My grandfather Percy Blake was a horse trader. They say he had a good eye, but I could never quite discern if he was honest or not. Folks respected him, but he maybe had more income than scruples.

Being a horse trader wasn’t a black and white thing at that point in history, and it probably hasn’t changed much in the last 100 years.

There’s still a lot of horse trading going on and sometimes there’s a suspension of belief between the ad and the genuine article. I compare horse shopping favorably to online dating. And it’s the only date that you want a chaperone along- like a trainer who has been around a bit- if you know what I mean.

A word about truth in advertising: I want to believe folks are basically honest. I want to, really, but that would be nuts. It isn’t like we all speak the same English language, after all.

Some words seem to have definitions that confuse me- like the word bombproof. Could that maybe mean that the horse can destroy his tack, the whole trailer, and your bank account, but still be in one piece after a lengthy vet stay?

Needs experienced rider is confusing terminology. I am fairly certain that means the horse has been trained, but is he trained to buck, bolt, or quit? Would that be just the specialty you are seeking, to broaden your range of riding experience maybe?

And 16 hands means… well, who really knows? Perhaps actual height is a proportional measurement, judged on a sliding scale, depending on the height of the seller. Or something.

Just like dating, you can tell if the horse is dead wrong but you can’t always tell if he is Mr. Right. It’s easy to turn cynical, especially if its past midnight, and you’ve been eating chocolate and stalking DreamHorse online for a few hours. Too many times a would-be rock star ends up being a post-retirement gardener. How old do you suppose that photo is, anyway?

Here are a couple of dating tips: If the ad has too many ancient win photos and pontificates about dozens of accomplishments – or shows baby pictures and calls the weanling a prospect for steeple chase, dressage, western pleasure and vaulting, it might sound too good to be true. Well, don’t trust him. We’ve all dated this guy. Once. It was plenty. (The horse might be okay, but the seller is trying way too hard.)

Or maybe the ad sounds interesting and when you call, the seller goes into excruciating detail about every mistake the horse ever made. He has answered the previous ad too many times, and is going to be so brutally truthful, recollecting every marginal result or youthful transgression. It’s like the guy who tells you about every woman who ever did him wrong, and they all did. (But in this case, the horse was great.)

My favorite ad is the one with a simple description, and photos or a video that is under-produced. The seller has the horse groomed when you arrive and after tacking up, takes him through his paces in a simple way. Then the buyer mounts and the horse tells us who he is.

And sometimes it’s like déjà vu. He’s romantic- it’s like you have known each other forever, you laugh at the same things, and you trust him right away.

So be objective, try to talk yourself out of it. He is too young, too tall, not at all what you were looking for. But the horse has made his decision. He carries you lightly, he’s responsive and relaxed.  He snuffles your hair. So you start emailing photos of him to friends who really don’t care. It isn’t that you can’t see his shortcomings, they just don’t matter.

I recommend a short engagement, health tests and a pre-nup stating he can have all your money. Then get hitched right away- start the process of growing imperfectly older together.

And live happily ever after.

Anna Blake, Infinity Farm.

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Comment by Anna Blake on June 25, 2012 at 10:44pm

Thank you, Barnmice. Yay, I appreciate it!

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