There comes a time in every rider's life when the eye starts to stray. Often it's during a period of rest or injury for their horse, and the lack of riding is slowly driving them mad. Sometimes it's because the horse is getting up there in years, or isn't quite tackling the course the way they should. Other times, it may simply be because the rider misses the ways of the baby horse.
At this point, many riders are struck with what I like to call the Second Horse Itch.
The pesky Second Horse Itch starts as just a little tickle. It may start at a horse show, when you see a particularly nice Novice horse float across the ground in front of you. It may start at your barn, when a fellow barnmate buys a new one and the excitement spreads around. It can even start in your daydreams, as you race across the Rolex course on a horse you made yourself (in your mind).
That tickle grows slowly, slowly. You might begin surfing the web for horse ads. At first, you search Dream Horse for all the horses worth $50k or more, finding your perfect upper level school master who takes you to the autumnal woods of Fair Hill and the balmy sands of Galway. With your perfect $75K purchase, you head to England to compete with William and Mary, and the Netherlands to joust with Michael Jung and the indomitable Sam. You ride down centerline at the London Olympics, having just performed the test of a lifetime. This dream horse and you are unbeatable.
Reality is an enabler for the Second Horse Itch. Reality brings you back from the horse-saturated landscape of Europe and places you firmly on solid ground. That four star packer is out of reach, financially.
But you can afford a baby.
It doesn't hurt to look, right?
It starts off with the fantasy of importing a phenomenal young three year old. You watch video after video of Irish Sport Horses cantering and free jumping. One or two catch your eye, and you again daydream, this time of pulling a fancy young horse off the trailer, freshly arrived from Ireland, with a moniker to match. You think of hacking the baby through the hills of Virginia, teaching him to be brave and strong. You think of bringing him to schooling shows and training him so carefully that his first debut at a rated show goes perfectly, and the pair of you spend a lifetime going perfectly up the levels.
The you look at the cost of a plane ticket for a horse.
On to square three. The Second Horse Itch needs attention, and at this point you can't help but scratch it.
You think of buying a young warmblood from a breeder in this country, a progeny from Brandenburg's Windstar or Salute the Truth. You drool over Riverman offspring and covet those sired by A Fine Romance. But the bottom line looms.
Inevitably, your mouse hand drags you to the CANTER sites, where you peruse the ranks of young OTTBs. Not all of them are to your liking, or even many, but finding the proverbial diamond in the rough is part of the game. At this point, the Second Horse Itch is a constant, nagging thought.
You find a thoroughbred to fit your criteria, who looks perfect on paper and in the photos. You even have his purchase price in your savings account. The Second Horse Itch compulsively pushes your hand to the phone, ready to call the trainer.
Then you look at your bank account. Work out your finances. Realize that the expensive part of owning horses is not the purchase price, but the upkeep. Sadly, you put the phone down.
But you come back to that photo of the young, OTTB daily. You both dread and can't wait for him to be sold. Finally, the ad goes away, indicating he is no longer available. You think you're free of the longing.
But you're not. There's always another Dream Horse, another import, another fancy youngster, another OTTB.
The Second Horse Itch never truly goes away.