One of the most exciting times of an equestrian’s life is horse shopping! Whether you are searching for a prospect, your next show champion, or a companion looking at and trying horses is so much fun. However, it can also be a rather intimidating and emotional experience. A horse is a huge commitment, and they often come with very large price tags; so it is absolutely imperative to choose the right one. I am embarking on a horse shopping adventure as we speak, so I thought I would share some tips!
I am looking for a young, hunter or jumper prospect to train and re-sell. So, I am looking for a horse with good re-sell value. I am not interested in any horse over the age of six – I would prefer a four year old – and he or she must be sound and of good conformation. I do not really want a horse under sixteen hands, simply because shorter horses can be more difficult to sell unless they are crazy talented. The tough part about shopping for young horses is that they do not have much of a record to back them up. There are not videos of them showing, and some have not even jumped yet. So, it is a bit of a gamble. I will not buy one without having at least seen it free jump. Free jumping can show you if they have good instincts. Did they readily go over the jump, or did they balk? Did they have a natural tendency to tuck their knees and jump round? Did they figure out a decent distance? These are all questions I ask myself when watching a young horse free jumping. While jumping style can certainly improve with training, you cannot create talent. They must have natural talent and good instincts to develop into jumping horses. I have found that watching videos of horses in higher price ranges, competing at high levels, helps me to get an idea of what to look for in a youngster. Although I am looking for something super green, I like to take a peek at working hunters. Also, getting an idea of what horses are selling for at different levels is very helpful to ensure that I am making a reasonable investment.
Shopping for a show horse or pleasure horse that you do not wish re-sell for a profit is a little less complicated. In my opinion, the most important things are that the horse will be able to do what you need it to, and that you feel comfortable on him or her. If you are looking for your next 3’6″ hunter, you really must make sure the horse can jump 3’6″ (and higher). If the horse is young and competing at a lower level, then ask to see it free-jump. Typically, a horse should be capable of jumping higher than it competes. I do not believe a horse should compete at it’s max height because if you find a bad distance or make another mistake, it will not have the athleticism to take care of you. It also always helps me to feel confident and relaxed at shows when I know my horse can jump higher. When searching for a show or pleasure horse, watch lots of videos! And try as many as you can. When you are looking for a long-term partner, you want to make sure you get along. You want to be comfortable. Pay attention to every little detail. Do I like how he or she feels? Do I feel safe? Is he or she a good fit for me, or too tall or short? Are we clicking? These are important questions to ask yourself.
I do most of my horse shopping online. My current favorite website is Big Eq http://www.bigeq.com/. The only down-side is that the lowest max price you can choose is $10,000. I have not used this site much in the past because it seems to mostly have higher priced horses. However, I have found a lot for under $10,000. The layout is really clean, and it is super easy to run a search. It caters to Hunters and Jumpers, and you can even search specific levels (i.e. 3′ hunter, or Level 4 Jumper, etc.), which is really nice. I also search on Equine Now http://www.equinenow.com/. There are a lot of disciplines shown, and you can find really inexpensive horses. Sometimes it is great to search in different disciplines when your budget is low because oftentimes a horse that does not work for one will be fabulous for another, and the seller typically does not know what he or she has. We often think that if a horse is not capable of what we need from them, they are no good. But there are so many riding disciplines! Big Eq and Equine Now are the main websites I search on, but many horse magazines have classifieds also. Chronicle of the Horse always has great horses, for example. There are sometimes horses even on Craigslist. Also, Facebook has become the new place to horse shop. There are so many groups you can join. I am in several that post horses for sale. I am sure other social media platforms contain sale horses too, I just haven’t explored them yet! Then there is always the good old-fashioned word of mouth search, or flyers in tack shops and at horse shows! I just love searching online because I can see a lot of horses at once from all over the country (and world). I always watch videos, and request them if there are none posted. Unless the horse is nearby, I like to see it walk, trot, canter, and jump before I make a trip to see it. Obviously, you want to see a horse in person before purchasing it; and also ride it if it has been started. A pre-purchase exam from your vet is very important too!!
If you ride with a trainer, he or she will likely do most of the searching for you or at least be very involved. If you are searching on your own, it is wise to get opinions from fellow riders that you respect. I am very excited to start my search! I have always had a weakness for shopping, and it seems to carry over into my equestrian life 😉 How do you horse shop? Leave me a comment, I would love to know!
The best things in life are free the second best are very expensive. – Coco Chanel