One of my students told me she was looking for a new horse and asked me what she should look for. She said that she had gone out to see two horses for sale and the seller had her watch her handle the two horses on the ground and in the saddle.
But the seller didn’t allow her to handle the two horses herself. That bothered me.
This is what I told her:
When looking for a new horse, don’t always look at how that horse relates to the person selling it. Try the horse out for yourself. Horses will act differently with different people and with different riders.
Horses aren’t a “one size fits all” type of deal. Just because they act a certain way with one person or one rider, doesn’t mean they will be the same for you. It’s about how you and your horse interact together, not how the horse dealt with his last owner. (But that is still good to know as a reference)
Here’s an example:
I’ve had my new colt for about a month now. During this month I’ve been working with Merlin in halter training, leading, grooming, picking his feet up, and being handled. He has been doing great.
Every time I’ve been with him, he comes right up to me and allows me to put a halter on him. He even stands patiently as my husband puts a halter on him. But, as of a week ago, the farm owner told me that it takes her 30 minutes to catch Merlin and halter him.
She told me that I need to halter train him because he won’t let her halter him. That really surprised me. First of all because he is halter trained. Second because she was his owner for the first 6 months of his life. As far as I know, she had a good relationship with Merlin and he wasn’t afraid of her.
So why was he running away from her? Why was he refusing to allow her to halter him?
She said she had to corner him to catch him and it took her 30 minutes. This wasn’t a one-time deal either. It was happening over and over. She was so frustrated that he was running away from her. Especially since she needs to bring him into his stall every night.
I told her that he always came to the gate for me and allowed me to halter him and lead him out of the pasture every time I was there without issue. So, I told her that I would come over next time she tried to halter him to see what was going on.
She declined any help and said she would work it out. I was there the next three days and there was still no issue with haltering Merlin by me or my husband. And my husband is a beginner with horses so it takes him longer to get the halter on Merlin. But Merlin just stands there quietly and lets him figure it out.
Luckily, a week later she told me that he was now coming to her and letting her halter him. Problem resolved.
Just in this one interaction with people, haltering, Merlin deals with it differently with me, my husband, and the farm owner. This is due to his own processing of each individual relationship with him.
Jazz was like this with different riders. We had a great relationship so when I rode him, he was energetic and responsive. When children used him as a schooling horse, he was very slow, gentle, and protective. He would even stop when they became off balance, so they could readjust. But when a strong, forceful man would ride him, he became an unruly bucking bronco.
So, just because the seller of the horse can handle him and looks good riding him, it doesn’t mean that the horse will be the same for you.
If you’re buying a horse to go on rides, then go for a ride on the horse you are looking to purchase. To be safe, make sure you try the horse out in an arena first. You don’t want to find out the horse is spooky while on trails for your test ride.
See how he relates to you, specifically, and your cues. On the ground and in the saddle. Do as many little things as you can to check out how the horse will respond to you. Back up, walk, trot, canter, go in both directions, and then do a few basic things.
Halter, lead, groom, tie, touch his head/ears/tail, pick up his feet, etc. You’d be surprised how fast you see whether this horse likes and trusts you. Just because he is good for the current owner doesn’t mean he will be good for you.
When riding, see how he responds to English reining, Western reining, and your preferred way of riding. You may find out that this horse responds better to English cues and you actually want a Western trained horse. It makes a difference to see what the horse prefers.
Try a jump or two if you want a jumper. Ask the horse to do the things you want to be able to do together, things that are important to you. These are things that are often taken for granted when looking to purchase a new horse.
Normally it’s because the seller says, “this horse is bomb proof”. That always raises red flags in my book. Or you take the sellers word when they tell you he is well trained and you don’t have to “test” him.
If you really like a horse, go back a second time to see how they are with other horses, with you, with the seller, and check for consistency. The first time you see them it might be a good day or a bad day for them.
I always say you should get a horse vet-checked as well before purchasing. You want to make sure that there is nothing wrong with the horse that you can’t see.
And if you are looking to buy a horse with a pedigree, do your due diligence and research the bloodline and any reports about other horses with the same heritage. That will also tell you a lot about what to expect with your new horse. Personality traits, character, and emotional markers.
That’s all the logical stuff. But here is the emotional side.
If you fall in love with a horse that you are looking to purchase and you can feel the connection, as my husband did in last week’s blog, then go for it!
That connection and love will take you both a long way towards your forever friendship. It will also help you through any issues the two of you may have in your future.
And remember, horses are different with different people. So don’t pass up on a horse just because the seller says it’s a problem. Check it out for yourself.
Before I met D’Artagnan I was told that he was wild and crazy and absolutely unmanageable. I went out to see him anyway to see if I could help. And when we met he was an absolute angel for me. The seller was shocked.
D’Artagnan pinned his ears and would attack the seller when he got close, but for me he was a sweetheart. It wasn’t anything I did different because this was just the first time we had met. It was because we had an instant connection that we both felt.
So if you find a horse that you have that connection with, don’t worry about little issues or problems. With your horse’s trust and love (the instant connection) the two of you can overcome anything.
If you are looking into getting a new horse and just want a sounding board, you can email your thoughts, concerns, and pictures and I will be glad to help where I can.
In the meantime, I have a favor to ask of you…
I’d love to get your feedback on my weekly blogs and have set up a special page where you can even leave me a voice message!
It’s fun and will only take you 1 minute to do so please let me know what you think here: https://app.voiceform.com/to/rJTuBBSPa2faAy43 (best done on mobile or tablet).