Horse Shopping Advice Part I: Finding the horse

Spring has sprung here and that means we are all trying to ride as much as possible. Except spring also means rain. So despite all of our best intentions, it keeps raining every weekend. Boo. So maybe soon there will be some riding at home.

In the meantime, we have several students that have been horse shopping. Some to lease and some to buy, they all want a little bit of help. Maggie and I have been spending some of our extra time traveling around and evaluating ponies. With this in mind, I have a few tips for those perusing the internet. We usually shop from the Facebook groups, craigslist,, and assorted other random places. We also talk with boarders and pony club families to hear about other local horses. We generally shop in the low four figures, so my experiences mirror that caliber of horse. For your convenience, my list:

1. Decide what you want, then decide what you NEED in an equine partner. This is a hard one. This is the part where you determine what level you are actually riding at. Trainers are really helpful here. If you are a beginner, than you need a safe, quiet horse. If you are looking to move up the levels in your discipline, you are searching for something entirely different. How confident or timid you are as a rider makes a difference as well. Some riders like to push a horse along, while others are worried when riding a sensitive or quick horse. Think about what would make you happy!

2. Next you need to make a realistic budget. First thing is to decide how much you can spend on a horse, and then save up the balance! You need to have the money in the bank if you’re going to have the best shopping experience. Don’t expect people to take payments.

You should also be making a plan about how much you can afford monthly. Its important to know what type of living arrangement you can or will provide to your new horse. Some horses don’t do well in stalls, and some horses don’t do well in the pasture. Most horses don’t like being by themselves, so its important to be able to meet your new horse’s needs

Ok. Money things tied up, shopping is the next order of business!

3. Read all the ads! Look at all the pictures you can, and watch all the videos that are posted. Gather as much information as you can. Remember, the people writing and video-ing are trying to show the horse’s best qualities and you should read between the lines. If the writer says things like ‘needs experienced rider,’ that should generate a question. Sometimes phrases may be uncommon to your experience, like ‘has a good handle’ or ‘tends to get behind the leg.’ Ask your friends and the more experienced person helping you. Its also good to tell people you are shopping. Often word of mouth gets nice recommendations.

4. Call the seller/trainer. Not a text, not an email. Old fashioned phone. Write down any questions you have about the horse, and ask them to tell you about the horse from the beginning. Tell the seller what you are hoping to do with the horse, and ask if they think the horse would be suitable and happy doing that job.

5. Make an appointment and meet the horse. On the first visit, you can just meet the horse, or bring an experienced friend to evaluate with you. You goal during the first visit is to determine if the horse is a possibility. Follow your gut here. Don’t get suckered into a high pressure situation. Its not a car you’re buying. Most importantly, DO NOT RIDE the horse unless the seller or seller’s agent rides it first. You do not want to get on an unknown horse that the seller will not ride.

Finally, a couple of DON’Ts:
1. Don’t try to negotiate price on Facebook/email/etc before you see the horse.
2. Don’t ride the horse first.
3. Don’t fall in love before you meet the horse.
4. Don’t think people will hold a horse for you without a deposit.

I have some more tips on evaluating and determining the horse’s training in the Part II.


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