Buying a horse is a lot like buying a used car. Both take a lot of research, plus some experience and smart buying strategies, to make a purchase you’ll be happy with. Use this guide and tips, developed by equine legal experts, to get prepared for your first horse.
Too many first-time horse owners select a horse that isn’t right for them. Eventually, they get frustrated and give up on horses altogether, forever missing out on the joy of horse ownership. At Equine Legal Solutions, our whole lives are about horses. We want to do everything we can to encourage new horse owners and help them enjoy horses as much as we do. So, we put together this guide to buying your first horse.
Buying a horse is a lot like buying a used car. Both take a lot of research, plus some experience and smart buying strategies, to make a purchase you’ll be happy with. Like used car salesmen, horse sellers have earned a reputation as somewhat shady characters who often downplay flaws and enhance attributes.
With creatures as beautiful and sensitive as horses are, it’s easy to let our hearts rule our heads. But that’s why we wrote this guide–to help first time horse buyers make smart choices.
Not So Fast! Before You Buy a Horse…
As much as we love horses, we know that not everyone should own one. Not even every horse lover should actually own a horse. Horses are a huge time commitment, as well as a huge emotional and financial commitment. Horse ownership is certainly not for the faint of heart (or light of wallet)! Here are some steps we suggest taking before you decide to buy a horse. If you don’t have an instructor (but we highly recommend you do!), rely upon the advice of a trusted friend who is very knowledgeable about horses and has horses whose behavior you admire.
- Enroll in regular riding lessons (at least once a week) with a reputable trainer or instructor.
- Consider a full or partial lease of a horse for at least six months. Leasing is an arrangement in which you pay either a fixed fee or a portion of the horse’s expenses in exchange for riding time on that horse. In the typical full lease, you take over all of the horse’s expenses and care responsibilities, and in a typical partial lease, the owner remains primarily responsible for these items. Ask your instructor or trainer to recommend a leasing situation for you. Many trainers and instructors have horses for lease in their barns. Equine Legal Solutions offers horse lease agreement forms that clarify the owner’s and the lessee’s responsibilities.
- Only if leasing a horse doesn’t provide enough “horse time” for you, should you consider actually purchasing a horse. Deciding to buy a horse is a huge commitment, a lot like going from owning a dog to having a baby.
Horse Buying Budgets
First time horse buyers often ask me how much they should spend on a horse. The answer really depends upon what you want to achieve with that horse. If you just want to go out and have fun, and maybe compete at a local level, you should be able to find a suitable horse for $5,000 or less (with some variance based upon the local horse market in your area). If you have more serious competitive aspirations, consult with your instructor regarding what you should expect to spend for a suitable horse. Keep in mind that your first horse can be a “starter horse”–a horse that is safe for you and will help you learn basic horsemanship skills. Even if you eventually want to compete at a national or world level, your first horse doesn’t have to be the horse that will take you to the top.