Part 1— Horse Shopping 101
Shopping for a new horse can be an exciting experience but it can also be frustrating and disheartening.
Being prepared and having someone with experience on your side can mean the difference between success and failure in the process.
So, for whatever your reason, you’ve decided to buy a horse. Yeah! But now what?
Start by determining what you want in a horse and what your budget is. Be realistic! I would love a Grand Prix Show Jumper but the money in my bank account can’t afford the $200K gelding I was gushing over on the Internet. If you are on a lower budget you might need to be prepared to make some sacrifices in what you want. The horse might be a little older than you wanted, maybe there is a minor soundness issue or vice that you have to live with, but there might be concessions you have to make to get the perfect horse for you.
Young or inexperienced riders should be looking for something with experience and a wonderful temperament. Age is an asset! These may not be long- term purchases, your rider might outgrow the horse’s capabilities within a few years, but the important thing is that they were safe while doing it! Then they are ready to progress onto something more challenging, but the young, green horses should be left to experienced riders.
I’ve seen many teenagers go through the frustration of a young horse, only to lose interest in riding, get hurt because of the horse’s greenness or the horse become dangerous due to the rider’s lack of experience. Please parents, this turns out badly more often than it doesn’t.
Get help. It doesn’t matter who you are and what level you are, ask someone with experience to be part of this process with you. It should be your trainer or coach, or if you don’t have one then someone in your sport that you respect. It is so important to have a second pair of educated eyes and ears with you on this journey.
Before you start this process, discuss any fees or costs that will be included to access this assistance. Some trainers charge a commission based on the purchase price of the horse, others charge for expenses, some charge for both. Ask what they charge up front to avoid unexpected surprises. It is a valuable service, worth paying for. Some may not charge you anything, they aren’t necessarily professional horse people but their knowledge is still beneficial and could save money you in the long run!!
Where to look? The obvious place is the Internet, but I want you to take a step back and put that laptop down for a minute. Before you google the equine-for-sale websites let me present a few other options.
As I recently began the shopping process for a young student I sent out emails to trainers I’ve worked with and a posting on Facebook as to what we were looking for. I received two emails about two fantastic horses within the first day, neither of which I knew were for sale. Actually, one wasn’t really for sale, the owner was thinking about how much they were going to use a particular horse and the email triggered the thought.
Your trainer/coach or educated horseperson helper will also have resources to help you look. Good horses sell quickly and easily by word of mouth. Having the background information on suitable horses and having seen them in action over the years make them very attractive and exciting options. For the seller, they know what kind of situation the horse is going into and that’s comforting for them too.
I bought a pony a few years back from a pony club parent that I joked I was “stalking” for over a year. I loved the pony, heard fabulous things about the pony and had told her frequently that I wanted first chance at the pony when he was available. When the owner called me it was a simple matter of my children sitting on the pony and having him examined by the veterinarian. There were no surprises in this process and we couldn’t be happier with the pony!
So, the first place I look is to the people I know and horses that I like. If you’ve been watching a horse at your local riding club or stable that you like, talk to the owner. You never know the situation, maybe they’ll be upgrading to another horse or the rider is going off to university. This way you are a little familiar with the horse’s background and abilities before starting the try-out process.
If you’re still drawing a blank you can extend the reach of your search. You can access sales websites, local stables websites often feature sales horses and most equine publications have equine classifieds.
Next time we’ll continue the journey, discuss the questions you should be asking, and where to go from there!
Shelly Graham is a local rider, trainer, horse breeder and Equine Canada certified coach.