AVOID COMMON MISTAKES WHEN BUYING YOUR FIRST HORSE.

By Andrea Gibbins
Australian Team Member of Natural Horseman Saddles

Things to consider when buying your first horse…

Honestly? It is fair to say I’ve had enough experience buying the wrong horse/s that I felt more qualified to comment on what NOT to do! In fact, I made mistakes on my first, second and third horses truth be known. And if I had my time again… These are tips I’d give myself.
It would have saved some heartache and drama for sure!
Here’s the headlines we’ll cover…

  • Knowing what you want
  • What level of rider are you?
  • Location of the horse.
  • Taking horses on trials.
  • Health History.
  • Current owner behaviour.
  • Accurate Descriptions.
  • Vet Check / Health Checks.
  • Saddles/Tack
FJ Holden and White Pony
My PONY doesn’t count as my first horse right? ‘Thunder’ was from the riding school I went to and I knew this little man was a true gentleman when we purchased him. I was so lucky to have him in my life.

Let’s jump in.

If you’re looking to buy your first horse, congratulations! It’s an exciting time. What color do you love? What breed? Gelding, Mare…?
As fun as it is, there are lots of things to think about before taking the plunge and handing over your money. Here is a quick checklist!

Where are you at as a rider?

When it comes to horses there are a lots of things to consider and definitely your skill level is one of them! You need to be realistic as to your own ability while you’re scanning those classifieds (or the magazine ‘HORSE DEALS‘ where I come from in Australia).
It took me awhile to realise that ads are written to SELL something and not always forthcoming with the truth. Remember, the seller will want to paint as good a picture as possible about the horse. Rarely will you read ‘this horse is a death trap waiting to happen’… More likely it will say ‘this horse needs an experienced rider who is willing to put in the work’. That may be so, but are you that rider? Be honest with yourself.

Grey TB
This was my first HORSE purchase. Ex Racehorse Cinnamon. He was a beautiful Thoroughbred, but I was in way over my head.
Can we say hospital visit anyone?

Where is the horse located?

In the days of e-commerce, it’s lovely to think horses may be among those things we could simply search and add to our carts. Usually, this isn’t the case! In fact I highly doubt they offer click and collect anywhere when it comes to horses.
Meeting/seeing a horse in person is the only true way to know what you’re getting. Don’t fall into the trap of buying sight unseen. While most horse sellers are honest, we know for a fact there are some who aren’t. Don’t risk it! Some horse brokers will assist in locating horses outside your area on your behalf, however find one you trust and who really knows what you need.

Can you take the horse on a trial?

When we go and see horses for sale, we often head to their familiar world. Their usual paddock mates are nearby, their sounds and sights are familiar. What you’re really wanting to know is how does this horse behave when outside its normal surroundings? The only way to tell is to take it of the property. See if the seller is willing to bring it to your property…better still, ask if you can somehow do a trial for a week or so? Paperwork and contracts may need to be done in this instance, but it pays to really investigate their nature on and off their home turf.

Palomino QH
My beautiful QH Jake. He was WAY smarter than I was. Paddled when he trotted. Reared when he was saddled, and didn’t float. What a find!
All jokes aside I loved this horse and he led me to Natural Horseman Saddles.
They corrected his fear of saddles and none of my horses ever had that issue again.

What is its history?

Ask a lot of questions! It’s the only way to learn more about the horse and what kind of life it has lead. After all, it can’t tell you! Has it had injuries in the past? What are its feet and teeth like? How much bodywork and feed does it require? Just some of these smaller questions start to build us a bigger picture. You won’t always get the truth, but can’t hurt to try. It is also a great idea to take a trainer with you to see if they can assess what kind of training the horse has had and if you are a match when it comes to education and experience. Perhaps said trainer might also offer some advice about how you and this horse would move forward together with a training program.

Australian Stock Horse Buckskin Mare
Meet Australian Stock Horse ANJO. She was GREEN broken and I thought that just meant she was just a little underexposed. It actually meant she knew pretty much nothing. At the time I didn’t know enough to truly help her. What do they say?
Green on Green equals Black on Blue?
My friend took her on and she has a wonderful life.

Will they ride it?

When you go to meet a horse, if the owner isn’t prepared to ride that horse, this is definitely a red flag. Why not? Has it hurt them in the past? It’s funny how people will throw out reasons why they can’t ride today. If the horse is written up as a good horse to ride, then this should feel a little off to you.
Watching an owner ride the horse allows us to see quite a few things: Is the owner a kind rider? How much effort does it take to get the horse to respond? What kind of gait does the horse have and can you see any stiffness or injuries as it goes around?
It’s a good idea to take your phone with you and be sure to video the horse being ridden. You can then show this to your more knowledgeable friends or health experts. Perhaps they see something you don’t?

Clydesdale x TB Grey mare
Bindi. THE BEST horse I ever purchased. She was all they said and more. She took me places I never thought I’d go. She is retired now with bad arthritis but WHAT A MARE!

What shape is the horse in?

Depending on the price tag, you may want to invest in a pre purchase health check. Don’t feel bad about asking for this. It is a good way to ensure the horse isn’t hiding any unspoken of issues. You can learn a lot this way and it may just save you a lot of heartache and cost down the line.

Can the horse do what they say it can do?

If they say the horse self-loads into the trailer, ask for a demonstration! If they say the horse is great on main roads, ask if you can walk beside and see as they ride the horse. If they say it can be paddocked alone, ask to have their buddies removed and watch it’s reaction. All these things are why you chose to look at the horse, don’t let them become insignificant factors just because you’re there and you feel you’re asking too much of the owner.

Equipment for the horse.

Does the horse come with anything? Blankets, saddles, bridles? As a saddle company, we know how this can go. They sell the horse to you and ‘value add’ with a few things like a saddle thrown in. This saddle, however, may not be in rideable condition: old and ill fitting. If you are buying a horse, the budget should include buying quality tack that will allow your horse to move unencumbered and without pain. It should fit BOTH of you!
Luckily our Natural Horseman Saddles Models have only 2 sizes (Standard and Superwide). They’re customizable to fit all horses with our unique shimming and pad system. Owning one of our saddles means you will always have the correct gear for any horse, now or in the future.

Squirrel Creek Appaloosa Touch Of Magic - Buckskin Appy
This is TOM (Touch Of Magic) my 6.5 year old Appaloosa. I had him started as a 3 year old. He is SOOOO smart and SOOOO opinionated. But I can’t help but love him. I am finally at a place with my horsemanship and riding where I feel like I can see this challenge through and Tom, despite having a bad fence injury and lasting issues, will be my main squeeze.

Don’t make the mistakes I’ve made…

While there are lots of things you can do to ensure a successful outcome, many times we fall in love with the ‘look’ of the horse and forget to pay attention to all the finer details. I HAD TO HAVE that Palomino Jake. He was so beautiful! Forget the fact he had terrible conformation and was well above my pay grade as a horse trainer.
Read between the lines in advertisements, pepper the owner with questions, get professional advice and be thorough. Those are the things needed to ensure success.

Bally - Australian Stock Horse Chestnut Mare
This is Bally. I never ‘shopped’ for her. She and I just came to be. She’s my heart horse – and the topic of another blog post. LOVE this horse with every breath I take.

I wish you the very best of luck with your search!
If you need help with saddle fitting or equipment be sure to take advantage of our FREE SADDLE FIT EVALUATION.
We’ll be able to help you work out exactly what your new friend (and you) need when it comes to tack.
We can also offer some advice on how your new horse is currently presenting in its existing saddle.

I wish you many happy and healthy years together. Go out and make memories. Not mistakes. They break your heart, your bank account and possibly your bones. Choose wisely.

XX Andrea From NHS

Follow Andrea on Facebook or Instagram to see what our Aussie gets up to!

Andrea is also happy to help any Australian and New Zealand customers so feel free to email andrea@naturalhorsemansaddles.com