Choosing your first horse has many factors in it to make it successful. I advise my students not to rush into it. First you need to learn to ride and care for a horse. Some instructors will let you help around the stable or even have school horses you may lease or do a partial lease on. This will give you or your children the experience of having a horse without all the complications. During this trial period you may find out that you can’t live without a horse or you may find out that it is too much expense or work for you at this time.
Going to a barn and having a horse or pony already tacked up and waiting for you to take a lesson on is not the best idea. You really do not get to know all the other aspects of owning a horse. There are many elements that are involved. If you go to a good stable you will learn how to groom your horse, tack up, lead and handle your horse. They will instruct you in all things involved in how to care and feed each individual, how to clean stalls daily and clean your tack. Horsemanship involves learning to know when your horse is healthy and when they need the veterinary, you need to understand the parts of your horse and how the confirmation of each horse lends it to the best type of riding for it. You need to know how to care for your horse and what good care is even if you are planning on boarding it at a stable. You are the one truly responsible for its care, even if someone else does the work. If you don’t know these things, how are you going to know if your horse is being taken care of properly?
All the following things must be thought about before you make a purchase. Where are you going to keep your horse? Are you going to keep it at your riding school, at another stable, at your farm or at a friend’s? If you are boarding it at your instructors stable you can continue lessons on your new horse and get help when you need it and even be able to participate in its care, spending more time with it. If you must take it to another stable you are not familiar with, you will need to see if your instructor can come there or if you need to transport it to your instructor. Do you have a trailer and know how to drive it safely or will you pay someone every time to do so. If you plan on horse-keeping at your own place, do you have safe fencing, a good barn or shed, a place to store hay, grain, tack and other things you will need in a good mouse proof place? Do you have the right type of grass in your pasture that will keep it healthy? Can someone take care of it when you go on vacation? Are you able to care for it when it gets sick? You need to talk with your instructor to see if they can come to your place and have a safe place to work your horse. If you keep it at your place you will need a trailer and truck to transport it in an emergency. You can’t always depend on someone else to do. There are many benefits on keeping them at your own place, but it comes with much more responsibility and a lot more education to keep it healthy and safe. If you are planning on keeping it at your friend’s place, are they knowledgeable, are they going to take care of it or are you? What about winter weather, can you get to them if there is a big snow storm, will they have water that is not frozen and hay that is not molded or is accessible? What kind of riding are you going to do? Are you going to just pleasure ride or show? These are all the things you must think about before purchasing your first horse.
You will need to have a veterinary and a farrier. If you know some already great, then pick the one you can talk to and get along with the best. Communication between you and them is a must for the horse’s best interest. Horse care can be very simple or more detailed, it is up to you to discuss this with your instructor/trainer and your veterinary. You will need to conform the care to your horse and your pocketbook!
Some breeds may be more suitable for you and what you want to do than others, so study about the type riding you want to do and the breed most suitable. As you start your search ask lots of questions don’t give up and learn something every time you look at a horse.
After thinking about all of these things and you start your search, there are a few things you want to remember as you start trying out horses. First never ride the horse without seeing someone else ride it first. You want to watch them catch the horse, tie it, groom, tack it up, and lead it to a safe place to ride. There are a lot of tricks people use when selling horses, they may not be telling you the whole story. If you don’t see the horse do what you want then figure out one thing, it probably doesn’t do it. Example: They don’t tie it up and make an excuse or say “see how wonderful he is, you don’t have to tie him” or he bucks or rares and they say “well he has never done that before” or they ride with only a halter and no saddle and say “see how good he is you don’t even need a bridle or saddle to ride him.” Chances are the horse is not broke to tie, he does buck and rare, or you can’t put a bit in his mouth or the back has an injury. BUYER ALWAYS BEWARE !!! I cannot say that enough. Then you may run into the owner that tells you all the problems and things they know about the horse. They are trying to be as honest as possible about what they know. Don’t overlook that horse just because they are telling you all these things, realize that the others you have looked at had just as many things wrong, the owner just wasn’t telling you about them or didn’t know.
If the horse has done everything you expected and you really like it, then have your trainer or instructor go back with you to look at it and see if it will be a good match for you. They will usually charge a small fee to do so, but it will be well worth it. If they like the horse and think it might work then the last step is to have your veterinary do a vet check. This can be a simple or a complex checkup. If you only want a horse to ride on the weekends then just a simple examination is fine. If you are going to do lots of work or show, then you will need a more extensive examination. Find out what your vet will charge in advance so you can plan to include that into your budget. Doing a vet check may save you thousands of dollars, headaches and heartaches later. I also like to recommend using a different veterinary than the one the seller uses, even if you are planning on using the same vet. The reason is for everyone concerned, a different vet may see something the horse’s regular vet might overlook because of seeing the horse all the time and thinking you are already aware of it.
A vet check does many things, it will let you know exactly what you are buying and how to best care for the horse and will help you decide if the horse can do what you want. When I sell a horse I always ask the buyer to do a vet check, that way everyone is aware of the condition of the horse before it leaves my place. If the person buys the horse and then something comes up later, we have proof that the problem was not there before the purchase.
If the seller does not want you to take the time to have your trainer come nor do a vet check, then move onto the next horse. There was more than likely a reason they don’t want someone to look at it with a professional eye. If they give you the hard sell “Well I got someone coming tomorrow and it may not be here for you later” or “I really need the cash right away because of a divorce, bad luck or whatever” Then run don’t walk to the car and leave. They are trying to force you to make a snap discussion before you have time to think about it. There are very good and reputable dealers and owners out there trying to sell horses and some that may not be as good or trustworthy, but just remember they are all trying to sell that horse. Be prepared, ask questions and be wise. Pretty is as pretty does!
After you have read all this you might think I am trying to stop you from owning a horse, but I am only trying to help you think about it and make a good choice for your first horse. I love horses and want them to have the best owner for them. We become very attached to the first horse and if it turns out to be the wrong one, then the heart ache out ways the enjoyment.
In the equine market today, there are many horses for sale out there and lots of free ones too! The economy has forced owners and dealers to have to move lots of horses, so the right one is out there, just use your head and not your heart for you and the horse’s sake.
Free is not always free, the horse may come with lots of baggage or it may be the most wonderful horse possible for you. Look at the free ones and the ones at rescues as well, there are good horses there, just check them as if they were for sale and read all the fine print in the contract or adoption. The pricey more expensive horse may be a wreck waiting to happen or it might be a real barging when it comes to safety. Now go out there and start the search, be safe, be well advised and have fun, because you will meet lots of other horse people and may make some friends long the way. You will learn a lot as you go from place to place and experience is the best teacher.
Let me know how your search goes!!!