This is such a tricky subject, and one that I see people getting into strife with quite often, so I thought I would offer a few insights which may help you navigate the path to finding your next partner horse.
The 2 major ‘rules’ I have when it comes to choosing your horse are;
🐴 Have a list and stick to it! This will help you go past a lot of the adds you will see with a horse that might be tempting, but doesn’t suit - your criteria should include gender, height, age and breed.
🐴 ASK YOUR COACH - believe me your coach wants you to get the right horse, and will have an unbiased assessment of the horse you are looking at - this helps you remove the emotion, and also helps you avoid being star struck by all the ‘bells and whistles’. The last person I helped buy a horse had a very healthy budget, and we still took over 6 months to get one - but trust me when I say - he is perfect 🤩
🚻 Gender - yes hormones must be taken into account! Mares cycle and can be extreme in their responses, stallions or late cut geldings can be a handful - if you are a beginner, inexperienced, or needing to build confidence - go for a gelding - they are more often ‘the same horse everyday’.
📆 Age. I don’t care how ‘trained’ the young horse is - young is young and needs further education, and maintaining education - it’s that simple. When your kid gets their drivers licence they are ‘trained’ to drive a car but we all know a couple of years experience behind the wheel is not as solid as someone who has been driving for a decade. Young horses are for experienced people. Period. ‘I got a young horse so we could learn together’ is not a thing - it’s not fair on the horse, - horses need calm confidence to be calm and confident. It’s not fair on the rider either. Green on green makes black and blue.
Breed. We’ve been specifically breeding horses for jobs now for a long time - thoroughbreds are bred to be fast, others are bred to be shown, drafted, cutting, reining etc - breeding can bite you on the butt in both function and longevity - halter horses aren’t bred to be work horses, downhill horses aren’t bred to be collected, know what the horses breeding has been for, and understand the importance of it. Choose wisely.
Training. Your horses previous training has a significant impact on his idea of what the world of riding means - know and understand what it means for your horse to have been a ‘speed events’ horse - it means they think their job is to go fast 💨 and you will spend a long time trying to train them out of it (if that’s not what you want). Also know what it means for your horse to have been trained for arena events - sometimes this means your horses has seen arenas and Showgrounds and not much else - so if you want a quiet trail horse, look somewhere else.
Height - seriously consider what you are wanting height wise - I see many people still buying the horse they wanted when they were a teenager - a 17hh black Warmblood, whereas now you might be more confident and comfortable on a shorter horse. Just because you are tall doesn’t mean you need something tall - plenty of 6 foot riders can ride a 14.2 horse without it ‘looking odd’
What do you want ? Take the time to picture the experience you are wanting to have when it comes to horse ownership - some quite trails with friends, maybe some fun days out at working equitation, ranch or cowboy dressage ? Then buy that horse! Don’t buy a horse that is young, or bred to race, or that has some troubles, or that isn’t broken in yet! I meet a lot of students who say ‘oh I didn’t want to buy a horse that was already trained as I wanted to do that’ and yet they have 3 days a week to ride, and frankly not the experience to train a horse - and the trained horses aren’t always easy to ride - you learn so much from those ones as you can focus on your own learning and not the horses! Trust me when I say you will have fun, be safe and learn TONS if you buy the trained horse (and when I say trained I don’t mean 2 months with a trainer being broken in).
Alternatively if you want to train a horse and develop your skills then be ready to say no when friends ask you to go on a trail, or something like that. Be ready to have the trials and tribulations that come with young horse development. Be ready to ‘go backwards’ in your training.
I hope this article is helping to put some clarity into the minefield that is buying a new horse - and please know that I am not anti and breed, gender or age (I pretty much own them all!) what I want to see more of in 2022 is people smiling, enjoying their horses and having FUN.