So, you’ve been nice to your scary little brother for ages. You’ve kept your room clean. You’ve walked the dog regularly. You’ve taken a year or more of riding lessons and still want to spend more time in the saddle. Finally, the moment you’ve been hoping for has arrived—your parents have said you can have a horse or pony.
Once you get over the initial shock, it’s time to get serious about your search for the perfect first horse. He isn’t just going to appear in your barn. You’re going to have to look for him, and the search may take a while. Your priority must be to find a horse that suits you to a tee. An unsuitable horse costs just as much to keep as a suitable one. Always start your search by letting everyone you know that you’re looking for a horse. Your instructor or the manager of your riding school may know of a good horse for sale. The great thing about buying a locally known horse is that it’s easy to check up on his temperament and health.
Let’s check out some other ways of looking for a first horse.
A riding school star can be a great first horse, but don’t expect many to be available, or for them to come cheaply. Riding schools treasure their well-behaved horses. But if you find a good one, it might be worth making an offer to his owner. You’ve already ridden the horse and get along with him.
But remember, some horses change when they are out of the arena and not in regular work. Try the horse on a trail ride or two, and take him in a ring by himself for a schooling session to see how he behaves.
Tack Shop Bulletin Boards
Many tack shops or feed stores have bulletin boards where people post notices about horses and ponies for sale. Visit the stores once a week to check for new ads.
Pony Club and 4-H
Ask your parents to call the leaders of the local Pony Club or 4-H. These folks may know of horses that have been outgrown by their riders and for sale. Let them know how experienced you are, and what you’d like to do with your horse. Horses that have been in Pony Club or 4-H are usually well looked after and healthy. They are used to kids and are often experienced all-rounders.
Adoption from a Charity
Many horse charities have farms where they take rescued horses to recover from abuse. Often these centers nurse a horse back to health, and then try to find a suitable home for him. They look for someone to adopt the horse, and they prefer to place him with experienced horse people. The charity will always own the horse and will check on him regularly. You cannot sell an adopted horse. If you live on a farm, or have horsey parents who can give you lots of help, you can consider adopting a rescued horse. But if you’re new to riding, a rescue horse may not be for you. Some have been mistreated and are afraid of humans, and they may kick or bite. Some have medical problems and others have never been trained properly.
Don’t look here! Auctions aren’t good places to buy a first horse. It may seem tempting to buy a horse this way, because there can be bargains at auctions. But you’re asking for trouble. You know nothing about the sale horses, and it’s impossible to be sure of their age, health, experience and ability. Small auctions rarely have a ring, so you won’t get to ride him.
There is often a reason why an owner wants to sell a horse quickly. He might be ill, lame or badly behaved. And most auction sales are final. You won’t get your money back if you buy a bad horse.
Going to some auctions can be very upsetting. Thehorses may be sick or lame. And there will be dealers buying horses to send to meat factories. Handlers are often rough at small auctions, and horses are pushed around.Some charities go to auctions and buy horses that they hope to save. Instead of buying a horse at auction, why don’t you donate to one of these charities so they can continue rescuing horses.
Breed Associations often have programs which will introduce you to breeders and trainers in your area. For instance, if you’re dreaming of a Quarter Horse, go to www.aqha.org. The AQHA website has a listing of Quarter Horse farms in your area—and the breeders and trainers will be happy to show you what horses they have for sale. If you like Appies, check out the Appaloosa Horse Club website at www.appaloosa.com.
Look in the classified section every day for the “Horses and Livestock” section. At first glance, it may seem like there are lots of wonderful horses for sale.
But beware. People are not always honest when describing the horse they are selling. No one is going to say, “I want to sell a naughty horse that kicks kids.”
Read ads carefully. Here’s lingo to look for:
Ideal first horse/Pony Club/4-H horse/perfect for novice rider: The horse is well behaved, experienced and good for new riders.
Good all-rounder: Does flatwork, jumps and is quiet on trail rides.
Bombproof: Won’t get scared easily.
A packer: Jumps a course even if the rider isn’t very experienced.
Good to clip/shoe/catch/trailer: Stands quietly while you do things with him.
Don’t bother responding to an ad that includes these phrases:
Not a novice ride: He needs an experienced rider. Green horse: He’s inexperienced and needs training. Potential working hunter/showjumper: He’s green and it will take time before he can compete.