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EVALUATING HORSES YOU ARE CONSIDERING

Beginning Your Horse Hunt
(From "Riding for the Rest of Us" by Jessica Jahiel)

 

Hunt with a Camera

When you are horse hunting, take a notebook and a camera.   If you like a horse, take notes -- and photos.  Get front, rear, and side views of the horse.  Put the numbers of the shots somewhere in your notes (24 August, Oak Tree Farm, brown mare, shots 9-12).  This will help you match your memories and your notes with the photos.  If your camera puts the date on each photo, so much the better.  Photos will keep your memory fresh and accurate (the bay gelding with the white foot -- was he at the first or the third barn?  Or -- just a minute -- maybe the bay mare was at the second barn; the bay gelding had two white feet, didn't he?   Or was that the chestnut gelding?).  Photos will also reveal details that may have escaped you at the time of your visit.  The pictures might show, for instance, that the bay is built downhill, or that the gorgeous gray filly is tied in behind the knees.

Look at as many horses as you can.  You will be able to eliminate most of them from consideration with no expenses other than your own time and transportation.  Then, when you have cut your list of prospects down to two or three real possibilities, you can go back for a second visit.  If possible, take your instructor with you to look at your semifinalists and help select the finalists.

Expect to pay for her time: this is a professional consultation.  After the two of you have seen and ridden your prospects, and discussed them at length, you should know which of these horses is the one you would most like to own.

 

What to Look For in a Horse

When you are ready to buy a horse, keep in mind the following considerations:

 

How to Look at a Horse

Look at the horse from all angles.  See him walked and trotted towards you and away from you and from the side.  If you still like him, then ask to see him ridden by his regular rider.  Watch as he is tacked up.  He should be quiet and cooperative, and his tack should be a simple bridle and saddle.

Watch as the rider mounts.  Is the horse quiet?   Does he stand until the rider signals him to move off?  How does he move, and how does he react to being ridden?  You want a cheerful, willing horse.  If he goes badly for his regular rider, it's not a good sign.  The horse should be alert and active; he shouldn't have been tranquilized or "worked down" for your visit.   He should be willing and cooperative because he is trained, not because he is drugged or exhausted.

If you like the way the horse looks under his regular rider, have your instructor ride him indoors and outdoors at walk, trot, and canter; over water, over fences; through a dressage test -- ask the horse to everything he is supposed to know how to do.  If she likes him, it's your turn.  Ride quietly and carefully,and think about whether you like the feel of the horse.

Consider whether his build suits your conformation.   If you have short, heavy legs, don't buy a horse with a wide round barrel.   You will feel as though you are sitting on a beer keg, and you will have little or no hope of learning to apply your aids correctly.  A narrower horse will suit you better.  If your legs are very long, the round-barreled horse may be just right.   You will be able to sit comfortable and correctly without strain.  You may also save money -- a shorter horse with a wide barrel takes up as much leg as a tall narrow horse but may cost much less.

The horse you buy should be the horse you think you will enjoy the most.  If you're pleased with the horse, his personality, and his way of going, and if your instructor thinks he is suitable for you, make an offer to purchase him if he passes his pre-purchase exam

The pre-purchase exam, depending on how detailed it is, is an up-front expense -- but a worthwhile one.  You can skip it, but please don'tAnd use your own vet or your instructor's vet.  It is considered a conflict of interest for the seller's vet to do this exam.  [The pre-purchase exam (or vetting) is covered in the next step.]

 

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