Hello, aspiring horse owners… I’ve written this guide to buying a horse to cover everything my family and I wish we had known from the very beginning, so you can hopefully learn from our years of experience and avoid the many mistakes we made along the way!
If you are buying a horse for the first time, this easy to follow, comprehensive guide will teach you everything you need to know about buying a horse! For those who already have some experience in buying a horse, and just want to make your next purchase as stress free as possible… I’m sure you’ll find plenty of useful tips too!
So, what are we going to cover?
Okay, lets crack on…
Things to Consider Before Buying a Horse…
Daydreaming about buying a horse or pony is a past-time that most horse lovers spend a lot of time imagining… the sunny afternoons hacking across beautiful fields, birds singing overhead, and maybe even a wall of brightly-coloured rosettes. Yes, of course there are days like that, but you’ve got to remember there will also be cold, dark days with muddy fields – rain, meaning even more mud – and days when the mud sucks the wellies right off your feet and you want to scream – basically, a lot of mud! Having ridden and owned horses my whole life, and worked freelance with them for most of the adult part of it – trust me, summers make up for it, but I can’t stress enough – be prepared for the mud! So, let’s get down to it – you need to be realistic. Do you really have the experience, time, and money to look after a horse?
These are the three most important to questions to ask your self before buying a horse…
Can you afford a horse?
- Firstly, do you have the available cash to actually buy a horse, and all the kit you’re going to need? You might have £5,000 burning a horse-shaped hole in your pocket, but have you considered that the kit you’ll need (tack, rugs, etc) will set you back upwards of at least £1,000, and that’s buying a lot of it second hand! So you’ll need to bear your overall budget in mind when searching for a horse (some horse or ponies do come with tack and rugs, but not all that often, and what they come with may not be to your taste). Check out What do I Need for a Horse? – The Ultimate Checklist of Equine Equipment for a comprehensive look at all the kit you’ll need.
- You also need to figure out if your budget is realistic for the type of horse or pony that will fit the bill for you… for example: £1,500 – £4,000 might be realistic for a child’s first pony or a happy hacker/Riding Club horse. And if you’re a good rider with some experience looking for an all rounder to do higher level local competitions, and maybe even some affiliated, £4,000 – £8,000 should be a reasonable budget… but you’d need to up this amount considerably for buying a horse to compete at top level competitions (and would probably need lots more quality kit too).
- If you find that your bank balance isn’t going to cut it for the initial outlay, you could always consider loaning or sharing before buying a horse.
- The purchase price, and accumulating all the kit you’ll need, is just the beginning… the weekly costs can easily mount up (mount up – get it?!). If you have lots of time and experience, you can keep the costs down by doing much of the work yourself, but if you’re inexperienced or lack the time, you’re going to need help, which isn’t cheap.
- There are lots of livery options, so you’ll have to weigh up what’s best for your situation, and if the cost is worth it (prices vary according to the area you are in, what they offer, and what facilities they have – so it’s worth ringing around you’re local ones to get an idea).
- As a rough guide, in my area (the Home Counties in England), on a yard with a ménage, Grass Livery (just grazing) starts at about £15 per week, DIY (stable and grazing) from £25, Part Livery (all basic daily care, hay and bedding) from £75, and Full Livery (same as Part Livery, but usually with grooming and some exercise) from £100. I’ve kept most of my horses DIY (or assisted DIY where someone turned out for me each morning, and I did everything on my one evening visit to save me driving to the yard twice!). I’ve also stabled part livery where someone turned out/brought in and did all the mucking out, which allowed me more time to groom and ride, but it was obviously a bit more expensive.
- You’ll also need to tot up the costs of shoeing (approx £40 – £70 every 5-8 weeks), as well as worming, insurance, feed/supplements, hay/bedding if not included in livery, fuel to and from the yard, yearly dentistry and back checks, and possibly even maintaining a horse trailer, or horsebox, should you want one, plus lessons and show fees.
- Also, consider your goals… if you are buying a horse to be a happy hacker, basic facilities will be more than sufficient, and therefore cheaper, but if you want to compete, it’ll be a lot more expensive; you’ll want access to good facilities, and will probably want your own transport.
How much experience do you have?
- Having limited experience doesn’t have to be a barrier to buying a horse, but as mentioned before, it will mean you’ll need to have experienced people on hand to help you.
- If you can, it may be worth looking into taking some courses, or sharing/loaning before buying a horse to gain more experience.
- For anyone inexperienced, I would always recommend stabling a first horse at a larger yard with plenty of people around to help, and getting assisted DIY livery as minimum.
How much time do you have?
- Do you really have the time? If you’re just used to a weekly lesson or two, you’re in for a shock – horses are time consuming! A lesson is usually an allocated 30-60 minutes out of your day with the horse tacked up and ready to go. Unless you’re stabled at an expensive full or competition livery yard, this won’t be the case. Depending on your stabling arrangement, you’ll need to allocate at least another half an hour/hour, or more, on top of your riding time – and bear in mind, as keeping a horse can be quite expensive, you’re going to want to get your money’s worth – you’re going to want to be there as many days as possible!
- If you have a limited budget, but are experienced with plenty of time, you’ll probably be considering Grass or DIY livery. In this case, you’re looking at two visits to the yard each day (once in the morning and once in the evening) to check over your horse, turn out, muck out/poo-pick the field, bring in, feed, change rugs, groom, etc – and of course, fit riding in as well! Trust me, it can be done – and if you love horses as much as you think you do, you’ll even enjoy the mucky tasks too!
Okay, so you have the time and the money, and you’ve found somewhere suited to your needs to keep your new horse/pony…
Choosing a Horse… What Type of Horse or Pony is Suitable for You?
Your experience and ability will be the main factor in making the decision of what type of horse to buy – it really is such a common mistake for people to ‘over horse’ themselves when buying a horse. Whether they’re buying their first horse, or moving up from one they’ve outgrown, there is often a huge discrepancy between what you want, and what you need – think about it, you wouldn’t give a learner driver a Ferrari!
- What size and type of horse are you comfortable riding? How tall and heavy are you? An old guide for a suitable height horse is that their withers are no lower than your shoulder, and no higher than the top of your head; though this can be taken with a pinch of salt – shorter/rounder horses and ponies can ‘take up more leg’ (so a taller rider can look okay on-board) – so, as long as you’re comfortable, and the horse can carry your weight happily, go with what feels right.
- Many people make the mistake of thinking, the taller the horse, the more weight it can carry. However, weight-carrying is usually calculated on the ‘bone’ (measurement around the cannon bone of the leg) – there will be some 13.2hh cob type ponies that could easily carry more than a 16.2hh Thoroughbred! So consider what you are comfortable riding and handling, as well as your own height and weight.
- For children, unless they are super tall, it’s usually wise to stick to 14.2hh or under, as many shows split horse and pony classes, and juniors in affiliated competitions and showing are usually restricted by height classes (although some, such as the BSJA, do run ‘children on horses’ classes) – this will be less of a factor if you don’t intend to compete.
How Old and How Experienced?
- A horse’s prime age generally seems to be considered from when they’ve been broken in (usually around 4 years old) and been under saddle for a couple of years, to a few years before they are considered a veteran (at 15 or over) – so it would be from 6/7 years old (depending on when they were broken and the level of training) to about 12 years old.
- Don’t let this put you off the veterans though, especially for kids ponies or if you are looking for confidence giver to ‘teach you the ropes’, as they can have lots to offer and usually know their job inside out. A lot of top dressage horses are well into their teens. I have a real soft spot for the oldies, and if well looked after, I’ve know horses in their 20’s, and even some ponies in their 30’s, still happily doing their job!
- I think everyone has had the romantic dream of bringing on their own youngster from scratch, but this isn’t realistic for most people – you need lots of time and experience (along with the patience of a saint, and a god-given ability to bounce!). Unless you have the time, experience, and possess these qualities, I would recommend avoiding anything young or ‘green’. (There are of course exceptions to every rule, and you’ll find some youngsters with an old head… and indeed, some oldies who still think they’re 3!).
- For most people, I’d say stick to buying a horse that has a few ‘miles on the clock’, and is at least well established in the basics – hacking out, schooling, jumping, and has been taken out and about. If you are inexperienced, lack confidence, or are looking for your first horse or pony, the more established and more experienced the horse, the better… you can learn and progress without having to train the horse too. (If you’re both inexperienced it can be a bit of a case of ‘the blind leading the blind’, and end up with you, and your horse, losing confidence!).
- We would all love to find that ‘horse of a lifetime’, and for those with limited ambitions, or who just want to leisure ride and hack out – this is realistic, as the horse that will suit you now, could still be right for you in years to come. However, if your ambitions for the future outstretch your current ability, this can be a much harder task (– the dream would be a schoolmaster that is happy to step down a few levels while you learn, then step back up as you progress. But finding a horse like that is like finding hen’s teeth… and they usually have a price tag to match their rarity!).
- Focus on finding something that suits you now, something you can gain confidence on… you just need to realise and accept that if your ability and ambitions do outgrow your horse, you may have to consider buying a horse that is more advanced in a few years time – sadly for most of us, that means having to find a new home, or in other words, sell :(, our beloved friend.
- As a sweeping generalisation, each breed carries its own traits and characteristics (much like dogs!), and the more native/chunky types are generally considered more easy going, while the ones with more ‘blood’, such as Thoroughbreds and Arabs are usually more ‘hot-headed’ and suited to experienced owners. This is just a rough guide though, and of course not all individuals fit their stereotypes!
- Some horses also have expressive or large movements, which can be hard to sit to for less experienced riders that don’t have a well established seat. Spanish horses, Warmbloods and Welsh Section Ds are particularly known for this, once again though, not all fit these stereotypes.
- If your horse is going to be living out, it’s worth considering the native, hardier types (I’m not saying finer breeds can’t cope living out, I knew someone who kept a Thoroughbred out all year with a field shelter and hefty rug – it’s just that in general the native types will be happier and easier to keep this way).
Before embarking on your search, consider all the factors above and write down a list of what you’re looking for, and deal breakers, such as not hacking out alone. My list, for example, would include that it must be good to load (don’t even get me started on that one!) and after years of being a groom, it would probably also rule out greys (even though they’re stunning), as I’ve spent so many mornings scrubbing stable stains and too many evenings washing off dirt! Although I’d probably be swayed for the right one! Just use your list to set some basic parameters for your search, such as rough size, preferred type/breed, rough age, level of training/experience and the temperament suitable for you, plus your budget and how far you’re willing to travel for viewings. I’ve known clients miss some lovely horses because their list was so specific (e.g., must be a black, 16.2hh, Dutch Warmblood mare, within a half an hour drive!).
What to Have in Place before you Embark on your Search…
Before you start searching for your future equine best friend, make sure you have the basics in place.
Make sure you have somewhere to keep it…
- Don’t assume that the perfect yard you’ve spotted online will have space… some have year long waiting lists! And don’t be disheartened if the best places are full, remember, you can always put yourself on the waiting list and find a compromise until a space is available.
- Make sure they offer the type of livery you want and the yard has all the facilities you need (e.g., a ménage, year round turn out, decent hacking). For more in depth reading on types of livery check out Types of Livery Explained – How Much Does it Cost to Stable a Horse?
- Also, remember websites can be misleading, and many yards, especially the smaller ones, may not be listed online, so check local saddlery notice boards for adverts, and even ring local Riding Clubs and Pony Clubs for recommendations.
- It’s essential you visit the yard prior to agreeing to a spot, to get a feel for the place, and ask plenty of questions about their rules and day to day routine – for example, do they restrict turn out in winter? Do they allow early/late visiting? How busy is the ménage? What’s the hacking like? And so on! My friend ended up on a DIY yard that didn’t allow owners on site before 7.30am, or after 8pm, and the ménage was chock-a-block every evening; considering she worked from 8.30am-6.00pm everyday, it didn’t allow her much time to squeeze in all the daily tasks at the yard and have time to ride – she ended up having to make three visits a day to shoe-horn in a ride during her lunch break (luckily she had showers available at her work!).
- Once you’ve found a suitable place that has a space available, reserve your spot! Some yards will require you to pay the full price of the livery to keep the stable open, but most will just charge a small holding fee each week.
Register with a local Equine Vet…
- The yard you find will usually be able to recommend the vet that they use (and it is helpful if you register with the same one, as quite often fees can be shared for routine visits such as vaccinations).
Find a Farrier…
- Farriers are often in high demand with busy schedules, so it’s worth having one lined up!
- The yard you find, especially if it’s a larger one, will probably have a farrier they use who is scheduled for regular visits. If not, have a chat with other owners at the yard and find out who shoes their horses.
Anything else, such as saddle fitters, etc, can be arranged as you go along.
We’d all love to find our Mr or Mrs Perfect by word of mouth or recommendation, but sadly that’s usually a rare turn of luck. If you’re not so lucky, or don’t have the contacts, you’ll have to be more proactive when buying a horse…
- Locally is a good way to start, especially for first time buyers… check out the notice board at your local saddleries, you could even consider popping up a wanted ad (but do be cautious of unscrupulous sellers calling you with ‘the perfect’ horse!).
- Failing that, particularly for a first horse or children’s ponies, it can be worth ringing around the branches of The Pony Club and Riding Clubs in your area to see if any of their members are selling something suitable.
- This modern age of the internet is making finding and buying a horse so much simpler; there are several ‘horses for sale’ websites available at our fingertips, and most of the magazines we used to have to wait for to thumb through the classifieds, now have websites where horses and ponies are posted for sale every day.
- You can usually refine your searches for height, age, sex, etc, and the area you want to look in when buying a horse, which makes narrowing down your search results much easier. A couple of the most popular websites in the U.K. are – HorseQuest and Horsemart .
- In this modern age of social media, you’ll probably even be able to find local Facebook pages and groups that will have adverts with horses for sale (and let you post a wanted ad too).
- They often get a bad wrap, but for every questionable one out there giving them a bad name, there’s a good one making an honest living dealing in some lovely horses. A benefit of buying a horse through a dealer is you can often have more come-back if the horse doesn’t turn out to be right for you and there will often be good facilities to try the horses, and in some cases, there may be more than one suitable horse or pony to try in one place.
- Just do be wary, as mentioned, there are some really unscrupulous ones out there – before visiting a dealer, be sure to look up how well established they are, and read reviews and forums to see what other people have experienced.
What to Ask the Seller When You Phone to Enquire…
- I recommend writing down a list of everything you’d like to ask, to save getting flustered on the phone. I’ve rang lots of sellers in the past and its easy to lose track and just end up chatting, especially when someone is selling their beloved family horse – in the early days, I once spent an hour on the phone listening to an owner tell me about all of her surgeries for back injuries and how sad she was having to sell because she could no longer ride; when I finally put the phone down, I realised I’d arranged a viewing because I liked the lady but I didn’t really know much about the horse, other than he was ‘such a lovely boy’, and had to call back armed with a list of questions!
- Firstly, is it still available! If so, double check the location to ensure it’s within the distance you’re willing to travel.
- Ask the horse or ponies name, as this makes the rest of the conversation easier 🙂
- Confirm the horse’s size, age, height, breed, sex, etc.
- Why are they selling? – you can often get a good feel for how genuine they are with their answer, and it can be useful, for example, if you are a novice looking for a first horse, and they say they were ‘over-horsed’, it probably won’t be right!
- With the basics out of the way, now’s the time to ask the questions about any ‘deal breakers’ you may have, to save both you and the seller time if there are any, e.g., if the only hacking in your area involves busy roads, you need a horse that is good in traffic, or if you intend to go out competing every week, you need a horse that is good to load, etc.
- Ask if they have any behavioural issues or stable ‘vices’ (such as cribbing or weaving), and if they are good to catch, shoe, clip, load, hack out, etc.
- If there are no deal breakers and they are ‘good to do’ with no vices (or you can live with any of the issues and are happy to work on them), ask all of your other questions. Such as, what competition experience do they have? SJ? XC? Dressage? Are they well behaved out hacking, alone/in company, open fields/traffic? Are they strong/forward going/more laid back? And so on – compile your own list to fit your needs.
- Ask if the horse/pony is in full work, when some horses get fitter they can become sharper, so bear this in mind.
- Ask if you can you bring your trainer/instructor with you, and if they are open to vetting… if the answer’s no, this is a major red flag – steer well clear!
- Ask if the horse has a passport and is up to date with vaccinations… if the answer’s no, this is another red flag! A passport is absolutely essential, and while vaccinations aren’t technically a legal requirement currently, they are highly recommended, and most yards require you have them. If a horse you purchase doesn’t have them, you will need to start a full course of Flu and Tetanus vaccinations from the beginning (your vet can advise you about this).
- After these questions have been answered – talk about your requirements, ability level and what you are looking for, and see if the seller thinks their horse could fit the bill; genuine sellers who want the best home for their horses will usually be very honest, but much like responses to wanted ads, be cautious, as some people will say anything to make a sale!
- If all seems well and there’s potential, arrange a viewing – find out what trial facilities they have (e.g.: ménage, floodlights, jumps, hacking, etc). My parents and I once drove almost 4 hours to see a pony and there was only a 15×15 meter muddy pen with two rusty barrels and an old branch to jump – there wasn’t even hacking as it was right off a duel carriageway… needless to say, it was a wasted trip and a mistake we never made again!
- Ask if there is a rider available so you can watch the horse being ridden, if they say there isn’t, this can be unsafe because you can’t assess it before riding it yourself, and therefore another potnetial red flag (unless you’re buying a horse as a broodmare or an un-backed youngster of course!).
- Also be prepared that the seller may ask you questions, especially someone who is looking for the best home for their horse – (I was one of those sellers, and wouldn’t sell to the wrong home – we were once offered the full price for my second pony, and refused, instead we sent him on ‘permanent loan’ and eventually gave him to the lady, who was perfect for him, and offered him a life long home!) e.g.: they may want to know your experience or if you’ll have help if you’re less experienced, if you’ll be keeping the horse at home/livery, if you have a stable for winter, if it’ll be with/without company, what you are hoping to do with the horse… don’t be offended, they want a the right home as much as you want the right horse!
Once you’ve made the decision about buying a horse or pony, it’s very easy to get impatient and rush around looking at everything with four hooves, but don’t. Take your time, it’s better to ask lots of questions, spend months searching and have years of enjoyment with the right horse, than have the immediate gratification of an occupied stable, followed by the head and heartache of realising your impulse purchase was unsuitable.
Viewing the Horse
On the day, I generally like to arrive 15 minutes early so you can see the atmosphere of the yard, and tell whether or not they are ‘putting on a show’ before you arrive!
- Wear your usual riding kit, (have some wellies in the car too, just in case!) including your up-to-standard helmet, and I’d recommend a body protector too if you’re comfortable wearing one. I wish I’d had mine when I tried a re-backed ex-racehorse who was described as ‘bombproof in traffic’; he went beautifully for the owner and for the first 10 minutes I was on board, then a car backfired in the yard and what followed could only be compared to rodeo. I stuck it out for a bit, then was catapulted in spectacular fashion. Luckily I was wearing my helmet and was just a bit bruised and winded –but the fall could’ve been worse. Just remember, horses can be unpredictable, so safety first, especially with unknown ones!
- Ideally you want to see the horse caught, groomed, tacked up, etc, so you can get an idea of their temperament – depending on the time of day, or the routine of the yard you are visiting, this may not always be possible (you can always arrange a second visit for this if you fall in love!).
- Watch the horse’s general demeanour/personality whilst being handled and look over their conformation (do they make a nice overall picture – straight limbs, sloping shoulder, even hooves, etc), and check them over for scars/lumps/bumps. Pick up a leg or two as if you were picking out the hoof to see how they behave, and also look at the shoes – extremely worn or loose shoes can indicate they haven’t been looked after as well as you’d hope.
- If you know what you’re looking for, or have someone experienced with you, you could also ask to have them trotted up to look at their movement (do they move straight?), and check for any signs of lameness.
- Make sure you observe someone else riding the horse first, and that the environment is safe, e.g.: well fenced and a decent surface (also make sure that you have insurance with personal accident cover for horse riding – a BHS Gold Membership will usually cover this, check out their website here).
- When you see the horse ridden by someone else first, observe how it goes… does it stand still to mount up? Does it look lazy/like it’s being kicked along, is it pulling like a train, is it spooky or tense, is it whizzy, does it work in outline, does the rider seem relaxed?
The ‘Test Ride’…
- Right, if the horse/pony looks safe and you feel confident to climb aboard… now it’s your turn! Before mounting, check the tack and girth and adjust the stirrups as you normally would.
- Once on board, walk away, then (this bit is surprisingly often forgotten, but very important) test the brakes! Spend a few minutes getting comfortable and getting a feel for the horse… remember you’re not there to show off your riding, you’re there to try the horse, so don’t be self conscious. Once you’re happy, put the horse through their paces – do some walk, trot, canter, transitions and circles on both reins, and pop a few jumps if you plan to jump (start over a trotting pole, and gradually build up – the height isn’t necessarily important, their attitude is).
- If possible, try the horse out hacking too, again you ideally want see it ridden out first, and don’t go alone; have someone ride or walk with you to keep an eye out.
So You Like the Horse, What’s Next?
- I strongly recommend a second visit, buying a horse is not a small purchase (you may have seen the horse on a really good day and it’s useful to see if they behave any differently – visit at a different time of day too, to see if that affects them). There is a risk of someone else coming along between your visits though, so try to arrange this for as soon as possible!
- A second visit is also a good time to test anything that was missed on the first visit – for example, did you see the horse caught, etc? Did you get to hack out in traffic? Have a canter/gallop in an open space? If you are planning to go out competing, etc, you may even want to see the horse loaded, or see it ridden over some XC jumps.
- Some sellers may even be willing to offer a trial period for a week or two, like a very short loan, usually staying at their own yard and subject to a fee. This is understandably very rare, but fantastic if you get the chance (like a supercharged second visit!), as you can really get to know the horse.
- Once you are confident you have found the right horse or pony for you, now’s the time to discuss leaving a deposit – I recommend having this in writing, and subject to vetting (refundable if the vetting fails).
- Arrange the vetting (see the next section!). Then spend the next few days making your fingers sore crossing them tightly, nervously awaiting the results 🙂
Vetting the Horse
Regardless of how lovely or cheap the horse or pony you have found is, I implore you… make sure you have it vetted! Some insurance companies won’t even provide cover if you haven’t at least had a basic vet check done. Many years ago, when looking for a project pony to bring on and sell, I bought a scrawny little mare straight from the field, (partly because I felt sorry for her) she had overgrown feet and a matted mane, but such a sweet nature; she was only £400 so I thought a vetting wasn’t worth it. 6 months later she was going beautifully and proved to have a lot of talent, so I had her pre-sale vetted and it was found that she had very mild heart murmur. It didn’t stop her going on to have a lovely career doing pony club and show jumping, but it did mean she was worth less than half of her potential as a top event pony! – Even a basic vetting should pick this kind of thing up.
- There a many different types of vetting; in the U.K. they range from a basic 2 stage vetting, up to a full 5 stage vetting, and for very expensive competition horses, some people also opt to have x-rays and further tests.
- Obviously a 5 stage vetting will give you the most peace of mind, and is essential for competition horses and those of a higher value. However, if you’re just looking for a happy hacker, a 2 stage may be sufficient. Check your insurance company’s requirements for cover, and have a chat with your vet for some advice.
- If the horse you’ve found is within a reasonable distance, I would usually recommend using your own vet for the vetting. However, if you’ve travelled further afield to view a horse, you will probably need to source one in that area, you can do this by finding and ringing a well established yard nearby and asking them for a recommendation, or by searching online for vets that provide equine vettings in the area, and select one based on reviews/reputation.
- Once you’ve found a vet, find out their available times/dates and liaise with the seller to arrange when the vetting can take place.
- Ideally you want to be present when the vetting takes place, but if you can’t, it doesn’t matter as the vet will report all of their findings and recommendations over the phone.
So, the vetting passed and the vet says the horse is fit for your purpose – great news! What now…?
Buying the Horse
Once you’ve agreed to buy the horse, and arranged collection, it’s worth asking more questions. Find out its current daily routine and what feed it has, so you can make any changes gradually to avoid any problems (for example, sudden changes in feed can cause colic). Find out how well the horse settled in when they bought it so you know what to potentially expect when it gets home with you. If you are buying a horse or pony that doesn’t come with any of his/her belongings, find out what sizes it needs for tack and rugs, etc.
- Whether paying by bank transfer or cash, make sure that you get a signed and dated written receipt of sale, and the horse’s passport and vaccination records, etc, including registration/breeding papers, freezemark and microchip details, if they have them (check with your yard for their vaccination requirements and worming protocol too).
What will you need if your new horse comes with none of his/her kit?
- For picking him/her up, and the first few days, all you’ll need is a headcollar and leadrope, travel boots, and tail bandage and/or tail guard, a rug suitable for travelling, plus a turn out rug (and maybe stable rug if stabling) suited to the time of year, and a basic grooming kit.
- Depending on the arrangements at your yard and the type of livery you have, you may also need feed bowls/haynets, feed, hay, bedding, and mucking out tools, etc. Following this, there’ll be a long list of tack, rugs and other equipment (it may be worth arranging a saddle fitter in advance, for a few days after the horse arrives, as they can get booked up).
- Find out when the horse is due to be shod next (a general rule of thumb is every 6 weeks, although some will be 4-8 weeks), when the vaccinations are next due, and when the horse last had his teeth and back checked by a professional (usually every 6-12 months), so you can book appointments for these.
- Before collecting your new horse make sure you have equine insurance – lots of different types of cover are available, depending on the value and type of use. Shop around to find the cover most suited to you (as an absolute minimum, be sure you have third party cover!).
Once you’ve completed the sale, it’s time to bring your new friend home!
Bringing Your New Horse Home
Armed with lots of information, endeavour to make the transition as smooth and calm as possible for your new horse – remember, it’s a massive change, and stressful for them too!
- If you don’t have your own transport to collect your purchase, some sellers will offer delivery. If not, you can either hire a self drive horsebox, or arrange delivery with a horse transport company (have a search online).
- Pretty common sense, but prepare the stable! As they can be particularly restless on the first night, I like to make an extra deep bed so they don’t knock themselves, and give them extra hay (and maybe even some boredom breakers, such as two small-holed haynets double-layered, a lick, or carrots on a rope), to keep them occupied.
- As mentioned, try to change their routine and feed gradually to avoid upset.
- When turning out at first, ideally you want to introduce new paddock mates slowly, as not all horses will get on – if possible, the perfect solution is fencing off a small area with electric tape so they can get to know each other over a fence first (or even turning out in the neighbouring paddock). If this isn’t possible, make an introduction in hand, with a fence or gate between them, to minimise the risk of potential injury to both you and the horses as they get acquainted, then keep a close eye on how they get on!
- Take your time getting to know your new friend; spend time bonding with them from the ground – grooming, groundwork and lunging. When you ride for the first time, ride in a safe, contained place (ideally a ménage) with someone on hand, hack in company a few times first if possible, then maybe have some lessons. Don’t rush out to competitions, etc, until you have built a relationship.
Don’t be surprised if it takes a few days, or even a week or so for some horses to settle in and resemble the angel you fell in love with at the viewing! Most horses I’ve bought have settled really easily. Surprisingly, it was my first pony, a cuddly ex-riding school cob, who took the longest! I put this down to the fact that he came from living out with a couple of ponies on a tiny 3 acre semi-rural site, and the yard we took him home to was hundreds of acres with 50 plus horses; he also he had to stay in for 36 hours for the yard’s worming policy, so he was super excited at first, but he did settle back to his cuddly self within a week. If you are concerned, or they don’t settle, you can always contact the previous owners and/or consult someone experienced to help assess what the issue could be (some sellers have been known to dope horses for sale!).
Most of all… enjoy it!
Buying a Horse, in Summary…
- Be realistic – do you have the experience, time and money to buy a horse?
- Choose the right type of horse for you – don’t ‘over horse’ yourself!
- Choose the right option for keeping your new horse, according to your needs.
- Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions, and take your time.
- Stay safe, and take someone more knowledgeable with you whenever possible.
- Test out as many situations as you can when trying potential horses.
- Make sure you get a vetting! And a receipt from the seller, along with all of the horse’s documentation.
- Find out lots of information and get everything prepared before bringing the horse home.
- Allow plenty of time for your horse to settle into his/her new home, and for you to get to know each other.
- Enjoy it!
I hope you’ve found this guide to buying a horse helpful… happy horse hunting 🙂
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