A simple system to help you buy horses

A horse is a big-ticket purchase with many variables and qualities to consider. It can be very overwhelming for many to even know where to begin.

Before I begin my search, I determine if:

  1. I am buying for myself;
  2. I am buying for resale; or
  3. I am buying for a specific client.

And honestly, now the sport is so elevated I try to think about resale when I am buying for myself. However, when I am buying for a client who is seeking to become a better rider in the sport, I don’t want to be as concerned with resale. When I am developing riders, I tell their parents or purchasers that they are paying a tuition, not buying a commodity. I think this is a tragically lost concept. Good horses make good riders. There is no way around that.

Finding the perfect mount is a difficult process to assess. I like to keep it simple and focus on nine very specific qualities, that I believe are critical in a top horse for any purpose. When I try each horse, I rate the following qualities on a scale of 1-10:

  1. Heart
  2. Scope
  3. Rideability
  4. Blood
  5. Carefulness
  6. Bravery
  7. Conformation
  8. Feet
  9. Soundness

1. Heart:
I believe this is the most important quality yet it’s probably the most difficult to evaluate. I have a few exercises I use during the trial to test heart but at the end of the day this quality is quite rider specific. I believe that this is the core factor of our equestrian partners that makes our sport the only Olympic sport where men and women compete equally.

2. Scope:
This quality is critical in today’s world where the courses keep getting bigger and better. I do believe that a horse with a great heart develops more scope over time.

3. Rideability:
Rideability is essential for resale, and I think women can gain more out of a rideable horse than men. This is almost as important as heart.

4. Blood:
How much blood do you like compared to the rest of the show jumping world? For resale this is important. For educating riders, I try to match their comfort zone with blood or a small step above. I’d rather have more blood than less. Regardless, no matter the blood, a horse must be able to listen in the last three to four strides before the jump.

5. Carefulness:
This quality is reasonably easy to test. Hopefully, you can trust the people you are buying the horse from. A good horse always tries not to hit a jump, but if they do, they get better from the mistake and not worse. Remember to factor in your trust with the people who represent the horse on this.

6. Bravery:
Bravery is very similar yet opposite to Carefulness. Be sure to do your research. Some younger horses may seem overly brave or evermore too chicken. However, it can be entirely connected to their current training program. Work only with people you trust and trust your gut.

7. Conformation:
We all know the basics on conformation, and at the end of the day, this part should be left up to the vet. A horse with a long back will always have a long back. A short neck will always be short. Whatever physical shortcomings a horse may have when you try it, are not likely going away. It’s worst flaw will always be it’s worst flaw. Is that acceptable?

8. Feet:
This is an important category on its own because the feet are the horse’s tires and you don’t get to buy new ones. You can only retread and inflate or deflate. Yup, that’s it. Take a look at their feet when you try them and discuss any concerns you have with your vet.

9. Soundness:
Soundness is separate from Conformation or Feet because there are some issues that a top sport horse can live with. I’d like to have full disclosure before the vetting. If you have accurate information and transparency, you can look at the horse’s competition schedule to determine how it has been managing with any issues. At the end of the day, be sure you can trust the person you are buying from and your vet.

I have included a handy form in a PDF format that you can download and print off for each horse you plan to try out. Take this along in a file folder and make notes after you ride each prospect. When you sit down to make your final decision, this can help you keep it all straight and focus on the qualities that are important for your goals.

Happy horse shopping.

Just click on the image below.