Choosing a Horse That's Right for You

Choosing a horse that is right for you should be a lengthy decision that is well thought out. Wait until you’ve found the right one and don’t purchase impulsively.

| December 2014

  • Finding a Horse
    Your chances for finding a horse in the town where you live are slim. You will most likely have to do some searching online or elsewhere before you find the right one.
    Photo by Daniel Johnson
  • Measuring a Horse
    Measure a horse on a safe, level and firm surface such as a barn aisle. Measuring a horse in his stall can be inaccurate because the depth of his bedding may throw off the reading.
    Photo by Daniel Johnson
  • How to Raise Horses
    “How to Raise Horses,” by Samantha Johnson and Daniel Johnson, is a great resource for all things horses, from buying your first horse to breeding and showing.
    Cover courtesy Voyageur Press

  • Finding a Horse
  • Measuring a Horse
  • How to Raise Horses

Want to raise a healthy, happy horse, but don’t know where to begin? Samantha Johnson and Daniel Johnson provide an essential primer of horse ownership in How to Raise Horses (Voyageur Press, 2011), explaining things for both beginner and veteran horse owners. This excerpt, which explains the best methods for finding a personally suitable horse for sale, is from Chapter 2, “Choosing Your Horse.”

Choosing a Horse That's Right for You

If you’ve already settled on a specific breed to purchase, the choice between a registered horse and a grade (unregistered) horse may be irrelevant. You may have already decided that a registered Quarter Horse is the only option you’re interested in so that you may show at Quarter Horse shows and possibly raise a purebred, registered foal in the future. In that instance, your choice is already made. But what if you’re only planning to show locally at open shows and you have no plans to breed? Do you really need a registered animal, or would a grade horse be perfectly suitable?

Backyard family horses that will be used for pleasure and enjoyment can come in all shapes and sizes and don’t need to be accompanied by registration papers. A grade horse can often be less expensive than a registered one, which is appealing to many first-time horse buyers. Resale values on registered horses tend to be higher than those of grade horses, which is an important consideration if you think you’re eventually going to move up to a different horse.

For many disciplines, a registered horse is not necessary in order to compete, but breed shows typically require registered animals. If you have any inclination to raise foals in the future, using registered stock will probably result in foals that have a higher dollar value than foals from grade parents. There are people who feel that only registered animals should be used as breeding stock, but many others feel that they are able to achieve satisfactory results with grade stock, as in the case of those breeding for the sport pony or sport horse markets, which are often produced using grade or crossbred animals. The expenses to keep a horse are the same whether it is registered or not, so many people feel that it is worth the additional purchase cost to increase the value of their investment. If you’re looking to purchase a registered horse, it’s always important to ask if the seller is in possession of the horse’s registration papers. Even if a horse is advertised as registered, it’s possible that the registration papers are lost or were never transferred from a previous owner. In these instances, registered animals with no proof of registration are of no greater value than a grade horse if the registration cannot be provided.



Horse Size

Size is an important consideration when choosing your horse. Some people may discourage you from purchasing a horse that is too small for its rider, yet many people tend to overlook the opposite and end up purchasing a horse that is too big for them, which is every bit as unsuitable. One common mistake is to assume that you need a larger horse than you really do. A 14.3-hand horse may be considered small, but it’s still a very large animal and big enough to be intimidating to a novice. There is virtually no practical difference in the athletic capabilities between horses that are within a few inches of each other in height.

It can be difficult to visualize the true size of a horse in terms of height and weight. If you are at all unsure, try visiting a boarding/riding stable and ask to be shown horses of various sizes so you can get close to each one and determine what height you are most comfortable around. Many people (particularly children) will pick an arbitrary size for their potential horse (“Must be at least 16 hands” or “Absolutely no smaller than 15 hands”) without having any practical idea of what that size represents or what they really need.

PatsyK
3/16/2015 9:11:17 AM

All in all great advice!!!! I have operated a horse rescue for years and many of the abused/neglected horses I've taken in have come from families who did not follow most of the suggestions here..they just bought a horse they "fell in love with" and the horse turned out to be ill suited for what they needed. One comment to add about cribbers/wood chewers....My best trail horse who I trust with anyone, is an off the track Thoroughbred who cribs. Don't count out a horse just because he cribs, if you think you can stand to put up with it!!! I had always avoided cribbers but he needed a home and I took a chance, and ended up with a wonderful horse. But, I do not use a cribber strap and to be honest the cribbing does make me crazy! He's in a pasture all day but had his own special places to crib so he's not hurting anything (except his teeth). I wish we could more information like this out there for new horse owners....would make horse ownership much more enjoyable.




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