I finally connected with the owner of horse #11 today. She hadn't called me back because she said she was ambivalent. He's a really nice horse, but has one big issue that she's been struggling with. Along with all his other good characteristics, he's great on the trail by himself and with small groups of horses. When there's a large group of horses and one or more horses leave the group, even if they're horses he doesn't know or he's still got other horses with him, he loses his mind. He starts by jigging and things quickly escalate from there. I've dealt with this sort of thing before and it can be pretty scary. We talked about him for a while - she's about my age - late 50s - and says she's not that experienced. He's a very dominant horse with other horses and it sounds like the trouble she's having with him is related more to his dominance and his reluctance to turn over leadership to her - a trust issue - rather than simple herd-boundness, which in my somewhat limited experience is more often an issue of more submissive horses. Neither she nor her trainer has made much headway yet with the issue. We discussed it for a while - she's thinking of keeping him and working through this, although she acknowledges that it may take a very long time of slow incremental work approach and retreat work, where he gradually learns by very slowly stretching his boundaries that he can get relief from his anxiety and trust being with her. She also has to really step up and provide him with the leadership he needs so he doesn't have to take charge. The behavior pattern is so well established that it's hard to deal with. I wished her luck and said I didn't think that's something I was up for right now. She said she would let me know if she hears of any good horses for sale up in her part of the country.
I've really been impressed by the honesty and forthrightness of many of the sellers I've been talking to. These people are by and large really fine horsepeople and a pleasure to talk to.
I've also decided to take horse #2 off my list - just too delicate for my taste (sorry, horse #2 fans), as well as horse #16 - double Impressive (one of my biases) and horse #17 (phone number doesn't work and the seller hasn't responded to multiple e-mails). That leaves horses #10, #12, #18 and #20 - I'm definitely seeing #12 and #20 on this trip and hope to see #12 as well if I can connect again with her seller. For the record, and now that I'm planning to see them, the name of horse #10, the bay mare, is River, horse #12, the sorrel gelding, is Pie (after Jimmy Stewart's movie horse) and horse #20, the sorrel mare, is Peppy. (See the sidebar for their pictures and descriptions.)
Here's another horse, horse #21 and her ad, that I may try to fit in to my trip if circumstances permit:
Once I'm done looking at these horses, if I still haven't found the right one, it'll almost be November and I'll suspend my horse search until the spring.