|Buying a horse or pony is a big decision.
It can be the culmination of a lifetime dream for some. It can also be one of the most
costly purchases that you make. For that reason, it is important to approach the horse
search with some forethought. Whether the purchase is for you or a loved one, the
following guidelines should aid in this important acquisition.
Why are you buying a horse? Did you always
love horses as a child and now that you are an adult, you can fulfill your own dream? Are
you the parent of a horsecrazy child who has been asking for the proverbial pony at every
gift-giving occasion since the age of 2? Whatever your reason for buying a horse, make
sure that you are prepared for all aspects of ownership. Are you prepared to pay the
upkeep, which may include unexpected vet bills? Are you willing to live with limitations
on your time if your boarding facility requires you to do stall cleaning? If you want to
keep the horse at home, are you prepared for even more time limitations and the extra
hassle of finding qualified help to take care of the horse while you are away?. The amount
of time you have available to spend on horse activities should also be examined. If your
time is limited to only 1-2 times a week for a few hours, leasing a horse may be a better/
more economical option. These are questions that only you can answer for yourself. It is
vital that you go into this purchase with your eyes open to all aspects of horse ownership
If you have decided that yes, you and your family have the time and economic resources for
a horse, you need to move on to the next step, determining your needs.
Determine your Needs
When deciding what horse or pony to buy, you need to determine the
riders ability and the proposed use of the animal.
It is important to be realistic in assessing
the riders skills. Buying a horse beyond the skill level of a rider is very
different than buying a child a shirt a little large so that they can grow into it. It can
be downright dangerous to buy a horse beyond the ability of the rider. If the horse if for
your child, and they are taking lessons, ask the instructor about your childs
abilities. If you are an adult who rode "years ago" and are trying to get back
into it, sign up for a lesson or two to brush up on your skills and get the trainers
opinion on what level of horse would suit you. If you dont have access to training,
at least enlist the aid of a horsey friend to help you get a comfort level of where you
stand. This step in the decision process is critical. So many horses are for sale because
they are just too much for the owners to handle. They just fell in love with the way
the horse looked or how it nuzzled them over the stall door. If you can only confidently
walk and trot, it is probably be best that you not go after a world class barrel racing
prospect. Once you are clear about the skill of the rider, you need to look at the
intended use of the horse.
What do you want to do with this horse? Is it
for trail riding? Is it going to be used for showing? If you are showing the horse, what
level of showing do you expect to reach..schooling, local, National? What discipline do
you plan on riding
English? Western? Endurance? Dressage? Driving? Rodeo Events?
Also think about your long/midrange plans for this horse. For example, you might just be
looking for a trail horse now, but know that you would like to do some showing in a year
or two. If this is the case, look for a horse that will be able to transition to the show
ring from the trail. This might mean that you spend a little more money for a registered
horse with some training, but it is cheaper and easier on your emotions than having to
sell your horse after a short time because he/she doesnt meet your future needs. If
you want to go to a breed show, you will need to make sure that the horse is registered as
well. There are a lot of great horses out there, however, not all horses are great at the
same things. If you can clearly define how you want to use this horse you will be able to
narrow down your choices considerably.
Decide on a Budget
Money is often a deciding factor in the purchase of a horse. We see
ads all the time "wanted safe horse for my child, can only afford
$800-$1000." I would like to offer one caveat. In general, it will cost you just as
much to pay for the upkeep of a cheap horse as it will for an expensive one. Sometimes,
the cheaper one can be a bigger financial cost because of health/soundness issues that
account for the lower price. The purchase price is only one part of the financial outlay
you will make for this animal and in the long run, It will become less significant. For
example, you might pay $2,500 for a horse and it will cost you $3,000 the first year for
board, $200 in vet bills, $500 in farrier bills and another $1,000 for miscellaneous tack
and other items. That means you spent $2,500 on the horse, but $4,700(almost twice as
much) that year to pay for keeping it and the figures I am using are pretty conservative
and dont take into account any emergency vet visits etc
I am not trying to
discourage horse ownership because of the cost I am trying to drive home the point that
you should spend as much as you comfortably can. You are more likely to be happy with the
horse if your budget allows you to buy one with better breeding or more
training/experience. If that means that you wait a month or two longer to save the extra
money, it will probably be worth it. Some people will also take payments, so you can
spread the cost over several months. However; if all you really can afford is $800, go
back and reread the sentence on how much it will cost you to keep the horse for the year
and rethink this purchase. Having a horse is a rewarding experience, just make sure that
you have the budget to support its needs. It is difficult to give you an idea on how much
you will need to spend to get your perfect horse. Breeding, age, experience, training and
supply/demand for the horse will all factor in to the price. You will need to do some
research when you decide on the breed/use to find out how much you will need to spend to
get the mount you want.
Get Yourself Some Help!
Ok, now you know why you want a horse, what you want to do with it and
how much you want to spend. You can go looking now, right? Maybe, but if you want to be
even more sure of your purchase, get yourself some help.
First, if you have a trainer, they can be an
excellent resource. They can go with you to look at horses that you think you might want
and give you an opinion on the suitability for you. Just keep in mind that trainers often
have their own horses to sell too and they may steer you towards their horse instead of
another one from an outside seller. If you dont feel comfortable with a horse that
your trainer is pushing you to, do not buy it. If you are in love with a horse that your
trainer is not in favor of, ask for specific reasons. If you agree that those limits are
valid, then the horse may not be right for you, if you dont agree, you can get
another trainer or a horsey friend to help you with the evaluation. If you dont have
a trainer at all, a friend or barnmate with some experience with horses is better than
going it alone.
A second vital resource is your veterinarian.
It is almost always a good idea to have the horse vet checked before you buy it. This is
no guarantee that the horse has no medical problems, but can reduce the chance that you
will be stuck with an unsound horse. A prepurchase exam can help you find out whether the
horse will be able to hold up to the demands of your proposed use. There may be health
issues you can live with, but a veterinarian can give you the best indication of whether
the problem will be an obstacle that cannot be overcome. Keep in mind that no horse is
perfect. The vet may point out that the horse "toes in" a little or paddles when
he trots. These "faults" may not interfere with your use, but it is important to
go into the purchase with as much information as possible.
A third resource to use when evaluating a
horse is you. Get on the Internet; talk to friends, read magazines. Learn all you can
about the kind of horse you want. The more you know about what you want, the easier it
will be for you to recognize it when you see it. The first two resources will cost you
money and the expert advice is very valuable. However, dont pass up the chance to
become your own "expert" for free.
Find the Right Horse
You are ready to buy! Now it is time to find prospects. This can be
fun, but also can be frustrating; many people oversell their horse. You may think you are
going to see a show jumping prospect and find a 14.3 hand cow type horse when you get
there. Truth in advertising is not always reliable. But the following will give you a
place to start your search.
If you have a trainer, look to him/her first.
Trainers often know of horses and ponies available for sale. They may have a student
looking to move up that has a horse that would be perfect for you. Just remember that they
may have a vested interest in selling you these horses since many trainers receive
commission on horses that they help to sell. If you are on your own, or your trainer does
not have any leads for you, there are several places you can look on your own. They are
listed below with explanations.
- Classified ads in Newspapers All your
local newspapers will have classified ads for horses and livestock.
- Notices on Feed/Tack Store Bulletin Boards
Many of these establishments will allow people to post fliers about horses for
- Horse Shows Sometimes you will find
people advertising their horse for sale at shows. They may have it announced in a class or
posted on the stall door or trailer. This will give you a chance to see the horse in
- Internet There are tons of sites that
you can search on the Internet for horses. Haynet is a
good national one and the Bay Area Equestrian Network
is a good one in the local Bay area. Look not only for the classified sections, but
also for breeders and training facilities as they may have horses available.
- Local Riding Facilities - Local Barns may have
horses for sale or have boarders with horses for sale.
- Ask around the barn - If you are affiliated
with a barn, ask people if they know anyone selling a horse. This may be hit or miss, but
you might come across that "divorce sale special."
- Auctions- These can be risky because you may
not be able to know the background or health status of the horse, but they can be a place
to find your reasonably priced horse. Auctions are probably better suited to the more
experienced horseperson who will be able to spot issues of health and training. You also
usually do not have a very long time to make your decision. You might have to look at a
horse in the morning and decide by that afternoon whether it is right for you.
This list may not be all-inclusive, but if
you are looking for a horse, you should be able to come up with a good selection of
prospects from one or more of these resources.
Making Your Selection
If you have found a horse or three that might meet your needs, you
need to decide which one, if any, to buy. Since this is a major decision, do not make it
quickly or impulsively. Ask the owners if there is any possibility of a trial period,
either at your barn or theirs. Many people do not like to do this because of the risk that
the horse could become injured in someone elses care. If a trial is not possible,
try to go see the horse more than once. See if the behavior you saw the first time is
consistent. Go back with friends, your trainer, and at least one more time with a vet of
your choosing. While you dont want to "wear out your welcome" you do want
to be sure that this is the horse for you. Anyone selling a horse should understand this
and allow reasonable revisits. That does not mean that you go to their barn and try the
horse out everyday for two weeks, but make sure that you are comfortable with how much
time you have been given to make your decision. If you have done your research, gotten the
expert advice of a trainer and a vet and spent some time with the horse, you should be
ready to make a decision. If you still are unsure if this is the right horse for you, back
away from the deal. There are many horses for sale and you will know when you have found
the "perfect" horse. You may pass up some mounts that would be suitable, but
since this is such a big investment, you really have to feel comfortable with your choice.
Once you have found your horse, enjoy! It may
have been a long search, but you can be surer that you will be happy with your new friend
if you have followed all the steps. Just remember, you need to know why you want the
horse, what skill level the rider has and what you want to do with the horse. Then you
need to determine how much you can spend. Find yourself some people like a trainer and a
vet to help you make the decision when you find a prospect. Round up a list of likely
candidates from various places. Enlist your resources to help you make the final choice.
Have fun with your new horse, knowing that you have done everything possible to make an