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10 tips for owners during the horse shopping experience

Adult amateur with new jumper
Carissa and Dubai

Recently, I shared my approach to finding your perfect horse. Every trainer and horse dealer has their own methods, and while there’s more than one way to go about it, this is what has worked for me and my clients for many years. In going through the horse buying process, there is another important variable I’d like to cover in this post. That of the owner’s role.


When a rider, parent, or horse owner decides it’s time to make that next move, it’s an exciting time! Childhood dreams, ambitious goals, investment plans - many thoughts are swirling at the beginning of the horse buying process. Occasionally, navigating the horse buying process goes quickly, predictably, and smoothly. More often though, it takes some patience, questions, and maybe even disappointment. However, there are ways to make the process go more easily, even enjoy it, and ensure a better horse match.


Below, I’ve outlined 10 considerations for owners embarking upon this journey.


  1. Whatever your budget is for buying a horse, it should be no more than you can afford to lose. While we always recommend insurance, horses are unpredictable, fragile animals with many, many needs. Invest as much as you can comfortably, but not so much that you’re in over your head if things go sideways.

  2. The purchase price is the least expensive part of owning a horse. Scary, but true. Your overall budget should take into account board, training, supplements, regular vet maintenance, horse care treatments, emergency vet visits, tack and supplies, transportation, insurance, show costs, and endless treats. When you own/lease a horse, you are responsible for giving them the care they deserve. And if you’re the horse’s forever home, keep in mind they live 30+ years if you’re lucky! So please run the math.

  3. Trust your trainer to partner with you to find the right horse. They have more experience and connections than you could imagine. They will source prospects, guide you through the process, settle your nerves, reinforce what’s in your best interest, and caution you when it’s not right. The commission you pay now will save you much time, money, and heartache down the line. If you don’t trust your trainer to help, reconsider if you’re with the right trainer.

  4. To import or not to import. This is not a new topic, but worth stating. While we’re all pleased if we can find the perfect horse stateside, it doesn’t always work that way. Due to lower prices in Europe and easy access to several barns and shows, importing has many advantages. My advice is don’t be afraid of that - you’ll often get a high quality horse for about the same price as finding one here, even with the import fees.

  5. When buying horses, expect your trainer to go through people they know and trust, or the closest partners of their closest partners. Trust is a big part of knowing what you’re getting, and feeling confident if something goes wrong in the process. So don’t be surprised if your trainer recommends a horse through someone they know over one found in a random ad. They do it with your best interest in mind.

  6. Know when to follow hard and fast rules (never get a green horse for a green rider) and when to bend them (you found that one horse that is the perfect match for a specific rider even if they don’t follow the blueprint). A trainer should know their rider well enough to make that call.

  7. Be realistic about your training/show goals and timelines for each horse you’re considering, before you make the final decision. Some riders want to compete the month after the horse arrives, while others will invest some time into building up a horse for long-term goals. Having very specific conversations ahead of time reduces disappointment or confusion later.

  8. You should always conduct a pre-purchase exam (PPE) and x-ray as much as you can. While it can sometimes identify deal killers, it’s also incredibly valuable in giving you more information on how best to care for your horse and know its limitations. There is never a perfect PPE if they do a thorough enough job. It’s really just knowing what you’re willing to manage and what won’t work for the horse’s intended job.

  9. To that point, don’t settle and rush the process. If the horse you’re evaluating isn’t right for its future job and the goals you have, it’s not the right horse for you. It doesn’t matter if it’s a dark bay with bright dapples and four white socks. The horse you choose should get you excited while also being suitable, so hold out for the right one. Conversely, sometimes you’ll find your horse at the beginning of the process, so be willing to recognize that and not get sucked into the ’grass is always greener’ endless shopping journey.

  10. Buying a horse is just the beginning. Owning and caring for your horse is the real journey. When a rider puts in the work, education, and time needed to form a true partnership, that’s when the perfect horse becomes your perfect horse and you both reach your full potential.

While there are many considerations in horse shopping, it's so worth it in the end! If you need assistance at any stage of your horse journey, feel free to reach out. We’re here to help.

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