I moved from Europe (Germany) to Alberta in 2009 and was in your position (horse shopping) last year, with very similar criteria. I wanted to trail ride and do dressage. Some thing I found out pretty quick:
- Many horses that were advertised as "trail horses" were basically almost unrideable to me, as they had been used by outfitters to haul tourists through the mountains and were basically used to walking after the tail in front of them.
- Anything European sounding (Warmbloods, Friesian etc) is way overpriced.
- The term warmblood is used very, very loosely. Some Canadian Warmbloods (usually the cheaper ones) are in reality TB x Draft crosses. Again, anything from an imported stallion is more expensive than it should be.
So I settled for looking at "local" North American breeds and found that they're FUN! QH are really common and cheap here compared to Europe, and they're awesome. Same goes for all the gaited breeds ( most common are Tennessee Walkers, you see them a lot on the trails here).
Since I didn't want to go all western and still do some english riding, I settled on a morgan x paint who had tsome dressage training already, was much cheaper and is probably more talented than most warmbloods that were for sale.
AB is a fun place to ride. Of course, the mountain trails are spectacular. But also, most communities have an Ag society that lets you use their arena if you become a member (esp in winter that's good :) ). You meet all sorts of cool people there, and there's potential to learn a lot. I tried working cows there for the first time (in my dressage saddle, haha) and it's FUN. Posted via Mobile Device