What do you look for when buying your first horse? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 9 Old 04-09-2019, 01:02 AM Thread Starter
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What do you look for when buying your first horse?

So right now, I'll call it a dream in progress (I hope). My 11 year old daughter does English riding and is now starting to get into shows. She is beautiful and looks so happy and free when riding. I am so happy to be able to allow her to train and ride, it was something I always dreamed of doing when I was a kid but we didnt have the means for me to do it.

All that being said I would love to eventually get my own horse along with the one she currently has her eyes on. She already has an incredible bond and great work ethic built on love and trust with this particular mare. She calls this mare her soul horse. She says she loves all horses but this one is her true happiness. I guess, well, I would love to find something like that. I dont have a desire to do showing, just something to possibly trail ride, play around with, try new things and have to love on for fun. My daughter, along with her trainer supervising wants to teach me to ride, she is so proud of what she has learned. I think it would be an incredible bonding experience for us.

So now that you have my back story, when the time comes what is a list of everything I need to look for? Her trainer/instructor also said she would help us find the right fit, but I would also love to hear your experiences, advice etc so I have plenty of information to prepare myself with.

Thank you!
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post #2 of 9 Old 04-09-2019, 05:48 AM
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For your first horse you definitely want one that's been there and done that--fully trained and experienced on the trail and in the arena. Has good ground manners and a good temperament. Doesn't really matter what breed or what they look like. Preferably a gelding so you don't have to worry about marish behavior. I've been a horse owner for 30 years and that's still what I look for--I'm not interested in a rodeo. You are right to have your trainer helping. And when you find a horse that seems suitable then have a vet check it out before you buy to make sure it's healthy and sound.

The first horse I bought was only 5 yrs old but well trained, in perfect health and a had good mind. He is now almost 26 and going strong. We've been on many rides in many situations and he's well behaved and trustworthy. I just bought another horse last year off Craigslist. I looked for the same qualities and had 4 other more experienced horse people look him over and ride him as well. So far so good--everybody loves him including the vet. Only this horse is 17 already. So age isn't a huge factor either.
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post #3 of 9 Old 04-09-2019, 06:46 AM
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Is the mare that your daughter has her eyes on going to be her horse? Although I don't think that gender really matters all that much, I do think that it is easier to keep same genders together rather than mixing them.

I know a lot of people talk about mares being mareish but I don't see it. I have three mares and all three are pretty well behaved considering that I don't ride much. Come to think of it, there are three geldings on the property right now and two of them are jerks. Honestly, I don't think that it has anything to do with them being males either, just the way they are from their life experiences. As a kid, I had a gelding and he was the sweetest boy ever.

No horse that you look at is going to be perfect so you have to find one that is almost perfect for you. That would be based on your experience with handling and riding horses. You can probably handle more if you have experienced help by your side as you go.

I think that you would want to start your search by looking at horses that have good conformation that won't break down with the work that you intend them for, have a amicable temperament, no illnesses or past injuries that will hinder them for your intent. For instance, if I were to sell one of my mares, she would never be good for eventing, jumping, speed events or anything like that because of a past injury to her hock. But, she makes a great trail horse and never comes up lame after riding for hours. She's twelve now and she will probably be dealing with arthritis where her old injury is when she ages. But, it is not unusual for horses to have arthritis as they get older, just like us.

Try to find one that has a pretty easy temperament that is well trained. Beginners make a lot of mistakes with horses so it's good to have the temperament that can be forgiving of these mistakes. Older doesn't always mean better for the been there done that attitude. I had a mare that that I got at eighteen years old that definitely would not be good for a beginner. I have a three year old filly that by the time she is five or six would probably be ok for a beginner. Her temperament is so sweet.

There is a lot to think about when getting a horse. If you are a beginner then it's usually best to have a lot of experience at your side to help you. As far as heart horses go, that usually happens in time when you get to know each other. Good luck with your search and I hope that you get what you are looking for. They are out there so be patient.
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post #4 of 9 Old 04-09-2019, 07:24 AM
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Before you start a list of must-haves you need to really learn how to ride and care for the horse...
It looks glamorous and easy but it is very hard work and requires a dedication of hours of time to do weekly lessons as you've found out with your daughter...
To own requires much more time and effort as no one else does for you unless you pay them and pay handsomely for tasks to be completed correctly.
Some things you need to determine before searching for a horse is what kind of riding are you both going to do together?
Ring work so your daughter can continue to show...
Or are you going to look for a horse{s} where you can trail-ride?
If you want to trail ride then what does daughter do or are you going to search for a horses who can do both trail rides and horse showing, not all horses can do this!
At 11 years of age your daughter is going to fall in love with a lot of horses and probably change a few along the way as she outgrows both in size and in ability as she progresses if she sticks with the lessons.
The mare today she "loves" may tomorrow be a gelding or a different mare...
Other things to think about is where are you going to keep the horses at? Home? Boarded? Show barn or backyard style?
I ask because it opens many more questions to your needs fulfilled in how do you get to trails if you are not near them in a show-barn atmosphere?
It can get complicated....doesn't need to be though if you not allow it to reach that point.
So, for you mom....a older horse who is steady in what they know, very tolerant and a teacher attitude, settled and predictable is what I would search for for you...
If you want to ride trails, then purchase a trail horse.
If you want to do ring work then purchase that kind of horse...
If you want to do both kinds of riding, then look harder and try them out to make sure the horse does both jobs well.
But before you ever get to the "owning" you need to get to the capable rider part and that means lessons.
Lessons taught by someone who knows what they are truly doing, can answer the why you will have and also be able to give a more depth of knowledge level than your daughter was age dependent.
As a adult rider you will have more questions than a child cause that is just how our minds work.
Tell a kid...share and inform a adult is what I've seen from the sidelines watching lessons being given..it makes sense.
The bottom line is before you can buy you need to be independent, safe and have enough knowledge to do on your own with least risk to you or the animal and to be safe on the ground and astride.
Lessons, first.
Then figure out the monthly bankroll of affording your dream it shall take and add a few hundred $$ extra monthly...then the search can begin.
The biggest one to have is the time in your day, week, month and year to dedicate to keeping, maintaining, riding and enjoying having your own horses...moving around busy lives and family schedules so the animals have adequate time with their humans is very important for all the reasons others will write of...and you already spoke of a bond...that takes time and can be made, broken, a new one fostered and begun with any animal if you spend the time it needs to nurture it to grow.
Good luck in your challenge, your dreams taking shape and the reality of when it comes to be...

The worst day is instantly better when shared with my horse.....
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post #5 of 9 Old 04-09-2019, 08:07 AM
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The only advice I have - as a mom who bought her daughter a horse 3.5 years ago, then a couple more - is don't rush it. Take your time. It sounds like this mare is your daughter's pick, but finding a second horse for yourself may prove to be more difficult. I was in a time crunch to buy a second horse. We had just built our barn and were about to move her horse home. He does not do well alone, so I felt we had to get a second horse asap. My daughter and I had looked at a few, but they all turned out to be unsuitable. We found this mare who was supposed to be totally bombproof, and a great beginner horse. We planned a full day, and rode 5 horses that day. She was last. She seemed great, so we asked to ride her again the next day on a trail ride. They happily accommodated us. She was great until the end of the day when they had her tied to a fence and tried to throw my daughter on her bareback to show how safe she was. This mare pulled back hard. I should have seen the red flags. But my daughter was tired, and wanted to get her so bad she started crying in the car. I contacted the seller and told them that if they could show me this was just a fluke, I'd buy her.

I want to say that it was a mistake, but it really wasn't. I learned a great deal from this horse, and I love her to bits. But I'll never trust her completely. She dumped me twice in the first two weeks I had her. She gave me a concussion eventually. She had so many issues, but was shut down from previous flooding by trainers who thought this was the way to teach her to listen.

I have brought her along to the point where she is no longer jumpy all the time, but I know she could still get triggered, and has the most violent spooks I have ever felt. I can't sell her because she has these issues, and I'd be afraid of what someone might do to her.

So last fall, a good friend offered me one of her horses for the winter. A youngster at 6, not even technically for sale, but she said she'd let me keep him until spring so I could see whether we click. And do we ever. He's got such a solid mind, will go anywhere, do anything, is totally fearless. Just what I wanted from the start. I officially bought him a few days ago. And that's how I ended up with three horses in the barn, lol. But honestly, he is so good for my mare too, and we have a friend who comes to ride with us and contributes financially so it worked out for everyone.

My advice: take your time, don't feel pressured to get a horse by XXX amount of time, INSIST on a trial period. And yes, you and your daughter will spend a lot of time hanging out together at the barn, but you are the adult, so you are ultimately responsible for everything, whether that means finances, or day-to-day care. Start educating yourself to do this if you aren't already. It is a huge responsibility, and while it's good to teach kids to be responsible, you have to be there in case they forget or fail. Good luck finding the right horse, and have fun!
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post #6 of 9 Old 04-09-2019, 11:17 AM
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My advice is to make sure you learn to ride first then make sure you have your daughter's trainer/instructor help you look for the right horse. Have a checklist made up of what you need in your horse, what you would like and what you will not have.
((Ex.) Musts ) Beginners Trail horse, calm and Quiet mind, Sound body, etc... would like to have, a certain color, hight, etc... Will not have anything that is green broke, Bucks, bites, rears, etc.. ) I also would say make sure you ask questions like why are you selling, how long have you had this horse, does it have any bad habits, etc.. Even if the seller has stated these things it can be helpful to ask again and see if the answer changes in any way. If the answers change then it could be a red flag as to something may not be as it seems. Try to go see the horse several times before buying if you can & Have a vet do a pre-purchase exam.

There is a lot of Used care salesmen type of horse sellers out there so always keep that in mind. Also, don't rush the process take your time and look at lots of potential horses if you rush it you are more likely to miss some red flags.

The first horse we did all of these things and the seller was wonderful and happy to answer all our questions and accommodate any requests we had. We did a PPE and had my mares hind leg checked out as she has a huge scar from an old injury on that leg and the old owner was happy to get the brand inspection done before taking our money. Our second horse my partner i think felt rushed now that we had already found my ideal trail mount he wanted to hurry and find his and he did not want her to be alone in the pasture. So looking back on the purchase of our gelding we missed a few red flags. The owner was late to our appointment at his place because he had taken the said horse out on the trail all morning, He was not really answering our questions but instead giving us the used car salesmen shpeal. When my partner decided he might want to go ahead and purchase the owner rushed it he wanted to get rid of him right that moment, he did not want us to get a PPE, and did not want to wait for the gelding to come to our place till after we had the brand inspection done but he was eager to take our money right that second. After that things have not been at all what we thought with this horse. He is deadly unrideable and he has been a challenge to understand some days but he is really teaching us a lot. ( long story )

So my advice is to make sure to take your time, Fallow your gut, watch for red flags. Be very picky about your musts and must nots and not so picky on the would likes on your list.
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post #7 of 9 Old 04-09-2019, 02:57 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you all so much for your advice and sharing your experiences. As much as it would be incredible to do it all right now I know this is a few years off in the future at least. I am kinda a freak about doing tons of research so that's why I am asking all the questions now, in hope that when the time does come I am fully prepared.

As far as the mare who my daughter is so in love with we aren't sure if we will get her or not, she isnt up for sale but her trainer said she would consider selling her to my daughter in the future. I am not all that worried about my daughter outgrowing her because if she moves up to something higher level I have two little guys who could grow up on her. She is an awesome family horse.

When we do move forward with this in the future I plan to keep them on my property, so we can be with them daily. Where we live we have tons or trails and wilderness to explore. The time and commitment part isn't too overwhelming for me because I homeschool so we would have lots of time to do daily chores and loving on them. I am sure I will come up with tons more questions as AI delve farther into my research.

I really appreciate all your answers, thank you!
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post #8 of 9 Old 04-09-2019, 04:03 PM
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I kind of think that at this point the question you need to be asking is "do I really want to invest in owning my own horse?" As an adult, if you have never owned a horse, have never ridden much (or at all), have never worked on a farm, kept livestock, trained animals -- you are facing a dauntingly steep learning curve. As returning rider, I had done ALL those things, and it still has been like climbing a mountain without an end sometimes.

So it isn't only that it's so easy to end up with an unsound or unrideable or just unsuitable horse. It's that even the near-perfect horse looks a lot more romantic from a naive distance. I would strongly suggest weekly lessons, and working as a stable hand, for a good while before you make the decision to look for a horse.
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post #9 of 9 Old 04-10-2019, 08:03 AM
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What @Avna said. I have had my horses at home for 3 years now. I have a flexible work schedule. My daughter has been in lessons for 8 years (she started quite young) and will soon be getting her coaching certification. I got my first pony when I was 5, and my first horse at home in my parents' backyard when I was 11. I sold him when I left home to go to university and did not have horses again until 3 years ago so there was a big gap there, but still, I knew what I was getting into, having been solely responsible for my horse as a teenager.

And yet, the time and money commitment still impresses me. The learning is never-ending. That's ok, I love to learn, and take every opportunity I can get to take seminars on everything from nutrition to trimming. And don't even get me started on saddle fitting! I could write a book on that unexpectedly complicated part of horse ownership. Some horses are easy to keep, but some, like my daughter's 20 year old gelding, require a lot of extra TLC to stay healthy. The first year we got him, he began to cough very badly. It was a steep learning curve as I first did whatever the vets said, then educated myself and discovered there are better ways to manage it than just giving steroids. I'm happy to say that he hasn't coughed in over a year now and is not on any medication. The latest battle involves diarrhea, and it has been going on for two years, but I think I have it beat since he's been free of loose stool for about 3 months now after a great deal of trial and error. I am now on my local equestrian association executive committee, and am currently organizing a session with a vet on vaccinations and biosecurity.

I spend about two hours a day at the barn in the winter just doing chores (not in one chunk - I go to the barn 4-5 times a day). A little less in the summer when they're on pasture. Speaking of pasture, if you plan on keeping them at home, there is a lot to learn about that too. Fences, toxic plants, and manure management!!! Oh, manure management... that never ends. Do you know that horses produce 50 lbs of waste every day? That piles up really fast. It has to be disposed of in a location easily accessible, but away from the barn and house to avoid smell and flies being too close to you. We live on 13 acres, and I am managing to just barely provide enough grass for 3 very small horses who are all easy keepers. And mud, oh the mud! Which of course leads to thrush if you're not careful, so picking out hooves is a daily chore in the spring. Finding good quality hay each summer is another challenge. Sure, there is lots of hay around me, and we're lucky that hay is cheap here, but GOOD hay is not that easy to find, I've discovered.

Then there's the financial commitment. I am horse poor. I have a good salary, and so does my husband, but I'm always broke. And it's not like I buy the most expensive horse stuff... I am as cheap as they get, the vast majority of my tack is used. I haven't bought myself a piece of clothing in years. I skip haircuts. The last horse I bought is actually shared with a friend, and when I did up a budget to give her so she would know what her half of expenses would be, I was actually surprised. Between feed, hay, bedding, hoof trims, supplements (rather than a pelleted feed, I feed beet pulp and add my own vitamins and minerals), etc. -- it really adds up. And that's not counting extra vet bills if something happens. Every last spare dime I have left after the kids are looked after goes to my horses. I can no longer afford riding lessons for myself (though I keep my daughter in lessons because she competes).

But you know what? I wouldn't have it any other way. I'm just telling you all this because I knew what I was getting into, but it still feels like horses have completely taken over my life. That's ok, I love every minute of it, but I have heard some say they regret bringing their horses home from a boarding situation because they found they no longer had time to ride. So keep doing your research. Start helping out at a barn so you become comfortable doing everything that needs to be done with horses. Make a budget, then double it, lol. Being responsible for horses is a huge undertaking - there is no vacation, no days off. You can't go on holidays with your family unless you can find someone to look after them, which isn't like feeding a cat. And maybe consider starting out as a boarder rather than immediately bringing the horses home so you don't put yourself in an untenable situation. Enjoy the journey!
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