Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: southern Arizona
1 - I bought well outside my skill level. That was an error, but for someone new to riding, it is easy. My mare was described as well-broken, perfect for a beginner rider. 4 years later, the trainer I hired concluded she had never been broken for much more than leading with a rope, and that I had as few injuries as I do because she is actually a very sweet horse by nature.
My advice now to any new rider/buyer is to hire someone who knows horses to find a horse for you. The good news for me is that my mare was, in one way, perfect for me. She has tons of personality, and seeks engagement with her rider. I am now fascinated by horses because of her. And in return, the trainer who has worked with us says I'm one of the few people she has worked with who would keep her and try to learn.
2 - There are definitely good horses out there for free. I got one in December, over my objections. The woman giving my daughter lessons knew of a mustang pony that was free to a good home...and time was turning that into 'free for whoever hauls him away'. My wife decided to take him, and 2 days later the instructor delivered "Cowboy" to our house. With tack. Free.
He is an excellent little (13 hands) horse. 14 years old, BLM mustang, experienced, good-natured, likes people, will gallop if you ask but content to walk if you do not. He'll refuse to go faster than he thinks is safe on a trail, but will gallop under my 175 lbs when the footing is good.
My wife stopped all riding a few years back after I got hurt on my mare. Yesterday, I rode my mare for the second time in years off our property and out in the desert. The trainer I hired was on our Appy, while my wife rode the little mustang. It was her third time on a horse in 3 years, and she returned with a huge smile. By the time we got back, she was confident that Cowboy would take care of himself (and thus her). She now wants to start riding regularly in our arena, and out on trails with others - on Cowboy. You couldn't pay her to get on my mare. But Cowboy is one of those level-headed horses who thinks nothing good comes from a rider getting hurt. He seems to believe happy rider = food, water & maybe a treat sometimes.
BTW - when the equine dentist came out and did his teeth, she offered to buy him for her niece based on his behavior. Not bad for a free horse.
All that said, I'd recommend someone new to horses be willing to spend extra to get a well-broke horse. The difficulty is in assessing the personality of a horse you haven't lived with. A horse can be a wonderful creature with one owner, and turn into a nightmare for an inexperienced owner. I think my horses are uncommonly well behaved, but some of that is because of how my family and I treat horses. If spoiled or treated roughly, any of the three would get ugly within months.
"People can teach us the rules, but only horses can teach us the art of riding."