Europe's green fields full of foals and talented youngsters that are tomorrow's Olympic hopefuls can lull you into a false sense of hope; that if you buy an "imported" horse off of that jaw-dropping YouTube video where it does a hand stand over the jump, you will be guaranteed a spot on one of 2020's teams. And for €35.000, damn that's better then Walmart's weekly deal you received in your mailbox last week!
I hate to be the one to rock the boat, but if it sounds too good to be true, then... can I just say: Photoshop CS5, bamboo poles, and LOTS of sedatives. From the dealers that have somehow forced themselves into the American market through the power of social media, it is a blessing and a curse all at the same time. Facebook and Instagram may connect you to the rest of the world, but that being said not all of the corners of the world are rainbows and sunshine.
My trip to Belgium was an eye-opening experience. From foal selections for Europe's top auctions to sitting on countless real, quality horses for American clients, to meeting the top jumping sires in the world, I experienced the 'authentic' Belgium and not some American knock-off experience at a "social media famous" dealer's barn. I was not the typical American shopper.
The honest truth is that most of the top breeders care. They either breed their own top young stock, purchase them as embryos, or as very young horses and closely nurture their young careers from the very beginning. More or less, they invest their own time and money into these horses essentially from birth until they hit the Big Tour or farther. In other words, quality is not cheap... Period... Which comes to my next point: Honesty.
European dealers have hit the jackpot with the American market on social media. The mentality of brokers and trainers such as, 'If we throw some braids in it and lunge it to within inches of its life and then give it a cocktail we can sell it as a hunter', 'Let's rap the ever-loving crap out of its legs and scare it to death before we take the free-jump video', 'It has a perfect vetting (according to my Photoshop program...)', or 'It has amazing breeding, but this may or may not be its actual passport...🙄'
Now, I will admit I was totally on the bandwagon. I have bought my fair share of "amazing" horses off of Facebook and YouTube. Did they usually end up disastrous? Usually... but fixable (thank god for my good luck). But, luck can only get me so far. And I knew in my heart it was running out. I have had countless clients and good friends that didn't fare as well as I. When I was offered the opportunity to travel to Europe as an "insider", I jumped at the chance. To sit on horses with raw talent, that were also SOUND horses was an unreal experience. And to know their entire backgrounds from when they were foals changed the game.
When your dealing with someone that has only had the horse for a month or two at most, how could they possibly know or care about the actual history? "Fresh from the breeder"? What does that exactly mean? The good breeders/owners know exactly where their good horses have come from and where they go. It's like not having CarFax when your buying a used vehicle.... would you REALLY buy that used BMW that has had flood damage or a few wrecks even though it looks brand spankin' new? Yet, American ignorance is bliss and SO many are cashing in on our inexperience and obsession for 'pretty is as pretty does'.
But pretty really doesn't get the job done.
It's just like US media; you can't believe what you see or what you are told. Researching the history of a horse from breeder to sale is always your best reference. A good friend of mine told me a long time ago that it was important for me to come here and actually sit on the horses and I never believed him until now. Do you really think you can get a solid 1.45m horse landed for $60,000?? Let me tell you my friend, you will never get a SOLID 1.45m horse for under $100,000 in today's market that is a) sound, b) sane, and c) reliable. Or that passes a legit vet exam and won't kill you in the warm-up at the show.
Next time you see that enticing Facebook post with the gold stars and rocket ship emojis of a young horse prepped within an inch of his sanity and jumping well above the standards - for "ONLY $20,000!!", take a minute to rationally think. Do all of the past Olympic medalists and LGCT horses jump like that? Have they ever jumped like that? Probably not.... I mean, if you want to just toss away $20,000 then that's fine.
Moral of the story is... Always think before you buy, and ALWAYS know who you're buying from.