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Buying a horse - what to look for

(40 Posts)
frenchfancy Wed 28-Sep-11 06:50:47

We have finally decided to take the plunge and buy our own horse. I have livery organised for the winter and a paddock for next spring.

We are visiting the first possibility this weekend, so what should I be looking for?

I only started riding 2 years ago, and always ride the same 2 horses (well one poney and one big cart horse) so I'm quite nervous about trying something else. DD2 has been riding for 5 years and has much more experience, but I think she will just fall in love with the first thing with 4 legs that goes neigh.

rogersmellyonthetelly Wed 28-Sep-11 07:28:15

Because of your lack of riding experience, you need to know that the horse you are riding is 101% bombproof. See it ridden in the arena, and walk out on the road with it, you need to know that it hacks out alone and in company. Good temperament and experienced horse is vital for you at this stage. Watch them catch, tack up, groom etc, and watch for any signs of napping, biting while grooming or girthing up, barging in the stable.
I wouldn't even ride at the first viewing. Any behaviour problems you will need to be able to manage. Never buy a horse that the owner (unless they are obviously injured in which case be even more cautious as to which horse injured them!) will not ride themselves. Ask for the reason for sale and watch out for inconsistencies in their story.
You are looking for a sensible even tempered willing animal who will be tolerant of your lack of experience.
Once you think you have a good match temperament wise, ask if you can take it on trial for a couple of weeks. Failing this insist on a full 5 stage vetting. Sounds like overkill but I have seen several horses on our yard which had behaviour issues disguised by bute or a calmer. This will show in a blood test.
If you only want to hack out and have lessons, don't buy a competition horse, chances are the temperament that makes them good for competing won't suit what you want and will end in tears. Look for the smallest horse that you can ride, rather than the largest. Don't be rushed into buying by the owner saying they have 4 others coming to look at him etc, better to miss out than to buy the wrong horse.
Finally your planned livery is very important. You will need daily help and support from an experienced person, it's difficult and dangerous going it alone as a novice with a new horse. You will also need someone to hack out with as I wouldn't recommend hacking out alone for several months and then only after an experienced person has taken your horse out to make sure it's sa fe and calm on it's own. Be aware that being stabled 24/7 over the winter in some liveries can magnify any behavioural issues, I'm moving yard myself today for this very reason to one which has year round turnout. Your yard will also need an arena for you to have lessons on your new horse.
Finally, buyer beware, buy in haste repent at leisure!

rogersmellyonthetelly Wed 28-Sep-11 07:31:50

Oh, and I forgot to say, take someone experienced with you! They will check the horses conformation, check it's legs for lumps and bumps which may cause problems, and will also be much more able to spot body language and behaviour which may cause you problems.

Mirage Wed 28-Sep-11 08:38:24

I second what Roger said.Take an experienced person with you and ask them to ride it too.We did this recently whilst looking at a loan pony and narrowly missed making a big mistake.The pony was fine walking and trotting,but when my friend cantered it in a field,it was far too strong and she could barely hold it back-not good in a child's pony.

If you live locally to the horse,ask around,pony club,local hunts,riding club.People may well know it and tell you stuff the vendors won't.Also google their phone number-lots of ads with the same number=dealer.Not always a bad thing but something to be aware of.Good luck.

CMOTdibbler Wed 28-Sep-11 09:01:43

Def get someone who is v experienced in buying horses to help you.

TBH, I'd be thinking carefully about buying a horse at this time of year - horse ownership in the winter is 90% toil for 10% pleasure, and I think its hard to really form a relationship when for months you are truding through mud in order to scrape it off a horse etc. Note we bought dpony last December, and are on diy grass livery though smile

Callisto Wed 28-Sep-11 09:32:58

Best time of year to buy a horse imo - more horses on the market and cheaper prices.

Are you sure you are ready for horse ownership? How much do you know about stable management, feeding, ailments, worming etc? Ignorance and horses is a really bad mix. How supportive will the yard owner be?

Definitely take someone knowlegeable with you. Buying horses is a minefield of misinformation and outright lies. Get the horse vetted too. You might be better getting something on loan in the first instance.

Callisto Wed 28-Sep-11 09:38:42

Also, beware the horse that is tacked up in a stable ready to go. If possible see it being caught, brushed off and tacked up, and then turned away again. We have a horse on the yard who is a perfect gentleman (could be sold as a schoolmaster - just the sort of thing you would be looking for) but needs to be lead out to the field in a chifney because he transforms into Mr Evil.

Butkin Wed 28-Sep-11 09:55:44

Firstly you need to decide what sort of animal you want and this probably relates to who will be riding it and what level of competitiveness, activities etc you are aiming at. Make sure it fits these criteria.

What you need and what DD wants will probably be very different. Are you all going to share it (DH included?).

Ask them to tack it up in front of you and then try it out in the menage and also hack it. If you plan to jump then have a go at jumping. If it does cross country see if you can find somewhere to jump something suitable.

I agree that you should take an experienced person with you - perhaps your trainer or livery yard owner.

Find out if it has any vices and make sure they let you know exactly how it reacts in different situations such as vet, farrier, loading, catching, mounting etc.

Has it done any competing - if so find out how it has done.

I would definitely recommend a vetting (by somebody independent of the vendors vet). Unless you are paying a lot of money a 5 stage is probably over the top. However a 3 part is worthwhile - particularly if you are inexperienced. If the vets are good then they will probably suggest taking a blood sample and this is a good idea. That way if you have any issues they will be able to check to see if the animal had been sedated or given pain killers.

I would suggest that,even if you are keen, that you walk away and discuss it privately with your family (over lunch?). You need to find out what you all think without being pressured by the owners.

Finally if you decide to buy then haggle. It is a buyers market at the moment and particularly so if they don't want to keep it over the Winter. You should be able to drive a good deal.

I would suggest that you may need to get your eye in as well and don't buy the first horse you try immediately although you could go back to it after seeing one or two more.

frenchfancy Wed 28-Sep-11 10:42:03

Thanks for all the advice.

I am aware that I don't have much experience at this stage. We deliberately waited a couple of years so that I could have 2 years experience rather than none, and that DD2 would be that bit bigger and stronger.

The plan is for us to share the horse. Me and DD2 to begin with, then DD3 - who is only 5 and has just started riding, as she gets older. DH would like to get a trap and learn to drive, which is quite common round here.

Livery is at the stables where we ride, year round turnout.

The plan is to see the horse this weekend, then if it is a serious contender to return with either the yard owner, or a friend of ours who is a farrier.

It is a 13 year old gelding, 1m50 cross between an appaloosa and a cart horse (sorry I know the terms in French not English so I hope they translate).

We are in France so I don't know if vets come out to do checks, I'll find out.

Saggyoldclothcatpuss Wed 28-Sep-11 11:39:41

Firstly, you will not be able to sensibly share a Horse with your DCs. They will need something smallish, and very sensible. You couldnt for instance let a child hack out on a horse, and for things like jumping, they probably wouldnt be strong enough to stop it. It is a very bad idea to overhorse a child. Are you lightish? Get a british native type which will be small but up to your weight. Horse yourself down, rather than your kids up.
Apaloosas can tend to be on the flighty side, and a carthorse type will definitely be too strong for your kids.
In terms of viewing, visit more than once, and stagger the times of your visits. Ask to catch the horse from the field, lead it in, groom and tack it up yourself. Try to do the same from the stable. Ride more than once, in different environments, and at different times of day. Be a bit naughty, and maybe turn up early or unexpectedly, so the owner doesnt have time to lunge or feed the animal and calm it down and change its behaviour.
Always take an experienced person with you, and if you are spending any amount of money, have an independent vetting.

frenchfancy Wed 28-Sep-11 11:48:50

In terms of sharing, we sometimes ride the same pony at the stables. 1m50 is really our top limit for height, I won't look at larger horses. Given that (according to wikipedia anyway) 147cm is the limit between a pony and a horse, then 1m50 is almost a pony anyway.

I am concerned that an appaloosa will be to speedy for me and a cart horse too strong for DD, but I am hoping that a cross between the 2 - and the age of the horse, will cancel the 2 out.

If anyone is interested this www.leboncoin.fr/animaux/237487533.htm?ca=18_s is the horse we are looking at on Saturday

Saggyoldclothcatpuss Wed 28-Sep-11 12:05:51

1m 50 is 15 hands!? Im sorry, but thats way to big for any child! DD is 12, and she is just moving up to 13hh. Her much bigger, older friend is just on 14.2hh. Your 5yo wont be able to do anything with a 15hh, she wont be able to lead it, tack it up, groom it if its anything more than a donkey, and could you imagine what happened if it kicked her whilst shod?
The cross could cancel itself out, or you could get the worst of both.
Id look more at a sturdy 13hhish native type personally. If your DCs want to compete or do pony club type activities, they wont be able to do them on a carthorse cross.
(My personal rule of thumb is that child and pony should really be at equal eye levels to be roughly evenly matched.)

Saggyoldclothcatpuss Wed 28-Sep-11 12:13:33

If you arent too heavy, how about this
Much more suitable for your DCs and up to adult weights.

Callisto Wed 28-Sep-11 13:20:45

It depends on the age and height of your DD2. But your DD3 won't be riding that horse you linked to until she is about 17yo.

Also, does your DH have any experience of breaking horses to drive or is the horse already ride/drive?

frenchfancy Wed 28-Sep-11 13:24:33

The 5 yr old won't be riding the horse until she is much older.

I agree 1m50 is on the high side. I see what you mean saggy, but that pony is only 1m15, so too small for me.

I am obviously going to see, but I will bear in mind everything that has been said about the size.

In terms of breaking to drive there is someone in our village who will do it for us.

frenchfancy Wed 28-Sep-11 13:25:25

Oh and I've just notice that pony isn't for sale it is for stud - sailli is stud in French.

Saggyoldclothcatpuss Wed 28-Sep-11 16:24:17

aaah! I wondered at the cheap price! confused considering that I was translating those pages with my f in gcse French, I wasn't doing too bad! grin
how tall are you? Don't write off a smaller pony, the one I found would probably carry 12/13stone without much bother, you'd just have to get used to haven dangly legs! And you would be surprised how much leg a round native belly takes up. I used to ride my 11hh traditional Shetland All the time with no difficulty whatsoever and she definitely never had a problem with me! I used to look like I was riding a 13.2 in a ditch! grin

frenchfancy Wed 28-Sep-11 18:08:02

I'm 5'7" and over 10st. I'm certainly not against a pony, I like ponies. Trouble is finding a good one that isn't too far away. France is such a big country that I'm seeing ads for ponies in the same department, that are 2 hours drive away. I don't mind travelling if we can find the right pony, but I think I need to see a few nearby first so I can tell.

Saggyoldclothcatpuss Wed 28-Sep-11 21:26:59

Yes. Thats the thing! Its the same everywhere though. When we sold a section A a while back, We had people driving 3 hours to view! Have you consulted your friendly farrier about likely beasts? If anyone knows of any locally, it will be him, and he is likely to have insider info on them.

olderyetwider Fri 30-Sep-11 09:04:30

It's a nice idea to share with your children but in my experience it hardly ever works, and at 5'7" and 10st you wouldn't be able to share until your DCs are in their teens. anything big enough for you will be too strong for them.

GD is 12, very tall and a good rider but she doesn't ride my cobby 14.2 native as she's just too strong. Mine was bought by the woman I bought her from to share with her 8 year old, and the child just couldn't ride her (she's very well behaved, but just too much horse for a child)

Better to get the children a pony, or one for yourself, and fulfil the other's horsey desires through lessons, or maybe find 2 to share?

georgesmummy11 Fri 30-Sep-11 09:49:39

Just on the hight subject I use to ride my 13.2 palomino pony till I was 20 (I then retired her) I'm 5.5 and when at my heaviest can be about 10st and she had no problem she was very strong so not suitable for a child. I have ride big horses but when buying I do tend to go small as it's easier to get someone to share if needed eg mum and sisters, a native breed would be perfect for what your requirements are as they can hold weight and are not as demanding x

frenchfancy Fri 30-Sep-11 15:40:19

So interesting to read everyones view.

We went to visit a breder today. He Had a pony advertised that was just under 13h, and given what everyone had said here I thought I would take a look. When I rang he said the pony had sold, but to visit and see what else he had and discuss requirements.

On visiting and discussing, he was very much of the view that the 13h pony would have been too small for my daughter, and way too small for me. He had lots of lovely ponies, but nothing in our size/price bracket but is going to look out for us. He thinks 14-15h is ideal.

I am now wondering if there is a difference in attitude between the French and the British. All the French people I talk to in the know are saying 14-15h, whilst the brisith (on here and friends) are much more toward the smaller end of the spectrum.

Anyway, we are going to see the horse tomorrow and will report back. I bought myself a new body protector today (I normally borrow one from the stables) so I'm fully kitted out for tomorrow.

careergirl Fri 30-Sep-11 16:36:59

i appreciate you have livery sorted but I still would get lots of experience in stable management/ basic horse husbandry and lots of experience riding different types of horses before looking at buying

Butkin Fri 30-Sep-11 17:18:11

Have a look at our most popular website for horse sales Horsequest and click on the various sections under ponies and horses. You'll see that in England - I expect because we have lots of native breeds like Welsh A, B, C and D, Dartmoors, Fells, New Forests, Connemaras, Dale and Highlands etc - that we tend to favour ponies for children.

They should be able to get onto them without needing a step or a leg up and should be totally happy that they can control them.

My DD is 8 and has a 12.2 Section B and a 11.2 Section A (which she is just growing of). For an example, in the showring children ride ponies rather than horses and a 12.2 pony should last her until she is 11 or 12 years old.

Children would certainly not ride animals over 14 hands high until they are teenagers. Good luck in your search! (PS we had some people who came over from Switzerland to buy one of our Dartmoors so I know it is not so easy to buy childrens' ponies in the continent.)

frenchfancy Fri 30-Sep-11 20:01:32

Career girl - I appreciate what you are saying, we have spent the last couple of years thinking about this, but life is just too short to spend time thinking rather than doing. I want my daughter to grow up having had her own pony, I want us to be able to enjoy this together. To mind mind the best way to learn is to do it. After all I had no experience or training before I had my 3 children and I haven't broken them yet.

Butkin - you are right children's ponies aren't very common here, they go straight from shetlands to 14h, normally about aged 10 but dd2 was earlier than that as she was in a more advanced class.

"It's a nice idea to share with your children but in my experience it hardly ever works, and at 5'7" and 10st you wouldn't be able to share until your DCs are in their teens. anything big enough for you will be too strong for them." quote olderyetwider

This is what I am struggling to understand. We sometimes ride the same pony, though normally DD rides ponies/horses I am not allowed on as she is in a more advanced class. The biggest she regularly rides is 1m50 which is the same height we are seeing tomorrow. I appreciate alot of it is about build, not just height. I think if anything is the limiting factor in what we buy it is my ability not DDs size.

My original question was really about what to look for in a horse, how can I tell if it is healthy, what are warning signs in terms of behaviour? I think the size discussion has been interesting, and has certainly made me think a bit more about it, but I am not going to buy a horse (or pony) that can't be excercised by me when DD is at school etc.

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