What You Should Consider When Buying a Horse
All too often first-time horse owners pick a horse that isn’t right for them, ultimately leading to frustration and possibly giving up on their dreams of being an equestrian. However, a lot of this frustration can be dispelled by picking the right horse for you and your lifestyle. Take the time to research, learn buying strategies, what to look for, and if all else fails, consider asking for professional advice.
Before Buying a Horse
Horses are a huge time and financial commitment. Before you make the decision to purchase a horse, make sure you understand how much you will spend on a horse, outside of the initial purchase.
- Boarding - If you are keeping your horse at a barn, you will be responsible for either Full care board (everything included) or partial board (feed and stall cleaning not included). The price for these will vary significantly depending on where you live. Always look for a facility within close proximity to your home as you’ll be making the drive on a regular basis.
- Lessons - Lessons can be hugely beneficial with a new horse. The instructor can help to develop your skills as you and your horse adjust to each other. This can help to prevent problems in a safe environment.
- Farrier - Your horse will need farrier work every 6-8 weeks. The cost for farrier work will depend on the type of trim and/or shoes your horse needs.
- Veterinarian - Horses require preventative vaccinations twice per year and deworming on a regular schedule. Dental work is usually required once per year. Emergency care can also be needed occasionally. Try to set money aside for these unexpected expenses.
- Tack - With the purchase of your horse, you’ll have to make the initial purchase of larger tack items like a saddle, bridle, grooming supplies, and blankets. Some horses have special requirements for saddles, bridles, and bits. Make sure to check with the previous owner and your instructor before making a purchase.
What to Look For in a First Horse
The temperament of your first horse should be your top priority. You want a well-trained horse that is kind, calm, and forgiving of a new horse owner. Regardless of how much research you have done, it is human nature to make mistakes while you are learning. You want to find a horse that is tolerant of these moments and has experience in your area of interest. For example, if you want to trail ride, look for a horse with trail riding experience, not a showjumper who has never seen a trail before. An instructor can help you determine if a potential horse’s temperament is ideal for a first-time horse owner.
Does size matter for a first horse? This question arises often as first-time horse owners begin looking at horses. The short answer is no, size does not matter in most cases. The important part is that you feel comfortable and can mount and dismount without difficulty.
There are certain horse breeds that are known for being quieter and more docile, like Quarter Horses, Paints and many draft breeds. This docile temperment is ideal for a first-time horse owner. In contrast, there are many breeds that are known for being “hotter” and more spirited, such as Arabians and Thoroughbreds. As always, there are expectations to this rule in both directions. Evaluate the horse on their individual merits, rather than under a breed umbrella.
As you look for beginner-friendly horses, you’ll notice many of them are older. These horses have had more experience and tend to be more docile. Older horses can be an excellent choice, but it is important to have your veterinarian evaluate the horse for long-term health and soundness. Older horses can have health and soundness issues that come with advanced age.
Mares & Geldings
Many first-time horse owners prefer geldings over mares as they can be a bit more reliable. However, a quiet mare can also be an excellent choice. Beginner or first-time horse owners should never consider purchasing a stallion.