How to Pick the Ideal Horse for You

Every little girl wants a pony from the time she first sets eyes on one in a field. But beware! Almost nobody sees all the strings attached to choosing, buying, and owning a horse. This guide will make those choices a bit easier!


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    Choosing your riding discipline. There are many different riding disciplines which require different skills from both horse and rider, so the discipline you choose will be extremely important in helping you decide on your perfect horse. For example, show jumpers need to be able to pick up their front legs, so it helps to have their shoulders at a tighter angle. In contrast, dressage horses stick to the flat, and so shoulders set farther back will give the rider more control.[1] For both these disciplines, horses should be built slightly uphill, whereas western and pleasure horses should be level or even downhill.
    • Consider the conformation, temperament, athleticism, and training required for your discipline and use this to guide your choice of breed and horse.
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    Gain experience in your discipline. Take lessons to learn basic riding and horse care skills before you even consider buying a horse. Compete in shows if you want to test your skills, or simply ride for pleasure. Also, watch videos of experts, read, and research the discipline you've chosen. This will help you get a feeling of what skills and qualities your horse will need to have.
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    Start looking at horses. Search online on several websites that list horses for sale, or on more general sites like Craigslist. Talk to your instructor and other horse owners where you ride, and ask about horses for sale. You can also put ads in the paper or put flyers up around barns in your area. Consider adopting horses from rescues like the RSPCA in the UK, Thoroughbred rescues, or other charitable organizations. Remember that buying a horse from a rescue has many inherent risks that might not become evident until well after you buy the horse, so think carefully before doing this.
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    Lease a horse before you buy one. Leasing a horse is essentially renting it for a month or several months at a time. Depending on your leasing agreement with the horse's owner, you will have to pay and care for the horse while you're leasing it. This is a great way for you to test out your skills and to confirm that you have the time and money to devote to your very own horse.
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    See the horse in person before you buy it. This is absolutely necessary - you should never, ever, ever buy a horse sight unseen. The horse may have bad manners, vices, conformation problems, or injuries/sicknesses that the current owner did not mention. Try riding the horse on the flat and in whatever discipline you will be participating in - if you plan to use the horse for show jumping, take it over a couple jumps before you make your decision. If the owner won't let you ride before you buy, there's probably a reason for that - stay away from any horses or owners that make you suspicious.
    • Watch for things like: Does the head pop up when one leg hits the ground? Does the pony look badly groomed or cared for? Is it too skinny or too fat? Are their feet overgrown? These are signs of bad management which could mean that the horse has other problems or fears.
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    Have a vet check out the horse. Get a vet you trust to look at any horse you consider and confirm that it's healthy and in good shape. Make sure you know about any health or conformation problems before you buy, especially those that will impact the horse's long-term health and soundness. Only buy the horse once you're sure it's healthy.
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    Buy everything you'll need to care for the horse. This will include tack (saddle, bridle, girth, saddle pad, and any other specialized tack for your discipline), grooming supplies such as brushes and hoof picks, polo wraps, spurs or whips if necessary, a helmet, boots, and riding clothes for you, and anything else that will help you keep you and your horse safe and happy. Make sure all tack, especially the saddle, fits your horse before you buy it.
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    Once you have your horse, take it to the arranged place. Make sure you do things that will build up your horse's trust in you. A horse that does not trust you is not a happy horse.


  • Always go to a private sale if you can. Auctions are cheaper, but there are all sorts of ways to cover up flaws that the horse might have. If you have to go to an auction, always have an experienced trainer go with you.
  • Before you buy, look around the stable. A good stable should have healthy, happy horses with plenty of food and water.
  • Always consult with your trainer/instructor when you are thinking about buying a horse, and ask for recommendations on whether and how to buy. If you are not ready for a horse, you and your horse will not have a happy relationship.
  • Make sure the horse fits you well, in terms of size and ability. An inexperienced rider should only buy a calm, trustworthy, well-behaved horse.
  • Choose ONE person and one only to listen to for advice about your horse. Many friends will feel the need to put in their two cents, but all the advice can be confusing and ultimately may hurt the horse. Simply choose one experienced person whom you trust and listen to that person only.


  • If you buy a stallion, many people strongly recommend that you geld him. A stallion is usually more dangerous and overall nasty than a gelding. A stallion is not allowed at pony club meets and can be dangerous and hard for a young rider to control.
  • Horses are strong animals. You should never buy an untrained, "green" pony for a young rider for them to "grow into". This can be a dangerous and frightening experience for both horse and rider and has the potential to scar the horse for life.

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Categories: Buying and Owning a Horse