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it’s hard not to find a good horse but if you are lucky enough to find one, then it’s got to get through the vetting. You might even go a couple of times and come back empty-handed.” Ryan recommends anyone interested in horse shopping abroad go and experience it, but cautions buyers about the risks. “It’s not a guar- antee that you’re going to a) find the horse you’re looking for or that it will b) pass the vetting,” he says. “If you buy a horse that has already been imported to the U.S., you have to jump through a couple less hoops. But it’s a cool country and a great experience to go over there and look around, so you’d be sure to have a good time at the least.”


The Ideal Horse Let’s face it: not every horse is going to be an event horse, no matter his breeding or conforma- tion. To be successful in this sport, a horse must have the desire to gallop and jump. On any horse hunt, it helps to have a basic idea what you’re looking for in order to refine your search. “I’m always interested in the horse’s breeding,”


says Ryan. “It doesn’t necessarily define what I will or won’t buy, but it’s interesting to know. I have a couple nice six-year-olds from Cooley, and funny enough they are by the same stallion, a horse called Plot Blue. I look at the quality of its movement, its willingness to jump and its technique over a fence, rideability and how quiet it is. I typically go see a horse one time and I know within 20 minutes of being there, seeing it and riding it whether it’s something that would interest me or not.” Likewise, Missy says, “Trainability is essential in any horse; client horses need to be dependable—importing a horse is a big expense, especially for people who don’t do it often. Bill Levett once said to me, ‘You can’t train a brain’ and that’s really true. Also keep in mind, our footing can be a lot less forgiving, so you have to be sure about soundness and conformation. A sales horse should go in a snaffle all three phases; Americans like a pretty mover, a safe horse that doesn’t stop or rush fences, stuff like that. For me, I want to see the jump first—flat work you can work on— and I want a good amount of blood, but even a Thorough- bred can be a thick, heavy type so don’t go on pedigree alone.”


“I might see a great hunter type but I don’t know how


to market that horse; it’s not my world, so I’d probably lose money there. I have some contacts in the jumper world and I’m developing more contacts in the hunter world,” she adds. “If I bring a horse over and it doesn’t work out as an eventer, it is more likely to make it as an equitation horse or low-level jumper than a straight dressage horse.” Richard Sheane of Ireland’s famed Cooley Farm suggests


not focusing too much on pedigree. “Temperament and trainability, conformation and breeding are something to


30 March/April 2019


Cooley Master Class was the winning horse at Kentucky CCI4* (new CCI5*) 2018 with Oliver Townend from the UK.


do with it, but I’ve had a lot of horses with ‘unfashionable’ breeding do very well and vice/versa. With eventing there’s so much talk about Thoroughbred blood and whether you need it or don’t, but there are a lot of variations. To be quite frank you need a horse that wants to do it first and fore- most. It doesn’t matter if it’s Oliver Townend or an amateur riding, attitude is a huge, huge thing. I’ve seen horses that probably shouldn’t have done it that did it, and horses that should have but didn’t. Riders might not look at a horse because it’s 52 percent blood or whatever but that’s a fool- ish calculation.” In 2018, Cooley horses represented 11 different nations


in competition. Richard says one of the secrets to his success is that he has built riders’ trust over time and focuses on selling good quality horses over selling in larger quantity. “We had a girl here last week, she liked the horse and had money to spend but I knew it wasn’t going to work, and I told them so,” he says. “Her mother was surprised that I talked her out of it, but I can sell that horse next week, and I want them to go somewhere that is a good fit. We’re very lucky to be in that position. The more horses I sell the easier it is to sell them, and that lady will almost definitely come back and buy a horse someday. We may have the right horse then, but we didn’t this time.” When you’re on a schedule, it’s best not to waste


anyone’s time if you’re not interested. Missy says that generally speaking, Germans aren’t easily offended, so if you see a horse and know it’s not right for you, don’t waste everyone’s time—move on to the next one. “By all means


Amber Heintzberger


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