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Am I asking for trouble buying a 3yr old

16 replies

User198724 · 24/01/2021 12:58

I have an opportunity to buy a 3yr old quarter horse, he has a beautiful temperament but I’m concerned about his young age and therefor lack of experience. He is broken and has about 30 rides under his belt.

I used to own horses when I was younger however haven’t for over 10 years. I got back into riding and have been having weekly lessons for the last 2 years. I’m a decent rider but know there is a big difference between riding an experienced horse compared to a baby.

Would I be better to wait and look for something a bit older?!

Thanks for your opinions, much appreciated!

OP posts:
EmmaC78 · 24/01/2021 15:54

I thin it depends entirely on the horse - you can get calm 3 year olds and crazy 20 year olds. If it were me I generally would buy an older horse though.

What support network do you have around you? How did you feel when you were riding him?

maxelly · 24/01/2021 17:12

Are you in the UK, quarter horses are not common at all here, and most 3 year olds, even rising 4 year olds aren't broken at all, normal UK practice is to break them the summer of their 4 year old year, not the winter of their 3 year old year, maybe its different abroad but unless it's a competition horse what's the rush Confused

Also sorry to be blunt, why is the seller prepared to sell their very green youngster to an effective novice/first time owner? That alone would be a red flag for me, someone that's invested time and care in the breeding, preparation and training of their horse usually wants it to go to someone able to continue that training, unless of course they just want the money...

So yes, unfortunately I would say you would be asking for trouble buying this horse and would be much better off buying something more experienced and that is already doing the job you want him/her for. We have a saying here 'green on green makes black on blue', ie an inexperienced combination usually ends in tears, and I think it's very true! Riding is an (expensive) hobby for most of us, why would you make it more dangerous, difficult and less fun for yourself than it needs to be??

maxelly · 24/01/2021 17:35

Sorry if came across harshly, to be clear, im not suggesting you aren't a good rider or not ready to own a horse. I've been riding all my life and have some experience with youngsters/problem horses, and I would absolutely not ever buy a 3 year old for myself. Nor would I recommend it to any of my friends, no matter how experienced or how good a rider, except for the rare people who truly have a passion for bringing on youngsters as a thing in itself, or those who want to buy a high powered competition horse on a small budget. It's so, so much easier and less drama to buy an experienced, reliable animal you can hop on and ride casually, hack out, go to competitions, whatever you enjoy without all the stress, the endless repetition of the basics, having to lunge first, fits of the Kevin's, wondering if you'll get decked today, worrying you aren't giving them the right/too much/too little exposure to new things, spending ££££ on pro help, boxing off to competitions just to do an in hand class, having to turn them away for months at a time to grow and so on and so forth that comes with a youngster. And even at the end of all that and when you end up with your carefully brought up, mature and well trained horse you are not 100% guaranteed they'll do the job you want, they change so much physically and mentally between 3 and full maturity at 7-8ish you may find yourself with too much or too little horse on your hands and back at square 1...

Even with the cost saving on buying a green horse compared to a 'made' one, once you factor in all the pro help you'll likely need plus the potentially years of patience before you can do what you want with them, the made/exprienced horse starts to look the more cost effective option!

backinthebox · 24/01/2021 22:11

Buy an older horse. Too many people buy a young horse without the knowledge, time and facilities to do the job properly. If you want something you can ride without issues now, you want an older horse. 3 is young to be backed and ridden.

NoProblem123 · 25/01/2021 00:55

If you are happy to put the work in and pay a lot of money for the ongoing schooling and lessons, then maybe, but this horse has done NOTHING, you are going to have to experience EVERYTHING together with him including traffic, tractors, dogs, railways, poly tunnels, cows (ETC!) and that’s just basic hacking out. Are you going to be confident enough & enjoy taking a 3 year old out in traffic for the first time ? In the wind & rain ? Passed a windy poly tunnel ?
He’s going to look to you for confidence so you’d better be !
How are you at schooling young horses ? Have you got the knowledge to teach ? Have you got the time?

You’ve had a gap in riding - don’t underestimate how much you may have changed as a rider in that time.

My advice would be to increase your budget to the max you can afford and get an older one with mileage. One that someone else has instilled confidence and nice manners in. One that someone else has spent a huge amount of time and effort on, that you can go out and enjoy.

Woodspritely · 25/01/2021 01:50

Is it very cheap? Otherwise ‘having the opportunity to buy’ is a really odd reason to choose an inappropriate horse. And if you’re asking on Mumsnet whether you should buy it, you definitely don’t have the experience required for it to be a sensible choice.

shindiggery · 25/01/2021 01:53

If you have to ask the question, and come here rather than Horse and Hound... Yes! No point buying trouble. You need to be experienced to give a young horse a good start.

Baycob · 25/01/2021 10:52

I don’t know. I think you’ll have to turn him away now for the summer then restart him.

He is pretty young to have been broken, or done more than sat on and plodded around the school. You need to ask if they have being doing something stupid for example, but not limited to.... free jumping, lots of lunging. You could end up with a horse prone to injury as he was started so young.

You could send him to away to be broken and oversee it that will be good for your learning. If he turns out to be too much you can always sell him before an handful turns into a problem horse.

But... if your plan is to take him home and just start riding him like an 8 year old I would suggest you didn’t.

Leaninghouse · 25/01/2021 12:12

How much experience do you have with young horses? What support do you have in place?

How confident are you when they hit horse equivalent of a teenager and start testing boundaries or having a tantrum?

RatherBeRiding · 25/01/2021 12:54

I wouldn't unless you are specifically in the market for one to bring on, and have the time, experience and riding skills to do so.

I had a foal who was backed and then turned away at rising 4 and I had the job of riding him away. It was hard work. Never again. I had forgotten just how much they don't know, from traffic, hacking with other horses, how to learn to balance, work in an outline, introducing poles, then teeny jumps, taking them places to introduce them to the competition experience, doing a basic walk/trot dressage test etc etc etc. He's now a fabulous pony but only after some intensive boot camp professional schooling and I swear I will never have a youngster again!

Oh, and he used to spook for England. Doesn't really bat an eyelid these days but I came off him so many times.......!

NiceTwin · 25/01/2021 13:02

The decision has to be taken on an individual basis.
Some 3 year olds can have a good mindset where as the next will be as bonkers at 3 as it is at 11.

I bought a lightly backed 3 year old and spent the winter doing in hand work with her and did inhand shows that first summer. I started lightly riding her at 4 and she has proved to have a lovely way about her, never makes a drama where there doesn't need to be one.

I had a trusted and long time instructor who came to see her with me and was there if and when I needed help.
If I could clone her temperament I would. She has always been far more sensible than horses twice her age.

lastqueenofscotland · 25/01/2021 16:22

Honestly I think you’d be mad.
I’ve got a lovely younger who was pretty quiet at 3+4 and then had a year of being an absolute dick at 5, 500kg of pure, sharp arsehole before settling back down again.

Most reputable sellers even of the quietest 3 year olds wouldn’t sell them to a novice so I’d smell a rat there also.

Trivium4all · 25/01/2021 23:07

In short:
Yes, you are (probably) asking for trouble.
Yes, you would be better to wait for a more appropriate horse, preferably one you go to view with your instructor (or other knowledgeable person who will tell you the truth about the situation) in tow.

Ask yourself: even if you have the skills to bring on a youngster (very different skillset from riding an experienced horse or a school horse), is all that painstaking slow work (possibly with associated danger of getting decked) really what you want to be doing right now, or would you rather have a horse that you can be out and about with straight away? If you ask your instructor, what would they say?

SansaSnark · 31/01/2021 18:08

Do you have the money to pay for lessons with the 3yo? What about money for sending him away to a pro for training? Can you afford to regularly get his saddle fitted/changed as he changes shape?

I imagine he is appealing largely because he is cheap compared to an older more established horse, but when you consider the additional costs associated with a youngster, he probably won't work out that much cheaper.

Personally, I wouldn't want a horse that has done 30 rides at the age of 3- to me that is a lot, and I would be worried about the impact on his soundness later in life too.

When you say "have the opportunity to buy", it sounds like someone is offering him to you for sale? Which would raise red flags with me- the market for horses is pretty good right now. The seller could just advertise the horse on the open market and if he is going well, he will sell easily. So why are they offering him to you?

fluffysocksgoodbookwine · 31/01/2021 18:10

A placid three year old can still be a very sharp, unpredictable 4-5yr old, there's a reason they call it the 'terrible 5's' Grin.

If you're very confident handling and riding, and love having a long term project, then maybe a 3yr old would be fun. Bear in mind it'll be 3-4 years before they're properly doing their job. Just because you haven't had a youngster before, doesn't mean you can't do it (everyone has a first youngster) but you'll need people who are experienced with youngsters around to help and advise.

Having had a couple of very teenagery 5yr olds in years past, I was surprised initially at how placid my 4yr old was when I bought her. She'd been broken in a 3yrs, ridden on a bit and sold on at the sales in Ireland, then turned away for 9 months. I bought her from the field, and within a few weeks of work, my 11yr old son could sit on and have a short plod (with me walking alongside).

6 months on it's a different story. She's been super sharp and quite bratty at times under saddle this winter. She's now teething (lateral incisors), is very chewy and uncomfortable, so I can do very little with her as she can't settle with the bit just now. It might be weeks before I can ride her again. She's grown and filled out, and looks like a different horse to the one I bought.

I know it's only a guide, and different breeds etc are different, but a 3yr old horse is roughly the equivalent of a 9yr old child. You should really turn them away for the best part of a year, then start again. Even then, there'll be breaks for growth spurts and teething, changes in temperament, testing of boundaries and adolescent brattiness. Just as you think they're coming on, they'll grow again and be out of balance again. It'll be a couple of years before you can even begin to work them hard. I hate seeing photos of 4yr olds for sale jumping massive fences, or doing fancy collected movements - their growing joints and ligaments are being stressed enormously, and they'll likely have trouble with injuries and arthritis later on.

I love having a project, I enjoy watching horses mature and come on, but there are still days when I dearly wish I could just tack up and go for a long, fast hack with my friends, or go do some jumping.
It depends what you want out of horse ownership. Good luck with whatever you decide.

dugupdeadcat · 07/02/2021 11:19

Fairly big quarter Horse breeder here - I'm stating that because I know the QH industry in the UK very well indeed.

The fact he is 3 and has been backed aside, I would ask the following questions.

  1. What do you want him for? Western or English?

  2. Who actually has him? Is it a professional selling him on, or "someone selling a horse"? There is usually a complete bun fight over any "of age registered QH" in the UK - if they're not sold by word of mouth, and they're the "right price", without problems, they're usually sold before they're for sale via waiting lists.

  3. Has he been backed by one of the professional Western trainers in the UK and is he registered with the AQHA? If one of the Western trainers has him, he'll be going differently to being started by a "general person".

  4. Why is he for sale? This is actually quite important, because a 3 year old AQHA registered, SOUND, lightly backed by a Western Professional, QH goes for mid-high end 4 figures as a minimum (even with an injury) and often mid teens+ 5 figure ££. If he's a low ball park figure, there's possibly something else going on and you may need to look more closely.

    That's really important, because a registered AQHA weaned foal is usually somewhere between £2.5K -£4K (and often more) depending on breeding, and it's very rare a breeder would have anything over 12 months unless they've been kept back for whatever reason. 3 year old QH's just don't as a rule come up for sale.

  5. MAKE SURE you get full disclosure of a 5 panel test. QH's are prone to PSSM as well as several other genetic diseases. Some, are not a problem if the horse is just a carrier and you just want a riding gelding, but PSSM is a big deal.

    Yes, QH's are known for being very temperamentally calm, safe and sane, but that's not always the case because it depends on the breeding lines - especially in the UK. Some are sharp as fuck and can be complete hot heads.

    Personally (and I'm saying this as someone who loves and knows the QH breed), look into it very carefully. It might be too good to be true. Or, you might be super lucky and have the opportunity to acquire an amazing potential forever horse.

    As QH's go, I wouldn't be in the least bit bothered about buying a 3 year old with very low mileage, because if they've been started right, as in done lots of ground work etc, they're very easy to work with - more so than sharper warmbloods or cobs. But really think hard around why you want to buy this particular horse and whether or not you're been offered something that is too good to be true as a novice.
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