Lots of good advice here already. Financially it sounds like you are in a fairly reasonable position, and I agree that there is never a "good" time. If you plan on children you will likely need time off from horses so why waste time now, lol.
Obviously you do not have a crystal ball and cannot begin to know what health problems might befall the horse you purchase. I can tell you that *touching wood* I have 7 horses and a donkey, and in 26 years of horse ownership I have only had one who required a surgery. My coach has approximately the same number of horses as I do and had 3 horses need surgery, plus one who had a hospital stay, all in the course of 4 years.
My first horse buying story:
All I ever wanted was a horse. Obsessively. My parents could afford riding lessons for me, but not my own horse. Midway through high school we moved to a small town on the northern edges of what is considered to be Central Ontario, and my father found me people who needed horses ridden. One horse I became quite enamored with was a 6 yo liver chestnut hot-as-hell Morgan mare called Tuffy. In the spring of 1986 our family took a trip to visit my grandparents in England and my grandmother decided that as I was 17 I could have the money she had been saving for my post-secondary school education, which amounted to a whopping $400 (this factors into why I did not attend university, lol - that was the most anyone had saved). Naturally I decided to put this fortune towards a horse, and had Tuffy in mind along with two others I knew were for sale. My father, myself and my sister returned home 2 weeks earlier than my mother and brother, and it is important to note here, that my father did not oppose horse ownership as long as he was not footing the bill, however my mother was against the idea. First stop after the house was out to the barn of course, only to find Tuffy gone, I was devastated, thinking she had been sold while I was away. Happily her owner had only moved her to a boarding stable for a few weeks, and agreed to sell her to me for the $400 as I had been riding horses all winter for him. My mother came home to a new member of the family. I expect my father spent some time in the doghouse.....26 years later I am 43 and she is 33. In some ways it was the best $400 I ever spent, and in some ways it was a poor decision, however here we are and we are both happy.
Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit amphetamines.
Absolutely get a trainer and barn set up BEFORE you get the horse. Spend time lessoning with said trainer to make sure the barn environment/teaching style is what you want. I'd say 80+% of your horse experience is dependent on the barn atmosphere/your training support system. A toxic barn is miserable, and a subpar trainer will have you and the horse sitting at a plateau (or worse)... As someone who has boarded horses for over 20 years, I can speak to how critical a drama-free, positive and rigorous environment is.
Also, bargain hunt for the horse, even if you do have money. You'll want that money for gear/clinics/lessons, so make your purchase money stretch.
This!! And don't just zip in for your lesson and zip out. Without getting underfoot and acting like Sherlock Holmes in a helmet, try to be around through some of the barn day. See how the horses are handled, look at the hay, see where and how their feed is stored, see whether their routine care is compatible with your thoughts on barn management.
I find it absolutely amazing how many boarders are utterly clueless about what they are, and aren't but should be, getting for the $$$ they hand over.
Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.
I would normally suggest leasing first, but you've done that so you know the financial and time commitments. So if you can still afford it and want to go for it, why not?
Buying IS riskier than leasing. I agree with those who say to spend less on the purchase and save some $ in an emergency fund. With a more expensive horse, you will also be spending more on insurance (maybe $2000/yr for a $40-50k horse!!).
And things do go wrong. I know theoretically you may not be stuck with a horse for life, but in actuality you may be stuck with a horse for life. I have a Navicular gelding. I probably couldn't give him away to a good home. So my cheapest solutions are retirement or euth. And I would only consider retirement. He's actually with me and costs $1000 a month to board. And I had to buy another one to ride...!!!
Horses are horribly expensive and risky. But obviously we do it because we love it. So if you can truly afford it and can mitigate some of the risks (insurance, savings), go for it!!
Obviously get a pro to help with the selection. And a really good PPE!! Beware all the usual "horse trader" situations, such as not being able to verify age/record/breeding due to "lost" papers. Don't take anybody's word on anything!! And drug test!! Buying is scary, but it helps when you can verify what you're being told about the animal. It's also super exciting, so yay!!!
I am blessed to have an inheritance and could afford a nice horse but the monthly upkeep is what scares me. Any advice? Was it scary to buy your first horse? What is your first-horse buying story?
A good horse needs to campaigned .... do you have the reserves to afford shipping this puppy around then fly in to do your rides?
Twenty-five years ago (and about $200,000 ago) we bought our kids a horsey who turned into a nice one (we still have her) but just running the figures it took about a quarter of million dollars over the last twenty-five years to ship her (and her buddy horses) and the kids around the country
We ended up breaking even as of all things because we had the horses we had bought land which turned out to have three pockets of natural gas and two pools of oil under the pastures.
The long term costs are pretty shocking .... I would put that inheritance away, lock it up then see what I could do with what could be excess cash I had.
Meh, I have a nice horse but not the $ or desire to actively campaign her at a high level. I figure if I were to actively campaign her at her appropriate level, my trainer would be her sole rider. I'm just a lowly ammie. I know I should probably campaign her at least more than we do, and we'll do some recognized shows this year. But she's a forever horse so I'm not on anybody else's timeframe.