How to Buy the Right Horse

When looking for your horse, whether your first or tenth, finding the right one, which isn't always easy, is something that should be top of everyone's list. Horses are rewarding animals, and you can't blame people for wanting them. Sometimes, though, you get the wrong one, and not only can it possibly be a burden, but the wrong horse can often be very hard to sell.


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    Inform your trainer that you are in the market for a horse, and ask if she/he will help you look. Your trainer is the person that knows your riding best, and if anyone can find you the right horse, she can. Most trainers charge what is called a "commission fee", which is usually 10-20% of the horse's price, that you pay to your trainer, for helping you look. When you have decided you're looking, decide what kind of horse you want; breed (that is really optional to most), temperament, what type of riding they are best for, etc. After that decide what you're using the horse for; if for children, showing, or pleasure. Think and think and think until you have worked out all the kinks and unknowns, like how far you are willing to travel, your price range, etc. Then you can start shopping.
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    Start looking for horses everywhere. There are a few main ways. Try the Internet, websites like,, are all fantastic sites where horses are for sale. But don't limit to search engines. Look for the websites of barns in your area, and check out their sales' pages. You can also call other trainers, some don't have webpages, and see what they have.Go to horse shows and look for ads posted by the rings, or on the Porta Potties, or anywhere. Always keep an eye out. Don't be afraid to suggest a horse to your trainer--they might tell you that's a great horse, or they'll point out something that makes them think it might not be all too good for you, and that's okay. You'll learn more about what they think is right.
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    Once you've found a contender, set up a date to go visit the barn where the horse is stabled, and ride him or her. It is also good to have your trainer ride, but that is your decision. Make sure a trainer, or someone who knows riding well can come with you to this visit! Keep in mind that just because you've tried a horse doesn't mean to stop looking. There is no guarantee that horse is right. Honestly, the more horses you try the better. It is a good idea to take a camera/camcorder and photograph or video yourself riding the horse. This way you can look at it later and compare multiple horses you've seen.
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    Once you've decided on your favorite of the horses you've ridden, or if you just like one, it is wise to take it to your barn on trial. This way, you can ride it at your home stable, and see how he/her is for more than one ride. Sometimes a horse goes on trial from anywhere to a week to a month, although two or three weeks is a common time period.
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    If you've decided after your trial that you still want this horse, have a trusted vet come out and perform a vet-check. He will do a number of tests, to see if the horse is lame or has underlying problems. There are many different things you can have done, so talk to your vet. Keep in mind that people still buy horses that fail their vet checks, and a smaller number of horses actually pass. If the horse you vetted failed, and you still like it but don't want to make the investment yet, think about proposing a lease for a few months. This way, you can see if the horse will go lame.
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    If the horse's results come back without problem, or with very minor problems, and you still like him, then you need to really start thinking about if this is the horse you want to spend your money on. Horse are very expensive animals, and they often go up for sale for a lot of money. Sometimes you can negotiate with the owner to try to lower the price to something more affordable for you. Even if you can easily afford it, try to negotiate, it is very possible you could save some money.


  • When you negotiate, talk it over with your trainer first. You don't want to offer so low you insult the current owner, but you want to be able to save money, too. Sometimes the horse's current trainer will help you out with that.
  • Keep in mind that conformation is important,also. Do some research and find out what to look for with your particular breed's confirmation. A horse with near-perfect conformation is rare, but worth the extra money because it means a generally healthier animal.
  • If there are other people interested in a horse you're trying, you may have to act quick, and there might be no time for a trial. But always perform a vet check so you don't end up with a lame horse.
  • if you don't have a trainer, don't worry. contact one of your friends or just look for somebody that's very knowledgeable in the horse world. (When you buy a horse, the best thing to do is to always have a trainer if something happens or if the horse is dozing off and not doing what you want it to do)
  • Be courteous when you go and look. If you say you are going to call and follow up, do so, even if it is to say you are not interested.
  • Be realistic about your goals and abilities. If you are a nervous rider, don't buy a "hot" or green horse. You also need to think about your goals. If you plan on showing this horse, don't buy an old, broken down horse even if he is the prettiest, sweetest thing on earth.
  • If somebody else is interested and you really like this horse, put a deposit down. If it doesn't work out, then the other people still get to come up and look at the horse.
  • When you're buying the horse, a lot of owners like to get a cashier's check. Talk these sorts of options over with the previous owner.
  • If you're having trouble deciding which horse you like, take the sweet one over the mean one. You'll have a lot more fun!
  • Make sure to think the vet check through. Who is paying? Are you using your vet or the owner's vet? If there is a problem, will I still consider buying this horse?
  • If the horse fails its vet check badly, tell the owner politely you are no longer interested, and a nice, genuine 'good luck selling'.
  • If you don't want to deal with non visible problems that you didn't know about at first, you should get a vet check before buying, like X-rays, shots and an exam.
  • Try not to wait until the end of the process to decide if you're really interested in getting a horse. You'll waste people's time and your money if you're unsure.
  • How the horse looks is not a primary concern - Temperament is. However, if a horse is honestly hideous, or if you don't even sort of like how the horse looks, it's okay to hold off until a nicer-looking and suitable horse comes on the market. While pretty is a bad reason to buy a horse, it's a perfectly good reason not to buy one.
  • No matter how PERFECT a horse is, it is better to get one that is right for you. For example, you know nothing about foaling or foals, and the perfect little Arabian mare you want to buy is in foal. Should you buy it? No! That draft horse gelding is so cute, but it eats more than you could pay for every day. Should you buy it? No! You are a beginner rider and find a 3 year old filly with pep, looks, and smarts, all it needs is a few years of training. Should you buy it? No!
  • if you want to do lots of things with a horse, and if its down to 2 or 3 horses, which one is the youngest, or which one is the one that didn't get much training? They'll start out fresh.


  • Watch out for very cheap horses. There is usually something wrong with them, unless a good reason is given.
  • Pay attention to everything, including the horses ears and how they act toward you when your on the ground and on its back.
  • if you feel a connection with a horse, make sure you think about all the details, not just that you fell at 1 with it. It might not be the right horse.
  • Don't buy a horse as an investment idea. It is a possibility that a horse could become injured and then have no value, except your love for it, of course! Only buy for your enjoyment, whether you like to watch other people ride your horse, or you like to ride it yourself.

Things You'll Need

  • a budget
  • Somewhere to keep the horse once you buy it
  • A video camera is a good idea if your trainer can't come on the first visit, so you can show her/him some footage of the horse.

Article Info

Categories: Buying and Owning a Horse