Buying a horse: where to even start?
I get a lot of questions about where to start when buying a horse. Finding the right partner for your equitation adventures can be a daunting task! So I’ve gathered my top five most important things for you to consider.
1. Make sure that buying a horse is actually what you want to do. Many people mistakenly think that if they want to start riding, they need to buy a horse first. In fact, buying a horse should be the last thing you do! First, take some riding lessons. See if riding is something you enjoy as much as you thought you would, and if it’s something you’d like to stick with. Then consider leasing a horse. Leasing a horse will give you a great sense of what is required in horse ownership without the full commitment. Many of the suggestions below apply to finding a good horse to lease as well. Then ask yourself the following questions:
a. Can I afford to keep a horse? Check out my “Horse care beware” blog.
b. Do the right facilities exist near me to stable and ride my horse?
c. Do I have the time to ride at least three times a week?
d. Is riding something I want to do for at least the next five to ten years?
If you answered yes to all four questions, and the lease has gone well, then you can go on to starting the search for a horse to buy.
2. Decide what kind of riding you would like to do right now. You wouldn’t buy a car without knowing what kind of driving you need to do. It’s the same with a horse. If you want to jump versus ride Western pleasure, you’ll need different skills in your horse. Do you want to show? At what level? What kind of horse can you handle right now? If you are a beginner rider, even if you have ambitions to be a top show jumper in ten years, you should make sure you get a horse than you can safely ride right now.
3. What kind of riding would you like to be doing in the future? If you are a young rider, you may want to consider getting a horse you can grow into. Ponies are great for very young or small riders, but if you are 14 you could have outgrown a pony in a year or two and be back to the drawing board. You still have to consider #2 above, and not get a horse outside of your ability, but you also want a horse who will be able to keep up with you. Also, if you are considering a horse with one main ability, make sure that is the sport you want to keep doing in the future. As a beginning rider, it’s usually a better idea to get a more versatile horse–you probably don’t know for sure what kind of riding you’ll want to do as you get better.
4. What are your most important characteristics you need and want in a horse? No single horse will have every single possible trait you could want. You will have to figure out what are the non-negotiable aspects, and which ones you could compromise on. For example, if you are a bit of a nervous rider, you should be willing to sacrifice amazing movement to get a calm, even-headed horse. If you really want to jump high, you might end up with a horse who’s not great on the trail or a bit weak in dressage. That’s why it’s so important to know ahead of time what you want to do, and what you absolutely cannot live without in your horse. Maybe people ask me about breeds, but I feel that the individual characteristics are more important than breed. Breeds can give you a starting point, but you never really know what you’ll find in a particular horse.
5. What is your budget? This question will influence #4 as well. The more you can and want to pay, most likely the more of your top traits you can get in your horse. If you have a relatively small budget, you will likely have to make additional compromises. One of the most common trade-offs is buying a young and untrained horse who has good prospects. This trade-off is usually not a good idea for beginning riders. I would suggest going for an older, experienced horse who may not be able to compete like he used to. Schoolmaster horses are invaluable in helping new riders, and often can be found for reasonable prices as their current riders are moving on to more competitive mounts.
In this video, I address the question, “What breed should I get?” I stress again that it matters most what the horse is like, and what you want to do!
Many happy trails to you :)