Horse Shopping (Down the Line, Stran Smith)

Some friends were shopping for a barrel horse the other day and I asked each of them the one quality they were looking for. My friend had one answer, his girlfriend another and her parents another. Whether it’s a calf horse, barrel horse or race horse, if you’re buying a horse for competition – you need a winner.

How do you know if he’s a winner? Find out what’s been won on him. And what’s more important is can I win on him. When a horse is a proven winner that’s when they start asking astronomical prices and getting them. Just because they ask it and someone gives it, that doesn’t mean the horse is worth it. But if you can win on them, then they’re worth whatever you have to pay for them – to a point.

This is where the business side of me has to over rule my emotional side. I use a mount money formula to determine whether a horse is practically priced for me. For example let’s say a horse costs $100,000 and I want to have him paid for in two years. That means I would have to win $200,000 on him each year, for two years in a row.

So if you’re not sure how much to pay for a horse, figure up how much you normally win in a year. If you normally win $5,000 and you’re looking at a horse that costs $25,000 – that doesn’t make a lot of sense unless you’re progressing in your roping and expect to increase your winnings.

There are many theories about what’s fair when trying a horse. Personally I don’t need to haul a horse home because I don’t really care how good he is in the practice pen. At this point in my career what’s important to me is how he performs in the arena, under the lights for the big bucks and how much has been won on him in these conditions.

Now if he hasn’t been anywhere, I still want to know what he’s going to do when he gets there. I might try him at their house and ask them to take him to one or two rodeos where I can see how he’ll do.

That’s how you find out who the winners are. Every good horse I’ve ever had is his best at the rodeos. The great horses are great every time anywhere. Ronnie Williams used to have a horse named “Carry,” because he’d carry you to the pay window.