Image Copyright © 2006 Central Equine, LLC.
Dennis Mitchell Training.
Horse buying is neither an art, nor a science, but a procedure. For over 30 years, I have made a living buying and selling horses. What a wonderful life it has been getting to meet the people I have met is priceless. My love and passion for horses has allowed me to continue my childhood dreams into my adult years. Horse buying is about the romance: sometimes it is just as exciting to stand in a field looking at young prospects as it is watching an international level grand prix horse. Through the years, I have experienced the best and the worst of horse sale scenarios. With this in mind, I will try to assist you in the main ingredients I have found crucial in this process. The two key words you must remember are: patience and diligence. The three most important things in buying a horse are:
Suitability. . .
Suitability . . .
Realistic view of your abilities
If you are riding at an entry or beginner level, a horse with years of experience should be your choice over a horse that is also at the same level. It should not be a green prospect. Through the years, I have seen this common mistake made over and over. A discouraged trainer will call us asking to trade in a horse that a new client has arrived with only to tell me the same story--green horse and green rider. It is not a recipe for success. So many parents want to buy a horse that their child can grow with. My advice is, “Save the money and buy a puppy.” It is much cheaper and safer than trying to mount your child on a 1200 lb horse that does not know his job any better than the rider. A good professional can assist you in making the right choice. They will encourage you to fight the impulse to buy ‘young and beautiful,’ as opposed to ‘experienced and safe.’ It is very difficult to learn to drive in a Ferrari; sometimes a good old “Buick” is just what we all need to start with.
Long and Short term riding goals
You must establish what it is exactly that you want to do and what your time frame is. We sell a lot of horses to adults who start riding later in life. They want to not only be competitive, but feel very safe at all times. We have found that an older horse that has dropped down from a higher division is often the best ticket. These horses have been there and done that they are not going to be overwhelmed and taken back in new situations.
Again, a good professional will be able to find the right horse, and do the necessary research to assure you of the right match. This commission is the best money you can spend. Don’t take the advice of a friend or neighbor who has a horse, or has had a horse, or rode at summer camp years ago. You need to rely on a reputable person in your area, whose reputation in the horse community is valued. They can be there to help you through the ups and downs of a new equine partnership.
If you are new in the area, let me suggest this: go to some horse shows in the area and do your homework. Watch the folks you feel are the most successful, and take the time to talk to their riders and clients. You can watch their interaction with the horses, with clients, and with peers.
Once you choose a professional, trust their judgment. Let this person act as your agent; and please let them do their job.
Environment and Program
A phrase I find most helpful in explaining this to new buyers is, “You can’t put a square peg in a round hole.” A 17-hand horse that has spent his entire life in a professional barn may not be the best match to live in your 3 stall barn in the back yard. When an animal has been in a particular environment his entire life, this should be respected.
The well being of the horse not only physically, but mentally must be considered--not just what is most economical or convenient. If an animal has spent a great deal of his life being turned out only for a couple of hours a day, they may not adjust to your program of all day or all night turn out. Horses are creatures of habit. Change is always an adventure that can be good or bad. Being realistic about stabling, turn out, riding time, and the assistance of a trainer is important in the consideration of what type of horse will best suit your needs.
This should be established with the professional of your choice. Don’t waste everyone’s time trying horses that are out of your price range, in the hopes that you might be able to wing it for example, if you win the lottery on Saturday night.
The old saying, “You get what you pay for,” is very true with horses. The money you think you are saving buying a young, inexperienced horse will be the money you spend on training bills (and hopefully not medical bills). I can not begin to impress upon you the importance of safety and suitability. I have spent many years at the race track buying rejects and turning them into projects. The time and energy it takes to make some of these horses up is better spent working on your riding skills. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
The purchase price is the cheapest part of the voyage you are about to take. It costs the same to feed a quality horse that you enjoy and suits your needs as it does to feed an animal that is years away from reaching his potential and being able to cope with your abilities. You will either spend it now or spend it later later being much more costly in the long run.
The term let the buyer be-ware is true but in the case of horse buying “be aware” of the following: your own ego, your budget, the environment you will have the horse in, and your riding ability. I can not impress upon you enough the importance of having a qualified professional assist you. Have fun with the process. Enjoy the new friends you will make along the way; and your horse buying experience will be rewarding.