Buying Your First Horse: Five Questions

Ready to buy your first horse? Here are a few questions to consider before you hit the classifieds.

1. What is my skill level? Even though this is your first horse, you may have spent tons of time riding and handling horses at your local stable. I would advise anyone who wants to own a horse to take riding lessons and lease a horse before taking the plunge. Spending time and money on your passion is the only way to get a really accurate picture of what will be required to keep a horse. Knowing your skill level is key when considering your purchase. Have an experienced horseperson, preferably your riding instructor or trainer, guide you when considering prospective mounts. If you are a beginner or a timid rider, you will need a quiet, experienced animal to help teach you the ropes. Conventional wisdom tells us that green horse + green rider = BIG TROUBLE. In general, you will want to disregard ads for young, high spirited horses.

2. Where will I keep my horse? If you are lucky enough to live in the country and have the appropriate facilities, then you may be considering keeping your horse at home. If so, you will need to be prepared to provide a safe and pleasant environment for your new companion, feed, water, and clean up after the horse yourself, and schedule appropriate veterinarian and farrier visits. I would also highly recommend having your own horse trailer in case you need to take your horse to the vet. If you choose to board your horse you will benefit from interaction with other riders and horses, fewer scheduling responsibilities, access to lessons and horse shows, and more varied facilities. Be aware that boarding is not cheap. A good facility can run anywhere from $250-$500 (and more) a month for full care.

3. Can I afford this? When you are excited about buying a horse, it can be hard to look at expense beyond the purchase price. A horse’s purchase price is a small percentage of what you will pay to maintain, train, and care for your equine throughout its lifetime. You should be prepared to care for the horse for the rest of its life if you choose to buy it. Your new buddy will need yearly vaccinations, regular worming, regular hoof trimming/shoeing, quality feed and hay, and well fitted tack at a minimum. What you pay for all of this will be dictated by where you live and what kind of activities you will pursue.

4. What are my goals? You will find it very hard to find your equine soul mate if you don’t know what you want. Know what kind of riding you enjoy best, whether you plan on competing and in what discipline, and how much instruction you plan to take. If you plan on taking a weekly leisurely ride around the lake and little else, your options will be much different than if you are looking for an experienced eventer. Speak with your instructor about your abilities, goals, and plans before you buy.

5. Do I know what to avoid? If you do not feel confident that you will be able to spot conformational errors or bad behavior in a prospective mount, spend some time with horse books. Seeing photos of cow hocks, ewe necks, short patterns, etc. will help you to feel more competent when you go out shopping. Remember that proportion and good conformation are important to the horse’s long term health. Again, I remind you to take an experienced horse person with you when you go to try a horse. They may instantly spot a major flaw in a horse that you may not see.

I know these may not be the words you want to read when you are looking to find your dream horse. Keep in mind that your “dream horse” is rarely the first one you buy. This should be a starting point to get organized when looking to buy. Take it from me, the right horse is the one that you can afford, can do what you want to do, and most importantly, that you can handle. Good luck!

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Billie Streelman
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Posted on Oct 22, 2010