If you are new to horses and are looking to buy your first horse, it can be a difficult process. There are far too many horse traders out there who prey on inexperienced buyers. They can spot a novice a mile away and will try to take advantage of you. A girl I boarded with who had absolutely no horse experience went out to buy a horse. A very crooked horse trader talked her into buying a 4 year old unregistered mutt pony with just three rides under its belt and was as mean as the day is long. The girl and her parents took this pony home that same day and the horse trader left with a whopping $2,500 in her pocket. I can’t even count how many times I’d seen that girl get tossed off the pony, have it drag her down the aisle way or push her over to get to some grass. That girl pumped thousands of dollars and countless tears into that pony before her parents finally made the decision to sell it. The girl ended up completely turned off of horses. If you don’t know what to look for, it’s very easy to get tricked into buying a horse that is completely wrong for you. To avoid getting taken advantage of, try to remember these things:
If you’re inexperienced, do not look at young, green horses or horses that are “hot” (meaning hyper and excitable). Do not look at horses that require an intermediate to advanced rider, or that buck, kick or rear. Look at horses that are listed as beginner safe, well broke, anyone can ride etc. If you buy a horse that is out of your experience level, you will not be able to handle it and it will quickly become a danger to you and all others around.
Do not look at horses under the age of 6. Young horses can only have a maximum of 3 years or less of experience. They will likely still have a few bumps to work out and since they are only freshly finished, an inexperienced handler can sometimes rather quickly undo the previous training he’s had. This is why it’s best to get an older horse around the age of 10 or so. Their training has been encoded in their mind much longer so it won’t be as easy to undo.
If you make an appointment to see a horse, come out an hour early. Unfortunately, some owners will work the horse beforehand to make him seem calm and relaxed when you get on to ride, but in reality he’s just tired from working so hard an hour before. You should be able to catch the horse from the pasture and tack him up first hand. If the owner refuses or if you drive up to find the horse already tied and tacked up, be wary.
Never buy a horse the first time you see him or sight unseen. After trying out the horse for the first time, think about it and come back and ride the horse for at least two or three more days before you commit. Be sure to ride the horse in and out of the arena at all the gaits you’re comfortable doing.
Always get a vet check. This is especially important if you’re inexperienced and aren’t able to identify a sick or lame horse. You’ll also want to have the vet check the horse’s teeth to determine his real age. Some sellers will lie and say their horse is older or younger than he really is. Sometimes they will tell you a yearling (which can be hard to market if they’re not of outstanding breeding) is a ready-to-ride three year old, or they might tell you their 29 year old is a 10 year old. To be sure you are getting what you pay for, have the vet do a thorough exam of the potential horse. Some sellers pay for vet checks, but more often than not it will come out of your own pocket.
Follow these guidelines during your horse search. Remember, your first horse is supposed to be a fun companion that you can enjoy being with, not a dangerous nightmare that brings you to tears every time you go to the barn.