A girl hugging her new horse

Buying a Horse: 11-Step Checklist for a First-Time Horse Owner

Are you a new rider interested in buying a horse of your very own? We highly recommend it! Building a bond with your horse is a special experience. But buying a horse involves careful consideration, diligent research, and patience. Don’t worry, The Farm House has your back. In this guide, we’ll look into the finer nuances of choosing the right horse–one that not only fits your riding goals but also shares in the unspoken bond that makes the horse-and-rider relationship truly special. We’ll also take you step-by-step through the process of preparing for horse ownership and what to do once you’ve found a horse you think is right for you.

What to look for when buying a horse

When buying a horse, there are several key factors to consider to ensure you choose a horse that matches your needs, riding goals, and abilities. There are plenty of questions you should ask yourself and the seller to gauge whether a horse will be a good fit for you.

Here are three important characteristics to consider when buying a horse:

Temperament and behavior

A horse should be a long-term investment, so it’s crucial to choose a horse that complements your personality, suits your lifestyle, and aligns with your riding goals.

If you’re a beginner, you’ll want a horse with a calm and steady temperament. Observe how the horse behaves during handling, grooming, and riding. Look for signs of aggression, fear, or resistance. You should also consider how the horse’s personality and energy level align with your own. A mismatch in personalities can lead to frustration and difficulties down the road. 

Test ride the horse to assess how it responds to your cues and commands. Make sure it’s comfortable in the gaits you’ll be using. Evaluate the horse’s responsiveness to leg, seat, and rein aids. Additionally, observe how the horse reacts to grooming, tacking up, and other handling tasks. A well-mannered horse is easier to work with. Check if the horse is comfortable being touched across its entire body.

Consider how well the horse will fit into your lifestyle and its new home. Evaluate if the horse gets along with other horses if you plan to keep it in a group setting. Ask the seller about any vices or bad habits the horse might have, such as cribbing, weaving, or bucking. Be aware of any behaviors that could affect the horse’s suitability for your needs or the well-being of your other animals.

Health, soundness, and conformation

You should also ensure you’re buying a healthy horse. A pre-purchase veterinary exam is crucial to assess the horse’s overall health and soundness. Check for any visible signs of lameness, such as uneven gait, stiffness, or reluctance to move. A lame horse can be cured, though it can indicate an underlying issue with the horse itself.

In general, you should look for a horse with balanced conformation that’s suited for the activities you plan to do with your horse, whether that’s casual riding, competing, or showing.  Conformation refers to the physical structure, shape, and proportions of a horse’s body. It encompasses the way a horse is built, including the placement of its bones, muscles, tendons, and other anatomical features. Poor conformation can lead to issues with soundness over time, meaning you won’t get as many years of riding your horse as you’d like.

Age and experience

Consider the horse’s age along with your riding goals. Younger horses might need more training, while older horses might have more experience but could also have more wear and tear. We recommend that you evaluate the horse’s training and experience in the specific discipline you’re interested in (e.g., show jumping, dressage, trail riding). Ask the seller about the horse’s history, including training, previous owners, and any known behavioral issues. Investigate the horse’s competition or performance record if applicable.

How to buy a horse

When you’re ready to buy a horse, follow these steps so you can be informed and prepared for horse ownership.

1. Do your research

Learn about different horse breeds, temperaments, and suitability for your intended use (e.g., riding, competition, leisure). Understand the basic care and maintenance required for horses, including feeding, grooming, health care, and stable management. Here are a few articles we recommend that may be helpful in your decision-making process: 

2. Determine your needs

Assess your riding experience, skill level, and goals. Decide what type of horse suits your needs: a beginner-friendly horse, a specialized competition horse, a leisure riding horse, etc. Keep in mind that the more trained and specialized a horse is, the more expensive it will be.

3. Set a budget

Determine how much you’re willing to spend on purchasing the horse. Remember that the initial cost is just the beginning; ongoing expenses for care, training, and maintenance are significant!

Learn more: How Much Does It Cost To Own a Horse?

4. Find reputable sellers

Check local horse listings, websites, social media groups, and equestrian organizations. Attend horse shows, auctions, and events to meet potential sellers and see horses in person. If you have equestrian friends, ask for their advice and recommendations.

5. Contact sellers

Reach out to sellers with inquiries about available horses that match your criteria.

Ask detailed questions about the horse’s age, breed, training, health history, and any behavioral issues.

6. Arrange a visit

Schedule visits to see horses in person. Bring along an experienced horse person or trainer to provide guidance and assess the horse’s suitability.

7. Try the horse

Ride or interact with the horse to evaluate its temperament, responsiveness, and compatibility with your riding style. Test the horse’s skills in various settings, such as indoors, outdoors, and with other horses.

8. Conduct a vet check

If you’re seriously considering a horse, arrange for a pre-purchase veterinary examination. A vet will assess the horse’s overall health, soundness, and potential issues that might not be obvious to you.

9. Review documents

Review and sign a sales contract that outlines the terms of the purchase, including warranties, refunds, and any conditions. Ensure you have all necessary paperwork, including registration papers, health records, and ownership transfer documents.

10. Plan for transport

Arrange transportation for the horse to its new home. Ensure that the horse is transported safely and comfortably in a horse trailer.

Learn more: The Best Horse Trailers with Living Quarters

11. Prepare for arrival

Set up a suitable and safe environment for the horse, including shelter, feed, water, and bedding. Make sure you have the necessary equipment and supplies for the horse’s care. If you choose to board your horse, make sure you outfit and decorate your horse’s stall.

If your horse is moving into a stable where other horses currently reside, it’s important to follow proper quarantine procedures to prevent the spread of disease. Designate a separate and isolated area within the stable where your new horse will be kept. Ideally, this area should be physically distant from the rest of the horses to prevent direct contact and minimize the risk of disease transmission. If boarding, be sure to follow all the stable’s quarantine procedures to ensure the health and safety of the other horses as well as your own.

What do you need to own a horse?

Horses need a lot in terms of care, from feeding to grooming and riding tack. Before buying a horse, you’ll need to consider all the equipment and items required for its upkeep on top of the initial cost, not to mention boarding fees if you decide to board your horse. Here are some of the most common items needed to care for a horse.

Tack and riding equipment

  • Saddle: One that fits both you and your horse properly
  • Bridle: Includes the headstall, bit, reins, and other components for guiding the horse
  • Girth or cinch: Secures the saddle in place
  • Stirrups and stirrup leathers: Provide a secure base, keep your feet secure, and help control the horse while riding
  • Saddle pad or blanket: Provides cushioning between the saddle and the horse’s back

Shop all horse tack

Grooming supplies

  • Brushes: Various types for grooming different parts of the horse’s body
  • Curry comb: Used to remove dirt and loose hair
  • Hoof pick: Cleans the hooves and removes debris
  • Mane and tail comb: Keeps the mane and tail tidy and detangled
  • Shampoo: Keeps your horse squeaky clean

Shop all grooming supplies.

Health and first aid supplies

Learn more: 6 of the Best Horse Fly Sprays

Feeding and watering equipment

  • Water buckets or automatic waterers: Provide a constant supply of fresh water to keep your horse healthy and hydrated
  • Feeding tubs or hay nets: For feeding hay, grain, or supplements 
  • Treats: For training or just for spoiling your horse friend

Learn how to keep your horse well-hydrated.

Stable and tack room supplies

  • Halter and lead rope: Essential for leading and securing the horse
  • Cross ties or tie rings: Secure the horse for grooming, saddling, and other tasks
  • Blankets and sheets: Protect from weather conditions
  • Saddle rack and bridle hooks: Keep your tack organized
  • Feed and grain storage: Containers for storing horse feed and supplements
  • Stall guards or chains: Used to partially close stall doors

Shop all stable and tack room supplies.

Riding clothing

Shop all riding apparel.

If you’re a beginner rider and not sure how to choose the best riding apparel, here are a few guides to some of our favorite products to get you started.

Find the perfect partner

Buying a horse is a big commitment, so take your time and don’t rush the process. Working with experienced horse people, trainers, and veterinarians can provide valuable guidance throughout the process. Once you do find the right horse for you, you’ll be glad you took the time to pick the perfect partner.

For all your horse ownership needs, The Farm House has your back! From equestrian clothing to horse tack to grooming supplies, we have everything you need to care for your horse and enjoy a fun career as an equestrian.

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