8 Tips When You’re Looking for a New Horse or Riding a Horse for the First Time!

Looking for a new horse or riding a horse that is unfamiliar to you can be both very exciting and extremely nerve wracking. Last week I took a trip to Holland where I saw over 20 horses in 3 days I love looking at horses and getting to ride so many different types.

Here are 8 tips to consider when looking for a new horse:

  1. Temperament -this is the MOST IMPORTANT factor when considering a horse! Is the horse willing and happy in their work? Are they adjustable to you when you get on to ride them? Are their ears forward? The temperament should be more of a priority than size, gender, color, or age.  If the horse has a good temperament, they can overcome a lot!
  2. How is the horse normally ridden – when you go to try a horse, watch the horse go with it’s normal rider first so that when you get on you can ride the horse in a way that is familiar to them.  It can really scare a horse to have a new rider with a completely different style.  I recommend that you first try to ride the horse similar to how they are used to going.  You want to ride them in a similar frame, do similar movements, and ask for the canter in the same place.  Then once you get the feel for the horse, carefully start asking the horse to change and adapt to your style and your aids.
  3. Pay attention to the walk! If you are planning on competing, it is extremely important to get a horse that has a good walk.  The walk is always a coefficient and it is difficult to improve a walk.  You want to be sure that the walk has a clear overstep and a clear rhythm. If the horse has a lateral walk, it is nearly impossible to fix!
  4. How symmetrical is the horse?  When you get on be sure that the horse feels symmetric left and right.  I like to do lots of serpentines and changes of direction to see that the horse is even left and right.  You also want to compare the left and the right lead canter.  While all horses are somewhat asymmetric, the more naturally symmetric the horse, the easier they will be to train and the less likely they are to have soundness issues.
  5. Check feet and legs – always feel all the legs and tendons, pick up all 4 feet and check the frogs, check for any scars, swollen tendons, or splints.  It is extremely important to check that the front feet are symmetric – you want the front feet to be the same size and shape!
  6. Watch the horses’ expression – how are they in the cross ties? How are they when the girth is tightened? Are their ears forward or back? It is extremely important to choose a horse that is happy and willing in their work and that has a good attitude – you are going to be spending a lot of time with this horse!!
  7. Ask a lot of questions – the more information that you can get about the horse before purchasing it the better. Ask about the horses’ history – have they competed? Has the horse had any health issues? How many owners has the horse had? How are they in their stall and in the pasture?
  8. There is no such thing as a perfect horse – every horse has something.  It might be a questionable x-ray, or the age, or the size, but you can spend your whole life searching for the perfect horse! At some point, you have to decide wether or not you want the horse and hopefully it works out!!

Buying a horse is always both scary and exciting.  It’s a big transition and adjustment for both horse and rider but if you find a good horse it really can be a life-changing experience! Let me know if you have any tips to add to this list!


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