The right horse for you may not be the right horse for your friend. When considering a new horse you must weigh many variables. These variables can vary from person to person. For example, one person might be fine with a 14 hand horse, but the next person may not. In this article we look into the variables of finding the right gaited horse for you. For additional information about various breeds of gaited horse please refer to the article “What Type of Horse Takes a Gaited Saddle?”. These variables include temperament, soundness, manners on the ground, size and conformation, manners under saddle, smooth gaiting, training and experience, type and natural talent, and lastly price.
Temperament: Finding a horse with a temperament that is not suited for you can be very disconcerting. For example, a buyer who is a unconfident buyer/rider should not look at purchasing an unconfident horse. This combination will simply fuel the fear in your horse and cause all sorts of issues. Instead this buyer should look for the confident horse that has experience, as a result this horse will build on the rider/buyer's confidence thus in turn creating a partnership. It is very important as a buyer/rider to be honest with your riding ability and experience, this way you can find the perfect temperament of horse that will best fit you.
Soundness: The pre-purchase vet exam is a must for all potential buyers, however you will most likely look at several horses before becoming serious enough to invest in the exam. In these cases you should be able to spot the common unsoundness issue. The legs, feet, and lungs are the first places to take a keen look at. Be sure to check the legs of the horse for serious flaws and/or injuries, especially if located around joints. These signs can point to existing problems or be a the precursor for problems in the future. The next place to spot common soundness issues is the horse's feet. If there are long cracks, splits in the hoof wall, or cracks starting at the coronary band, while these issues can be a sign of poor farrier care or even diet, it can take a long time (sometimes up to a year) to resolve these issues. The other issues seen in the feet that you need to avoid are signs of previous founder (flaring at toe or horizontal rings on the hoof) and “pancake” feet. In a gaited horse you want to avoid “pancake” feet because this causes flat soles and the foot should be concave in order to absorb concussion. The final place to check for common soundness issues is the lungs. Observe how the horse is breathing. Nostrils that flare significantly can be a sign of COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), which is an incurable disease usually caused by allergies. While measures can be taken to help such a horse, if the horse you are looking at displays these signs it should be eliminated from your list. Once you have taken a wary eye over the horse and it seems to have passed your eye, then it it is time for the pre-purchase exam done by your vet.
Manners on the Ground: The biggest issue on the ground is space! Is the horse respectful you your personal space or is he/she walking almost on top of you. While this behavior can be improved through training this should factor into your final purchasing price. Does the horse seem aggressive, does he/she pin their ears, lunge, paw, and /or bite? These are all questions that should be asked. Other ground issues to keep a weather eye out for is stable vices; this includes halter pulling, cribbing, wind sucking, wood chewing, stall weaving, fence pacing, and stall kicking. These behaviors can be manged however can be costly to manage or in the case of some costly to repair the property, such as stalls and fencing. So weigh your options carefully.
Size and Conformation: Take into consideration your own height when looking to a buy a horse. For example, if you have trouble mounting and you are 5 feet tall, do not consider a 17 hand horse. Be careful to match height and weight to the appropriate typed horse.
Manners under Saddle: Ride the horse you are looking to purchase! If you are too scared to ride the horse at the current owner's facility, chances are that you will only get more fearful when you bring him/her home. Is the horse obedient, calm, attentive, soft and supple, responsive to seat, legs, and hands? These are all questions you should be asking yourself. Riding issues such as rearing, balking, or bucking should eliminate the horse from your list.
Smooth Gaiting: Observe his/her conformation, the way a horse is built can determine whether certain ambling gaits will be easy or harder. Watch someone else ride the horse, is the transition smooth or rushed? Then ride the horse yourself, is he/she smooth? If the ride is uncomfortable look closely at the horse's conformation, some issues can be trained and improved, others can not. Also take into account the saddle being used, is it a traditional saddle or a gaited saddle? Refer to the article “What is a Gaited Saddle?”. Saddles can aid or hinder in a gaited horse’s ability for freedom of movement.
Training and experience: When looking to buy a gaited horse it is important to match your expectations and experience with that of your new horse. It makes little sense to buy a green horse with little, to no training if you yourself lack the necessary patience and experience.