I simply admitted to myself that buying an unknown horse is gamble and made my bet with eyes wide open.
You see, I have basically decided that it is impossible for me to really know if a horse is going to work for me unless I bring it home and use it over the course of a few weeks or months. Soundness, temperament, trainability, all of those things that make a horse "the one", (or not) are transitory. One horse might be quiet for me and hot for my friend. A horse could have a minor strain that compromises a vet check while another might pass a vet check because their injuries are not aggravated and/or they are drugged. Some horses are more submissive when with a big herd but bolder when with just a single mare. Some horses can stand up to being loved on while others need a firm and heavy hand. How many of you know someone who bought a horse who was so good (or so bad) that turned out to be bad (or good!). All the environmental factors (handler, feed, herd, weather etc.) effect how a horse shows on the day you try them out and all of those factors (handler, feed, herd, weather) effect a how a horse will work for you.
I am not recommending that everyone take this approach. If I were out to buy a reining horse I would be looking for a specific set of skills, conformation, pedigree and I would be vetting up the whazoo to ensure that the money I am going to sink in to that horse is going in to the best prospect I can find. But for the kind of horse I set out to buy (a good minded trail horse that I can take to local shows and do a little of everything on plus something I can really bond with), I am focusing more on personality than performance prospect.
IAs such, I didnt care to waste my time with the "what ifs". Instead I decided to consider it a straight up gamble. For the cost of her purchase price I was willing to bet on her that she was sound and that the qualities I saw in her (the manner in which she processed her environment and overall innate temperament) was a true representation of her character. She seemed sane. She seemed quiet. She seemed sound. That was the best I was going to do. (I want to reemphasise what I said at the top... "for the cost of her purchase price I was willing bet on her." Put it this way, buying Sweet Pea didnt exactly break the bank. I feel I paid a fair price for her but I could also afford for her not to work out at all. Like any kind of responsible gambler I knew I could afford to loose.
But of course we are talking about an animal here and one loved by her owner M. The best I could do was tell her owner the absolute truth. I said, "I am going to consider purchasing her but I am not sure if she is going to work out for me. What I am looking for is intrinsict and while I'm sure she is a good girl I need you to know that if her and I dont click she'll be back on the market come spring. I will promise you that between now and then I'll take excellent care of her."
The only question I had left to answer was, "Did I want her?"
In the past, when I've gone to buy a horse, there has never been any question of want. I have always known, within a moment, if that horse is one that I'd like to own. The mulling comes when I have to decide if the horse is a good prospect for my intended use, if it sound, if it is sane, if the seller is telling the truth, etc. etc. etc.. But with Sweet Pea I'd put all that aside and discovered that I really didnt know if I wanted her. When I had gone to see her I had put on my "thinking cap" and tuned out from my (usually dominant) "feeling" side. I liked her. I thought she was a good prospect. But I didnt feel drawn to her... I didnt say "I gotta have her!" I said, "I'll sleep on it."
So that night, before "sleeping on it" I was talking to a friend and had an epiphany. *insert epiphany music please*.... it sounds like dah-ta-dah!
I realized the reason why I didnt feel this overwhelming urge to own her was that (a) I wasnt attracted to her color. (b) as a pedigree lover I wasnt crazy about her breeding and (b) DING! DING! DING! She HAD NO BROKEN WING!!!
Broken Wing Syndrome, for those of you who dont know, is the attraction that (mostly females) have towards any animal, man, bird, (whatever) that is needy. The abused, the skinny, the frightened, the overworked and underpaid. I didnt feel a pull towards her because she seemed so solid. She seemed like she had been treated pretty well her entire life. M. was friends with the breeders and had bought her as a yearling. She was trained using some natural horsemanship and was attached to her owner.
So that night I went to bed. I lay awake awhile, mulling. And then I woke up in the morning and texted M. with a note that said, "Sold". I went to see her Tuesday, signed a purchase agreement Wednesday and rode her home Thursday.
So far, so good.
Except one thing, still no name.