Deciding if you are ready to buy a new horse (or your first one) is one of the most exciting times you can have as an equestrian. But with a huge amount of variables to think about, it can sometimes seem overwhelming to make such a big decision. This article is designed to give you a framework to make the search for your next best friend much more manageable and seamless!
How to define what you’re looking for
The first step you need to take is to narrow down what you need in the horse, the first questions to get out of the way are:
How much do you have to spend? Try to make this a range as you don’t want to miss a golden opportunity just because you were only looking at horses in a narrow range of prices! The perfect horse for you might be slightly under your budget due to the current owners needing a quick sale, on the other hand, you might be so well suited to a horse that is slightly over your budget that the current owners decide to knock the price down for you because they value the home that the horse goes to over how much they get for them.
What range of height is best suited for you? Again it’s important to keep an open mind about how big your perfect horse might be, however, it almost goes without saying that if you are 6’3″ a 14hh, finely built pony might not be suitable!
It is probably easier to make a judgement of what breeds you are not interested in buying than breeds you are interested in. Reputation isn’t everything but there is definitely some sense in not looking for a young thoroughbred straight out of its racing career if you are a nervous rider wanting to gain confidence! If you are wanting to follow a career in the show ring, the breed might be more important to you than someone wanting to hack and just have fun at home as certain classes are breed-specific. Similarly, if you are wanting to event, showjump or compete at advanced dressage, you might be best with an athletic breed like a warmblood who can stand up to the challenge.
How old do you want the horse to be? For this aspect, you need to consider how much time you have to dedicate to the horse, how long you want to keep it, how experienced you are and how the age of the horse affects your budget. If you are an experienced rider looking for a project to bring up the levels, a young horse would be perfect. Depending on whether you have lots of time to dedicate to the horse’s education or not, something unbroken might even be what you’re looking for. For a rider who is wanting to learn more and gain experience, a horse over 10 years old might be the right place to start and for someone looking to give an older horse a forever home and easy life, 15 would be perfect.
How much do you want the horse to have achieved before you buy it? This variable again plays into your budget and will be affected by age. What you need to determine are your goals with the horse and what level of experience the horse needs to have to fulfil those ambitions. If you are wanting to jump around a course of 70cm and go clear, the horse does not need to have a proven record at 1.30m for it to be the perfect horse for you. However if you hadn’t done any jumping before, maybe a horse with some experience around courses would be most suitable. You don’t want to knock your confidence by attempting to start on a horse that needs you to be the one giving it confidence and taking control.
Bring someone experienced with you
Preferably someone who knows how you ride and what you’re looking for, like an instructor or experienced friend. They will be able to spot a horse that isn’t right for you from a mile off and the experience of buying a horse will be much more enjoyable if you aren’t spending the whole time second-guessing your judgements. Make sure this person is someone you really trust and that they have at least some experience buying horses as they will hopefully remember to ask helpful things that you forget and notice bits that you haven’t.
Have the horse checked by a vet
Simply because even if the current owners are entirely trustworthy and have told you everything they know about the horse’s health, it may have an underlying issue that makes it completely unsuitable for you. It’s responsible to know what you’re getting into concerning a horse’s health as vet bills can be expensive and you want to make sure you’re in the best position to give the horse you’re buying the life it deserves.
Ask about history but don’t obsess over it
It’s important to know what kind of life the horse you are buying has had before you have met them, for the sake of knowing medical issues to be aware of, triggers for odd behaviour and general getting to know the horse. However, making your own judgement of the horse as it is in the present is more important than getting hung up on something in its past that isn’t affecting it today.
Go with your head over your heart
Buying a horse is a very important decision and a huge investment; financially, emotionally and time-wise. Ultimately if you fall in love with and buy a horse because it is beautiful and ignore the fact that it makes you a bit nervous when it tenses up and spooks at nothing, the heartache of falling out of love with that horse because it has scared you a few months down the line is so much worse than being sensible and carrying on your search to find the perfect partner in crime.
Buying a horse is a balancing act of weighing up the pros and cons, very few people set out to buy a horse with very specific criteria and end up with that exact horse. Keep an open mind, don’t ignore doubts just because you’re in a rush to buy the first horse you see and happy hunting!
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