We encourage you to read “Is Horse Ownership Right For Me?” in the United Horse Coalition (UHC) Materials. If after understanding all that is involved with owning a horse responsibly sounds like a feasible option for you, it’s time to move onto the next step – making sure to find the right horse. We strongly discourage people from purchasing or adopting a horse just because it sounds like “a good deal.” If the horse does not match your needs in several key ways, you won’t be happy – even if you get the horse for free. It is very important that the horse’s temperament and training match your goals and skills as an owner. Below are some key criteria to consider when picking out the “perfect” horse.
- Is the horse a match for your riding ability? The horse’s temperament and training must match your own experience and ability level, not only as a rider, but a handler as well. Unsure as to what your ability level may be? Take a few lessons with a reputable trainer, then ask him or her to recommend a type of horse that would work best for you; this trainer may even be able to help you find that “perfect” horse!
- Does the horse suit your needs or riding goals? Ask yourself; do you want to take nice relaxing trail rides? Do you want to be competitive in the show ring? Both of these warrant a horse with different backgrounds and experiences.
- Does the horse require more exercise than you can provide? Say, for example, you go look at that 17hh Thoroughbred who has been ridden 6 days a week, and is as quiet and well behaved as can be. So you buy the horse, bring it home, then end up riding it only twice a week. Your horse will become a bit “wild” and un-rideable. Always be sure to ask what type of program or riding schedule the horse requires.
- Have you decided on a set budget? Of course, money can be the deciding factor when purchasing a horse. In fact, sometimes the “better deal” horse can be a bigger financial burden because of health or soundness issues that were the reason for the lower price to begin with. It’s always important to keep in mind that the upkeep of a horse is what can be most costly and be the “downfall” of horse ownership. Having a horse is a rewarding experience, just be sure you have the budget to support its needs!
- Have you selected a trainer? A trainer can give you their professional opinion of a horses suitability for you. Additionally, it’s always a good idea to have a veterinarian picked out and available to do a pre-purchase exam on a horse. Pre-purchase exams can help you determine whether or not the horse has any underlying health or soundness issues that could be a problem immediately, or down the road. Keep in mind that every horse will have some negatives, but the key is to talk to your vet about what you can and cannot live with based on your intended use for the horse. “A lovely horse is always an experience…. It is an emotional experience of the kind that is spoiled by words.” ~Beryl Markham.
- Buying a horse or pony is a big decision. It can be the culmination of a life dream for some, and also one of the most costly purchases you will make in your lifetime. For the latter reason alone, it is important to approach finding your new horse with plenty of forethought.
So where can I find my prospective horse?
- Equine Rescues
- Internet Searches
- Classified ads in newspapers
- Notices on feed/tack store bulletin boards
- Horse Shows
- Local Barns
This list is certainly not all-inclusive, but if you are seriously searching for a horse, you should be able to come up with a good selection of prospects from one or more reputable sources. The explosion of the Internet has certainly made a difference in the ability for information to be made available almost instantly. Websites such as The Right Horse, A Home For Every Horse, Equine.com, and Retired Racehorse Project that are backed by reputable organizations are the best place to start when searching for a horse online. (A note about buying online from social media – there have been instances of people simply posting a listing for a horse or pony they have for sale, and it ends up being a false listing. Be sure to do your research and ensure that the person posting the listing on social media is legitimate.)
Additionally, keep in mind that purchasing a horse at an auction can be risky as you may not be able to find out the background or health status of the horse. Auctions can be better suited to the more experienced horse person who will be able to spot any potential issues with the horses’ health, temperament, and training. Buying a horse is a major decision, do not make it quickly or on an impulse. Once you have found your horse though, enjoy! After all, isn’t the saying “Horses can be cheaper than therapy” valid? Have fun with your new horse, knowing that you have done all you can to make an informed decision.