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How To Buy A Beginner Horse as a Novice Rider

Whether you are looking to lease or buy, choosing the right beginner horse for a new rider is a daunting task. There are so many amazing horses to choose from, so how do you go about selecting the right one for you?

First, it’s important to take a look at your available time and money, consider your current skill, and think about whether in the past you’ve frequently cycled through hobbies. If you think you might lose interest in a year or two, might struggle to handle the costs of horse ownership, or feel intimidated and under-supported by your trainer or riding instruction, it may be best to wait a year or two, instead of buying a beginner horse now. In the meantime, you can use your horseless time to take riding lessons, lease horses, and get experience on many different types of horses. If you aren’t sure if you’re ready or not, be sure and take our quiz.

Take our quiz to find out if you’re ready for your first horse

To help get you started with the process of buying a first horse, we have created a list of our top 5 tips for choosing a beginner horse.

Don’t Buy The First Horse You Look At

Buying your first horse is very exciting and it can be easy to get caught up in that excitement.

It can be easy to feel like you will miss out if you don’t get this horse right now, but there are always more horses to look at. This combination of excitement and fear can cloud your judgment and cause you to buy a beginner horse that isn’t right for you.

If you decide the first horse you look at is perfect for you, it is a good idea to leave for a little while to think about it before finalizing the sale. Head into town to a local café and evaluate all of the pros and cons of this horse. If you still think they are the right fit, you can go back for a final inspection and make your purchase.

There are two reasons we say you should leave to think about your purchase. The first is so that the owner does not apply any pressure and influence your decision. The second is because this horse is probably stunning and looking at them will also cloud your judgment!

A young woman smiles in front of a beginner horse.

Take An Expert With You to buy a Beginner Horse

If you know an experienced horse person who is willing to help you buy a beginner horse, ask them to come with you to take a look. They will be able to look at the general health of the horse, and the general attitude of the horse. They will also be able to complete a test ride. A test ride is very important and one of the best ways to tell whether the horse will be safe for a beginner rider.

Choose A Horse That Is Your Size

If you are a 6ft man with a large build, buying a pony would be out of the question! They are simply too big for that pony and could seriously injure the horse. Likewise, if you are a 5ft girl with a petite build, a 17h horse may not be the best choice. It’s ok to have preferences when it comes to the horses we pick, but for beginner horses, it’s best to be matched well with your horse.

I am a small person and my first horse was 16.2h! Just remember that the higher off the ground you are, the further it is to fall off a horse. Being so high up off the ground can be a challenge for riders on their first beginner horse- So make sure you have the confidence to match if you choose a big horse.

When Beginner Horse Shopping, Know Your Breeds

A horse’s breed does not guarantee specific character traits, but there are breeds that are more likely to display certain skills. For example, a Thoroughbred is more likely to be high energy and is often a good breed for jumping.  A Quarter Horse, while capable of jumping, is more likely to excel at sports like barrel racing or trail riding.

Breed doesn’t only affect the energy levels and riding styles of the horse, they also affect how much you have to feed them! You’ve probably heard people will say that a thoroughbred “runs hot“. This means they burn a lot of energy and that causes them to burn through a lot of food- just like a fit human athlete.

Big horses like a Draft Horse will also need larger amounts of food. While this should not be your only consideration when buying a beginner horse, it is important to remember that caring for some horses will cost more than others. Read more about horse feeding from Penn State.

Choose A Horse That Is At Your Experience Level

As a beginner rider, you need a beginner horse. This means buying a horse that is green (freshly trained to ride) or temperamental is not a good idea.

Purchasing a beginner horse that requires more skills than you currently have is dangerous and should be avoided. It is best to try to look for a horse that has plenty of experience caring for novice riders in a number of situations.

Pre-Prepare Your Questions

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In the excitement of looking for your first horse, it can be easy to forget to ask important questions. You can mitigate this by coming up with a list of pre-prepared questions.

Keep in mind that not everybody will be honest so take what they say with a grain of salt and try to verify what they are telling you. The questions you should ask include things like:

  • Why are you selling the horse? – This is important. They may be selling because of behavior issues, medical issues, financial reasons, or because they no longer want to own horses. If they are selling due to behavior or medical reasons it is not wise to purchase this horse as a beginner.
  • How old is he/she? –Try to look for a horse that is at least 5 years old to ensure their bones and muscles are fully developed.A horse younger than 5 is also likely to be green and not suitable for beginner riders.
  • Does he/she have any medical issues or need any special dietary requirements?
  • What are they like to ride?
  • What type of riding skill are they best/worst at?
  • When was the last time they were ridden regularly? – Just because the horse used to be a show pony with amazing skill doesn’t mean that is still the case. If the horse has not been ridden for 6+ months, they may not be as well trained as they used to be.
  • What’s he/she like with other horse?
  • Does he/she tolerate farrier, dentist, and vet work well?
  • What makes them unique/Tell me their quirks? – This can give you a bit of insight into the horse. Some horses are scared of odd things. A few years ago I came across a horse that was terrified of being undercover. This meant they needed custom floats with no roof, they could not enter stables etc. A horse having a quirk doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy them, but you should know that you can accommodate those quirks before buying.

Buying your first beginner horse is an important milestone and there are plenty more questions you should ask before buying a horse, and with answers to these questions, you will be more prepared to navigate the process with success.

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