Buying Your First Horse? Don’t Fall At The First Hurdle.

Ever since I discovered cartoonist Norman Thelwell‘s cute fluffy horses and my dad bought me horse-riding lessons, I’ve fancied having my own horse or pony.  Cliche, though it may be, lots of little girls go through an ‘I want a pony’ stage. Whilst suggesting a unicorn may be a better (and cheaper alternative), kids as savvy as my daughter Caitlin aren’t about to fall for that.
If you do have the cash and the land and you are wondering where on earth to start, here are just some of the things to consider when buying your first horse or pony – and before you canter off and shell out a small fortune in riding gear and hay.
I’m already assuming, by the way, that you have somewhere to house the horse, whether rental of a field or your own stable.

Buying your first horse or pony – things to consider

Get some experience of horses and ponies

If you have no experience of horses and ponies you will struggle. Get yourself or your child some riding lessons at a properly accredited school.  Not only will you need to know how to ride but you’ll need to know how to care for your horse and do the basics such as tacking up and grooming.
If it turns out that your child absolutely hates riding or, after all, is scared of horses and ponies, you’ll have saved yourself a small fortune.

The cost

Before you visualise yourself galloping across a beach Demelza style, you need to make sure you understand the financial cost of buying a horse or pony.

This is, obviously, not a one-off item of expenditure.  For example, you’ll have to shell out for:-

  • Feed
  • Bedding
  • Livery (uniforms, riding gear)
  • Tack (saddles, reins)
  • Rugs
  • Show fees
  • Transportation
  • Insurance
  • Vets’ bills

The Time

Children are excellent are promising the earth, moon and stars if there’s a chance of getting the pet of the moment (and make no mistake, these often change out of the blue).  Of course, they’ll muck out, ride the pony every day, feed, groom, sweep the stable etc.

Just in case this doesn’t happen and you end up doing it, do you have the time?  If not, can you afford to employ someone to do it for you?  A stroppy 11-year-old is not a strong proposition for that I’m thinking.

The breed

If you have any experience of horses at all, you’ll know that their temperaments can vary wildly.  More placid and docile is best for a novice rider (same applies to husbands I find).

Arabs and Thoroughbreds are known to be flighty and need more experienced handling and management than a novice owner is likely to be able to provide. Then there are  Warmbloods who are more suited to the show ring than trekking through the countryside.

Best for novice riders are Cob type horses and horses which have been cross-bred with heavy breeds (think Shire horses) may have a more even temperament.

Before you buy, it’s a good idea to have some riding lessons so that you can experience different breeds and your riding instructor can advise you which is best for you and your style of riding (or your child’s).


This is where the experience of actually handling a horse is important. Ideally, when you view the horse you need to be able to do everything you’ll have to do when you have got the horse home – for example tacking up.  If you have no clue how to put a saddle on you’re going to struggle.

Think about where you’re going to keep your mount. Check the horse’s current living conditions.  If the animal has a calm and quiet life, exposing it to hoards of kids and dogs may prove distressing for it.

Pre-Purchase Examination

Most of us know that you shouldn’t buy a motor without getting it checked out by a professional for our own health and safety – and the same applies to horses and ponies.

You should invest in a pre-purchase examination (PPE) by a vet which might find problems you would not have picked up on.  That slight soreness may lead to lameness later on.

You’ll need a 5-stage pre-purchase examination if you’re planning to insure your horse for vets fees (a must!).  Unlike an MOT, however, the PPE gives you an overview of the strengths and weakness of the horse to help you decide whether they are a safe buy or not.

And don’t forget that, as with medical insurance policies, any pre-existing medical conditions discovered in the PPE won’t be covered by your equine insurance.

There is an awful lot to think about, particularly in terms of keeping your horse healthy. It is advisable to look into any common illnesses horses can suffer with, including laminitis or Cushing’s Disease, to ensure you’d be able to spot any symptoms early. You can read more on Cushing’s in horses here.

Whatever you do, don’t rush into buying a horse or pony without doing as much research as possible, getting hands-on experience for you and your child and making sure that it really is a pony they’re after – and not a unicorn.

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