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4 Tips for Choosing the Right Horse
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4 Tips for Choosing the Right Horse

The horse market is surprisingly buoyant despite the recession and with spring just around the corner people are starting to think about buying a new equine friend. If your four-legged partner is to be for the long-term, you need to make the right choice for both of you. Here are some things to consider before you start looking.

Where are you going to keep him?

Some horses are happiest living outside 24/7. This is great if you have the necessary land to allow for good pasture rotation all year round so that your grazing stays in good condition. Breeds with fine coats will fare better spending part of the time stabled and this is usually more expensive unless you have your own facilities.

What you hope to do with your horse will also have a bearing on where you keep him. If you are a ‘happy hacker’, you’ll want somewhere with good riding out and quiet roads. Those who want to compete will need a yard that has a good all-weather arena and possibly some show jumps or a cross country schooling course too, all of which comes at a price.

Can you look after your horse yourself or will you need someone to care for him when you are away or out at work? Some livery yards do not allow DIY liveries and full livery can be very expensive.

Size matters

Don’t think that you must have a huge 17hh warmblood to do dressage with if you’re only 5’ tall! Over-horsing yourself could result in lost confidence and misery for both parties. There’s nothing worse for a judge than to see a tiny rider wearing huge spurs poking away at her poor horse every step he takes because her legs barely reach below the saddle flaps!

Pick a breed that will comfortably carry your weight and narrow your search to something suitable for your height.

Another consideration could be what transport you have if you’re intending to travel to competitions. If you only have a small trailer, don’t buy an 18hh monster that will only fit in a horsebox!


Another mistake people often make is to buy a horse that’s beyond their ability. This is a recipe for disaster! If you are a relative novice or a nervous rider, don’t buy a green thoroughbred just off the racetrack or a three-year-old that’s only just been backed. The blind leading the blind is never going to work and could end in a world of pain for you and the horse.

Always choose something that you can confidently ride and handle – there’s no shame in buying a nice steady schoolmaster. You’ll be happy and confident and he will have great fun teaching you all he knows.

What breed?

The breed you choose will depend on a number of factors: size, temperament, suitability for competition, and his maintenance needs.

If you have aspirations to compete in dressage competitions at a high level, an Arab would not be the ideal choice because their conformation can play against them. Likewise, a heavy shire cross breed would not be ideal if you wanted to compete in endurance events.

Do your research into the different breed characteristics before you start looking around in earnest and always remember that a good old-fashioned cross breed might be just what you’re looking for even though he doesn’t come with fancy registration papers or a whopping price tag.

In conclusion

Buying a horse is certainly a very exciting event and it can be very easy to fall in love with something totally unsuitable only to find you regret your decision. Think very carefully about what sort of horse would suit you best and take your time to find the right one. Hopefully you’ll enjoy a long and happy life together.

Image source: My Horse Blog

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  1. PonyGirl
    Another great article. When I was in high school, I worked for a woman who gave riding lessons and trained horses for western pleasure. I can remember numerous times when an owner brought her a horse to train that was totally unsuited both in temperament and conformation to ever make a western pleasure horse. Often their whole reason for buying the horse was that he "was pretty", or "was palomino (this one wasn't even pretty), or some other random reason. My employer also got several students who (along with their parents) thought it would be a good idea to buy a young, unstarted horse for their own- so the kid and horse "could grow up together." The sad thing was that most of these kids were still having trouble with the older, kind, and well-trained lesson horses that my boss provided.
    1. autumnap
      Thank you! It's such a shame to see a really lovely horse miserable simply because his well-meaning owner bought him on a whim and they are both totally unsuited.

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