So you’ve started to think that you want your own horse, but are you really ready for a horse of your own and everything that comes with it?
I made the decision that I wanted my own horse after my share mare was put to sleep. I had had a great few years with her and a great experience sharing. However, I didn’t know if I wanted to share again, I wanted more freedom to do what I wanted. At the time I was also in my first year at University where a lot of people around me had their horses with them and juggled horses and University life relatively easily. This combined with having some money left to me from my grandparents was enough to convince me that I could do it.
What you want:
The first thing you need to think about once you’re considering getting your own horse, is what do you want to do with a horse? Do you want to be out competing every weekend? Or do you just want to go for the occasional ride? Or somewhere in between?
Once you’ve decided on what you want to do, you need to consider if you need your own horse for this? Realistically, if you only want to ride/do horsey things a few times a week/month, then you are probably better off looking into sharing or part loaning, or even just going to a riding school.
Costs and Budget:
You also need to be realistic on what you can afford to spend, both on the horse and the regular upkeep of the horse. The average horse on DIY livery (you do all the looking after yourself) costs between £3000-£4000 a year to keep. If you don’t want to be doing all the work yourself, you can be on part or full livery, or pay someone else to come in and do the jobs. But for these services you could be looking at paying an extra £300+ per month. So you really need to sit down and think about how much you can afford to spend each year on a horse. This is really important as it will not only tell you what options you have livery wise, but might also influence what type of horse you can afford to keep. A 3* eventer will cost a lot more each year than a happy hacking cob!
You also need to think carefully about how much you can afford to spend buying a horse. Unfortunately, £2000 isn’t going to buy you a readymade Advanced Dressage horse. You might need to change your wants slightly to match your budget. But never lose track of what you want in a horse, otherwise you could go out looking for a show jumper and come back with something which might be able to jump occasionally, but is likely to only ever be just a happy hacker.
Your own experience:
This is something lots of people often get caught out on but is really important. You need to honestly evaluate your own experience to help you decide what type of horse is best for you. If you have never ridden anything bigger than 14hh, don’t go out looking at 17hh+ horses. This isn’t because you won’t be able to handle them, just that this is something you have never experienced and you might just end up knocking your confidence and have a horse you don’t want. Similarly, if you are a nervous or novice rider, you will probably want to avoid young horses or those described as ‘green’. And instead look for schoolmasters and bombproof types.
Creating a wish list:
What I would suggest doing next is creating a wish list for your ideal horse. In this list, I would have a list of must have characteristics. My must have characteristics would include things such as; sound, not a lunatic, good movement, can jump. But obviously your must have characteristics are likely to be different. I would then have a second list of ‘would like to have’s. For me, these would include; preferred age, preferred gender, preferred height. But could also include colour etc.
Finally, I would have a third list of things I don’t want. These might include; sarcoids, stereotypes, history of lameness, certain conformation types, spooky behaviour. It is up to you to rank each of these dislikes these as either something you can deal with if the rest of the horse is ‘perfect’ or if they are complete deal breakers.
These lists will help you narrow down what exactly you are looking for in a horse, making your search easier later on.
Finding an experienced person:
Before you start seriously looking at horses, I would recommend finding someone with more experience with horses than you and preferably someone who knows you fairly well to help you. This person could be a friend, a trainer, or even a dealer.
You should tell this person what you are looking for in a horse, what you want to do with it, your budget and your wish list. Hopefully this person will agree that they think the type of horse you are looking for is suitable for you and be willing to help you find something suitable.
If they don’t think what you are looking for is suitable, ask them why they don’t think it is suitable and what they would suggest instead. It might be something as simple as them thinking you need something bigger/smaller, older/younger and after talking to them you might agree with them.
I was really lucky in having a good family friend with lots of experience help me while I was looking. I told her I was looking for a thoroughbred, preferably an ex racehorse, to do a bit of everything on but hopefully event at some point. I also wanted something fairly young, I was thinking around 4-5ish. Her input to my wish list was that I should be careful looking at anything less than £1500 as there is likely to be an issue somewhere. In fact her words were along the lines of “the more expensive the better.” She also said that she thought I needed something at least 16hh for my height, but that I probably didn’t want anything 17hh+ because they can be a bit too strong for women. So her input really helped me narrow down my search later on!
Hopefully this post has highlighted how much thinking you have to do before you even start looking at adverts. If this hasn’t put you off buying your first horse, keep your eye out for the next post in this series where I will discuss where to look for horses for sale and how to avoid bad experiences.