You’ve checked all your fencing, the places to feed and water your horse are all set up, you have the shed or lean-to clean and freshly bedded, and you are ready to go. Here are some tips and basic guidelines that may help you in this very important decision. Something to really think about is that this investment will be with you for a long time. Most horses live to be twenty or older. The famous Trigger lived to be 31, for an example.
First of all, what level of rider are you? Are you a beginner, or an advanced rider? Once you answer this, then you need to know what you plan to do with your horse. Do you want to show, barrel race, or just trail ride for fun at home? Do you want a horse that is lively (racing and showing) or more quiet and laid back (a quiet trail ride)? All this needs to be considered when buying a horse, especially if you’re buying for a younger person. After all, you don’t want a skittish, high-strung horse if you’re a beginner, and you don’t want a horse that only wants to walk and amble along if you want to barrel race or show. Most people want a horse that is quiet when wanted and lively when necessary.
Make sure you get a horse that’s the right size for you. Don’t get a horse that’s 10 feet tall if you’re only 4 feet tall or vise versa. You you should be able to see across his back. If your shoulder is the same level as his shoulder, that will work as well. If it’s for your child(ren), it’s also ok to get a horse that won’t be outgrown right away.
Another important thing to look for is a good tempered, well mannered animal. You don’t want to have to wear padding each time you go to catch or visit your horse. A horse that bites is not safe for children or beginners. Neither is one that likes to turn his rear towards you and give a little “love tap”. You want to be able to walk up and pet him without losing use of a limb or two.
Believe it or not, the color of a horse should only be considered after attitude, temperment, and compatability, as well as how much you want to spend. Horses are kind of like cars in the theory that you get what you pay for. On the other hand, you can find a really good deal if you take your time and don’t jump on the first horse you see.
Now you know what you want in a horse. So now you can look at the different options for where to buy. You can attend the local sale barn, buy private, and there is also the online option. Let’s look at the good and bad points of these where to buy options.
Let’s look at the buying private option. This is probably the best option for a first timer. Most of the time, you can ride before you buy with this option which is a good thing. This gives you the chance to “test drive” and see if the horse will be what you want. You also get the chance to really see his temperment. This also gives you the chance to ask questions and see what kind of environment the horse is used to. Even some experienced riders/buyers prefer this option over sale barns and the internet.
There’s nothing wrong with buying a horse at a sale barn at all. You can at least see a horse worked before the sale starts sometimes. But you need to be careful about what you’re buying. A horse can act completely different in a sale ring than he does under normal conditions. And this can either work for you, or against you. Not everyone is honest and some people have been known to use unorthodox methods to make a horse seem “well broke” to make him sell for more money. It’s also hard to tell if there is anything physically wrong with his gaits in such a small, enclosed area. But most people do have good luck at horse sales and do get what they want. Make sure whoever the seller is has a good reputation for being fair and honest and you should be fine.
Buying online is an option if you want to do some research and find a seller you can trust. Make sure you get pictures from all angles. Ask to see any paper work via email, or some other internet communication. The problems here are somewhat similar to the sale barn, except you have no way of actually seeing the horse before you make the purchase. And again, you have to trust someone’s honesty and integrity and take their word that a horse is what they say he is.
Now that you have some insight on what you want in a horse and where to buy, you need to understand that a horse is very expensive to keep after you have him. There will be regular expenses for vet care, farrier, basic care you do yourself, tack, and supplies.
Your horse has to have regular check ups with your veterinarian, plus any emergencies or issues that come up inbetween. The farrier is needed for regular hoof trims, and basic foot and leg care, although some vets will take care of this as well. You will have to check with your local veterinarian to see if he/she does this too.
You can do some basic care yourself, such as worming, basic joint care, and feed supplements to help with coat, skin, and overall health. Make sure you do your homework on supplements, however, as overdoing it with some of them will cause more harm than good.
Another big expense is tack and supplies. You have to keep your tack in good condition after you get it. That means regular cleaning, polishing, and keeping the material from rotting and getting rips and tears. Eventually, tack does wear out and you have to replace it. You need cleaning supplies that are safe to use around your horse. A good fly and insect repellent for the animal and where the animal sleeps is not always cheap (not the good stuff anyway). You have to keep the stall or building cleaned out. That means manure fork, scoop, wheelbarrow, and anything else to keep his area clean and dry.
Despite all of this, the companionship and loyalty of a good horse is a wonderful thing, and not to be taken for granted. He needs you, depends on you, trusts you, and after some time together, your horse will love you. This is a partnership and a friendship that can and will last for a very long time. So now that you have a little bit of information, enjoy your new horse, and the whole new world you will find and explore together.