It's finally time to buy a horse! Maybe you've been planning for it for a long time, maybe it's a spur of the moment decision. Before you buy, take the time to answer these questions! Set yourself up for your best outcome.
I know you may have been hearing advice from all different directions. Anyone can tell you about the horse that someone bought from somewhere that ended terribly. Because, quite frankly, it DOES happen. People are sold 'perfect' horses. It doesn't mean that the horse isn't perfect for someone, it just may not be perfect for you. So let's make sure you are clear on what you want in your horse. Before you decide to buy a horse, there are some things you need to keep in mind.
Understand what you need in a horse:
What level of rider are you? (Please be honest with yourself when asking this question.)
Walk & trot but have not begun to canter?
Comfortable walk and trot but nervous about cantering/not well balanced at the canter?
Love to ride fast but you haven't taken formal instruction? (Yes, that matters too!)
Love to jump?
Love to trail ride?
Ask your instructor what type of horse would be best for you personally.
How often are you able to come and ride your horse?
How many horses have your ridden in your riding career and in what venue? Guided trail rides, riding lessons, show horses, or your friend's horse? (Trust me, this question matters more than you may realize.)
Let me explain: The person who has only ridden their favorite lesson horse for the past 2 years does not have the same skillset as the person who has ridden many horses of varied sizes, and levels of training over the past 2 years.
Leisure rider: You are looking to go to the barn and hop on your horse and go for trail rides, but you don't have a lot of time in the saddle, riding. If this is you, you must consider how often the trail horse is currently being ridden and how often you (honestly) will be coming to ride the horse. (Less work or more work than it is used to can be an issue depending on the individual horse.) Are you riding alone or always with someone? Many times, horses listed as trail horses have only done trail riding with a group of horses. Or have very limited overall training, they may only know to follow the horse in front of them. Remove them from their home and their herd and you may have issues.
Even someone that has owned a horse for most or all of a horse's life will need special considerations with riding skill. If you have had the same horse for a lifetime and only rode that horse, you need to understand the changes this can bring. For example: bonding with the new horse without comparing it to your old horse. What was 'the norm' for your other horse most likely will be different with all the new horses you try.
What physical limitations do you have?
Height plays a factor in horse purchases. If you are tall or petite, there are simply certain horses that will be easier for you to ride.
Prior injuries can limit what type of riding and the type of horse you can physically enjoy riding.
Do you have a specific breed or physical size you prefer or even require? (I know a few of my clients who, as they got older changed to gaited horses because it was more comfortable and they could still trail ride and show. So Mountain Pleasure horses and Rocky Mountain horses were on our search, and another rider loved the height of Tennessee Walkers.)
What can you afford?
This question should include not only the purchase price, but upkeep (board), care (vet, supplements, etc.), tack, training and much more.
Remember a single health issue can create financial hardship for a horse owner. Additionally, can you afford a horse that isn't able to be ridden? Can you afford to own a horse for riding and a horse on rehab (short or long term) or a pasture pet? (It happens.)
Understand what you want in a horse:
What type of horse are you looking for? (Don't berate yourself about wanting a certain 'look' or type of horse.) Know what attracts you to a horse and how important that is to the overall experience of owning a horse. If you know you have 'shiny toy' attraction or that 'kind eyes' draw you in, best to understand your belief system before you go find a horse.
You have to be honest with yourself. If you favor Palominos but are looking for a show jumper, you will have limited choices depending on how attached you are to color and how much time you are willing to invest in the search.
In Part 2 - I will offer places to go to help you in your search.