was at nerd horse barn. Likes flat classes but Hunter judges don’t always like him because he’s a weird color and not a 10+ mover.

    Did it for the lulz. Has forever home as long as my mom has land. May or may not appreciate actually having a job again (but my wallet & mom’s fences would like it).

  23. Sent you an e-mail if you’re serious about the AQHA/APHA thing. I still window shop despite not being able to afford a pair of breeches (thanks grad school you’re the best!!!!)

  24. Horse shopping. Ug. I remember those days. Too much like Internet dating. I’ve had way too many weird experiences in both realms. I wish you well and will keep my eyes open on this end. I have a friend who just got what I think would be a dream job at Santa Anita. She is going to the liaison between the retiring race horses and the placement organizations. Not that that helps you in this situation. But maybe someone should start an online horse matchmaking service. Not a trainer because they have a vested interest. But like a third party would could help you. Kind of like an apartment finder service. 🙂

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