The ultimate guide to buying a horse

I got my first pony when I was two years old. I’ve owned many ponies and horses since then given than I’m about to turn forty three. Some of them have been great successes, and others dismal failures. One failure was a pony we bought when I was eight years old. He had won national championships, and we bought him thinking it would be fabulous to have a champion pony, but not realising fully that I wasn’t ready to ride him. Our ego (and poor advice from my coach) had gotten in the way. Luckily it took my parents three nights of me waking up in tears because I was petrified of the pony to realise that this was not a good match. They sold the pony, bought me a calm pony that had not won a thing in its life, and I was happy as ever again.
Each of us is quite different and wants different things from riding and our equine friends. What’s key is that we recognise this before we go looking at horses for sale and before we buy a horse.
From my experience I’d give the following advice to anyone wanting to buy a horse:
  • Decide what you want the horse for and look for a horse to suit that purpose. If you want a dressage horse, look specifically for a dressage horse. If you want a horse to do quiet trails on then that is what you should look for – and pay for. When I was looking for a beginner’s horse for my daughter, I would ask people on the phone before going to view the horse if the horse would suit a beginner. This saved time for all of us. It also helped manage my daughter’s expectations and ensure I wasn’t putting her onto an unsafe horse when we got there.
  • Decide if you want a younger less experienced horse, a going competition horse, a school master, or an older horse. They all have their pros and cons. The price varies greatly. Your ability to ride will influence what you can best manage. It also comes down to a matter of choice – I’m at the stage of my life now where I don’t want to be schooling babies if I don’t have to. I prefer to buy going horses for myself. When I bought my daughter her horse I made a conscious decision to buy her a school master to teach her and help her along. It was the best decision I made.
  • Never feel worried or harassed about making a decision to buy a horse.There are so many horses around that you will find the right horse. Don’t sit on a horse when trying it, panic and think “If it’s not this horse it’s NO HORSE”.I think it’s essential to find the “right fit”. If it doesn’t feel right then it probably isn’t. Many of the most successful horses I’ve had, I’ve bought after sitting on them for only fifteen minutes. I’ve never even tried them again – I’ve just pulled out a cheque book. Other horses I’ve sat on and after five minutes said that I was not interested.
  • Check the horse is sound for the purpose for which you need it for. A friend of mine had a horse vetted before buying the horse. The vet failed the horse because it roared. When she later explained that she was not going to event the horse but was going to show jump at a very low level, the vet later passed the horse.Remember that everything is negotiable. If the owner realises that the horse is going to a good home he or she may discount the price. There are adverts “horses free to a good home” and cases of “horse adoption”. These are worth following up if you can’t afford a lot for a horse. I’ve seen some truly superb horses transfer owners in such circumstances including ex-derby winners. You may just have to promise not to sell the horse on and to keep the old owner informed of the horse’s condition.
  • It’s also always worth checking if the horse’s tacks for sale since it should fit the horse. I’ve managed to get real bargains this way. If the owner is giving up riding altogether you may also be able to buy the horse trailer so check if the horse trailers for sale.
Good luck with your horse hunting. Let us know how it goes.