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How much horse for a first time horse owner?

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  • How much horse for a first time horse owner?

    Since I am not going to get the horse I mentioned in the other thread, I am trying to distract myself from being sad about it a bit by thinking towards the future. I'm not going to go online shopping yet (because that is how you find more temptation) but I got to wondering - going in as a first time horse owner, assuming your expectation is to keep the horse for a good long time, what do you aim for with regards to potential/talent/etc. if you don't have very specific competition goals?

    Do you go with what you know you can do, or try to include things you think you might like to do? Do you just try to find a horse that's a good match size and personality-wise and then do whatever the horse prefers?

    If you didn't buy your horse with a specific goal in mind, what were your requirements when you were looking?

    (Some of this is just plain curiosity about how people make their horse purchasing decisions. )

  • #2
    Buy a horse that you can handle and ride NOW. If your interest is trails, make sure the horse is reliable on trails. Have them trailer it to some different trails, so you can see how it reacts in a new setting. If it's jumping, have them jump it at a level you expect to be at in a couple of yrs. Make sure you can handle the horse in a new environment.

    A good way to advance is to lease a horse doing what you are doing now, and just lease new horses until you are at a level that you can handle maybe getting a greener horse to train and move up on. It's too easy to outgrow a horse, and if you aren't willing to sell/lease to someone, you are limiting yourself.


    • #3
      I agree with getting a horse you can ride and enjoy now. That's the best idea for a first horse. If you want to move up in the future, you can sell him and look for something more suitable for your needs.
      Why must you chastise my brilliant idea with facts and logic? **picks up toys (and wine) and goes home**


      • #4
        For where you are now, buying a horse that's been there, done that makes sense -- if you buy at all.

        Keep in mind that may not be what you need or want in a few years.

        When I started riding again, in my early 30s, I leased a horse for awhile and then bought him. Had a great time with him for about 3 years but then we came to a point where he had topped out.

        My trainer told me that I had two choices: keep riding him within his comfort zone (he was then 18-ish) or buy a horse that could do more. I found him a good retirement home and bought a young horse with more scope.

        You might consider just leasing for awhile. That would give you the chance to get your riding ability back up to snuff and help you define what you want to buy. If you find the right leasing situation, that might be enough.

        If you do buy, make sure you have a professional evaluate him and push him a bit beyond his comfort zone to see how he reacts. Many horses are fine if they are just toodling along, but if you add something a bit more difficult can become belligerent or show some real holes in their training or talent.

        Make sure you get a thorough PPE, too.

        When I buy a horse I look for 1) attitude (willingness) 2) temperament and 3) soundness and 4) ability. I will watch an owner ride it and see what kind of attitude it shows, then try some slightly different things to see how it reacts to a new rider.

        If the horse is advertised at being at specific level, I want to see it ridden at that level, if the horse is young or green, I want to see it trying and I want nice, even gaits. I am blessed with a good eye for assessing lameness but if you are not, always bring someone who is! I used to have a good friend who was a vet who came with me "under cover" when I looked at horses. Very helpful! Actually, you should always bring someone with you when you try a horse. Someone who will give you an honest assessment and who is not an enabler. It's easy to get swept up in the moment and very valuable to have someone tell you to keep looking!

        Good luck!
        Equine Ink - My soapbox for equestrian writings & reviews.
        EquestrianHow2 - Operating instructions for your horse.


        • #5
          It all depends on your goals, if you board or keep them at home, how much you ride, etc.
          For me personally, I need a been thee, done that horse that can sit for weeks and be the same horse when I get back on, without prep.
          I also would want an easy keeper, because I keep mine at home, so I pay per bag of feed, versus paying a flat boarding fee.
          I would not take a horse that had some major quirks. I want them to tie, clip, load, and stand nice for the farrier. I don't want to spend time worryingw bout that.


          • #6
            My first horse was a ex-school horse that I rode for four years in college. Best decision I ever made and best money I ever spent. She let me do whatever I wanted with confidence. For my second horse I bought the horse I "thought" I could handle. Bad idea although 15 years later we've reached an understanding.
            Crayola Posse - Pine Green
            Whinnie Pine (June 4, 1977 - April 29, 2008)
            Autumn Caper (April 27, 1989 - May 24, 2015)
            Murphy (April 28, 1994 - May 5, 2017)


            • #7
              I can tell you how it worked for me. YMMV

              1. I was riding with a couple of trainers so they and I knew what my skill level was. I consulted them when I found horses I liked and took one with me all the time (wouldn't you know it, with Fella I didn't have a trainer with me so I took video and put a deposit and offer contingent on trainer approval inside a certain window of time -but it was almost a year into looking so I had skills).

              2. While I had to be able to ride the horse enough to evaluate him (We had a system: the seller rode, my trainer rode, then I rode. I actually walked away from one horse the seller wouldn't ride-I don't care what their excuse is, if the seller or the seller's agent won't ride fuhgetaboutit.) I was not going to buy a horse I could ride well right away. As far as I was concerned, I was surrounded by packers and lesson horses, I didn't need to purchase one of my own. For me it was about finding balance -I needed a horse with a learning curve, but not a horse that was so beyond my skill level that I couldn't/wouldn't ride him. I've seen that in dressage -I'm sure it happens in other skills too -where someone gets a horse s/he was afraid to ride.

              3. A good personality was very important to me. I didn't want a horse that would try to scrape me off when the going got tough. However I didn't want a plug either. I needed a bit of a cocky bastard, but someone who could be convinced to be a partner in crime. I wanted to show, and in the ring a horse that's a bit of an ass gets all flashy and cocky and that's good. So I was looking for that combination.

              4. Conformation was important for dressage. I needed a level to uphill horse with leg, who was balanced front to back (I was looking at draft crosses so this was a concern), neck and a narrow enough throatlatch to flex and breathe (again -a consideration for drafts and dressage).

              5. Movement. WTC. As long as he could do it we could fix it later IMO. Same thing with skills. Trail horse -no problem we can work with that. Saddleseat horse-maybe not. I wouldn't have been willing or able to get past that movement (see my point about getting a horse I didn't want to ride).

              6. And here's the biggie - and I learned this in mid stream. Despite everybody's advice you are not buying a horse for anybody but you. People have their own agendas -they may be good or they may be nefarious, but people have their own agendas so listen as you wish, but carry alot of salt! Lord knows people have their opinions too. Don't be like I was in the beginning -looking at the horses I was supposed to want and living life on the down low, lusting after the horses I actually wanted.

              7. I forgot -PPE!

              Have fun.
              He is total garbage! Quick! Hide him on my trailer (Petstorejunkie).


              • #8
                I think a lot depends on your current level and what you envision doing years down the road.
                If you love trails and dabbling in a few disciplines and dont have ambitions to compete at a high level, it is much easier to find a long-term horse. If you have a trainer/instructor to work with it is easier to get something a little challenging if that appeals.
                If you are, say doing crossrails but want to do 3'6" with your horse, that could be a problem. Most of us would be better off leasing or lessoning a while longer. Horses that will take care of you and still have that much ability to move up may exist, but they are rare.
                For most of us "in the middle" reriders finally looking to buy, we usually get something suitable to slightly challenging. How challenging depends on your preferences, pocketbook, goals, and help available.
                I like a "go" button, so was not interested in kick-quiet. But I dont enjoy spooky, silly. I wanted to do dressage and had an instructor to work with. Since I didnt have the funds or really the desire for a high level of competition, any sound, good-minded horse with decent gaits would do. Which was good, because I couldnt afford highly trained or super breeding. I ended up getting a green horse (safer with dressage than jumping I think) and really enjoyed the training for both of us. I selected him because his personality really appealed to me. As this is supposed to be for enjoyment, that was important to me. Others with bigger competition goals may be willing to compromise there, but not me!
                Still, if you select a sound, quiet confidence-builder, you are unlikely to go wrong. If you later find that you need something more athletic for what you now wish to do, the confidence-builder is usually easy to sell to a good home.


                • #9
                  What is your current riding and confidence level? I understand that you are coming back into riding after being away for a while but previously you had ridden for 10 years, is that correct?

                  Are you going to continue to lesson regularly and/or have the horse in full training?

                  I think if you're going to lesson regularly and/or have the horse in full training you can be a little more adventurous with your purchase. You seem like the type of person who might get attached to a horse and not want to sell (that's how I am). I'd hate for you to have bought a horse that can't grow with you or have more levels down the road and then you're having to pick between keeping your horse you love and not progressing or selling the horse to get a new one.

                  I bought a green broke horse and had took regular lessons with a trainer who gave me "homework" that I would do in between lessons. For me it was important to have a horse I could have fun with and bring along. It was very rewarding. But I really enjoy challenges. Buying a push-button horse for me would have been boring.

                  It's not like you've been riding for only one year and you really need a packer (unless you feel like your starting over from the beginning or are lacking confidence). Have a professional help you shop but you should get what you want. Like paulaedwina said, you're buying for yourself no one else.


                  • #10
                    I'd say it really depends on your riding level, what you are planning to do with the horse (dressage, trail riding, H/J?) and also your confort zone. Are you looking to get a horse you are willing to take some chances and learn with or are you looking for a steddy eddie?
                    Yes, I smell like a horse. No, I don't consider that to be a problem.

                    Originally posted by DottieHQ
                    You're just jealous because you lack my extensive koalafications.


                    • #11
                      I bought my first horse from a local riding school that was going out of business. I didn't ride there, so didn't know the horses, but immediately liked the looks of one that the school owners let me come & ride for several weeks on my own. The vet who did the PPE told me right off the bat that he felt I would outgrow this horse uber quickly, but you know what? That didn't happen. (For some bizarre reason, vet apparently thought I was more talented than I was - lol!!). I owned & enjoyed that horse for 12 years until his death at Age 20. Showed him, trail rode, did a little cross-country (all VERY low-key), took him to the beach - just loads of fun.

                      Anyway, my point is - buy a horse that you can have fun with NOW, not later. Your first horse is going to be a learning experience of time management, vet & farrier bills, making new friends, boarding or managing your own place, etc., etc. One thing you don't need is having to deal with all sorts of problems re: actually enjoying riding your own horse. Worry about your ultimate riding goals down the road, not via your first horse. I can't think of anything worse than being "overmounted" with your first horse.

                      But then, there are those people who are joined at the hip to a trainer, so if you're one of "those", than anything goes.


                      • #12
                        Everybody has great advice!

                        I just want to add, go with your gut. I think that every first-time horse buyer has a little bit of apprehension when they first put their foot in the irons to try out a new horse. That should go away by the end of your ride. If you aren't totally comfortable, it's okay to walk away. You shouldn't ever have to talk yourself into your first horse, and you shouldn't let anybody else talk you into it either.

                        When I go with a first time buyer, I ask them to make a mental note in their head about all the negatives that they see and I do the same. When we are back in the car, they all get written down in a note book. Then I ask them, "Can you live with this?" If there is any hesitation, or they say "I don't think so." That horse isn't revisited. I tell them, it's okay to be picky. You are going to be putting a lot of time, energy, money, and emotions into this horse, and you need to take the time to find the right one for you. Horse shopping can be fun, exhausting, or a complete disaster. It's okay to look around, not see anything and then take a break. Revisit it in a few months.


                        • #13
                          If I had a nickle for every time someone had to resell their horse because he was "too much horse" for them.... you need to find a quiet horse you can ride today. Keep in mind also that if you have to resell your new horse, there is always a good market for safe quiet horses. But if you get the too-much-horse horse, it's going to take much longer.

                          No fancy show horses you *might* be able to ride when you're at that level in a few years. And NO really young ones.

                          Also, get yourself a trainer you trust. Discuss some of the ads with them and get their feedback. When you zero in on a good prospect, make sure the trainer tries the horse out also. If I had a nickle for every time I heard a horse go up for sale because "new horses did such-and-such bad behavior, realized he needed pro training, and can't/wouldn't pay for it". You'll save yourself a lot of heartache and money if you get a good pro to assess the horse's training/temperament before you buy.

                          Suggestion: why not lease a horse for six or 12 months? You will learn a lot. When the lease is up, you'll be much more conscious of what questions to ask and what you're looking for.

                          You'll also really should think about doing a basic pre-purchase exam. Vets catch things that owners may miss. The seller may not even be aware the horse has a problem. A sick horse could cost thousands to treat if it's something like EPM for example. A lame horse will end up being near impossible to resell and, as someone only able to afford one horse, would you be happy keeping one as a pet?

                          My personal requirements: #1 is a horse who will not get me hurt. If the horse is scared, angry, or frustrated will he do something that might get the rider into trouble? I want the horse to be sensible, to not freak out or bolt when really upset, and to remember his training. From there, my budget and time frame will determine how much training I put on the horse and how close I can reach my own goals. I personally would really tend to stay away from horses with issues such as cribbing or woodchewing.
                          Veterinarians for Equine Welfare


                          • #14
                            going in as a first time horse owner, assuming your expectation is to keep the horse for a good long time
                            you need to get rid of that "expectation", especially as a first-time horse owner. As a first-time horse owner, you don't really know what you are looking for! so you should go into it expecting you're getting a horse for you to ride right now, doing what you do now, and you're expecting that if your needs change in 6 months that you'll get a different horse.
                            Odds are you'll end up with a lovely horse you keep for years, but you shouldn't go in "expecting" that because it will make you look for the wrong attributes.


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by jetsmom View Post
                              Buy a horse that you can handle and ride NOW. If your interest is trails, make sure the horse is reliable on trails. Have them trailer it to some different trails, so you can see how it reacts in a new setting. If it's jumping, have them jump it at a level you expect to be at in a couple of yrs. Make sure you can handle the horse in a new environment.

                              A good way to advance is to lease a horse doing what you are doing now, and just lease new horses until you are at a level that you can handle maybe getting a greener horse to train and move up on. It's too easy to outgrow a horse, and if you aren't willing to sell/lease to someone, you are limiting yourself.
                              This truely is EXCELLENT advice. In your case IF you want to (say) ride dressage and move up the levels then I would lease a lower level dressage horse and take lessons until I was good enough to need a better trained horse. Then I'd lease another.

                              When leasing think of it this way - you're probably helping an older horse stay in shape, remain useful, all the while not laying out money for purchase and a PPE.
                              Now in Kentucky


                              • #16
                                You've gotten a lot of good advice, and I think all of us can speak only from our POV. I can tell you my own purchase stories, if you think they'd help.

                                I'm not the world's most confident rider. Competent, yes, but if I don't absolutely have to ride crazy, I don't want to ride crazy. I'm in my 30s now, and I don't bounce well, and I've had enough work done on my back that I consider my spine more of an investment than my horses. LOL

                                I bought both of my current horses without my trainer, because my trainer wasn't particularly fussed about my judgment. I will say I bought my first horse against my then-trainer's judgment. I bought the 18 year old horse I had been riding in lessons and LOVED LOVED LOVED. My trainer wanted me to buy a 6 year old from VA as a show prospect. Problem was, *I* didn't want a show prospect. I wanted a buddy.

                                My first piece of advice would be to think of things you want your horse to be. My wish list was "Not too old, buddy, bigger, english-type, maybe can jump 2' and school 1st level dressage, not an a-hole." Then prioritise that list. For me, it was "Not an a-hole, buddy, english-type, not too old, bigger." Because I ride for fun, and at the end of the day, I'm probably not going to be doing courses of fences, but if I could, I wanted a horse I could pop over a crossrail for something different. I had my purpose and goals in mind here.

                                I ended up with a 4 year old OTTB rescue. That sounds like the exact opposite of anything I would want, but here's the deal- our test ride was in 2' of snow, in the dark, with a snow plow revving beside the PASTURE where we were riding, during dinner time. And he was definitely not an a-hole. He was 300lbs underweight, arthritic, and toes out, but not an a-hole. Due to his arthritis and conformation issue, he would never compete at high levels. Great news- neither did I. He's now my heart horse, and we can, in fact, jump 2' and school 1st level dressage. Not beautifully, but we have a lot of fun.

                                My Appy was an accident, sorta. Like I said, I'm not a very confident rider. Even though the OTTB has never, in the three years I've had him, done anything that has made me do anything besides chuckle and call him a tool box, I have confidence fall outs. The Appy is a Steady Eddy who does EVERYTHING, and I actually have a list of people who want to show him in everything from walk-trot to very green over fences. On the days when I'm feeling particularly sheepish, I can climb up on him bareback, walk around, and appreciate the world more. I actually bought him when a friend couldn't afford him any longer, with the thought I would resell him. I had him sold once, but he came back to me. I just...um... haven't gotten around to remarketing him. LOL

                                A lot of people say "you'll know" when you find the right horse, and you will. It sounds weird, but something will hit you in a way you can't deny. I recommend not staring at breeds, or colours, but more temperment and purpose. Good luck!! I can't wait to read your updates!


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by paulaedwina View Post
                                  5. Movement. WTC. As long as he could do it we could fix it later IMO. Same thing with skills. Trail horse -no problem we can work with that.
                                  I would disagree with this but it depends on your goals.

                                  I've seen plenty of people buy horses who needed a lot of work to make them "trail worthy." Not every horse takes to it right away and I've seen people get either hurt or discouraged by horses that were frightened.

                                  As for movement? A LOT depends on your goals. Most horses can w/t/c but if you want to show, you would be best to find a horse that moves appropriately to your desired discipline. Sure, if you want to compete at training level dressage, obedience and accuracy are going to be enough, but once you get much higher, the quality of the gaits will start to impact your scores.

                                  The horse I referenced above was not a great mover and was never going to have much of a lengthening (it was how he was built). He was great at collection, but although he could do two tempi changes and canter pirouettes, he was never going have a good lengthening. he also was not going to be competitive at fences more than 3' and it was unfair to ask him to do more.

                                  Yes, gaits can sometimes be improved through proper riding. My current OTTB had a terrible trot when I got him as he had never used it much (he was like a sewing machine) but his walk and canter were superb and I could tell that he would develop a lovely floating trot with time (which he has) but he has the conformation to support it. You can't do as much to fix the walk and the canter.

                                  A horse that is not a good mover may also have some inherent unsoundness or may be "serviceably sound" but with a hitch in its gate. I've seen several come off the track that way and it really depends on what YOU want to do.

                                  I always advise people who are just starting to ride again to lease or part lease for a year until they are better established as riders and know what they want.

                                  I agree with the statement that many people find they've bought a horse that is "too much" for them. But I've seen the opposite too -- they bought a horse that suited them fine now, but which doesn't have the attributes to take them where they want to go in a couple of years.

                                  It's very hard to sell a horse that is your friend, so it's best to choose wisely. It's also VERY hard to sell a horse right now so if you do buy one, you are likely to find it difficult to sell if you find it's not right.
                                  Equine Ink - My soapbox for equestrian writings & reviews.
                                  EquestrianHow2 - Operating instructions for your horse.


                                  • #18
                                    Why do you want a horse?
                                    Why do you need to buy a horse?
                                    What is your budget per year?
                                    How much time per week do you have to put toward this project?

                                    There is no 'good' answers to those questions but it could help you take a wiser decision.
                                    You'll need to be really honest with yourself about your goals, your true financial situation and any other plans you might have in mind. Don't just expect your wishes to become reality.
                                    ~ Enjoying some guac and boxed wine at the Blue Saddle inn. ~

                                    Originally posted by LauraKY
                                    I'm sorry, but this has "eau de hoarder" smell all over it.
                                    HORSING mobile training app


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by philosoraptor View Post
                                      you need to find a quiet horse you can ride today. Keep in mind also that if you have to resell your new horse, there is always a good market for safe quiet horses.

                                      Sometimes a horse will be safe/quite then give you more. Snag that sucker & dont let him/her go. Ive owned ~a dozen of horses, & on latest 1 went back to this. He can do SO MUCH more than I ask (now)but will come down to a beginner. I paid more $ than I wanted to but I will get it back because he is S/Q.
                                      “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” Peter Drucker


                                      • #20
                                        See Alibi above. This is all about YOU. I'm sure my first horse was very different than what you want in a first horse.

                                        You're first horse doesn't half to be your last horse. It is OK to sell them after a couple years.
                                        Visit my Spoonflower shop