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Kal&JoeyAmy LizeeSo you have made the decision to leap into the world of horse ownership. If you are a first time buyer and you have the time and financial ability to commit to a horse, then the next thing to consider is how to choose the right horse.

What is your experience?

Are you a beginner? Advanced? Or somewhere in the middle? If you don’t know, take some lessons at a local barn and have your instructor evaluate you. This is the first step to choosing the right horse as it is important to get a horse that fits your experience level in order to have a successful equine experience.

What do you want to do with your new equine friend?

This is sometimes something that is overlooked when it comes to horse ownership, but it is very important. Just because a horse has nice breeding, or is a nice color, or has experience, doesn’t mean it will fit in with you – even if you are an experienced rider or handler. So the question to ask yourself is what do you want to do with your new equine friend? Are you planning on hitting the trails or do you want to do some serious competition? Are you an English jumper or a Western roper? All of these things are important because depending on what discipline and activity level you require of your new partner it will help you determine the right fit based on build, age and soundness.

Don’t fall for breed stereotypes

StandardbredAmy LizeeIt is easy to say that Quarter Horses make good trail horses (they do) and it is easy to say that Thoroughbreds make great jumpers (they do), but every horse has a personality, just like people. If you are looking for a steady trail mount don’t rule out other breeds such as Mustangs. It works the same way if you are looking at jumping. For example, Standardbreds can make excellent jumpers but the breed is often overlooked. It is important not to rule out a potential match because of breed and to instead compare the horse to your skill level, goals and personality to see how you stack up.

Don’t rule out adoption

Now that you have determined some basic parameters, such as looking for a beginner-friendly trail buddy or an advanced rider show prospect, you need to determine where you are going to look for this new friend. While it may seem logical to purchase a horse direct from a breeder or seller, don’t rule out rescues as a place to score that perfect partner. Most horses that end up in rescues do so because of owner instability (financial or otherwise) and not usually due to behavioral or soundness issues as many people think. In fact, everything from European Warmbloods to Lipizzaners to show-worthy Thoroughbreds can be found at rescues and all have the potential to have amazing new careers.

Bring a friend

If you are going to look at a potential match, bring an experienced equine friend with you who can offer a second set of eyes on the horse. It helps if you bring a third-party individual such as an instructor or coach who is non-biased and can give you their experienced opinion. However, be careful not to put all the weight on their opinion as it is important to understand what you think you can handle as well. For example, a horse that makes you a little nervous might be one that your instructor thinks is a good match. On the same coin, a horse that you feel is a perfect match, your instructor might see potential issues with.

Trial periods

If you think you have found a match make sure you visit the horse first hand to get a feel for his/her personality. If you cannot ride the horse at the time of the visit, then arrange for a trial period. If you are looking to go the adoption route many rescues offer trial periods that can run up to 60-days which allow you to take the horse home, get into a routine, and see if you are a good fit and make sure no issues come up. If you are purchasing privately, ask the owners if you can arrange a trial period (even a week or two) where you can have a chance to ride and work with the horse.

Do a pre-purchase vet check

If you cannot do a trial period, but you have found the one horse you want to buy, consider having a pre-purchase vet exam done by a third-party vet before going through with the sale. If you’re going the route of adoption, most rescue horses are already vetted and checked, but that is not always the case with buying from a seller. It is a good idea to make sure you cover your bases by having a vet perform a pre-purchase exam on a horse you are looking to purchase to ensure that there are no health or lameness issues that might come up when you get your new friend home.

When you take the right steps to buying or adopting your new equine friend, you ensure a healthy emotional and mental start to your new relationship.

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