What to look for in a horse. It sounds so simple, but there are many things to consider to help you on your horse shopping journey.
To pair yourself with your perfect horse, you have to be able to answer these questions truthfully. If you don’t, you’re not only setting yourself up for disappointment but possibly setting the stage for you or your horse to get hurt.
The questions you need to ask are:
• Who is this horse for?
• How much experience do I/we have?
• Do I have a trainer to work with the horse and me?
• What do I want to do with the horse?
• How much time do I have?
Who is one of the most important questions to ask. If you are buying the horse as a family, the most inexperienced rider should set the bar on what horse you bring home.
To one person, a fresh, off-the-track Thoroughbred may be the ideal challenge to become a 3-day eventer yet to others that is way too much horse. Another person may like the seasoned, bomb-proof Quarter Horse that is perfect for hitting the trails and learning on while others would find them boring.
If you are looking for a beginner, aim to get a good horse to learn on that is forgiving and honest. If you are working with a trainer, a slightly more challenging horse may be appropriate but definitely talk with your trainer prior to purchasing any horse. Stay away from “green” horses as they require an experienced rider and trainer combination, rarely making a good first horse option.
Trainers are an excellent idea, particularly when you are buying a first horse. They can see how you and the horse work together to help you bond properly. They can also make sure that your horse is not too much for you to handle and give you tips and tricks on how to resolve issues before they become habits.
By working with a trainer, you can also safely purchase a horse that is slightly above where you currently are, but more suited to where you want to be. This means that you will not “outgrow” your horse as quickly and can help you improve as a rider.
Every discipline has its “gold standard” of what to look for in a horse. Jumping favors the tall horses with good knee action, barrel racers like shorter horses that are compact, and endurance wants a horse that can run for hours without tiring. While a 17hh Clydesdale can do barrels and a 15hh Standardbred can succeed at dressage, these horses are often limited in how far they will go and what they physically can do. By researching the breeds, you will be able to find the perfect breed for your discipline of choice.
Whether anyone wants to or not, time needs to be considered. Realistically how much time have you got to spend at the barn training your horse? Once a week? Three times a week? For those who are wanting a horse in their field that they can hop on once or twice a month, an older, experienced horse would be the way to go. Younger horses require a lot more stimulation and consistency. Horses under 15 should be ridden a minimum of 3 times a week to enforce the lessons they are learning and to prevent them from acting out.
Remember, being truthful with your answers is incredibly important for both you and your new horse. You are not the only one who could suffer from overestimating ability, experience, or availability. Once you have these issues sorted out, however, you can then contact your support group and give them an accurate idea of what you are looking for.