Last year I finally made the plunge into horse ownership and let me tell you, although the most exciting decision I had made in a long time, also the most stressful!
Horse ownership was something that I dreamed of ever since I was a little kid…probably ever since I laid eyes on my first horse. Horse-crazy…for sure! I knew that horse ownership was a big financial as well as time commitment and so I waited until I was in a good spot to actually buy my first horse.
Here are my top 10 tips for horse shopping for the adult beginner to hopefully make your life a little easier!
- Try leasing first! I needed to know for sure that after all of this time, horse ownership was still something that I wanted and that I could make the time for it. My trainer had a couple of lovely horses available for me to lease so I leased a wonderful Quarter Horse for close to a year and then a draft cross for a couple of months. It was the perfect way to do a trial run before buying my own horse and I got to try out a few different types of horses.
- Talk to your Trainer or a trusted horse friend. They can give you the best guidance on what type of horse will work best for you. Hint, just because the horse looks pretty or are black just like you always wanted, doesn’t mean they have the right personality for you! I needed a laid back horse that would boost my confidence.
- Next figure out some qualities that YOU are looking for. I wanted a gelding — some barns in my area don’t accept mares so in case I ever move barns I wanted to make sure that I still had options. I also wanted a horse between the age of 6-10 and was started in dressage and jumping.
- Budget! A dirty word but very important! There are few things you should figure in to your budget. First of course you will have to figure out how much you have available to spend on the actual horse. Then consider that most Trainers charge a commission. Some charge 10% of the purchase price and some will charge you an hourly rate — it will likely vary a bit depending on where you live. Also consider that you will likely want to do a pre-purchase exam (PPE). These vary greatly in cost depending on what area you are in, but assume between $300-$500 for a basic PPE. You will also need to trailer your horse to its new home once you buy so don’t forget to factor in trailering expense. And lastly, you will need LOTS of tack and horse supplies! Both times I purchased a horse it was right before winter. So not only did I have to buy saddles and bridles and bits. But I also had to purchase a rainsheet, medium weight blanket and heavy blanket. Whew, that got expensive FAST!
- Okay, now that all of that is out of the way, it is time to search for your equine partner! I have had the best luck on local Facebook groups. My favorite group in Michigan is called Horses for sale in Michigan (Any Price) DRAMA FREE. And another great place to look is on Dreamhorse.
- Pick apart the ads. Video and pictures are a must before you take the time to see a horse in person. The video should showcase whatever discipline they are currently training in. The flat video should show them transition between all of the gaits without any video editing. Take note of how the horse acts under saddle — is the rider working hard to keep the horse going? Is the horse lookey? What type of bit are they riding in? What skill level is the rider? I have found that exceptional riders can make ANY horse look like a star! As an adult beginner I found that ads that said: horse needs to be in regular work or in a program or needs a confident rider was NOT a good match for me!
- Have you found a horse that you are interested in? Next step is to get in contact with the owner. First, tell the owner your experience level and what you are looking for. Ask them how well they think their horse would fit your needs. Ask if they need any maintenance such as injections, any veterinarian history, what type of training they have had, any show record, buddy sour, barn sour, where are they in the pecking order.
- Does everything sound good so far? Then great! You are getting closer to horse ownership. Next I relay the information to my Trainer and show her video. I don’t have a great eye for horses and she can tell pretty quickly how green they are, if they are forward or lazy, how well they are listening and how good of an Event prospect they might be.
- Schedule some time for you and your Trainer to see the horse. It is customary for the owner to ride first, then your Trainer and then you. Did everything go well? Then great, schedule another time to come back and try again. Typically this time around your Trainer will ride and then you will. Everything still looking good? Then one last step to horse ownership.
- Put down a deposit and schedule a PPE! Make sure the buyer knows that you are serious! Put down a deposit to hold the horse, both times I have purchased a horse the buyer did not require a deposit because I was scheduling a PPE. At that point it is pretty clear that you are serious. Discuss with your vet the PPE findings and make sure that any issues that might come up won’t affect your goals. Congratulations, you are now a horse owner!