Purchasing a horse for the first time or after being out of the horse world for a while can be daunting. Marketing has completely changed from word of mouth, contacts, auctions, and classifieds to facebook, websites, and google searches. At this point you probably know your discipline of choice and a trainer to help. I cannot stress how nice it is to have a trainer, familiar with your riding capabilities and goals, helping with the search. So let’s talk about what type of horse you want.
Capabilities as a rider
This may seem like an obvious one but one of the sayings I’ve grown to appreciate is a horse will only rise up to the capability of the rider. Several times, I’ve seen people purchase horses that were a little too much for them at that time. This caused them to either lose confidence in riding because their horse became difficult to ride or the horse “lost it’s training” which I’ll talk about below.
If you’re still a beginner, consider an older (10 years or older), more broke horse that has been desensitized. Former lesson horses, a solid trail horse, or an older finished show horse are great places to start. You should look for a horse that’s forgiving if you cue it wrong and won’t get weird if it spooks. The job of this horse is to build your confidence and abilities as a rider. As you become a more confident and capable rider, you can always move up to a more challenging horse.
If you’re higher in your capabilities, of course, look for horses that will challenge you appropriately. By challenge, I mean one that’ll help you become a better rider while maintaining or building your confidence. Having a horse that’s a little above your capabilities is a good thing, if you have the time for it (and preferably a trainer to help you). This way, you can learn how to cue and execute those extra buttons and build yourself as a horse person.
Time to commit
This is a challenging one to gauge but is extremely important. The younger/greener the horse, the more time each week you’ll need to commit to riding it. I allot about 2-2.5 hours at the barn each time I ride- including the time to drive there (15-20min drive time one way). I ride for about 45 minutes to an hour most days but the rest of the time is for grooming, tacking, and other miscellaneous things that will inevitably grab my attention. The time dedicated to riding a horse isn’t necessarily the time it takes to ride but instead, the time per week that you can ride.
If you’re like me, with a lot of free mornings/evenings and weekends, great! You can probably afford to ride your horse (if you want to) 5-6 days a week. This opens up your horse options to younger/greener horses that require consistency.
If you’re able to ride 2-4 days a week, consider an older and more broke horse (ex: 8-10 years) that still needs some consistency but doesn’t have the exercise needs of a 4 year old.
If you’re only able to ride a few times a month or once a week, consider an even older horse (over 10 years) or seasoned horse (one that will ride the same even if you can only ride once a month).
The horses to fit your goals
Just want to have fun on the back of a horse and do some trails?
Awesome! Good trail horses are so much fun. After considering the above sections, find an age range you’d like and start looking. Expect to spend $3,000 – $8,000 for a good trail horse depending on the training level you want.
I want to show but also am up for a challenge
Show ready horses are your go-to here. These horses are not quite “seasoned” in the show ring but have most/all of the training to get there. They’ll need consistency, so you’ll need to ride them a few times a week, and you’ll need to be able to keep them “legged up”. So your capabilities will need to be enough to keep their mind engaged and remembering what they know. Expect to pay $8,000 – $15,000 depending on the discipline, breeding, and training of the horse. A lot of times you can find these horses from trainers who are selling the horse because the horse doesn’t have the ability to show at a high level. This is totally fine, if you’re a beginner/ intermediate rider, you won’t be showing at the level the trainer wanted for themselves, so usually it works perfectly.
This is the stage where a lot of horses “lose their training” if their riders aren’t able to keep them legged up. The riders are not comfortable to cue the horse’s fancy buttons and the horse gets used to not using them. As a human example, if someone learns Spanish but never uses it, then that language just slips away and they have to relearn it. If you’re worried about this happening, then work with a trainer. They can either keep the horse legged up for you or teach you how to do it and correct you when you’re doing something wrong.
I am ready to show but don’t have a lot of time during the week to ride
This is totally okay, look for a finished, seasoned show horse. These horses have been there, done that so it won’t take a lot of time to keep them legged up. They’ll usually be calm in the show ring and know their job, ready to win those ribbons with you. These horses are also great with kids and teaching newbies. Assuming these horses are sound, expect to spend more than $15,000 depending on the horse’s record and abilities.
I am ready for a project
Getting youngsters is a big undertaking that takes time and patience, or some money. Start with a two year old, or a horse that has already been started and work your way from there. If you’re comfortable with training these horses, awesome! If not, it’s good to send them to a trainer you trust to get them to the place you’d like them. These horses will have a huge price range, from $500 – $3,000 depending on breeding and training. Sending horses off to get trained will be a monthly expense to add on if that’s the direction you’re going.
Is there an option without purchasing yet?
Of course! Depending on where you live, you can probably find horses for lease. Usually the individuals leasing horses aren’t able to commit the time to a horse (at that particular time of their lives). The leasing fees usually go towards board, feed, shoes, etc. These fees can be anywhere from $100-$600 depending on the horse and how much time per week that you’ll have access to the horse. Although it can be expensive, this is a good option to gauge how much time you can commit to a horse while being able to practice and ride a few more times a week. To look for these opportunities, look at the websites for boarding facilities, talk to trainers, and check on facebook.
Ready to move forward? See our post on searching for a horse.