3 Tips When Buying Your First Horse By Jennyne Tremblay The author of this article is a Hunter/Jumper instructor/ trainer at El Presidio Stables in Tucson, AZ (www.elpresidiostables.com). After growing up riding and competing in MA and NY, she became certified by the American Riding Instructors Association in both Hunt-Seat Instruction and Stable Management, as well as attaining Basic certification by the International Association of Equine Dentists. The following are three small summaries to remember when looking for your first horse. Please understand that no matter how beautiful a horse is or how smooth his canter, it does not necessarily mean that he is appropriate for you. 1) Is this horse sound? A: Lameness will often present itself at the walk when the horse’s head rises as pressure is applied as a front hoof steps (ex: sore RF may show the head lift as the RF presses on the ground), or as the head and neck “duck” or “lower” as pressure is applied to a hind hoof (ex: sore left hind may show the horse dipping it’s neck and head as the LH presses on the ground). The trot will show a lameness even more prominently than at the work and determining the leg can be done considering the same movements as listed above. B: Back Pain can be assessed by running an even pressure from the horse’s withers back to the dock of the tail. This pressure should be firm and smooth so as not to pinch and create a natural reaction to discomfort or annoyance. If this is done correctly, the horse may arch his back, shiver his muscles, toss his head or angrily swish his tail if he is in pain. Other signs of back pain are tensing when mounted, hopping or bucking while being ridden, the tail being carried awkwardly and unnaturally to one side of the rear end or not rolling when turned out or in his stall. 2) Is this horse the right temperament for me? A: Ground Manners are critical. Does the horse charge in front of you when being led? Does he nip or bit? Are his ears forward and curious or pinned back? Does he stand patiently when being haltered or does he walk away when a person comes to catch him? Does he stand politely when being groomed and having his hoofs cleaned or legs wrapped? Does he tie to a hitching rail without setting back and will he cross-tie without anxious movement or breaking the ties? B: Trailering can be very dangerous for both horse and human. Is the horse easy going when loading, unloading and shipping in a horse trailer? Also consider different types of trailers (front-load, slant-load or 6-horse, ramp of stock-type entry, etc…). C: Rideability is key. Does the horse stand well to be mounted? Does he transition gaits calmly and easily? Do you feel as though you constantly have to work to either speed him up or slow him down? Most importantly, DO YOU FEEL SAFE? 3) Is the environment you will provide similar to what the horse is used to? Is the stall, corral or pasture size comparable? Do you feed the same kind of hay (if not, make sure that your feed will not cause the horse to become sick or alter his energy levels or body fat significantly). Will the horse receive the same kind of exercise/training it has been? Will he be living with or without other horses after living a certain way?
If you feel as though your prospective horse does not meet the simple standards listed above, yet you are still interested in pursuing a purchase, you will need to consult a professional to assist you. Bring with you a trainer for evaluation and a veterinarian for a pre-purchase examination.
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