So you want a horse? Of course!

When we started our search for a second horse I received more messages and questions via Instagram than I ever imagined, so I thought it would be fun to put some of the info I shared into a blog post for folks to reference later. DISCLAIMER: I am by no means a professional when it comes to horses but I have been around them and riding them since I was 4 years old. If you are looking to purchase a horse now or in the future I hope these tips and questions to ask will be helpful for you!

Questions to ask when looking to buy a horse:

  1. How old is the horse?
  2. What is the horse’s medical history? Do they have any veterinary records the current owner can provide you with? Specifically, have they had their Coggins? When was the last time their teeth were floated? Hooves were trimmed?
  3. Are they the first owner of this horse? Where did they get the horse from?
  4. Ask questions around your specific use for the horse. For example, has this horse ever been ridden on trails? Has this horse ever competed or gone over jumps? Has this horse ever pulled a stagecoach with a team? Has this horse ever been ridden by beginners or children? etc.
  5. Has the horse ever bucked, reared, kicked? If so, what were the triggers that lead the horse to do so?
  6. Is this horse broke to ride English? Western? Both? Does it neck rein? Move off leg pressure?
  7. Do you mind if I have a veterinarian look the horse over before signing a purchase agreement? (Even if you don’t end up having a vet come to look at the horse, the owner’s response to this question can be very telling)
photo by Stephannie Camosse Photography

Things to look for when you meet the horse and current owner:

When you meet a horse for the first time it can be exciting and easy to want to take them home. For this exact reason I did not take our horse trailer when we looked at any of the horses we looked at. This forces me to be a little more objective since I know I can’t take the horse home right away. Maybe not the right strategy for everyone, but it certainly helped me.

I know this sounds cliche but always go with your gut. Many people are hesitant when buying a horse for the first time because we have all heard the horror stories of a drugged up horse doped up on pain pills to hide the chronic lameness, jumpiness, etc. When you go to meet a horse think about what horses look like on pasture when you’re driving down a highway or when they are competing in a show ring. They look alert, responsive (ears moving, mouth or whiskers twitching, tail swishing), and their eyes are going to look focused. They will watch you as you move around them. A horse that has been drugged is not going to look like this. They will look lethargic, tired, they may even trip when you move them around depending on what drug has been administered to them. If this is something you are really worried about then I highly recommend having a vet come look at the animal with you. They will know what an animal that has been drugged or stuffed with pain pills will look like and you can rest easy knowing you’re getting a horse that hasn’t been doctored up.

Typically I would say never buy a horse without riding it, but then I would be a hypocrite because I didn’t ride Cricket before I bought her. If you are buying a horse that is broke to ride and you have clear intentions of when/where you are wanting to ride the horse then you should definitely ride the horse before purchasing. If you are purchasing a horse that you are planning to work with / train yourself, then I wouldn’t focus on the riding aspect right away because they may not even be broke yet. Then you are just looking for a sound horse who has a disposition that you feel is compatible with yours.

Our new 12 year old mare, Charlie. She is a quarter horse / Lakota cross

This leads me to my next point. Just like any relationship, some horses fit better with some types of people. This is certainly one of the trickier things to figure out when you are doing a brief introduction but I would encourage you to think about things like this:

  1. are you as a person more introverted or extroverted?
  2. do you want a horse with more whoa than go or the other way around?
  3. how much time are you planning to put into your relationship with this horse?

These are all important things to consider. If you are an introverted person, you may find it easier to work with a horse that has a more introverted personality. There are certainly people out there who can work with all types of horse personalities, but if you are new to horses or getting your first horse, it’s good to get one that you are going to be on par with. Do you want to spend your time constantly keeping your horse moving or constantly slowing your horse down? Now of course a well trained horse will move or not move when it’s asked, but there are undoubtedly horses who are more willing to go and horses who are more willing to WHOA. So just keep that in mind. If you are planning to work with your horse for an hour once or twice a week you will want different things out of your horse than if you are going to spend multiple hours with your horse every day. When I got Cricket I knew I was going to dedicate time to her every day so I was willing to get a horse that was a little less finished and who had a personality slightly different than mine because I knew I was going to put the time in with her. When we went to look for our second horse, I knew that I already had my project horse and so I wanted this next horse to fit a little better with mine (or John’s in this case) personality and riding ability. That way the training focus could stay on Cricket and the learning about horses focus for my husband could be put on Charlie, our new mare.

Finally, you will meet all kinds of people who swear by geldings and hate mares or even vice versa. Or people who will NEVER EVER ride a stallion. I would encourage a first time horse buyer not to be swayed by these opinions. I rode geldings my whole life and have never felt more bonded to a horse than I feel to my mare, Cricket. I have ridden stallions that were more gentle than geldings and so on and so forth. You will meet people who will swear that you are making a mistake buying a mare and I would just encourage you to keep an open mind. Meet all types of horses and ride as many of them as you can (as long as you feel comfortable); you may be surprised who you gravitate to!

Winston Churchill said it best, “No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle.”



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