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Buying your first horse, or any horse, can be an intimidating process – what kind of horse is best, where do you look, what should you expect in the process?

In this video, I am going to share a few tips for what you should consider before you even go out to look at a horse, where to look for horses for sale, who sells horses, and what happens at each stage of the buying process.

Watch the video below and then share your experiences… If you already own a horse, how did you find your horse and what advice could you give to someone else?

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33 Responses

  1. I bought my first horse when I was 32 and still have him 16 years later. I looked for over a year. I started looking with my trainer since I was a beginning adult rider. I broke with him after he showed me horses that were completely unsuitable and not even for sale. I saw many pretty ones and one x barrel racer that was beautiful. Best advice I can give is trust your gut and think it through. If you are a beginner you probably don’t want a barrel racer. If you buy a green horse be willing and ready to put in the time and effort involved to train it. Work with someone you trust if you are unsure and let them guide you. Ultimately though it is your decision! As for me… husband and I drove in the driveway and Maverick caught my eye. Before I ever got out of the car I said “If that’s him I’m taking him!” Something just clicked. We went for a trail ride and bees got under his saddle pad and he just stomped a foot. Then I fell off on a steep embankment when he was going down and he just stood there and waited for me to get back on. He was 4 1/2 years old and had only been ridden one time. Usually green and green makes black and blue but we’ve been a good fit since day one. He’s still the kind sweet horse he’s always been. I just kissed him on the nose today!

  2. Hi Callie!
    I love your videos and outstanding information you give…Please tell me your detailed thoughts and opinions about a Palomino(mare)….Jimmy

    1. Hi Jimmy,
      Glad you enjoy the blog, unfortunately I can’t really help you just knowing she is a Palomino mare!

  3. Since I wanted an OTTB project horse for pleasure and not performance, my search was a little different than some. I found OTTB rehoming organizations good sources, more interested in good fits than simply moving or selling horses. My interactions with individual sellers was less positive.

  4. Hi Callie,
    We bought our first horses 30 years ago from a horse dealer. We didn’t know a lot about horses but we just wanted trail horses to hop on and ride along all the trails near our home. Our horses came as a pair and they were both beautiful! The 3 year old mare had never had a saddle on her and the gelding had quite a few very bad and dangerous habits. I was ready to give up after about two days but my husband loved them both immediately and he just “rode the horse he had today” We survived many amazing adventures and after 25 years when our dear horses passed on, we debated about getting new ones. We decided to go ahead and once again we were not much wiser in our choices. Our new mare is 15 year old headstrong draft/quarter horse who has apparently had a lot of training and forgotten it all. My little guy is a 6 year old gelding whose nick name is “Cricket” We are in our fourth year with these guys and we love them and we just keep working on them with consistency and firmness and kindness. We are getting older and ride much less than we would like to but they keep us young and challenged. Now for sure if I was to be buying a new one I would look for the proverbial old grey mare and probably get a lot more relaxing riding. I sure do enjoy your videos and I just love that no matter what our horses throw at us, we just try to meet their challanges by realizing that we always have more to learn.
    Thanks for all the tips!

  5. Callie,
    This was so helpful and I wish you had made it 2 months ago! I just downloaded the book. I have a potential new horse arriving on Sunday and I’m going to read through this book right now. Happy Friday evening to me!

    This has been a grueling process. I went through a broker/agent with a previous horse (didn’t end up buying her) who failed to disclose so many things about the horse despite my asking her directly. I should have known when she was so evasive about answering questions. That is definitely a red flag to buyers. I’ve learned so much in the past two months. The new potential horse, arriving on Sunday, is polar opposite of the previous process. Single private seller, all vet records back to 2001, and so much information about the horse I’m trying to sift through how to approach him as a fresh start and still take into consideration some of the things the previous owner is sharing. I have him on trial for 3o days and I’m wondering about a few things that I hope you can help me with.

    1. How much or how little should I take a previous owners “assessment” of their horse’s quirks into consideration? I want to approach the new horse with some education about him, but also don’t want to make myself crazy with the previous owners “do’s and don’ts”.

    For example, this horse, who is now 20, is an OTTB, who was retrained for professional circuit level hunter/jumpers. The seller often says things like “well, he’s a little head shy because he was abused at the track” and “He doesn’t respond well to whips because he was abused by some kids with a whip in his face once.” I want to be sensitive to the horse’s needs and experiences, but I also (as a teacher of high school students) know that sometimes we can project onto horses our own fears and anxieties when really they don’t have nearly the issues we think they do.

    So, I guess I’m asking, to what degree should I approach this horse and all the info I’m getting with a grain of salt, and cautiously, but deliberately, assess him myself, and work on issues that may be able to be improved.

    Another example would be that he needs work on not walking ahead when being lead on the ground. I’ve heard people say things like, he’s a thoroughbred and they are sometimes compelled to want to walk (shark syndrome?). I’d like to work on that issue with him, but want to know if you think that is something that can be trained out of him?

    Thanks for your insights!

    1. Hi Michelle,
      Thanks for your comment and questions! Congrats on your new horse!
      To answer your question, I always listen carefully to what the seller describes so I can recognize behaviors that have strong patterns and be extra aware when tackling something that is a known issue. That said, I believe that most behaviors can be changed much easier than most people think. Head shyness and whip sensitivity can definitely be changed, as can walking ahead on the lead line.
      You couldn’t have said it better that it is important to be aware of what may be an issue, but many times it has been created or continued by the prior owner.
      Here is a video I just thought of that may help with the head shy behavior:

      1. Thank you Callie. Just having you confirm my thinking has made me so much more confident! I’m going to what the video ASAP. Although, he isn’t nearly as head shy as it seemed he would be. That said, I haven’t even so much as looked in the direction of a whip. He definitely doesn’t need it when being ridden, he’s very responsive (even at 20!) and he’s already improving with walking on the lead. All good things happening over here! Thanks for the many videos that you provide! I am so grateful for all of your info and advice.

  6. I loved that you mentioned being green and getting a green horse and growing together. That’s what I’ve done and I believe it has made me a much more understanding, patient, and strong rider because I better understand how they think and we have an incredible bond. It does take more time, but I don’t have these set goals that I have to achieve in a short period of time. It’s more about enjoying the process, being the moment, being the best rider/teacher I can be for her, and enjoying her breakthroughs. I also was super prepared and have a network of support around me that I trust for advice. That’s crucial. Thanks Callie for always being spot on!

  7. I used to ride competitively when I was younger and owned my own horse. He was wonderful and I miss him dearly. I married and had children so I gave up horses and riding for a long time. My children are grown now so I’m just getting back into it. I’m going to start taking lessons again as I’m a bit rusty! My plan is to purchase a horse by next year. I’m very nervous about doing that as there are many untrustworthy people out there. I’ve been looking online at sites that advertise horses for sale and also looking online at horse farms in my area that sell horses as well. Perhaps when I start taking lessons at one of these farms I might be able to try out one of their horses for sale. Unfortunately I don’t have unlimited funds and it seems that the sale prices are close to $10,000 and up! My question is, is this reasonable? I’ve been out of the horse world for a while so I’m really not sure. Although I would rather pay a little more for a good horse, I’m sure the price is not a guarantee that it’s a good horse. Thank you so much for the ebook and all of your videos! I really appreciate it!

    1. Hi Kim,
      I just started back after a long hiatus and did the same thing! I have a few tips too (although you didn’t ask me and Callie is the professional!).

      1. Make sure you are comfortable Aniyah in your skill set (even though we rode as young people, the muscle memory is there but the conditioning and balance takes a while to get back!) that you can try out the horses you look at and are able to “do” all the things you want them to be able to do. It’s one thing to bring a trainer with you (which is also important) but you want to be sure you can do enough to assess the horse yourself.

      2. Be prepared and be patient- it’s a long and sometimes frustrating process. I tried 3 different horses (two on trial) before I found the right fit. Lots of driving and trying and trying again and trailering costs and vet checks etc all added a lot to the cost of “buying”.

      3. Re “prices”– I tried out a horse that was “perfect” and was $10k that I didn’t have any connection with. So that was a deal breaker for me.

      Then I tried another horse that was the right price but was too much horse and required more training than I wanted to pay additionally for. Then I tried a great horse also a great price who had so many physical issues that came up during the trial (that the broker didn’t tell me about and I had to investigate myself and have a vet tell me during the PPE.) so she didn’t work.

      By luck, I happened upon a “Free to good home” on a Facebook group I follow. This is usually a red flag because the horses can be significantly limited (i.e. Can’t/won’t jump, some kind of serious lameness, companion only, etc). But in this case it was a young woman who was going to vet school, having financial constraints, and was more worried about finding a great home for her horse than about making money off him. He had been out of regular work for about 6 months as she was in school/working full time, and he has some mild arthritis from age (20 yrs) but he has been a good fit for me so far (I have him on 30 day trial). He’s really well trained in my discipline (hunters/jumpers) can do moderate jumping and needs to build his conditioning– just like me. So far so good. And he was free.

      So I guess my advice is like anything, you usually get what you pay for, but there can be exceptions. There are so many horses out there that searching became a full time job AND I had many folks helping me find a good fit.

      I hope this helps!

      1. Thank you so much Michelle! This was great advice that I will take seriously into consideration. I have some significant concerns about my conditioning but I’m willing to do whatever it takes to get back into shape for riding. It’s the only thing that I truly have ever really loved doing. I’ll try to especially remember to be patient. I had such an incredible bond with my first horse that I know I won’t be happy until I can find that again. Thanks again Michelle!! 🙂

    2. Hi Kim,
      Prices can very a lot depending on your location. In my area, a good horse with solid training can be found for a lot less than $10,000. Age can make a big difference in pricing. Often when a horse hits about mid teens asking prices begin to decline with the logic that their working years are limited.

      1. Thank you Callie! I live in upstate NY but I am so happy to hear that I may be able to find a horse for less than $10,000. I have noticed that the age does seem to make a difference in the price. My concern is that I want to get back into jumping and I just want to be sure that it won’t hurt a mid-teen or older horse. I plan to have any horse I consider checked thoroughly by a vet. Is there a certain age that a horse should retire from jumping or does it depend on whether there have been injuries?

      2. I just saw Michelle’s reply to your question too, she answered it much more eloquently, great advice there!

  8. Like Teri above, I went for a green, five-year-old horse. While I am a relatively green rider, the green-green combination has worked well. I was able to put my faith in a dear friend and breeder of Australian Stock Horses. Wayne has ridden just about every day of his life for fifty-nine years and knows everything there is to know about horses. When he said Maus (my horse) was suitable for my level of riding, I didn’t hesitate to buy him. That was four months ago, and he hasn’t put a hoof wrong. I suppose the lesson is that you must try to find someone whom you trust implicitly – someone with sufficient expertise to spot behavioral and soundness problems.

  9. Callie,
    I recently renewed my interest in horses and riding after a hiatus of about 30 years. Having entered semi-retirement with more time to commit, I wanted a horse that was green broken so that I could help finish him/her, under the guidance of a professional trainer at a stable near my home. I first purchased a beautiful 9 yr. old registered Morgan mare. I did travel to evaluate her before the purchase, and though she was a little flighty, she seemed intelligent and relatively easy to handle. I was lured by her gorgeous conformation and biddable nature, and therefore made a second trip to buy her and transport her home. I began working consistently with her, and her training was progressing very nicely. After I had her for about 6 weeks, after warming up, I was cantering her easily in the arena when she immediately bucked twice, sending me over her head and fracturing my pelvis in the process. I had absolutely no forewarning of this action. After examination, we could find no physical explanation for her outburst. While I was hobbling on crutches, I had a trainer continue to work with her virtually everyday. After about 6 weeks of additional training, the mare did the same thing again. I watched the raucous event, as the mare, without a hint of warning, reared and bucked, tossing the trainer to the ground. As I reassessed my goals and aspirations, I decided that it would be best to find this beautiful (and quite lovable, by the way) mare a good home in an environment that would be more suitable for her and safer for me. I was fortunate enough to do so.

    Subsequently, I purchased a second horse, a grade gelding, using different selection parameters. He was equally green, but he had a totally different personality, a much more confident left brain horse, rather than the right brain introvert persona of the Morgan mare. Additionally, and I think this is extremely important, I took him on a trial of a week or two in order to make sure that he was honestly represented and that he and I would form a good team. He can try to be a bit dominant at times, but he is improving quickly with firmness administered effectively but with kindness and respect. All in all, he is a wonderful horse, and the two of us are having a great time getting to know each other.

    The main points that I wish to share are: 1) place much less emphasis on the horse’s physical beauty and much more on what is between his/her ears, and 2) by all means, take the time necessary to spend with the horse, in order to make sure that the two of you will be a good match.

    Many of the breeders I contacted before purchase informed me that they sold most of their horses to buyers at a distance, often out of state, and that the buyers virtually always purchased the horses after viewing videos and discussing specifics over the phone without ever laying eyes on the horses. Some of the breeders seemed to find it annoying that I actually wanted to come see and ride their horses before I would agree to purchase. I find this disconcerting. I know that we live in a world filled with digital devices and cyber communications, but prudence dictates that some things need to be done the old fashioned way.

    As always, Callie, your video is delightful and insightful. Thanks for all the help that you give to the horse world.

  10. Hi Callie, Thank you so much for all the generous resources that you’ve made available to first time horse owners like myself. I leased and took lessons with my daughters on our first horse, Niccolo, for over a year. We knew exactly what we were getting, the good, the bad, but absolutely nothing ugly! He’s a beautiful boy inside and out. What a sense of humor he has, also. He makes me laugh almost every day and we all love him very much!

  11. First, I would like to let you know that your book was a big help in mentally organizing the purchase of my first horse, and helping me get comfortable with the process. Certainly recommended reading for anyone contemplating horse ownership.

    I’m 69 years old and started riding three years ago on a trip to Ireland. We loved it and continued taking lessons when we returned. I got hooked on jumping and my wife, who rode as a girl, loves equitation.

    After three years of school horses I wanted to ride more and I wanted a closer relationship with a horse so working with our barn owner and our trainer we started looking. And as everyone learns there is no “perfect” horse, at least not one in our budget. But eventually one came along that looked interesting and after a four week lease I fell in love. She’s a 7 year old paint-thoroughbred cross with a gentile personality that loves to run and loves to jump. She’s short on training but our coach is bringing us both along. Based on my experience, I’ll offer a few suggestions:
    – Work with someone you trust that knows horses and knows your ability. It might cost you a 10% finders fee but the confidence you’re making a sound decision is worth it.
    – If you can arrange a one month lease prior to the purchase that can give you an opportunity to identify problems and sort out things that can be fixed. When my mare got to the barn she did a lot of head tossing. We found out her teeth hadn’t been floated in two years. After that was done, the head tossing disappeared.
    – Fully understand the financial commitment you’ll be making and make sure you’ve got some flexibility for the new bridle she’ll have to have and for the vet when she’s lame after horsing around with her paddock buddies.
    – After you fall in love, but before you sign the papers, get a pre-purchase exam from a vet you trust.

    Granted its only been a few months, but I couldn’t be happier then when she nickers her greeting to me.

  12. Hi Callie:
    Great video and informative, as always!
    Can you give me an idea of the yearly cost, approximately, of owning a horse.
    Thank you,

  13. Just curious, how much money should I save before purchasing a horse? I am starting almost completely from scratch.

  14. Hello. I’m 43 years old, a new rider, and I recently bought my first horse and she is great! However, I find that my muscles hurt under neath my bottom; right where my thigh meets my bottom. It’s to the point where if I sit down, I’m really sore. Not my tailbone, but I believe it’s my muscles. (I don’t think it’s my saddle.) My question is, is this something that my muscles will get used to or is this not normal? I’ve also had issues with my knees as well. After about 2 hours of riding, I have to take my legs out of the stirrups and let them hang for relief. I’ve adjusted my stirrups several times so I don’t think it’s that. Anyway, again, is this something normal that new riders go through?

  15. I know I’m a couple years late to the party… But I’m looking to buy my first horse, and the stable owner told me to get an older horse (which I agree with – I’m advanced beginner to intermediate so I would like a more experienced horse), and not a Thoroughbred. My instructor told me to get a gelding, at least 15hh (which I agree with – I’m almost 5’8″). I’m trying horses at a rescue this Saturday, but I can’t get away from Thoroughbreds (I live in Kentucky) and mares! Are Thoroughbreds and mares generally more difficult to work with, or should I forget breed/gender and look for personality?

    1. A lot it depends heavily on your skill level and what type of riding you do. Definitely certain breeds, like Thoroughbreds, can be more sensitive and reactive than for example a big draft horse but it is all relative. With a mare you do have to consider possible behavior changes during their cycles but that doesn’t mean that all mares are crazy when they are in heat – it depends on the individual horse.

      I hope that helps and happy horse hunting!

      – Julia Burdy, CRK Training Community Manager

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