Buying Your First Horse

Chrissie Turner By Chrissie Turner, 13th Jan 2015 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>Pets>Horses

A brief guide for the first time horse buyer with tips on where to buy.

Your First Horse

Many people who learn to ride remain 'happy hackers', content to have a weekly session at their trusted riding school, enjoying the escape from the stresses of their daily life. For some, however, there is a hankering for something more. They reach the stage where the riding school horses are not enough, they want a greater bond with a horse, they want to be able to do their own thing... They realise they want a horse of their own.... Before you take such a major step, however, think carefully about the implications:

Think honestly about why you want a horse of your own. What would be the differences from continuing with your current regime?
Would having a horse fit into your lifestyle?
Consider how you would care for the horse. Very few people have the means to keep a horse in their back garden!
Would your finances be able to cover the costs?

A good idea, before making the final decision, is to volunteer to work at your riding school or other yard so you can get an idea of the work involved in keeping horses. Many riding schools offer courses for their clients to learn more about the care and management of horses. Livery yards and even competition yard are often grateful for some extra help in return for training. Also, look at sharing a horse – lots of people will take on a sharer to help with costs and it means you can get a good idea of what horse owning is all about!

When you have thought about things in depth and still want to go ahead, deciding you want to buy a horse is the easy bit. What should follow that decision – before you go 'horse hunting' – is a lot of extensive research:

The first thing to look at is the boring subject of finance. Not just the purchasing of the horse but the cost of keeping it. Check out local stable yards for cost of livery. Speak to other horse owners for recommendations. Check out local vets for routine costs and farriers about the cost of shoes. Research the cost of insurance to cover major vet bills and public liability. Work out a budget – then add some! Things rarely go as planned with horses and there will always be that incidental cost you hadn't thought about. You will need to think also about tack, rugs etc.

Consider the manner in which the horse will be kept. When you do your financial research, you will find that 'DIY' livery is the cheapest followed by 'part livery' and 'full livery'. No first time owner should consider 'DIY' unless they have acquired an extensive knowledge of horse care and are going to be on a yard where help is readily available.

DIY livery is as it says. You pay rent for a stable and / or grazing and then buy the feed, bedding and hay as extras . You then have complete care of your horse - feeding, exercise, turnout, mucking out, grooming, tack cleaning etc.. Whilst this is a great way to build your relationship with your horse, it can be a bit daunting for the first time owner. Some places may also offer grass livery where the horse lives in the field 24/7 – but even then there are still daily checks to do, additional feed / hay , shoeing and the like – oh, and in the winter, it will be very cold and muddy!

Full livery is expensive because you're are paying for someone else to take charge of your horse and attend to it's every need. All you need to do is turn up when you want to ride! Which, if you consider it, is no different to being at the riding school!

A good 'happy medium' for many is Part Livery. The major part is taken care of but exercise, grooming etc. are the owner's responsibility.

Another possibility would be to ask your riding school what livery they offer – they may even do a 'Working Livery' where your costs are reduced in return for the use of the horse in the school for a specified number of hours each week. That way you still have access to the people you know and trust.

Okay, so you know where your horse will live and that you can afford to keep it. The next thing to think about is what sort of horse you want to own. Think very carefully about your requirements. As a first time owner, it is unlikely you would be wanting a horse to compete in 1.60m show jumping classes or do Grand Prix dressage. Nor would it be a good idea to buy an uneducated horse.

There are few horses under the age of 7 years who would be suitable for a first time owner. A good age range would be between 10 and 15 years – but be flexible enough to go beyond that, if the right horse comes along. Do not automatically discount horses older than 15 just on their age – many horses are still working in their 20s or beyond!
Breed is important. Thoroughbreds have a tendency to be highly strung, although there are plenty who have a basically calm disposition. If all you want to do is meander around the countryside, however, then you would be better to look at a steadier type – a cob for example. If you would like to compete, you would need something which would be happy to join in the fun! Having said that, at local level, many shows have classes which would suit anyone!

Think about size. If you are 5' tall and very slim, you would not look right on a hulking great 17.2hh Warmblood – and would possibly have problems controlling such a horse… Nor would 6' tall and 15 stone look right on a 13.2hh pony!

The price is not a major issue really, since a horse is worth what the buyer wants to pay and the seller is willing to accept. Be wary of 'ultra cheap' horses though. Make a list of all the things you want from your horse. Check out various websites and look at horses which seem to fit the bill to get an idea of price. Discuss with your instructor what would suit you. Don't be blinded by looks either...

Where to buy?

The ideal place to buy is from a reputable dealer – again, do some research online. A good dealer will let you try the horse and probably have a 'returns' policy. After all, if the horse isn't right for you, it's their reputation on the line! Perhaps your riding school has something suitable? Or friends who are selling? Your instructor may know someone too. Of course, there are plenty of private sellers out there but take someone who knows about horses with you whenever you go to view - wherever you're buying from. Equate buying a horse to buying a car. If you know nothing about cars, you would ask someone who does to help you, wouldn't you?

Having the horse vetted is a good idea. Vetting is a bit like a car MOT.... However, like an MOT, it is only what the vet sees on the day – there may be 'advisories' of potential problems but you are reliant on the vet's opinion on the day he vets the horse. Be honest about your requirements. If you are only aiming to be a 'happy hacker', a horse which may fail a vetting for top level competition could still pass for your use!

Remember that having a horse is like any other relationship in life. The horse may 'tick all your boxes' but, if you are not compatible, it will all end in tears. Even when you first see the horse, listen to your 'gut instinct'. If there are any alarm bells, walk away. Buying a horse is too huge a step to think 'we may grow to like each other'. At the end of the day, unless you have a returns option, if it all goes wrong, not only could you and the horse get seriously hurt but you will have to go through all the hassle of selling the horse on – probably at a loss!

Okay. So you have found your horse, and now it's home with you. How exciting is that!

Think now. The horse will very likely be a tad 'out of sorts' at first. He has come to a new place, away from horsey friends and people he trusts. Probably he will be on an entirely new routine too! Some horses settle in quickly, others take weeks! So often you hear people say 'he was fine when I tried him out but now he's a lunatic!' … Give him time. Spend as much time as possible getting to know him. Grooming is a good way of forging a bond with your horse. The first few days, try to keep everything as calm and 'chilled out' as possible. Also, think about his previous routine – for example: if he was turned out a lot but is now kept in longer, he will probably get a bit hyped up to begin with until he adjusts. I always feel that it's a good idea for someone buying a new horse to have a few days off from work and spend the time with the horse. Get to know his moods, his likes and dislikes... Enjoy your new friend....

If issues arise – and they quite likely will – don't suffer in silence. Ask for advice!


Horse, Horse Care, Horse Ownership, Horse Riding, Horse Trainer, Horseback, Horseback Rider, Horseback Riding, Horses, Riding

Meet the author

author avatar Chrissie Turner
I am an experienced horse trainer / instructor. I have been involved in all aspects of horse care and horsemanship for 45 years.

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author avatar Mark Gordon Brown
13th Jan 2015 (#)

I have a donkey. We did buy an Appaloosa horse from auction once but she was not a good horse for us so we sold her.

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author avatar Nancy Czerwinski
13th Jan 2015 (#)

Thank you for sharing this article.

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