What to Know Before Choosing Your First Horse
Getting your first horse is an exciting and new experience! I remember how excited I was at the age of 12 when my parents finally told me that I could start looking for a horse. While I still love my first horse dearly, there were definitely a few things I learned the hard way through that experience. When it comes to getting your first horse, you want to make sure you prepare and research ahead of time so the process will be easier.
So, what are some tips for choosing your first horse? Here is a list of things to consider as you start looking and planning for your first horse:
- have an experienced horse person help you through the process
- know the places to look for your first horse
- learn the lingo that horse sellers use
- find boarding, farrier services, and a vet before you even start looking at horses
- choose a horse that fits your needs as a rider
- get a vet exam on any horse before you purchase
- see if you can take the horse on a trial period before purchasing
By following these tips, you can have better luck finding the right horse for you. Your first horse always teaches you so much when it comes to caring for your equine friend and being an equestrian. Before you start looking at horses, you should make sure that you can commit to the financial obligations that come with owning equines. To get a complete financial rundown of owning a horse, check out my article What Does it Cost to Own a Horse? Complete Expense Guide.
Have An Experienced Horse Person Help You Through the Process of Choosing Your First Horse
If you’ve never been through the process of looking for and purchasing a horse, it can be intimidating and overwhelming. Having a riding instructor or an experienced horse friend you can turn to with questions can be very helpful. They can help you navigate sellers, vet checks, and trial rides. Here are other reasons I recommend having an experienced horse person help you through the process of choosing your first horse:
Your Riding Instructor Will Know Your Skill Level
If you’ve been working with a riding instructor or a trainer, it’s a good idea to fill them in on your decision to get your first horse. Your riding instructor is most familiar with your skill level and things you need to work on, so they can help you look for a horse that will be a safe ride and who will serve your level of riding.
Your instructor will be able to say whether they think a horse you’re looking at will be a good match or not. When I was looking for my first horse, my instructor would even look for horses online and send me the links to the ones she thought would be worth going to look at in person. Working with your riding instructor to find a horse can ensure that you won’t get in over your head with a horse that you’re not ready for.
An Experienced Horse Person Will Have Connections
Another great reason to have an experienced horse person help you in your search for a horse is that they will have connections. People who have been in the horse world a while tend to build relationships with other trainers, instructors, and riders. They may know someone who is looking to sell a horse that would be a perfect match for your skillset. They can also tell you who in the horse world is trustworthy when it comes to selling horses.
Take An Experienced Horse Person With You to Look at Horses
If you’ve never purchased a horse before, the first time you go to try a horse can be overwhelming. You may feel like the seller is trying to pressure you into a purchase while you’re not sure whether or not you and the horse are fit for each other. Many people end up purchasing the first horse they go to look at simply because the pressure was too much.
Take an experienced horse person to look at any horse you go to see. They can ride the horse and assess whether or not it would be a good fit for you. They can also give you peace of mind when dealing with the seller.
Know Places to Look for Your First Horse
When you go to start looking for your first horse, you may not even know where to begin! You may wonder how you find a reliable source for equine classifieds in your area. Here are the best ways to find horses for sale:
Ask Experienced Horse Friends If They Know of Any Horses For Sale
As I mentioned in one of the previous points, experienced horse friends can be the best people to ask if they know of any horses for sale. An experienced horse person will be able to tell what skill level you’re looking for in a horse and whether or not horse sellers are reputable. Anytime I look for a new horse, I make it known to my friends first to see if they know of any horse for sale that matches the criteria I am looking for.
Check Local Equestrian Facebook Groups
Another place I’ve had luck finding horses is by joining local equestrian Facebook groups. I find groups specific to my area that post horses and horse-related items for sale. I actually found my current horse, Tucker, in a local Facebook group. I put out a post saying “ISO young unbroke pony no taller than 14.2 HH.” Someone saw the post and messaged me a picture of Tucker, and the rest was history!
Best Online Equine Classifieds
There are also many reliable websites that provide listings on horses for sale in your area. Listings are constantly being updated and added, so these online classifieds can be a great way to look for a horse. Here is a list of my favorite online equine classifieds websites:
These websites also enable you to pinpoint your selection by adding filters to your search. You can add the specific age, height, breed, and price you’re looking for when it comes to buying a horse.
Don’t Be Afraid of Horse Rescues
One of the most reliable places you may be able to find a horse is through a horse rescue. Many people are often afraid to look at horses from rescues because they think the horse may be traumatized, but in reality, you can find many trustworthy and well-trained horses at a rescue.
Horse rescues have the horse’s best interest in mind, so they won’t send a horse away with someone they don’t think is a good match. Rescues also provide training and review for many of the horses that come in, so you can know exactly what the horse has been trained to do. Lastly, it can be much more affordable to adopt a horse than to buy one.
Learn the Lingo That Horse Sellers Use
Many horse sellers use lingo that may go over your head if you’ve never purchased a horse before. Knowing what the lingo means can help you decipher from the moment you read a classifieds whether or not a horse may be a good match for you. Here are some common terms and their definitions that you’ll see and hear when looking for a horse:
beginner-friendly: when a horse is safe enough for beginner riders.
bold: used to refer to a horse that is brave with obstacles and new situations. Can also be used to describe a horse that tends to be quick on its feet.
bomb-proof: a horse that is rarely spooked by objects or situations; a horse that isn’t phased by much.
easy keeper: a horse that gains weight easily and doesn’t require a lot of feed.
ground manners: how the horse behaves when the handler is on the ground.
forward: a horse that moves quickly rather than slowly.
husband horse: a horse trustworthy and big enough to carry a full-grown man who may not know a lot about horses. (😂 )
in your pocket: a horse that likes attention
kid-broke: a horse gentle and trustworthy enough for kids to ride
lightly started: a horse that has just begun training under saddle and being ridden. These horses are not suited for beginner riders just because they are inexperienced themselves.
more whoa than go: a horse that tends to be lazy and doesn’t always want to go faster.
needs intermediate rider: a horse that requires a rider who can adequately communicate queues.
needs experienced rider: a horse that requires a rider or handler who can train them through situations and knows how to handle certain situations that the horse may find challenging.
no vices: the horse does not have any significant bad behaviors.
professionally started: this is when a horse was initially trained by a professional horse trainer. These horses will often have groundwork training and will have been taught the basics of carrying a rider and walking, trotting, and cantering.
project: a horse that requires training.
pushy: a horse that can be rude or disrespectful on the ground. These horses often pull on the lead, try to walk ahead of you, or even run into you.
quiet: a term used to describe a level-headed horse that is steady in gaits.
quirky: a horse that may have weird or unusual behaviors or reactions to certain things.
requires maintenance: a horse that requires regular basic medical attention, treatment, or care.
seasoned: an older horse who is experienced in their specific discipline.
sensitive: a horse that can be very responsive to queues, aids, or situations. Sensitive horses are not for beginners, as they require queues that have been perfected and can be given subtly.
UTD: up to date (usually referring to vaccines, farrier, and deworming.)
vice: a negative behavior the horse may exhibit.
Find Boarding, Farrier Services, and a Vet Before Your Choose Your First Horse
Whether the horse will be living on your property or at a boarding stable, it’s important to have a living situation lined up before you even start looking to purchase a horse. It’s also a good idea to have a farrier and a veterinarian lined up before getting your horse, as you don’t want to wait for an emergency before you start trying to find one that you can know and trust.
Keeping Your Horse on Your Property: What You Need to Know
If you plan on keeping your first horse on your own property, it’s important to make sure you have an adequate space for your horse that provides for the horse’s needs. First and foremost, you’ll need enough space for your horse to move freely. If your horse is going to rely heavily on pasture for its diet, you should have at least 1 – 2 acres per horse. (To learn more, check out my article How Much Space do Horses Need? Horse Care Guide.)
You’ll also need reliable fencing that keeps your horse in the field without posing a health risk. Some of the best fencings for horses include wood fencing or welded-wire fencing with a wooden board above. Make sure you have a shelter where the horse can escape the elements. Lastly, a horse shouldn’t live by itself. Horses are herd animals and are most comfortable when they are with other horses. This means if you plan on keeping your horse on your own property, you’ll need to invest in a companion animal as well and have the space to sustain the extra animal.
Keeping Your Horse at a Boarding Stable: What You Need to Know
If you don’t have the luxury of living on a property with land to keep your horse, you can always keep your horse at a boarding stable. A boarding stable is an equine facility that will house and care for your horse for a monthly rate. While boarding rates can vary greatly depending on where you live in the United States, the average monthly boarding fee is between $300 – $500.
There are different levels of care options you can select at some boarding stables. There are certain levels where the barn staff will see to the entire care of your horse while there are other cheaper options where you will see to the daily needs of your horse. When it comes to choosing a boarding stable, you want to make sure you choose one that fits you and your horse’s needs in both space and care as well as riding facilities.
To learn more about picking the perfect boarding stable, check out my article Choosing a Boarding Stable Your Horse Will Love.
How to Find a Trustworthy Farrier for Your Horse
Did you know that your horse’s hooves are perhaps one of the most important yet sensitive parts of your horse’s body? A horse’s hooves are essential for your horse’s circulation and movement. If the hooves aren’t cared for, it can drastically affect the horse’s health. While there are things you should do on a daily basis to care for your horse’s hooves, you’ll get the best advice and drastic care from a farrier.
A farrier is a professional who tends to horse’s feet. Horses will need their hooves trimmed or re-shod by a farrier every 4 – 8 weeks. Besides trimming and shoeing, a farrier also ensures that the hoove is balanced and healthy and can provide advice on how to better care for your horse’s hooves.
An inadequate farrier can, unfortunately, do much damage to your horse’s feet, so it’s important to find a good one. One of the best ways to find a good farrier is through word-of-mouth. Horse people aren’t afraid to share their opinion, and if you ask enough people, you’ll notice that there are certain farriers that just about everyone trusts. You can also look for a farrier through the American Farrier’s Association and see if they have any references in your area.
How to Find a Trustworthy Veterinarian for Your Horse
Finding a good veterinarian is vital to your horse’s health and to your peace of mind. Not only can your vet provide advice on your horse’s diet and living situations but they can also provide emergency care in the event of an accident or injury. While emergencies may not be as frequent, it’s nice knowing that someone is there who you trust and has your horse’s best interest at heart.
Once again, the best way to find a good vet is through word-of-mouth. Ask your friends to see what vet they use. Most equine vets provide mobile services where they come to you instead of you having to go to them. Your veterinarian can also provide long-term care for your horse, which makes them better at deciding what is best for your horse in certain situations. I’ve had the same vet for my horses ever since I got my first horse!
Another way you can find a veterinarian for your horse is by checking out the American Association of Equine Practitioners.
Your First Horse Should Fit Your Needs as a Rider
When it comes to choosing your first horse, it’s important to keep in mind that your first horse should fit your needs as a rider, not the other way around. If you’ve never owned a horse before, I don’t recommend getting one that requires a lot of training or one that may have behavioral issues that you think you can work through. Your first horse should be one that helps you build your confidence and learn how to effectively be an equestrian, not one that makes you want to stop riding altogether. That being said, here are some things to consider when it comes to selecting your first horse:
Choose a Horse That Can Serve Your Experience Level
If you’re in the process of getting your first horse, look for one that can serve your current experience level. This means that you should try and find a horse that you can feel safe and confident on with the level of riding you’re at. One of the best people to help you find a horse like this is your riding instructor. As mentioned above, your instructor can clearly define where you’re at in your riding abilities and they should be able to tell when a horse will be a good fit or not.
Choose a Horse That Can Meet Your Riding Goals
If you have certain riding goals you’d like to accomplish in the future, try and find a horse that can help you to start moving in that direction. For example, I had a friend that wanted to get into eventing, so they found themselves a seasoned event horse that had competed at prelim level, but due to age and an injury, could only take the rider up through beginner novice and novice. This horse helped my friend get into eventing and see what it’s all about from the back of a trustworthy and experienced steed. Before you even start looking at horses, write out what your riding goals are in the future. Make a goal 1 year from now to 5 years from now and see if the horses you look at could meet either of the goals.
Choose a Horse That is the Right Size For You
The size of the horse you get is important, even if it doesn’t initially seem like it. If you’re reading this article as a parent of a child who wants a horse, just remember that your child is going to grow. Most children outgrow the first few ponies they get. With this in mind, consider waiting until your child is more fully grown before investing in a horse.
The biggest thing you have to consider when it comes to a horse’s size is the rider weight ratio. Research shows that horses should not regularly carry more than 20% of their body weight, as this can put a strain on their body. This 20% would include the weight of tack as well as the rider’s body weight. Find a horse that can easily carry your weight and then some!
To learn more, check out my article What Size Horse Do I Need: Beginner’s Guide.
Get a Vet Exam On Any Horse Before You Purchase
If you’re about to spend a good amount of money on a horse, I highly recommend getting a vet exam on the horse before you decide to purchase. While this may not be possible if purchasing a horse from an auction or in other certain situations, it can save you a lot of heartache in the future.
What is a Pre-Sale Vet Exam For a Horse?
A pre-sale vet exam is when a veterinarian of your choosing will examine the horse and run tests to determine the health status of the horse. For just a normal exam, the vet would look at the horse’s body and feet, take vitals, examine the horse’s mouth and teeth, and test the horse for stiffness and soundness.
You can also pay for further exams or tests like radiographs or blood tests. The results from the exam and the test can help you determine whether or not you think the horse is worth purchasing. If the horse has clear signs of lameness, many people would avoid purchasing the horse. If there is an issue that comes up in the exam, talk with the veterinarian to see whether they think it’s worth going forward with the sale or not.
Take a Horse on a Trial Period Before Purchasing
Once a horse has been cleared in the pre-sale vet exam, talk to the seller and see if you can take the horse on a trial period. Trial periods are usually a 30-day period where you get to take the horse home and ride it and care for it as you would to see if the horse is a good fit for you. After 30 days, you would let the seller know whether you want to go through with the purchase or not.
While a trial period option may not be available for every horse, it’s worth asking about. This period can also give you a taste of horse ownership. Maybe after a trial, you learn you’re not ready to own and care for a horse. That is ok, that’s what the trial was for in the first place!
I wish you the best in finding your first horse and I hope that this article will be of great help! If you want some more things to consider in choosing the right horse, check out my article Choosing the Right Horse: 10 Expert Tips.