FEI Tips to Buying a Horse - Want V's Need
Here are our 7 expert tips...
1. Know What You Want
Be clear on what you want out of a horse; this will help to narrow down your search, saving you time and the potential heartache of buying the wrong horse.
Andreas Helgstrand (Dressage) - Olympic and WEG medallist
“I always ask people first of all, what are you looking for? What are your ambitions? What is your budget? And all of their answers have to fit together. Because it’s a jungle with so many different horses out there, and If you have 20,000 and you’re looking for an Olympic horse then it’s impossible and better to say that from the get-go.”
2. Bring An Expert
Bring an expert with you that knows how you ride, and what you want out of a horse. Make sure it’s someone that you really trust, and that has a good amount of experience in buying quality horses.
Nick May - Owner of The Norwegian Polo Club
“I always try and bring one other person with me so that we can discuss advantages and disadvantages afterward. I have been to look at horses on my own before and missed things.
“I’ve also seen horses and got ‘shiny horse syndrome’ and been dazzled, only to get home and find once it was no longer shiny, that it was completely the wrong horse for me.”
3. Mindful Behaviour
As well as watching the horse’s behaviour, observe his reactions to his environment too!
Nic Brunelli (Reining) – FEI World Equestrian Games medallist and trainer
“If a horse comes to us, I want to see him getting off of the trailer in a thoughtful way.
“Say, for example, if it’s a two-year-old that’s done nothing but be in the pasture before coming over to us. If he takes a few minutes evaluating the situation before carefully stepping off the trailer, facing his fears while being thoughtful where he puts his feet - that’s a good sign!”
4. Is The Horse’s History Important?
Knowing your horse’s background can be very helpful, not only for ridden work, but for managing them day to day in the barn.
Gemma Tattersall (Eventing) – FEI World Equestrian Games gold medallist
“Yes it’s important but I’m certainly not obsessed by it. Find out what you can but make your own judgement on the horse - and start from the beginning whatever happens!”
5. Check Their Personality
Having a sweetheart of a horse makes every aspect of horse ownership more enjoyable. So, unless you’re fully prepared to deal with the additional work of a horse with vices or behavioural issues, it’s best to steer well clear!
Lisa Coulter (Para Reining) – Founder of World Para Reining
“I like to see a horse in their stall and when they are being tacked up. A horse in a stall can tell me a lot about its personality. Does it come up to you? How does it interact with horses stalled beside or near? All of these things tell you about the horse and his personality.”
6. Testing Mental and Physical Aptitude
A great horse is only great if he fits your needs, there’s no point in owning the best shire horse in the world if your ambition is to be an Olympic eventer.
Equally, some horses that are perfectly bred for the job don’t have the mindset required to get the job done, and buying the wrong horse means that you’re going to be stacking the odds against yourself before you even get started.
Sophie Wells (Para Dressage) - Multiple Paralympic gold medallist
“When I ride the horse I will ask questions; you can tell a lot from how the horse responds. I don’t expect the horse to have the right answers, but some horses will just say no! And others will give it a good go.”
7. Always Get Veterinary Examinations
For such big animals, horses can be relatively delicate creatures, and conducting a thorough veterinary exam is a must - no matter how much the horse costs.
A perfectly sound horse can have future lameness problems hiding just out of sight, and in a worst-case scenario may be drugged to appear sound when they’re permanently lame.
Nick May - Owner of The Norwegian Polo Club
“I get everything checked, and blood taken as well - in the long run, it's de-risking the process and makes for cheaper insurance.
“If possible I get the feet X-rayed as well; I've never needed to take a horse back after buying it but have read enough horror stories of people that have - I don't need to be on that particular emotional roller coaster.”
Some final thoughts…
Welcoming a horse into your life is one of the best decisions you can make, but you have to be prepared for the responsibility that comes along with it.
Finding the perfect horse for you, that fits your ability, ambitions, and personality are all vital - but it can take time - don’t rush it, the right horse is out there somewhere!