You’re thinking of taking the plunge and finally deciding on buying your first horse. But you’re not quiet sure where to start. It’s easy to let our hearts rule our heads with creatures as beautiful and sensitive as horses. But owning a horse is not for everyone. It is a serious long-term commitment, and requires both time and financial investment.
Finding your perfect horse takes time and a lot of research. Before you embark on looking at ads, you might want to ask yourself these questions:
Write down the answers to these questions. Take this list with you and use it as a reference when buying your first horse. Stick to your list—it is easy to get carried away and forget the criteria you have in mind.
1. Enroll in a reputable horse riding school. You can brush up on your riding if you’re not a beginner. If you don’t know how to ride yet, enroll in regular riding lessons with a reputable trainer or instructor. Ride at least once a week to get started.
2. Try a partial or full lease arrangement for 6 months. Leasing is an arrangement where you can choose to pay for a fixed fee or a portion of the horse’s expenses in exchange for riding that horse. In full lease arrangements, you pay for everything—horse expenses and responsibilities. More than one person maybe using the horse in a partial lease arrangement. You could be sharing with the owner. You will be dividing the days you ride. You can ask your trainers about leasing. Many of them have horses for lease in their barns.
3. If you are not happy with a leasing arrangement, then by all means buy a horse. Leasing is like a test-run before actually owning one. Once you’ve decided you are for all out commitment, then go for it. It’s like wanting to own a dog. Go to a shelter and foster first. If you think you can handle it, adopt the dog.
One of the frequently asked questions when buying a horse is how much is it. There is no straight answer to this. It all boils down what your intention is in buying a horse in the first place. If you just to ride for fun, and maybe later on, compete at a local level, you should be able to buy a horse around $3000-$5000. For serious riders who want to compete, ask your instructor on how much you can expect to spend on a suitable horse for your needs.
Keep in mind there are other expenses other than the horse itself. These could be incurring monthly expenses.
1. Board. There are two kinds of boarding: full care which includes feeding and stall cleaning, and self-care which only includes a place for the horse to stay while the boarder does all the work. Rates are depending on the prevailing rates in your area. Choose a boarding facility that is not too far from where you live. It will less hassle on your part to visit everyday.
2. Lessons. You could already be a good rider but it pays to continue brushing up on your riding skills. Having regular instruction and cultivating a relationship with your instructor can help you improve and spot problems before they arise.
3. Competitions. You might be thinking of participating in some local competition or join social events with your horse, which involve special outfits and equipment, entry fees, and transportation costs. Talk to your trainer about this as well.
4. Farrier. Every 6-8 weeks, your horse will require regular farrier care. The cost will dependent on what type of shoes and trimming and shoes your horse require. Older horses may need special or corrective shoeing to keep them comfortable, which are typically more expensive than regular shoeing.
5. Veterinarian. It’s not surprising if your horse’s health care costs more than your own. Your horse will require deworming every 2 months, and shots at least twice a year. You can ask your veterinarian to design a vaccination and deworming program for your horse. Include a dental care plan for your horse. Plan to include an emergency fund as well which your horse may need from time to time. You may want to buy a medical insurance policy for your horse.
6. Tack and equipment. As an initial investment, you would need to buy a saddle, bridle, grooming supplies and other basic items. Factor in fly spray, grooming supplies, horse blankets, and replacement of worn-out or damaged equipment. In choosing quality equipment and supplies, confer with your trainer for these as price is not always a reliable gauge of quality.
7. Feed and supplements. Though older horses are preferred by first time owners, they often require extra feed and supplements to keep them healthy. Consult your vets for specific nutritional advice.
8. Bedding. This is usually included in most full-care program of most boarding facilities.
9. Miscellaneous. There will always be unexpected expenses when you own a horse. Be prepared for these surprises. Set aside a budget for this too. Talk to your trainer or friends who own horses about this.
This is the most important factor: the temperament. Choose a horse that is well-trained, well-mannered and kind, steady temperament. Everyone should be able to handle and ride your first horse. This is for your safety. Other factors to consider:
It really depends on you if you should get a horse or a pony. You should factor in your size, age, and experience. Ponies are usually suitable for children, and adults to horses. But this is not always the case. A large pony around 14.2 hh might be more suitable to a lightweight adult, in the same way a tall teen might be better off with a small horse around 15.2 hh. Size is an important factor. How you perform and ride will be dependent on how you sit and feel on your horse.
You can choose between an inexperienced green youngster or an older but more experienced schoolmaster. A novice rider will get more enjoyment from an experienced horse. Experienced riders will have great satisfaction training and teaching a green youngster. You will get a sense of fulfillment when your green youngster gets that first ribbon.
Most horses are adaptable and capable doing whatever you want while some breeds are bred for a specific purpose. For example, Tennessee Walkers are good at walking. This is the horse for you if you are looking for a super comfortable horse who can walk forever and not tire either himself or you. They are good on trails and exceptional in the show ring.
The English native pony or American Quarter horse breeds are for you if you want versatile horses. You can gallop and jump across country with these breeds. Their activities range from working cattle, barrel racing and reining to hunter competition, dressage and combined training.
Horses can live up to 30 plus years with good care. For an inexperienced rider, your trainer might advice you to get an older horse. Younger horses are usually inexperienced enough for a first-time horse owner. If you find a 15-year-old horse that is still active, he may still have many good years left. Some first time owners make the mistake of buying a young, inexperienced horse. That usually spells disaster. In the hands of an inexperienced owner, the horse could turn spoiled and difficult.
You might wonder why stallion is not one of the choices presented. You should never buy a stallion as your first horse. Geldings tend to be more reliable and less moody, but on the other hand, there are many quiet mares who never show signs of being in season.
Temperament and experience should trump beauty every time. Choose a horse for it’s temperament and suitability, not color. You might fall in love with a palomino but it is unsuitable for you in temperament or experience. Move on and don’t linger on it. The color doesn’t matter.
It maybe a good idea to go looking at ads together with your trainer. Choose ads for horses that you think might be suitable. With your trainer’s recommendations, both of you can narrow down your search and come up with more specific criteria. You can then make a list of horses to call and inquire about. Buying a horse includes a degree of creativity in interpreting the text of an ad, just like buying a used car.
Ask questions and trust your instincts. If, for some reason, you don’t like the answers to your questions, the owner is unresponsive, or doesn’t answer your questions completely and openly, don’t waste your time on that horse. You maybe a newbie horse buyer but don’t be intimidated by that fact. Any seller who is rude or condescending to you is someone you definitely don’t want to buy a horse from.
Make arrangement with the seller to have the horse checked by a vet once you’ve decided on a suitable horse. You can ask your trainer for a recommendation in choosing a vet that hasn’t seen the horse before. Both you and your trainer must be present once the vet conducts the check up to be able to hear the comments firsthand. The vet will give you their observations. You will be make your decision based on the observations relayed to you.
Ask the vet to draw blood as it is a fairly common practice of sellers to give painkillers, sedatives, and other drugs that mask weakness or enhance performance. The vet may recommend further testing or x-rays for a more thorough evaluation. Vet check-up usually costs around $200-$500 but it’s the best way to make sure you don’t buy a horse with a lot of health problems.
Good luck with your first horse! We wish you the best in finding a horse that will be a great addition to your family.