Whether you have been riding for years, buying a horse for your horse-crazy kid, or just started riding as an adult yourself, its important to let your brain rule your heart when deciding what type of horse to bring into your life.
Some important things to consider are:
- the age of the horse and age of the rider
- the training of both horse and rider and the equine discipline being ridden
- the breed, sex and disposition of the animal being looked at.
Parents can make the mistake of buying a young horse for a young rider thinking they will grow up together, but this is a decision that often results in broken bones and fearful riders. Children with little to no riding experience need a “babysitter” – that is an older, well-broke, spook-proof horse that will take care of them and that is used to loud noises and unbalanced kids.
Inexperienced adult riders often bring fear issues with them into the saddle and an older, quiet horse will help quell these feelings. Unless you are a very experienced rider who doesn’t mind eating the occasional dirt pie, the young, untrained horse is not for you.
Also, it is best to remember that with good care and no accidents, horses can live well into their thirties and forties, so a long-term commitment is to be considered before making a purchase.
Whatever riding discipline you choose to undertake - be it jumping, reining, dressage, English or Western, competitive or pleasure - it would benefit most riders to get a horse that already has some training and experience in that particular sport and can pass a vet check. Not only will the horse be proven to be physically able to handle the chosen sport, but also an experienced mount will be able to handle the mental and emotional challenges needed to be safe and successful. If all you want is to trail ride, a seasoned horse is a better fit than one that has never been out of the barn or the show arena, regardless of your riding ability.
Unless you are willing and able to do ground training yourself, a mount that already leads, trailers, washes and stands for the farrier and the veterinarian is a necessity.
Breed and Disposition
While most horses can be trained to almost any discipline, the innate abilities of each breed often determine which horses will be most successful at any given sport. For the “newbie” horse owner, all breeds should be looked at and considered to find which is best for you.
For example, Quarter horses often do best in the Western disciplines, such as reining, barrel racing, Western Pleasure, and cutting. Their shorter legs and muscular bodies lend themselves to fast, sharp turns and quick hops and yet their smart, gentle natures make them a good choice for the inexperienced rider.
Thoroughbreds are born and bred to be fast, so these horses often do best in the English disciplines of eventing, jumping, fox hunting and steeplechase. Often tall with long legs, long necks and muscular bodies, they are easily trainable and adaptable with a need to please and bright minds. Their affectionate natures often make them the ideal horse for the experienced rider or the rider with an experienced trainer. Unless they are well trained and have been off the track for a number of years, they are not recommended for the inexperienced adult or child.
The draft horse is the classification of several breeds including Percheron, Clydesdale, and the Belgian that are most often used in pulling wagons and driving. Tall and with a heavy frame, they are often stoic individuals with a quiet disposition and a calm nature and can be difficult to train to new disciplines.
Ponies stand less than 14.2 hands (58 inches) high and weigh up to 900 pounds. They can be trained to any sport but are often quick and mischievous. While many riders have grown up riding ponies, a young rider needs a well-trained pony to have an enjoyable, safe ride.
The gender of the horse may also be a determining factor in your purchase.
Stallions almost always do best in a breeding situation or with an experienced rider. The sexual drive of a mature, male horse is a force that can cause the horse to overpower his rider and can lead to injuries to anyone or anything standing in his way to a mare.
A well-trained mare or gelding usually makes the best riding horse. Geldings are minus the testosterone that drives the stallion and are usually larger than the mare. Mares are seasonally polyestrous, meaning they come into heat several times a year between the months of January/February to September/October. With the surge of hormones often comes a shift in disposition, so this should be taken into account when deciding on a purchase.
Get Out The Checkbook!
Now that you’ve decided a horse is definitely in your future, remember to read everything you can, talk to other horse owners, get the advice of an experienced rider/trainer, and take lots and lots of test rides. Find the horse that best fits you and ride, ride, ride!