There comes a time in every rider's life when your current mount is no longer suitable. You may have outgrown him physically or he may not be up to the job you want him to do. Sometimes it can be as simple as the aging process and you need a younger horse whilst your current horse enjoys a well earned retirement. Whatever the cause there are certain things that you should always bear in mind before making any choices.
Your budget is an important factor, you should know exactly what you can afford to spend and don't be tempted to overstretch yourself by an enthusiastic seller. Remember, once you have bought your horse, you still have to keep him and that is not a cheap hobby. If it is your first horse you need to be especially wary on this point.
The very first thing you should do after you have set your budget is to carefully consider what you want your horse for, hacking, dressage, show jumping - all require different characteristics. Size and build are obviously among the first considerations - the horse must be big enough for you, this is especially important if you are buying for a youngster who is still growing. Do you want a horse that will need some work to develop or one that is easy to handle. Age is also a consideration, along with temperament and you should give a lot of thought to what his workload will be.
When you go to see a horse make sure you take a look at all aspects of how he handles. Check him over in his stall before he is tacked up and don't be afraid to touch and feel to see if there is anything you need to ask about. See how he behaves when being tacked up and watch how he reacts to you as a stranger. You should always make sure you see the horse working, trotting, walking, and so forth on the rein and with a rider. See how he goes over a couple of jumps and how he works with a rider. You should always watch carefully for his reactions both to his owner, the rider (if they are not the same) and to you and anyone you have with you. Only when you are happy with all those things should you get on.
It never ceases to amaze me how many people buy a horse without actually getting on and riding him, absolute madness! You wouldn't buy a car without taking a test drive and this is a much more personal relationship. Only when you are actually riding the horse can you judge what he is like, and your gut instinct is generally right. If he is sluggish or unwilling to respond you have to decide if this is just unfamiliarity or a temperament problem. Don't ever be rushed into making a quick decision. If you are not certain then go away and think about it. A reputable seller will not mind.
Even if you are happy with the horse, don't be rushed into a quick decision. Go away and do some detective work, check out his record, talk to people about him - again a reputable and honest seller won't mind. If they do, ask yourself why.
Finally before buying, get someone else to come and look with you. Ideally consult an equine professional of some sort, even your Vet. It may cost a little but that would be far less costly than buying an expensive horse that turned out to be unsuitable.
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