Jake says: “if I’m looking for a prospect, the first thing I’m going to look at, even before conformation, is pedigree.
When looking for a prospect that can win in the cowhorse, or the cutting, or the barrel racing, you need to read that black type and look for something that’s by a proven stud and out of a producing mare. Do your homework to increase your odds of that prospect panning out.”
A great way to start is with a sale catalog or online. Take some time at home and read through the black type to help narrow down the colts you are interested in.
What if a colt by a big name sire just isn’t in the budget?
“That’s ok.” says Jake. “There’s a lot of what I call junior sires out there that have a great show record but are early in their breeding career and haven’t produced much yet.”
Colts by a sire with little to no production history can be a great option. Pick stallions with a successful show career over similar horses with good breeding and no winning history.
Jake mentioned Nabisco Roan as a great example of a junior sire. He’s a two-time world champion and has won almost $100,000 in the NRCHA. His offspring are likely to be winners, too, but since he just retired to stud this year he hasn’t produced much yet.
Colts by a stud like him are likely to be a little more affordable than something by a horse that’s already a household name as a performer and producer.
Pay attention to the bottom side, too.
The mare may have an impressive show record but is young enough she hasn’t had many foals. Research and see what her mother has produced or if she has any producing siblings.
The second step in narrowing down the search is conformation.
Jake looks for a nice, balanced horse. That balance will show even when they’re young and small. He looks for a good headset, a nice slope to the shoulder, and hocks that are low to the ground—all hallmarks of a performance horse and a quality prospect.
Eye appeal is important too. A horse with a big hammer head may just not have the right look for success. “Pretty counts for a lot. It’s there when they’re babies, and it’s there as they grow up.”
Jake looks for a smooth traveler without a lot of high knee action. He likes a horse that carries its head fairly level. Often these youngsters will be fresh and playing. This can make it hard to gauge headset until they settle down.
A horse that will easily pick up the lope in a small pen and move through its gaits smoothly is preferable.
When the person on the ground steps in front and asks the horse to change direction, notice if he uses his hocks or bounces around on his front end. Pay attention to headset—does she lower her head as she turns into the fence or fling it up in the air?
Even a colt without much training will give an idea of how he’ll move once he gets a rider on his back.
What if it’s not even halter broke yet?
There’s plenty of prospects outside of a sale type situation. You might be interested in one that isn’t halter broke yet.
“That’s tough,” says Telford. “But rely on that pedigree. That owner should have papers and information on the colt’s background if I’m going to spend my time to go out and look at a horse.”
Try to walk around the colt and assess his conformation if he’s turned out in the pasture. Spook him a little and watch how he moves away from you. Jake adds, “it’s definitely easier to evaluate something that’s been handled in the round pen a little. There’s a reason these production sales usually hire someone to get the colts groundworked.”
Trust your professional contacts.
Telford says he really recommends bringing a professional along if you’re an owner looking to put a horse in training or a non-pro hoping to show your new prospect. A trainer is going to have ridden a lot more colts and seen a lot more yearlings than even an experienced rider and it’s definitely better to have a more educated set of eyes with you.
It’s best to not try to go it alone, especially if you’re new to buying performance horse prospects.
“Trust your own judgment and your trainer’s opinion more than what you hear from the person selling the horse. Form your own opinion from watching and don’t put much value in someone telling you ‘she stops harder than any filly out in the pasture.’”
Learn another Million Dollar Rider’s insight on shopping at big sales here!
Jake suggests not skipping the vet check.
The big sales usually require x-rays, and it’s well worth the expense of having the onsite vet evaluate them for you. Have a pre-purchase exam done if it’s a private sale.
Finding an issue before you commit to buying can save on expenses and training problems down the road. Some problems may not be a deal breaker, but can require special management. Work with your vet and trainer to make sure you know what you’re buying. There’s a lot of nice colts out there!
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