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Which horse to buy?

From: "Mary"


I have always enjoyed Horse Sense. You are the most reasonable horse person that is also knowledgeable on all aspects about horses. Thank you so much.

I have a problem I could really use some good opinion... I trust that you can give me the right answers as you always do. So here I go... I have leased the same horse for 5 years. He is very small and not the most atheletic; but he is extremely brave and quick to my cues. When I ask him to do something, I'm always responded with the loudest 'yes' as if a little fire get lit up inside him. That's what I like and treasure so much about this horse... his attitude.

I need to move onto another horse because first I would like to do more open shows; second, my horse has developed lameness problem and the vet determines he can only do very light work. Now here is my dilema, my instructor who taught me how to ride from the beginning believe I have the ability handle a well natured, but a less trained horse... meaning NOT a green broke 3 year old but perhaps a 5, 6, 7 year old still learning to do his job. She feel I need a horse that I can grow up with instead of a horse that has done it all.

On the other side of the story, I belong to a riding club which has a lot of supposedly experienced riders. Contrary to my instructor, they think I should get a 'kid broke' horse that is much older. They said, even with help, bringing up a younger horse is too much for me. I humbly listened and tried their approach, trying out older, kid broke horses. But I was disappointed. These good citizens do not have the little 'fire' burning inside them like my own horse. They move out but only if I insist, and repeatedly remind them they should keep going with my legs. They are safe and sound, but is very dull and show very little enthusiasm.

I do not have the finances for a seasoned show horse... so it's either a school horse type or a less trained horse. Who should I listen to, my instructor or the club members? Should I overlook horses' attitudes... maybe a bit of laziness is exactly what I need? What kind of self assessment can I do to determine I am ready for a less trained horse?

(Perhaps all these questions are answered in your book already? I apologise in that case, I shall find your book and read it.)

Thanks very much in advance. Hope this is not too long. and please do not use my real name.


Hi "Mary"! You see I did change your name. ;-)

Your instructor is the one who will be working with you and your new horse. Your instructor is also the one who has been working with you and your leased horse, and you've said that after five years together, you are still enjoying him and he is still a "volunteer" horse with a wonderful attitude. I have to assume that you are also still enjoying your lessons and your instructor. That being the case, it sounds as though your education is in good hands.

A horse between 5 and 8 with good basic skills but still learning its job is usually a good choice for a rider who has had five or more years of good training, and who has the help of a good instructor/trainer. If you were buying your first horse after one year of lessons, I would suggest a very well-trained, kind, responsible horse in its teens, but your situation is rather different.

It's not easy for riders to do self-assessments. That's why we go to shows and participate in clinics - and the luckiest riders are those who can get ongoing assessments from a good regular instructor.

The question of which horse is right for you is a very personal matter. If you trust your instructor, and you must, if you have been with her for this long, why not trust her on this matter, especially since your own preference would be for a horse that can help you learn to train? If you have any doubts, I suggest that you ask for a "second opinion" - not from another member of the club, but from YOUR instructor's instructor, or another professional whose judgement you feel is sound and reliable.

Above all, listen to your own heart. You know the kind of horse you enjoy - try to find another, younger and more sound version of the little horse you've been riding and enjoying. Some riders have a definite affinity for certain breeds and types of horse - I've seen this over and over again. For every rider who is only truly happy with a Thoroughbred, there is another who is only happy with a Morgan, or an Arabian, or a Quarter Horse, or a Lusitano, or a Lipizzan.... you get the idea. It's a little bit like making friends with humans - if you find two or three people you like, but one of them has the same kind of sense of humour that you do, you're most likely to become that person's close friend. With horses, it's not precisely a sense of humour that's involved, but there's a combination of quickness of mind and way of thinking and reacting that is different from breed to breed as well as from horse to horse, and it's usually best to look for a horse that truly suits YOU and your personality. I think that your instructor understands this.

If you trust your instructor and have faith in her judgement, then her opinion should carry MUCH more weight than the opinions of other people at the club, who probably don't know you or your experience or your riding and horse-handling skills nearly as well as your instructor does.

Get the horse you want, as long as your instructor likes it too and thinks that you will be able to ride it. Avoid the extremes. There's no point in buying a horse that is simply "too much horse" for you, and that you won't be able to ride but your instructor will - there are far too many riders buying unsuitable horses that are basically for their instructors to ride! But there's also no point in buying the kind of horse that you could ride easily, but that you already know you don't want, even if a lot of people in your riding club think you should do this. Look for the horse you want. Ask yourself who will be riding and working with and caring for this horse, anyway? Those are the people whose opinions matter, and there are only two of you - your instructor and YOU.

Happy horse-hunting!


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