Advice for finding a decent trail horse? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 35 Old 08-15-2016, 11:13 PM Thread Starter
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Advice for finding a decent trail horse?

I want a horse that will 90% be used for trails and 10% messing around in an arena, kinda just going in circles and maybe doing a few maneuvers for fun once in a while. My budget is $3500ish and that'll have to include delivery by the owner to a boarding barn. That's not absolutely firm but I'm not going to spend like $6000 or anything.

My requirements are fairly basic in my opinion... needs to be sound and never have had any long term lameness issues, decent conformation (found plenty already that looked like they're held together with school glue), be under 18 years old, and be able to carry me at 150lbs + a western saddle. And since I'd be going on trails, maybe include an extra 10-20 for food/water/etc. Don't want hot breeds or hot horses, e.g. no TBs.

It's not a short list of requirements by any means, but I think it's reasonable in my budget if I look hard enough. The main thing I worry about is getting a horse that looks fine and the owner claims was never sore a day in its life, but suddenly 3 months after I get it, it becomes permanently sore or something.

Now I know the best way to find horses is almost always by word of mouth, at least in my experience, but I know very very few people in my area, and the few I do know aren't into trails really. Sure, I'll ask if I can find someone who might have a lead, but I'm mainly asking about tips for finding them without referrals from a "friend of a friend". I've looked in every corner of,, and the local craigslist, there are a couple but nothing that stuck out as "I need this horse". I tried but for some reason there's 2 horses listed within 100 miles of me with no other filters set... website is either being shut down or just plain broken.
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post #2 of 35 Old 08-15-2016, 11:31 PM
Green Broke
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Where do you live? In my area, there are plenty of good trail horses who are properly trained, sound and no issues in that price range. I would suggest joining FB group pages that are geared to buying and selling horses and tack in your area. For instance in my area there are three or four different group pages. There's also You can choose your area and what breed(s) you are interested in and then refine the search to disciplines. What I did when I got my first horse was to find the place that I wanted to keep it and went from there. The people who ran the barn were quite helpful in helping me get the mare I finally got transported over there too.

Also, I wouldn't discount certain breeds because you think that they are all hot. All thoroughbreds are not hot, all arabs are not crazy (the sweetest, laziest horse on the property here is half arab). I've seen some lunatic quarter horses which, as a breed, are pretty much thought of as quite calm.

Good luck with your search for you perfect for you equine partner. It's pretty exciting.

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post #3 of 35 Old 08-15-2016, 11:34 PM
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Expand the requirements.

1. Your level of riding ability for starters and be absolutely honest. People who are "Legends in their own minds" riders get themselves into a lot of trouble by buying a great horse that is too much for them because it's pretty. Next thing they know it "isn't the same horse they bought a month ago".

2. Gaited or non-gaited.

3. Gelding or mare.

4. 150lbs plus saddle isn't much. Some 14.3H horses could easily carry you. Do you have a height requirement.

5. Does color matter, even though you can't ride it?
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post #4 of 35 Old 08-15-2016, 11:40 PM
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While you have multiple requirements listed, sure, they are all REALLY basic ones. It shouldn't be too hard to find options (keep on working on the internet is my suggestion. You can try local riding schools as well) but the hard part is finding the right one for you. This can happen quickly or take quite awhile. Don't get frustrated, in the end it will all be worth it!

If the horse seems nice go and meet them. Often the "need" vibe one gets via the internet is the wrong one. A horse may not spark you interest initially but that may change instantly in person.

Heck the gelding in my avatar I was NOT impressed with at first, but my mother loved him and I got him through my trainer as a bit of a rescue. BEST horse I have ever known. Period. He's gorgeous and eye catching/stunning now as opposed to "just a horse" and has the BEST personality, everyone is in love with him including the other animals, and he clicks very well with me, I'm his person :)
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post #5 of 35 Old 08-15-2016, 11:41 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by walkinthewalk View Post
Expand the requirements.

1. Your level of riding ability for starters and be absolutely honest. People who are "Legends in their own minds" riders get themselves into a lot of trouble by buying a great horse that is too much for them because it's pretty. Next thing they know it "isn't the same horse they bought a month ago".

2. Gaited or non-gaited.

3. Gelding or mare.

4. 150lbs plus saddle isn't much. Some 14.3H horses could easily carry you. Do you have a height requirement.

5. Does color matter, even though you can't ride it?
I've been trusted with lots of horses at my old barn I used to ride at which were not safe for most riders. I'd say I'm on the advanced end of intermediate. Ridden plenty of bolts, bucks, and the occasional rear without falling off. I was also at the most advanced lesson level at that particular barn, which went from absolute beginners to middle level riders. Plenty of people doing successful eventing learned everything they knew there, but I'm not saying it's going to send you to the olympics or some national show so it's not like I'm particularly "expert" on it.

Don't care if it's gaited or not, like I said, a sound horse that won't throw me off when it sees a leaf fall on the ground is about all I really need.

I like mares but I could hardly care less what sex. I'd even ride a stallion if it fit the profile.

I don't really have a height requirement as long as it can carry me. For example, a 13.3hh Fjord Horse might carry me just fine. I prefer not to go above 16.3 though. I will probably fall some day for whatever reason, and the higher it is the more damage I'll have, as well as being harder to transport and mount.

Don't care about color. Sure I find some horses extremely plain and "boring" color wise and some exceptionally beautiful, but I don't really care when I'm actually buying a horse for myself.
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post #6 of 35 Old 08-16-2016, 12:36 AM
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Location: Western Massachusetts
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No matter what people say about the horse, no deal before a PPE, and ride the horse ALONE in a STRANGE (to the horse) place. That is how you will find out whether you have a real trail horse, a needs-some-work trail horse, or no trail horse at all.

From what I have read on this forum the past year or so, the chances of you getting a perfectly flawless horse right out of the trailer are close to zero, so be prepared to do some work to build a relationship, fill the holes, etc.

Short horse lover
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post #7 of 35 Old 08-16-2016, 12:45 AM Thread Starter
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I forgot to mention I've also worked with a couple horses that really did not like going on trails. My most recent lease was terrified on trails for a few months... just kept making him go out, not let him look back to where the herd was even though he couldn't see them, not go faster than I wanted him to, and by the end a freight train could have flown out of the woods at 100mph 10 feet in front of him and he wouldn't spook.
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post #8 of 35 Old 08-16-2016, 01:37 AM
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maybe you should have offered to buy HIM.
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post #9 of 35 Old 08-16-2016, 01:42 AM Thread Starter
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He's something like 1500 miles away and has a severe ligament injury in his hoof, and the barn does not sell... also he's 16, getting up there in age. I prefer a younger horse just because I want to have more time with them. I don't want to get an older horse then only have maybe 5 years of trail rides before they start losing tone and the ability to go anywhere.

I would buy him if he was sound, for sale, and a few years younger, no question.
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post #10 of 35 Old 08-16-2016, 02:16 AM
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If I were you, I'd narrow down more of the criteria you want in a trail horse. There are actually a lot more things that I believe are important to know about a trail horse than just "not spooky" and "will go out alone."

What is your preferred pace? Do you want a horse that is very comfortable, or is it more important that the horse can get somewhere? I know many horses that are not spooky and will go out alone very well.
Some of these horses prefer to only walk slowly, must be really pushed to maintain a slow pace at the trot, and are best for very slow and sleepy rides. If you wanted to cover, for instance, ten miles on your ride, it would take you several hours or more and you'd have to prod the horse quite a bit and wear yourself out to get there.

Some other horses I know are medium paced horses. They will walk, trot or lope but they don't have the drive to go all day without pushing. These types can take you on a short trail ride very well, and keep up with many other companions you might find to ride with. But if you want to do any rides farther than about ten miles, you'll find them lacking. They will not ever place in an endurance ride.

Then there are some other horses that are not hot, but move out at a very good pace. They can trot for miles, it's very smooth and you will cover a lot of ground. Some gaited horses such as Tennessee Walkers fall into this trail pace. If you want to go out and see a lot of countryside, you'll be able to do it. They might not win an endurance race, but they could easily finish it once conditioned.

I won't mention the horses beyond this that will take you fast, all day since you don't want a hot horse.

Looking at horses, I'd keep in mind the type of trail riding you want to do. If you're going to need a horse that can scramble up steep slopes and get over big logs in the path, bear that in mind. If you want to walk slowly on groomed trails, your very stocky QH or Fjord pony (in your example) would do. If you want to go farther distances and do more trotting out, I'd get a bit leaner looking stock horse that is not too heavily muscled and will handle distance and heat better. It's not just about temperament to handle spooking and obstacles, but also the horse must have the drive to work and the physical capability to handle what you are asking.
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