Selecting a horse: Matching horse with owner


One of the most important decisions you will make in working with horses is determining the right horse for you to use or buy.

Safety and suitability of horse to rider are the most important factors when selecting a horse. No horse or pony is always predictable.

Horses are much larger, more powerful and faster than humans.

A suitable horse should be appropriate for your level of horse handling skills, and hopefully as safe as possible for its intended use.

Getting help. Begin by consulting a knowledgeable horseman or horsewoman to help in selecting your horse.

Qualified, reputable riding instructors, trainers, breeders, veterinarians, or other horse professionals are good sources for help in locating a suitable horse.

Next, determine if you will purchase or lease the horse.

If you are unable to purchase or lease a horse, you may be able to locate a person willing to share their horse with you.

A variety of “shared horse” or “share boarding” options are available to share expenses and/or responsibility for care of the horse with the owner.

The conditions for sharing the horse should be specified in a written agreement.

Purpose. Once the decision to buy or share a horse is made, determine the purpose and intended use of the horse.

This will determine the type and breed of horse that is most appropriate for your needs.

An outstanding show horse may not be suitable for competitive or pleasure trail riding. Likewise, an excellent trail horse may not be successful in the showring.

Your horse handling abilities should be carefully compared with the experience, ability, and disposition of the horse.

A novice rider is usually not suited well to a young, inexperienced, or highly spirited horse.

An older, calmer horse with a successful show record or considerable experience is generally preferred for young or inexperienced riders.

Recommendations from horse professionals or knowledgeable horse owners can be very important in locating suitable horses that match your ability.

Examination. A pre-purchase examination by a qualified equine veterinarian is recommended to help assess the athletic ability, soundness and conformation of the horse.

Conformation and soundness affect the horse’s suitability for a specific purpose and influences its long-term usefulness.

The horse should be balanced and sound, with relatively straight legs and free of serious structural abnormalities or health problems.

Prices. The price of the horse must be within your budget, and should be compared to current market prices for similar type horses being considered.

Compare prices of horses from several sources, review current sale averages of breed auctions, and talk with knowledgeable horse owners in your area to establish an idea of reasonable prices.

Agreements. When you have selected a suitable horse, request a sales or lease agreement.

The sales agreement will define the conditions of the sale, and protect you in the event of a later dispute.

The agreement should identify the horse, the price, deposit, if required, method of payment, and any other details, such as a trial period.

A bill of sale, transfer of ownership, registration papers, and any required health certificates should be provided at the time of sale.

Instruction. Finally, once you have a horse of your own or one to use, get a qualified instructor to help you safely handle, ride, use and care for your horse.

Select a riding instructor or helper who has proper training and experience in working with youth and horses.

Breed organizations, breeders, trainers, extension agents or 4-H leaders may help you find an instructor or helper.

Ongoing instruction and appropriate supervision is needed to develop your horsemanship skills and maintain safety.

(The author is an Penn State Extension horse specialist.)


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