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What Kind of Horse Should You Buy?

Updated on May 11, 2011

"A horse is a horse, of course, of course"- right? Not so much. Horses range in size from the very small to the very tall. Some rack, some race, some gallop, some pace. That is to say, If you're in the market for a horse, you have options.

When considering what type of horse to buy, the first question you need to ask yourself is what you plan on doing with your equine friend. Do you want a trail horse? Do you want to show? In which discipline do you plan on riding? Do you simply want a pet to groom and pamper? Once you narrow down your interest, you can pick a suitable partner.

You will find that some horses are better suited for certain disciplines, and that judges for shows in that discipline often choose horses that fit their "type." For example, in the Hunter show ring, Arabians typically don't do well. They tend to jump with a flatter back than Thoroughbreds and warmbloods and many judges view this negatively. Whether it's fair or not is beside the point. If you want to show in Hunters, you should probably look for a horse that fits the Hunter type.

If you want to do dressage, you have more options when it comes to picking a breed. Any horse can do dressage, because dressage is (at its very most basic) training the horse to be balanced and straight. Think of dressage as ballet for horses. Anyone can do it, and anyone will benefit from the practice, but certain body types will make more beautiful ballerinas. In dressage a horse is taught to collect and extend, and poor conformation makes this difficult. Whatever breed you choose, you should look for excellent conformation and naturally beautiful gaits. Dressage will enhance whatever natural talent your horse was born with.

If you're into Western riding, a Quarter Horse is the most obvious choice for you. Quarter horses were bred to be hardy, quick and strong and they are one of the most versatile breeds. They excel at multiple disciplines, from Western Pleasure to Hunter/Jumper and dressage. If you're not sure what style of riding you want to do, then a Quarter Horse is a good choice because you'll have options.

Another factor to consider is that some horse breeds are what horse people call "easy keepers." This means they have a relatively low metabolism and stay healthy and plump on smaller amounts of food. Quarter Horses and Morgans have a reputation for being easy keepers. Thoroughbreds, on the other hand, are notorious for eating their owners out of house and home. Thoroughbreds are the supermodels of the equine world; they can eat whatever they want and still stay skinny! Winter is particularly hard on this breed. They often lose weight in the winter because they burn more calories to stay warm. If you plan on purchasing a Thoroughbred, be prepared to spend more on feed and hay. This can add up quickly!

A third question to ask yourself is whether you want to purchase a "finished" horse or if you want to spend some time training your new friend. A finished horse will be calm, sane, used to being ridden, and knowledgable about his job. This is a horse you can hop on and go right to work. A finished horse will understandably be more expensive because someone else has put the time and energy into teaching him his job.

If you're a fairly knowledgable horse person and you're up for a challenge, consider purchasing a "project" horse. This sort of horse is usually young and has little if any training under saddle. He may know the basics of whoa and go, but you will have to fine tune this horse and teach him the specifics of your discipline. These horses are much cheaper than finished horses, but the money you save on the purchase price you can easily spend on training. They are not necessarily a better deal, because you will have to devote large amounts of time and effort to training them. I don't want to discourage you, however; bringing a horse along is very rewarding and the bond the two of you form will be well worth the effort!

There are many more factors to consider when purchasing a horse; these are just a few questions to get you started in narrowing down your selection. Whatever horse you choose and whatever discipline you ride in, horse ownership is a joy and a challenge. Good luck finding your dream horse!

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