Buying a new horse is a huge commitment and you might find yourself unsure of where to begin. Here is some guidance to get you started in the process.
1. Confirm Your Criteria
Everyone has their own reasons for choosing to buy a horse. Having a clear idea of what you are looking for before you begin will help to focus your search. Factors you may want to consider are likely to be the horse’s age, breed, colour, sex and perhaps, where the horse is currently based.
There is such a variety of horses on the current market, it really comes down to personal preference when finding the right match for you. Don’t be tempted to over horse yourself. Remember, it is you that will be riding and handling this horse the majority of the time, so you must feel confident that the one you purchase is the right partnership.
A younger horse may seem ideal because you’ll have many years together, but they may be green and more challenging as a result. Older horses are likely to be more experienced, and have ‘been there, got the t-shirt’ but may need to begin slowing down sooner.
Typically, geldings are known as being more level and dependable, whereas mares are often referred to as ‘moody’. Have you heard the saying ‘tell a gelding, ask a mare, discuss with a stallion, and pray if it’s a pony’? Of course, it’s not a rule but it does highlight the different personalities worth considering.
It may benefit you to not to be too set in stone on this, however. Not going to try a horse because he’s grey not bay, he’s 12 rather than 11 or because it may take you 15 minutes further than your agreed radius to get to the yard he is on, may mean you miss out on a horse that ticks all the other boxes. Think of it as a wish list rather than a rigid criteria and you might be surprised at what you find.
2. Can You Commit the Time?
There is nothing more rewarding than caring for a horse but it will require a lot of your time. Before getting any further along the line, carefully consider how you will adapt your daily routine to this new commitment.
We are not wishing time away, but it is important to think ahead to the winter and how you would manage with shorter days.
3. Yard Research
Do you have somewhere in mind to keep the horse? Does this yard have space? Some yards require you to reserve a stable and pay a deposit to secure the spot so make sure you have thought ahead to where the horse will be kept should you be successful in finding your next four-legged friend.
It’s also worth spending some time thinking about what type of livery might be best suited to you. Grass/DIY are inevitably the cheapest options, but considering part livery may be worthwhile to share the responsibility throughout the week, for example. We have created a Livery Guide for weighing up the available options. Naturally, this leads onto our next point here…
4. Finalising the Figures
Probably the biggest commitment when purchasing a horse is the ongoing cost. It’s no secret that keeping a horse isn’t cheap, so it’s a decision that can’t be rushed into. Vets bills, livery, shoeing, horse insurance, feed, bedding are just some of the costs you’ll need to consider.
According to the latest BETA survey, during 2019 average costs for keeping a horse were £221 a month in livery, or £125 a month on grazing. This varies a lot depending on the facilities at your yard and where you are in the country, so it’s important to do your own research to understand what this means for you.
Why not try writing up a budget based on your circumstances? You can then use it to determine whether ongoing costs will be affordable. If you are unsure, there are other options like horse-sharing.
If you are planning to get the horse vetted prior to purchase, this is another cost to factor in. If you are undecided on whether you plan to have the potential horse vetted and you are wanting to insure the horse, it may be worth factoring in that a vetting may be needed by the insurance company. It depends on both the value of the horse and the cover you are looking for. If you’re not sure whether a vetting would be required (and you have already read our post on ‘Do I Need a Vetting to Insure My Horse?’) then call us on 0345 230 2323 and we’ll be happy to discuss this with you to clarify.
5. Bring a Plus One
If you are new to the game (or even if you’re not), ask a trusted person with a good knowledge of horses to come with you. They will be better equipped to judge whether the horse is a right fit for you, and they may think of some good topics to ask the vendor questions about that you don’t think of.
As good horses are often sold through word of mouth, it would be beneficial to let any experienced equestrian friends know that you are thinking of buying. Knowing that the horse dealer is reliable should mean you are at less risk of being ripped off.
6. Proof the Paperwork
The documentation of your potential horse will provide you with a wealth information, the most basic confirming the age, breed, and previous owners. It may sound obvious but make sure the horse you are buying matches the papers.
Look at the whorls marked as ‘X’ on the drawings of the horse and check the records of the latest owner. If you have any doubts, then ask for the microchip to be scanned.
You should also feel comfortable to ask to check the horse’s veterinary records: are all vaccinations are up to date? Are there any previous injuries or medicated joints? If you plan to insure the horse, remember any pre-existing conditions will be excluded from the policy. As long as you are aware of any ongoing treatment/maintenance the horse may require, you can prepare yourself for any risk and cost involved before you commit.
7. Get to Know Each Other
Before making a final decision, spend some time visiting the horse. This will give you time to get to know the horse and observe him being handled in various settings such as being caught and led in from the field, in the stable, tacking up, being groomed, etc..
It is also advisable to see the horse exercising in different places. This could include open fields, the arena, and on the road. How does he react to traffic? How is he in another horse’s company? Take time to really think about what you will want to do with your horse and try to get a feel for each scenario. You could potentially ask about whether it is possible to have a horse on a trial period in order for you to confirm how you get on at what would be the horse’s new home.
Naturally, there are some things you will have to take the vendor’s word on, as it is not possible to recreate every single situation. Have a conversation about what happens if the horse is not suitable or does not settle and get a purchase agreement confirming the outcome in writing. This may be necessary to fall back on if things don’t turn out as you hope.
From the point of view of someone selling the horse, however, it is important not to waste a seller’s time. If the horse is not for you, be honest. They may have a queue of other interested parties and they will thank you for being decisive, allowing them to reach out to these people quickly.
8. To Own or To Loan
Loaning may be an option if you aren’t 100% on whether now is the time to buy your own horse.
Some people prefer to loan because the option is then there to give the horse back if circumstances change. However, when loaning there may be certain restrictions put in place by the loan agreement, such as being unable to compete for example.
Other things to consider are loan with a view to buy agreements, where you can really get to know the horse before you purchase. This means at the end of an agreed period you will have a choice to buy the horse.
Typically, there are less horses available for loan than there are for sale, but it may be an option worth considering if the right horse becomes available.
9. Consider Rehoming
Another option to consider, for someone who has experience with horses, is rehoming a rescue horse.
Each year, equine rescue charities take in a huge number of horses and ponies, and following the COVID-19 pandemic, this has risen further.
There are lots of benefits to rehoming a horse. With charities like the RSPCA or BlueCross, you can be reassured you will be getting an honest history. You will be individually matched to your horse by experts and all the necessary health and training assessments will have been made.
It is also much cheaper initially than purchasing a new horse and if your circumstances were to change, most charities will help you to rehome the horse again.
The majority of horses and ponies that need rehoming will have needed a lot of rehabilitation. For this reason, they are not always suitable for first-time horse owners. Some charities will assess the decision based on practical horse care experience and qualifications in stable management so it is worth contacting some local to you if rehoming is of interest to you.
10. Buying Unseen
Whilst not for everyone, there are some success stories for buying unseen. In this day and age though, checking the legitimacy of the sale is paramount. Going through registered sales/auction websites is the safest way to go about buying unseen and to ensure everything runs smoothly.
What’s the next step? If you go ahead and purchase your new partner in crime firstly, congratulations! Secondly, if you’re looking to insure him, don’t delay. Find out why in our article When is Best to Insure?.