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Joined: Sun Nov 25th, 2007
Location: Green Bay, Wisconsin USA
Posts: 10
Status:  Offline
Posted: Mon Dec 24th, 2007 02:18 am
Hi - 

 I am currently leasing a horse and I'm looking to purchase a horse of my own. I have a candidate in mind that I will be traveling to meet this week. She is a tri-colored pinto of Saddlebred and Arab lineage; 7 years old with some basic training.  Other than a pre-purchase vet check; what suggestions do you have for me so that I can make a wise purchase?  I feel a little like I'm going on a blind date; I'm hoping that it will be clear for both myself and the horse if we will be compatible. I'm not in a hurry; I want the best possible outcome.




Super Moderator

Joined: Fri Mar 30th, 2007
Posts: 3322
Status:  Offline
Posted: Mon Dec 24th, 2007 07:06 am
Kay, I reply to this without the least hope or expectation that you will actually follow the advice given. I say this not because I've got something against you, but because I long ago got out of the business of advising people on purchases. People will hire an expert and pay them money, and the expert, who has years of experience, can give them the best advice in the world. And then they go out and do what they damn well please anyway.

Nevertheless, here  is the NUMBER ONE MAIN ADVICE: Get LESS HORSE than you think you would like to ride. This means:

                (a) LESS ENERGETIC HORSE. You don't ride as well as your ego is telling you. You don't ride as well as your fantasies are beguiling you. You can break your neck on a horse. Try to remember this.

                (b) MORE BROKE. Do not buy a horse that has had "just basic training" or the proverbial "30 to 60 days". You don't know what you're doing. You cannot even be thinking of training the horse yourself, because you do not know how. You do not have the skills, and you do not have the experience. What you want to buy is a teacher -- a horse that is so broke and so experienced that it can teach YOU. Like other first-time owners -- no matter how many "lessons" they may have had -- YOU will have very little to offer the horse.

                (b) SMALLER SIZED HORSE. You weigh 200 lbs.? Most 15-hand horses will be able to pack you very well. You weigh less than 200 lbs.? Then 15 hands will be plenty big. 14:2 would be fine too. If you're less than six feet tall, you will look just fine on a 14:2 hand horse (there is no such thing as a "pony" -- they are all horses, no matter what height they are). Do not permit dressage people to tell you otherwise, or any other type of salesman. Read the article in Equus Magazine that came out last month entitled "Size Matters" to see other good reasons why smaller horses are preferable.

                (c) OLDER -- NOT YOUNGER THAN 14 OR 15 YEARS. Most horses don't develop solid common sense until they're around 14. Kay, do you know what the term "starfish" means?? Are you under 30 years old, and weigh under 150 lbs.? Then maybe when the three or four or six or nine year old you're thinking of buying cuts a big wig and you do a good starfish, I say, maybe YOU still bounce when you hit. If you're past 30, or over 150 lbs., let me tell you the truth: you don't bounce. See above about "breaking your neck on a horse."

Other advice:


DO look the horse in the eye. This is the way you LISTEN to a horse, rather than to your ego. You need to ask every horse whether it WANTS to be part of your family. Then you need to get down on your knees and ask whatever Higher Power you believe in whether you're really qualified to own that animal, and that means being able to do for it ALL that it may need, in terms of riding, training, medical care, or anything else. This is the best way I know to get past the voice of your ego telling you to buy that magnificent three year old Paint that has "minimal training" or that beautiful Black with the long, flowing mane (never mind it bolts, bites, and kicks).

EXPECT TO PAY REAL MONEY for the horse that is a solid, proven trooper. This means $6000 US dollars and up.

NEVER BUY A HORSE WITHOUT A VET CHECK -- unless it's a total freebie, and even then I would probably want a vet check before taking it, if only to begin establishing a solid and preferential relationship with the large animal vet of your choice. You need to know everything there is to know about this animal before you bring it onto the farm where it is going to live. DEFINITELY look the horse in the mouth -- make sure the vet examines the teeth along with everything else.

BUY ONLY FROM REPUTABLE TRAINERS OR OWNERS -- the kind of people who tell you that they want the horse back if it doesn't work out. They will also be the kind of people who have all the health records, shots, worming, x-rays etc. These kinds of "papers" are INIFINITELY more valuable than the kind of papers that go with the horse being a "registered- whatzit".

IF AT ALL POSSIBLE BUY A HORSE OFF OF A WORKING RANCH -- the kind of horse that they themselves have been pushing cows with for a number of years. See above for the kind of people you're looking for -- there are scumbags on ranches the same as anywhere else, but many ranch families are highly experienced and kind. You want to find a horse that has not spent its life in a stall, that gets along with whatever pasture buddies it's thrown out in a field with, that knows not to get up in the barbed wire, and that has a lot of "wait" on it. You ask the ranchers what that means, Kay.

DO NOT GO OUT OF YOUR WAY to get a horse that has registration "papers". If it happens to have them, OK; if not, fine too.

When you find a horse you think might work, GO BACK MULTIPLE TIMES TO RIDE IT. Do this for a period of at least three or four months -- at least half a dozen random visits. You need to see how this horse is being treated at the farm where it lives. And you need to ride it A LOT before you're going to really know if it is "yours".

DO NOT SUCCUMB TO PRESSURE in the form of "well, if you don't buy it now we won't be able to hold it for you." The reputable seller -- who has vastly the greater experience -- will already have identified you as the right owner -- or not -- and if you are the right owner for the horse, you will find that somehow or other the horse is there for you.

LISTEN to the owners when they tell you the peculiarities of the horse. I mean I need real language here -- not the proverbial "experienced rider only".

And last but not least -- Kay, listen up here -- FORGET TOTALLY what color it is. You have no "rights" at all in this department. When you get enough skill and experience that you become employed by Barnum & Bailey or the Circus Knie, you will THEN have the right to select horses on the basis of their color -- not before.

I am expending the effort to tell you these things, Kay, because I see every time I go out to teach a clinic what happens when this advice has not been followed.

Good luck, and best wishes -- Dr. Deb




Joined: Sun Nov 25th, 2007
Location: Green Bay, Wisconsin USA
Posts: 10
Status:  Offline
Posted: Mon Dec 24th, 2007 02:38 pm
Dr. Deb - this is exactly the straight talk, advise I needed.  Thank you for taking the time to fully answer my concerns.  I wrote because my head was spinning from all kinds of well meaning advise from a number of others around me ("take out a loan and buy the most horse you can afford" - sure.) 

I will definitely adhere to your advise -

Thanks and have a beautiful Christmas!


dorinda L

Status:  Offline
Posted: Fri Dec 28th, 2007 09:05 am
Great Stuff Kay

I wish that I had Dr Deb's advise when I was looking to by my first horse after waiting 30 years.  My ego certainly got in the way along with the excitement of actually getting my own horse.  I bought a 5 year very green quarter horse mare that had conformational issues that I was niave about.

Have said that I have gone down the study path to become an equine body worker which I hope to complete in April next year.  If I hadn't decided to do this I would not have met Dr Deb and learnt from her wealth of information. 

Good luck in your search for a horse.  Taking Dr Debs advice I am sure you will find the right one for you.  Hope to hear how you get on.



Andi Bartnek

Joined: Wed Apr 11th, 2007
Location: Airdrie, Alberta Canada
Posts: 18
Status:  Offline
Posted: Fri Dec 28th, 2007 04:36 pm
Dr Deb's advice is invaluable - and should be remembered whether it is your first or 51st horse. In my experience, ultimately I think all my horses have chosen ME, and my job has been to be aware enough to listen when they spoke! Also keep in mind - what you THINK you want to do with your horse today, may end up to be miles away from what you decide you want to do somewhere further down the road (or how my polka dot Appy travelled the trails from showing to cutting cows to eventing and eventually combined driving and back to travelling the trails in our 24 years together). If it's possible, lease the horse for a month or so and see how you feel when you've had more than a few rides together (especially if you can do it on your own turf, not just at his current home). A reputable breeder/seller should consider this, and credit the lease to payment. Good breeders I know are as concerned about placing thier babies with the right person as you are in finding the right horse.


Good luck and happy trails!


Joined: Sat Mar 31st, 2007
Posts: 13
Status:  Offline
Posted: Sat Dec 29th, 2007 08:32 pm
Yes, great advice.  I would also add that one should seriously study Dr Deb's booklets on conformation before considering any new purchase.  They will be a great help in understanding what the horse will be capable of and also what his limits may be.



Joined: Sun Nov 25th, 2007
Location: Green Bay, Wisconsin USA
Posts: 10
Status:  Offline
Posted: Sun Dec 30th, 2007 02:43 pm
Thanks everyone for the encouragement.  The conformation books are in the mail along with back issues of the inner horseman.  I'm also building my library with the reading lists suggested on the forum.  There are define gaps in my knowledge base and I want to fix that.

I am looking for a lease arrangement if possible. I am currently leasing one horse and riding another for a friend.  I'm in no hurry either - I've seen others get into situations with horses that are too much for their skill level. I want to avoid that at all costs; I like my body parts to stay arranged the way they are :)




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