by Terry Myers
With the New Year and the potential for a new riding season, many equine enthusiasts will find themselves in the market for a new horse. Here is an update from a previous article that I feel makes logical, yet important points to remember…
When you find yourself in the market to buy a horse, there is much to consider. Your first decision is defining what your goals are with a new equine partner. Will you be showing and what discipline(s), trail riding, working livestock or do you just want to play and have fun? How much time do you realistically have to ride and work with your horse? Do you have the financial stability to buy and care for your horse as well as purchase all the necessary tack and equipment? What do you need in terms of age and experience in a horse? Do you have the knowledge and “know how” to keep yourself and your horse safe after the purchase? We will try to address each of these questions in this article.
In thinking about what type of riding you want to do and what disciplines you will be pursuing, think about what type of riding you want to enjoy, then research what type of horse will help you fulfill that goal. This may not always be a simple task. For example, you may start out thinking you only want to trail ride, but end up wanting to participate in some type of competition. Once you know what type of riding you want to do, you need to search for a horse with that type of experience. Don’t buy a cow horse and try to make a jumper out of him or vice versa.
Horses are like children and are time consuming. If your time is limited to a few days per week to ride your horse, be sure that you know how you will provide the care and exercise or turn out for your horse on the days that you are unavailable. Boarding has advantages for horse owners with limited time. Board fees can run anywhere from $200 to more than $800 per month depending on location and amenities.
Horses, again like children, are money consuming as well. At today’s prices, it costs about $1,800 to $2,000 per year to properly care for a horse at your own barn. And beyond high quality feed and hay or forage, your other costs include skilled farrier and vet services (don’t forget the annual dental needs, a good worming program and potentially chiropractic care). The above costs assume that no major health issues occur. We all know that a horse can find a way to hurt themselves in a padded cell. Add in all the tack and accessories needed and the costs mount faster than our national debt!
What type and age of horse do you need? Young is not better unless you are a horse trainer or plan on investing a lot of money in training the horse and yourself. The dumbest thing a person can do is buy a green horse when they are a green rider. Green on green makes black and blue. Because you owned a horse when you were a kid does not mean you retained those skills 20 years later. I tell people to buy a horse with more skills and experience than they have, then invest the time and money in professional lessons to improve your skills to reach the horses level. Otherwise the horse will come down to your skill level. (If you can’t afford to pay for that experience, do you have good health insurance?) Be sure to buy from a reputable person and look at the horse several times. If you aren’t qualified to make the purchase decision, seek advice. Don’t skip the vet check and be sure that the vet does flexion tests to look for potential lameness. Then be willing to walk away if there are concerns. Never buy a horse because you feel sorry for it, as you may end up feeling sorry for yourself. Don’t be afraid to buy an older horse as long as they are sound and healthy. Our retired show horse is 29 years old and still has the best lope of any horse in the barn.
As with most things, you can never have enough knowledge when buying or owning a horse. Seek out professional advice and support. While it may be expensive, it is a good investment in your own skills and your horses’ wellbeing. When it comes to horses and riding, you can never know enough. There is always more to learn.
Lastly, there is no perfect horse. All have strengths and flaws, just like people. Never buy a horse based on color. Understand what skills are your priorities for your new horse and what skills and traits you are willing to compromise. Be color blind when horse shopping. A good horse never had a bad color and a bad horse never had a good color.
If you are or will be in the market for a horse, I hope this article has given you some things to think about. Buy experience, skills and soundness. If that means saving your pennies for a while, you will be happier in the end. If you can’t afford the type of horse you want, my advice is to take lessons or consider leasing a horse. This will enable you to continue to develop your knowledge and skills, while saving to find your next equine partner.
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Terry Myers is a national clinician and champion horse trainer with a depth of knowledge developed from over 45 years in the horse industry. Myers has been a popular clinician at multiple expos in the U.S. and Canada. To learn more about Myers’ Ride-In-Sync methods as well as clinic and training services available, visit Myers at www.tmtrainingcenter.com or on Facebook.