Horse Shopping 101: Tips to Help Buy the Right One

The day has come you’ve finally gotten yourself to a place where it’s time to get serious about horse shopping. There’s a lot to remember in this exciting time, to ensure you find the perfect match. Here are 10 tips for picking out the right partner:

1. Determine your riding goals

This is important. Honestly evaluate your knowledge and ability. If you’re a new rider looking for a “Steady Eddy” trail horse, then make sure you’re not seeking a young Grand Prix prospect. A green horse and green rider often make for disaster. If you’re not sure what you’re looking for, ask your trainer or a local horseman to evaluate you and help point you in the right direction. Trainers often know of suitable horses for sale through their network and by word of mouth, so definitely contact them. A solid horse is worth their weight in gold when it comes to providing confidence and teaching you horsemanship, something that will take you down the road.

 2. Find a suitable boarding facility

If you aren’t planning on keeping your horse in your backyard, start seeking out local barns. Ask your other horse friends where they keep their horses, and be sure to inquire about the care, safety, cleanliness and lesson programs offered. Depending on your riding style, you may want to go to a more training-heavy show barn or if you’re just looking for playdays and trail rides, you want to look for a barn with trail access and other like-minded trail enthusiasts to adventure out with. If you’re not familiar with anything, be sure to visit and tour the barn. This gives you a chance to meet the barn manager who will be responsible for the daily care of your horse, so make sure you feel comfortable with them!

3. Enlist the help of a trainer or trusted professional

This is important, especially if this is your first horse purchase. Trainers and seasoned horse people know what to look for and what to avoid when it comes to shopping. Their time in the saddle and around horses is invaluable and can make all the difference in when looking for your next partner. Trainers can help select suitable choices based on your needs and do all the heavy lifting when it comes to vetting out prospects. 

 4. Bring someone along with you to try the horse

Once an appointment is made to try the horse, bring your trainer or a horse friend with you while you meet and try the horse. They can evaluate the horse from the ground and watch him more closely while you’re trying him…and have them take notes while you focus on riding.

5. Ask the seller all the right questions

Ask the seller questions of things you'd like to know while trying, such as does this horse have custom saddle-fit needs? Special needs? Vices? Can’t be turned out with certain horses, etc.? Make a list beforehand and bring it with you so you don’t get caught up and leave with unanswered questions.

6. Get a vet check

Always arrange for a vet check, even if the horse has a recent clean vet record. Paying for one now could save you lots of money down the road if the horse turns out to be unsound or has another underlying health issue. 

7. Arrange transportation

If you don’t have your own trailer, ask a friend or hire a professional hauling company to transport your horse. Usually the seller can recommend a company, but your local feed and tack store should have a list of reputable haulers. Before booking, make sure the hauler is licensed and insured and has the best reviews. 

8. Settle in

Once bringing your new horse home give him or her a few days to settle into their new environment and routine. Make sure they’re offered plenty of hay and water, and let them get to know you by spending time grooming them.

9. Set up vet, farrier and other appointments as needed

Establish a baseline examination with the local veterinarian and farrier to get your horse on a routine vaccination and shoeing schedule.

10. Time to ride

After your horse has successfully settled in, it’s time to ride! Be sure to have a trainer present to help facilitate getting to know your horse and their quirks while riding. A trainer’s guidance can provide skill and confidence that can be used down the road when riding by yourself. 

Remember, there’s always another horse out there if the first few don’t pass your trainer’s assessment or the vet check. Taking time, doing it right and making the right choice will do you and your equine partner the most good down the road. Happy horse shopping!