Home > Help & Advice > How to… Buy a Horse or Pony

How to… Buy a Horse or Pony

August 28th, 2008 Robinsons Website Team

There are very few riders who do not yearn to have a horse of their own. It isn’t as simple as going out and handing over your hard earned money though. You need to consider whether you have the time, money and expertise to take on this huge commitment.

Do you have the time?

A horse needs to be checked at least twice a day and this will usually involve a car journey to the stables and back, so you will have to find time before and after school or work to fit this into your daily routine. You will also have to allow time for unexpected delays as horses have a knack of causing you extra work by knocking over water buckets or damaging rugs, fences or even themselves!

Horses are creatures of habit and like a set routine, changes to this can cause some horses great distress and anxiety. Your weekday lifestyle is likely to dictate the routine you set for your horse, so you will have to be prepared to stick to this on your days off too, even if that means you lose your weekend lie ins. It is worth remembering too, that any holidays you plan to take will also involve finding a capable and knowledgeable person to care for your horse whilst you are away.

Can you afford the expense?

When deciding what your budget will be to buy your horse, remember to take into account all the extra costs that are involved with buying your first horse. Although you will hopefully have the correct riding kit, you are unlikely to have everything you need to be a responsible horse owner. The most basic equipment you’d need to be able to care for your horse is as follows

  1. Headcollar and Leadrope
  2. First Aid Kit
  3. Grooming Kit
  4. Bridle and bit
  5. Saddle, including girth, leathers and irons
  6. Feed bucket
  7. Water bucket
  8. Haynet

Total cost £209.95

Bear in mind, this is the very minimum cost for basic equipment and you are highly likely to need more kit than is listed here. Most horse owners want to rug their horse up when the weather turns wet and cold. Its advisable to have at least two turnouts so you always have a dry rug to put on your horse, and at least one quilted rug for when your horse is stabled.

Owning a horse involves a huge financial commitment every month, in the Northwest of England you’re likely to pay the following:

  1. DIY livery charges £25 per week
  2. Worming £12 every 6-8 weeks
  3. Shoes £50 per set of 4
  4. Dentist £30
  5. Booster Vaccinations £30
  6. Feed £7 per bag
  7. Bedding £6 per bale of shavings
  8. and vet’s fees… unlimited costs

Do you know your limits and aspirations?

Finding the perfect horse is impossible, they just do not exist, finding the perfect horse for you is achievable but you must be realistic in your expectations and requirements. Its always advisable especially when buying your first horse to seek the advice and guidance of an experienced person. You must be sure of your riding ability and your competence in handling a horse from the ground (this is something first time horse owners often have very little experience of). Its likely that you will also need to broaden your knowledge of horse care and stable management. There are courses designed especially for horse owners, these will provide potential owners with the basic knowledge needed.

It may help if you write a list of all the qualities you would like in your horse, working from the most important at the top of your list, down to less important but desirable characteristics near the bottom. Be careful not to be too ambitious, thinking you can learn to ride a more advanced horse, this will undoubtedly result in an accident and possibly injury to yourself, your horse or both. Finding the right horse for you can be a long process, don’t be tempted to rush into buying the first horse you see. It is likely that you will have to view several horses before you find your ideal equine partner.

Can I buy a horse at my local tack shop?

This may sound like a silly question but the answer could be ‘Yes”. Although Robinsons don’t actually sell horses themselves, they do have a notice board which advertises horses and equestrian related services so this may be a good place to start your search. Also try checking the facebook group, Robinsons Online Riding Club, as members can also advertise their horse for sale there. There are many magazines and newspapers too which feature equestrian adverts.

Also try asking any horsey friends you may have, as they may know someone who is selling a horse that is suitable for you. Avoid sales and markets, as you have no idea of the horse’s history and even the most experienced horseperson can be caught out. Horse dealers and traders can offer trial facilities, but beware, as not all are reputable. Although they may offer to exchange an unsuitable horse, they will rarely refund you. Try to get several recommendations from satisfied customers before you visit any dealer.

Ask lots of questions

Once you have identified some horses that sound right for you, ring the seller for more details. Compile a list of questions to ask on the phone so you can determine some more details and be more confident that you aren’t going to have a wasted journey. Here are some basic questions but many more can be added depending on your specific requirements.

  1. Ask why the horse is for sale – but beware that you may not always get a truthful answer.
  2. Confirm the horse’s age, sex, height and cost – a mistake in the advert could make the horse unsuitable for you.
  3. Has the horse had any serious or ongoing illnesses or injuries?
  4. Does the owner have a passport and are all vaccinations recorded on it and up to date?
  5. Does the horse have any vices, whilst stabled or ridden?
  6. Are tack and rugs included in the price?
  7. Will the horse hack out alone and in traffic?
  8. What is the horse like to catch, load and clip?
  9. Confirm that someone else is prepared to ride the horse before you.

Although you may feel like you are bombarding the seller with questions, the answers could help to prevent wasting your time and theirs with a visit to a horse that is unsuitable for your needs. If you still think the horse sounds right for you after you’ve asked all your questions, arrange a viewing and make sure your advisor is able to go along with you. Ask for detailed directions as stables are rarely on a map or easily located street.

Viewing a horse

When you arrive to see the horse, ask to see it being led in hand at walk and trot, observe whether the horse remains calm when asked to trot. Run your hands over its body, starting with the neck and going down each leg in turn. Observe how the horse reacts to your touch and whether he objects to having his feet picked up, enquire how any lumps or scars have occured. If you are happy with what you have seen so far, ask to see the horse tacked up and ridden. It is perfectly acceptable to ask to see the horse ridden in walk, trot and canter on both reins, jump a small fence and be ridden on a public road. If the seller is not willing to do this, ask why as these are all things you will want to do if you purchase the horse. Once you are happy that the horse is safe and is of the right standard for your riding, ask to ride the horse yourself. Again you should ride the horse in walk, trot and canter on both reins and try a small jump. Your first horse should be well schooled with good manners so check this for yourself by riding several circles and transitions.

Once you feel satisfied you’ve asked all the necessary questions, thank the owner for their time. If you feel that the horse is not right for you, tell them politely as they will appreciate your honesty. If you think the horse is suitable, don’t make a rush decision. Instead, tell the owner you will be in touch and discuss your feelings with your advisor.

Buying ‘THE ONE’

When you are happy that you have found the right horse for you, it is strongly recommended that you ask a vet to carry out a pre-purchase examination. This will check that your potential new horse has no ailments or health concerns. Be sure to tell the vet exactly what you will want to do with your horse, and enquire exactly what the vet does and does not check for so you are confident that the horse chosen will be fit for your chosen discipline.

Providing you are happy with the vet’s findings, you can now complete the purchase of your first horse. It’s advisable to request a receipt from the owner and possibly a contract of sale which includes

  1. The sale date and price paid
  2. Signature and name of the owner and yourself
  3. A brief description of the horse bought along with any Freezemark or Microchip number the horse may have

Make sure that you receive the horse’s passport at the time of the sale and that you send it off straight away to amend the ownership details.

Allow yourselves time to adjust

Try to arrange for your horse to arrive at his new yard during a quiet period of the day, and allow him to get accustomed to his new stable without an audience of admirers looking over his door. Remember that it may take at least a few weeks for him to feel completely settled in his new surroundings, so spend the time getting to know his character and let him get to know you. Once you have both built up a relationship you can enjoy fun rides together, and maybe join a local riding club. Always try to keep up regular lessons with a qualified Instructor so you can improve your experience and neither you nor your horse develop bad habits. Enjoy your new horse and the adventures that come with it.
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  1. Neil Yeomans
    August 30th, 2008 at 08:08 | #1

    Fantastic article and very informative. Thanks, keep up the great work!

  2. Christy Hooper
    September 2nd, 2008 at 07:18 | #2

    I agree great article, but never realised the difference in price from north to south! I live on the south coast and it costs me £65 for a set of four shoes and £30 for vaccinations / dentist doesn’t even cover the call out charges, my last dentist visit was £90 and that was even sharing the call out charge. But it’s good to see a guide like this, I was lucky to have a friend at hand that gave me an idea of the costs.
    I think the main thing when buying your first horse/pony isn’t always about the money, time is definitely the main issue and the impact this also has on those around you.

  3. Vanessa
    September 3rd, 2008 at 08:47 | #3

    I was lucky enough to grow up in a horsey family so it was part of my everyday life, but life changed and I spent 6 years without horses. I made a decision in Dec 07 to get back into it and buy myself another horse, I knew what was coming in the way of money and time and I still got a shock. I have a partner who is not horsey and will never be horsey, so it was quite an adjustment for him as I work full time as well, and beleive me it caused some arguments to begin with, all settled down now. I was able to have her at livery where they bring her in for me but everything else I do myself, I suddenly found myself getting up at 5am and some times having to rush there after work if to finish off. You have to be very dedicated and in my case not need alot of sleep as I have 3 children as well, one is only 3. But all that said I love every minute I spend with her and would never sell her. So if you have it in your bones you will do anything to have a horse.

  4. Tracey Parker
    September 4th, 2008 at 15:42 | #4

    I think this is a brilliant idea. I actually offer full livery or turn out at very competitive prices in brand new facilities with automatic everything, rubber matting etc and people still poo poo the price. We are a small yard in Southern Spain and I only offer very limited places as the liveries are just to help cover the cost of my horses! Therefore our service is very personal and there is someone on hand 24 hours a day.
    People think it is cheaper to buy a piece of land (min 100k €), fence it – 3K €, get electric and water on site (a very minimum of 5K €) because at the end of the day they have the investment of the land. They haven´t even begun to feed or care for the horse! Over 20 years to pay for just the first lot it would cost 450 € per month and they don´t want to hand over the 150 € I ask for turn out in a fenced pasture that is regularly cleaned, has a shelter and includes forage feed and fresh constant water and 24 hours person on site! If that is the state of play I don´t feel the person has thought through the cost of having a horse and can´t truly afford one. Blogs like this are great if the prospective buyers read them BEFORE making their purchase. Oh yeah, and I pay 60 € for my dentist and he gives me a discount because he does 5 horses at once. If they need tranq´s or anything extra, it costs extra. Farrier 80 € per full set and hard feed 15 € a bag. I feel your prices are rather on the conservative side ;-)

  5. October 31st, 2008 at 17:25 | #5

    The article was very interesting and informative! Many thanks, an excellent idea.

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