Hi Cathy! When deciding to commit to having your own horse, what sort of things should influence your decision? And what should not? (as in, you may have a colour preference, but there is more to picking the ‘right’ horse than that, right?) Obviously a beginner rider would need a horse that’s not TOOO advanced, but how do novices navigate the horse ‘market’??
That is a great question! and one that every prospective horse owner should consider carefully. Owning a horse is hugely rewarding but also very demanding in terms of time and money. Since horses are living, feeling animals it is important to make good purchasing decisions. Here are some of the major things to consider:
What do you want to do with the horse? If you are looking for a horse for a particular discipline (dressage, endurance, jumping, eventing, combined driving etc), it needs to have the physical and mental ability to do the job you want it to do comfortably and easily. It would not make sense to buy Big Jake (one of our Percheron draft horse) to jump Grand Prix Fences, or to buy Pinball (our Oldenburg Grand Prix Jumper) to pull the big red sleigh.
What level do you ride at and what training does the horse need to have? It is important that you buy a horse that can teach you what you need to learn safely and happily. If you buy a horse that is too much above your comfort level riding, it will be difficult for both you and the horse to enjoy the ride. If it is below your riding level, you will need to budget in the cost and time for training.
Is the horse sound enough to do what you want? A pre purchase exam by a qualified veterinarian is your best option. They will give you a good idea of whether or not the horse will be able to do the discipline you are interested in AND stay sound over time.
What temperament/personality of horse do you connect with? Some people are attracted to more outgoing busy types while others prefer the strong silent personalities.
Do you want a mare or a gelding? This is usually a personal preference although if you are thinking of breeding sometime in the future, a mare is a must.
How old a horse should you buy? Every age has advantages and disadvantages. Very young horses may have fewer training issues than older horses (ie. fewer mistakes to fix) and they may cost less, but they will require an investment in time and training to be ready to ride. Older horses often have health issues and may require some special care, but often have the experience a rider is looking for. Mid age range horses may be what you are looking for, but they will probably cost more as they are in their prime.
Do you have a particular breed that interests you? It is a good idea to research breed specialties, temperament and abilities in order to decide if a particular breed is a good fit for you.
What is your budget? Horses can range from free to many thousands of dollars.
Finally it is always a good idea to take a knowledgeable friend, coach or instructor with you when horse shopping. There are lots of horses for sale and buying a horse is a huge emotional and financial investment. Having a team of knowledgeable supporters to help you with the decision is crucial!