Who isn’t a sucker for a pretty face? As far as I’m concerned, all horses are beautiful. My boyfriend loves to impersonate me complimenting any horse we see, so I’m sure I get a little more excited than most!
However, when buying a horse, I don’t let my heart get the best of me. There are some key points to consider, and those definitely go beyond just how handsome he’s going to look in the matching numnah and ears combination I’ve ordered from Premier Equine.
Here are our five top things you should bear in mind when buying a horse.
The purpose you’re buying a horse
When buying a new horse, you need to be very clear about what your goal is. If all you want to do is show jump, focus your search solely on show jumpers for sale.
This point sounds simple and obvious but there are more than enough horror stories of equestrians buying a horse that has the potential to do what they want, only for it to end badly. If you’re intending to show jump, a dressage horse that has ‘scope and potential’ to jump shouldn’t be on your list to view.
Unless you’re very experienced or you actually want to do a bit of dressage, then stay away. Yes, most well-bred horses can turn their hoof to multiple disciplines, but going down that path simply increases the odds of ending up with an unsuitable horse.
My heart melts for steel greys, and I have to struggle against my deepest desire to write a cheque right there and then every time I see one!
However, I keep my goals in mind and think with my head, making sure I end up with the right fit for me.
Consider your riding ability
Take a long hard look in the mirror and be honest with yourself. As much as I’d like to think I’m going to be the next Pippa Funnell, even if I won the lottery it would be a mistake to buy a 4* international event horse.
That’s not to say that you can’t have ambitious goals! Most equestrians want to improve their riding and take lessons with instructors to do so.
But, instead of buying the horse for where you want to be in five years, look for one that will take a little growing into, but you still feel safe and confident on. With a bit of help and support, you’ll be able to up your game together next season.
Of course, if you’re happy doing what you’re doing, then get a horse that suits your current ability. I’m content doing some cross country and competing at BE 80 level (BE 90 if I’ve got my hip flask in tow…).
I look for horses that can help me achieve that level and, sadly, the purchase of my 4* international event horse remains indefinitely on hold.
Think about your budget to buy a horse
If you’ve got big dreams for the future but lack the funds to make it happen, this one can be a kick in the teeth. As with everything in life, your budget is unfortunately something you need to factor into your decision, and not just the initial purchase price.
The annual running cost of owning a horse can vary, depending on what you do. Yes, eventing is a black hole that will suck in your last penny, but what else would you do with your spare time?
So, once you’ve considered your goals and ability, be smart with your budget. If you’re an experienced or talented rider but don’t have the highest budget, take a look at younger horses. Up to a certain age, the more experience a horse has the more expensive it will typically be, while young, unproven horses are generally cheaper.
Alternatively, an experienced rider with a lower budget might want to look for a horse that has a quirk or a fault that would put most buyers off, but you can handle. These horses have a much narrower audience of potential buyers, usually resulting in an attractive discount.
If you’re like me and happy competing at the lower levels, there’s more need for budget management. Maybe you can afford to buy a horse that costs £20,000 (I can but dream!) but it doesn’t mean you should. It’s vital to do your homework and have a look online at the range of horses that fit your needs.
If one is a lot more expensive than other similar ones, it’s probably not worth it or right for you. Though let’s be honest, if it’s a steel grey and I’m shopping, it’s going to be a struggle!
Your spare time to exercise a horse
If you’re not a full-time equestrian, you have to be realistic with how much time you have to ride the horse you’re going to buy. Balancing a career, relationship, and dare I say it some type of social life with looking after and riding a horse is no small feat!
The amount of time you’ll spend riding is especially important because some horses require more training than others. If you can only ride once during the week and at weekends, buying a 4 year old isn’t the smartest idea.
Producing your own horse is a wonderful aspiration and extremely rewarding, but young horses require a lot of time. Individual training sessions can be short, but they need to be frequent and consistent. Without that, you’ll struggle and may end up with a misbehaving horse, simply because it isn’t getting the work and development it requires.
If you’re busy and don’t have the support to be riding or training your horse regularly, it’s a good idea to buy a more established horse. Some are happy being ridden twice a week, but they’re usually the older, more advanced horses.
The access to facilities and a good yard
Just as important as finding the right horse is having access to the right facilities, and a yard that suits your new four-legged friend. If your heart is set on eventing, having to travel for hours each time you want to practice cross country or not having a manège at your yard to do some dressage just isn’t going to work.
It’s important to secure a stable for your future horse at a yard where the facilities match your requirements. Most take a small deposit if a stable comes free, a tiny cost that is more than worth it in the long run.
However, there’s always room for a little improv! My yard of many years only had lights around the manège installed last winter. Before that, working full-time meant schooling during the week in the winter was nigh on impossible, until I realised I could place portable construction lights on a jump wing in each corner of the school. That gave me enough light to ride my horse after work!
Some requirements are deal-breakers, while others might simply need a little out of the box thinking. It’s up to you to decide what you can live with.
Buying a horse is one of the most significant moments of horse ownership – and the decision is going to stay with you for a while!
The horse you choose shapes your experience from day one, impacting how much enjoyment you get out of the wonderful world of equestrianism. That’s why it is crucial to take the right steps before making that final decision and splashing the cash.
We hope you found this blog useful and got some useful pointers for your next purchase. Please share your own experiences and ideas in the comments below – we’d love to hear them!