Owning a horse means different things to different people. Some buy a horse with plans to train and resell it hoping to make a profit. Others buy a horse hoping for many years of safe enjoyable pleasure riding. Then there are those that buy horses they think they can win on whether it be at a local show or at a reining futurity. It can also be a business, raising foals or keeping a breeding stallion. There are as many reasons for owning a horse, as there are people in the horse industry for fun or for business.
Buying a horse is a decision that could affect your life for many years so it should not be taken lightly. I am often asked if I know of a good horse that is for sale. I respond by asking a few simple questions like, what breed, how tall, what colour, what sex, how old and most importantly how much do you want to spend? People frequently do not have answers to all those questions. There are many things to think about before you buy a horse.
• Cost of keeping a horse
There is a misconception that the purchase of a horse is what will be the largest cash outlay for the privilege of owning a horse. Relatively speaking, horses are cheap. It is everything else that can break the bank. Boarding, vet bills, farrier service, feed bills, lessons, tack, all are costs that never end.
• Buying on emotion
Emotion will always play a part in buying a horse. It is important to judge the horse on its merit before allowing your emotions to come into play. Too often horses are purchased because we ”fell in love with the horse”. Looks are important but are they important enough to risk your life? For example if you want a Palomino the perfect Palomino is out there waiting for you. You will probably need to look at more than one Palomino to find the right one for you. Be patient and your search for a safe, sound, reliable and enjoyable horse is likely to have a satisfying end.
• Buying from an auction
Buying from an auction can be a good opportunity to view many horses at one location before you buy. If you go to a grade auction the horses are usually cheap but you should wonder why they are there. You could be buying someone else’s problem. It is not until you get the horse home that you realize there is a problem. Registered or select auctions will generally have better quality horses. You should be prepared to pay a fair price. The horses are consigned by breeders, trainers, and owners that are proud of their horses. These sales are not full of horses being dumped because they have problems. Auctions often do not allow the opportunity to ride the horse before you bid. Therefor you must take the sellers word about how well trained the horse is.
• Riding experience
What is your riding ability? If you are a green rider, do not buy a green horse. It is nice to think that you can learn together as you progress, but in my experience “Green on Green Means Black and Blue”. Beginner riders do not have the feel, confidence or experience to help a green horse through many scary situations. It is only a matter of time until you have a wreck that could injure you and your horse. The less experience you have as a rider the more experience your horse should have. Older better-trained horses can give you the confidence and skills required for younger greener mounts.
• Horses level of training
How much training do you want to do? Training a horse can be very rewarding if you are interested in improving your horse and your riding. It can also be very frustrating when things do not go well. Training could take up a great deal of your riding time. People buy horses as “green broke” expecting to just get on and ride. These horses are at various stages of training from just barely started to horses ready to continue into advanced training. If you are not interested in training and just want to ride, buy a broke horse. Training is expensive, and you will pay for it whether you buy a well-trained horse or you buy a green or unstarted horse. The broke horse might cost you more initially but you can ride him as soon as you get him home. The green horse could be cheaper to purchase but is not ready to ride and you will spend months and possibly thousands of dollars in training. Horses can take years to become reliable and safe for the whole family to ride
• Personality and temperament of the horse
Personality should not be overlooked in the search for the perfect horse. Horses can be calm and relaxed, honest and reliable, hot and excitable, spooky and nervous, spoiled and sulky, rude and ignorant, curious and mischievous. You should try to buy a horse with a personality and temperament compatible to your ability, and your intended use for your horse.
• Intended use of the horse
Many breeds are raised for a specific uses. Most breeds are versatile enough to be used for numerous activities. There is a large spectrum of size, shape and athletic ability of a horse. If you like a particular breed, do some research into what they are used for? How serious are you about what you do when you ride. Finding a horse that has natural ability in your area of interest will make your riding more enjoyable.
• Age of the horse
Mature horses are valuable teachers. They can help riders of all ages become better, more confident riders. However not all older horses are suitable for the inexperienced horse person? Just because a horse is old does not mean he is a gentle plug. Many competitive timed event horses are too hot for novice riders. Their individual personality and past use will determine the level of rider or competition they are suitable for. Younger horses are generally more trainable than the older horse. You can teach an old horse new tricks it will just take more time. This of course depends on the horse. The old horse makes the new rider and the old rider makes the new horse!
• Rescuing neglected or abused horses
If you are considering rescuing a distressed horse, take the time to think about what you may be in for. Many rescue horses will make fine saddle horses but they can be a lot of work. If you have a reputable horse rescue operation in your area I would highly recommend using their expertise to rescue one that has the potential to work out for you. Rescuing horses can be an affordable way to get riding but do not just rush off to rescue the first neglected horse you see. It can be very emotional and the desire to save the horse can be compelling. Unfortunately, we can not save them all so seriously consider if you are looking at the horse that will suit your personal situation. If you rescue the wrong one it could be difficult to find him a more suitable home and you may be stuck with a horse that you are not able to enjoy as much as you should. Although not all horses are prime candidates for rescue, saving a horse can be a very rewarding experience. Many distressed horses are simply victims of circumstance. A change of environment and some attention could be all that is needed to turn him into a trusting mount.
We all want that perfect horse. All to frequently what we thought was a perfect horse ends up being something less than ideal. There are a many good horses out there to choose from. I can not stress enough how important it is to make an informed decision when buying a horse. You can not judge a book by its cover and this is very true of horses. Be honest with yourself about your own ability to handle and ride your horse. There is a horse out there for every level of rider.
© 2004 Will Clinging