Buying a horse is a serious decision. Too many first-time horse owners select a horse that isn’t right for them and eventually get frustrated and give up on the horse and horse riding in general.
Buying a horse a horse takes a lot of research, plus some experience and smart buying strategies, to make a purchase you’ll be happy with.
It’s easy to let your heart cloud your mind so you need to stay focused and fully understand what you are getting in to.
As much as we love horses, we know that not everyone should own one. Not even every horse lover should actually own a horse. Horses are a huge time commitment, as well as a huge emotional and financial commitment. Horse ownership is certainly not for the faint of heart (or light of wallet)! Here are some steps we suggest taking before you decide to buy a horse. If you don’t have an instructor, rely upon the advice of a trusted friend who is very knowledgeable about horses and has horses whose behavior you admire.
- Enroll in regular riding lessons with a reputable trainer or instructor.
- Consider a full or partial lease of a horse for at least six months. Leasing is an arrangement in which you pay either a fixed fee or a portion of the horse’s expenses in exchange for riding time on that horse. In the typical full lease, you take over all of the horse’s expenses and care responsibilities, and in a typical partial lease, the owner remains primarily responsible for these items. Ask your instructor or trainer to recommend a leasing situation for you. Many trainers and instructors have horses for lease in their barns.
- Only if leasing a horse doesn’t provide enough “horse time” for you, should you consider actually purchasing a horse. Deciding to buy a horse is a huge commitment!
Extra costs to consider
- Board. Ranges from full care, which includes feeding and stall cleaning, to self-care, which includes only a place to keep the horse and the boarder does all of the work and provides all of the feed and bedding. Boarding rates are highly dependent upon the local market in your area. If possible, you should choose a boarding facility that is no more than 20 minutes from your home so that it will not be a hassle to be there every day.
- Lessons. Even if you have already had several years of lessons, you should plan to continue instruction so you can continue to develop your skills. Having an ongoing relationship with a professional instructor can help prevent problems and solve those that do arise, all in an environment that helps you stay safe.
- Competitions. You might want to participate in at least some modest forms of competition and/or social events with your horse, which involve entry fees, transportation for the horse, and special outfits and equipment. Consult your trainer or instructor for more guidance on this expense item.
- Farrier.Your horse will require regular farrier care every six-eight weeks, and the cost will depend upon what type of trimming and shoes the horse requires, as well as your local market. Older horses may require special or corrective shoeing to keep them sound, which typically costs more than regular shoeing.
- Veterinarian. Your horse will require shots at least twice a year and worming approximately every two months. Ask your veterinarian to recommend a vaccination and worming program for you. Your horse will also require emergency or special care from time to time, and you should plan the cost of this care into your budget. Your horse will also require dental care approximately once a year. Don’t be surprised if your horse’s health care costs more than your own!
- Tack and equipment. When you buy a horse, you will have an initial investment for a saddle, bridle, grooming supplies and other basic items. You will also have ongoing expenses, such as fly spray, grooming supplies, horse blankets and replacement of equipment that wears out or is damaged. Ask your instructor or trainer for guidance in choosing equipment and supplies that are good quality and long-lasting, as price is not always a reliable indicator of quality.
- Feed and supplements. Many first time horse buyers wisely choose older horses. Older horses do often require extra feed and supplements to keep them healthy and sound. Consult your veterinarian for more specific nutrition advice.
- Bedding. Many boarding facilities provide bedding as part of a full-care program.
Check out some industry prices of horse supplies below:
Does Size Matter?
There’s no perfect size horse except the horse you feel comfortable with. As long as you can mount and dismount without difficulty, and your feet are not hanging significantly below the horse’s barrel when you’re mounted, size doesn’t matter too much.
What Breed Should You Buy?
Much like dogs, horses have been selectively bred for generations to develop particular breeds with particular characteristics. Certain breeds tend to be quieter and more docile, such as Quarter Horses, Paints and many types of draft horses. Other breeds tend to be more spirited, such as Arabians and Thoroughbreds. However, there are outstanding examples of quiet, docile horses as well as highly spirited horses in every breed. Your instructor can help recommend the right breed(s) for you.
How Much Does Age Matter?
When buying horses for children, there’s an old saying that the age of the horse and the age of the rider should add up to 20. Younger horse usually aren’t quiet and experienced enough for a first-time horse owner. Horses can live more than 30 years with good care, so don’t exclude older horses from your search. There’s old saying that when matching horses and riders, “Green and green equals black and blue.” Inexperienced horse person buys a young, inexperienced horse, the horse can be too much to handle.
Get a Vet Check
Once you have identified a suitable horse, you should bring a vet to inspect the horse. It’s worth the time and effort to ensure you are buying a sound horse. A horse is a long term investment and a lot of thought and planning should go into this decision.
Things to ask
- Has the horse ever colicked or foundered?
- Does it need special shoeing?
- Has it had surgery of any kind?
- Has is ever been lame?
- Has it ever been sick?
- Has it ever bucked?
- Has anyone been thrown from this horse?
- How does the horse behave on trails?
- Does it spook easily?
- How much training does it have? How many times a month is it ridden?
- Why is it being sold?
- Does it have registration papers?
- How does the horse act when being loaded in a trailer?
- Has a child ever ridden it?
Hopefully this information was helping in making a good decision. The key is to do your homework, like any other big decision in life I suppose.