Thinking of Buying a Young Horse? Why It May Be the Wrong Choice for You

You’re thinking of buying a young horse so you (or your child) can develop a bond and learn together. Or maybe you want a horse that’s a ‘clean slate’.  You want to find your dream horse.See Beyond the Outside Beauty

Unfortunately, that dream horse can become a night mare if you buy a horse that is the wrong match for you – especially if you believe the common horse buying myths.

Here are 3 common myths about buying a young horse and, more importantly, a reality check for each one.

Myth #1 –  A young horse costs less than an older, more experienced horse.  It takes years to train a horse well and no time at all to teach a horse undesirable (unsafe) behaviours and to shatter his confidence.  You may be able to buy a young horse for less money, but any money saved will be spent on training (and then some!)    Riding lessons and horse training can cost thousands of dollars.   And, even that doesn’t guarantee that the “finished” horse will be the right partner for you.

Reality Check – Budget to purchase an older horse that already has training and experience doing the type of work you desire.  You’ll save money in the long run and both you and your horse will be happier, more confident and better partners for each other.

Myth #2 – You will learn together and develop a stronger bond.  There is a well used saying in the horse world that”green on green equals black and blue”.  You cannot learn to ride well or improve your own riding skills while working with a horse with no or very little training.  Young horses are unbalanced, unpredictable and need to have an experienced rider who has the knowledge and riding skill to give them a good start. Riding horses has inherent risk no matter what level of experience you have.  The risk  increases exponentially when an inexperienced rider is on an inexperienced horse.

Reality Check – Riding is a partnership and one of the partners should know more than the other.  Green riders learn more, faster and have more confidence when partnered with a well-schooled, experienced horse with a patient, forgiving temperament for their first equine partner.   The same is true for green horses.

Myth #3 – Older horses cost more to keep.   While some older horses may need extra supplements and some TLC to keep their bodies healthy and comfortable, these extras are generally not expensive (and are certainly less expensive than the cost of training a young horse correctly).  Unexpected veterinary expenses happen with horses of all ages. Even young horses get sick and injured – sometimes simply through youthful exuberance, inquisitiveness and poor decisions.

Reality Check – Horses – much like people – are living longer and staying healthier than they used to.  All horses, regardless of their age, require regular farrier and veterinary care, and nutrition appropriate for their stage of life and activity level. These regular expenses as well as unexpected veterinary expenses should be included in your horse keeping budget.

“Having a horse that can be your teacher, partner and friend – this is a dream come true.”

The Bottom Line – Put temperament and training at the top of your horse shopping priority list.  Breed papers, colour and appearance don’t mean a thing if the horse’s temperament doesn’t suit you or he needs a lot of training to do what you need.  A well-trained, ugly (if there is such a thing) horse with a good temperament will be a much better partner than the beautiful, registered, green horse with challenging personality traits.

As I advise my clients, the absolute best way to get the horse of your dreams is being clear about your own skills and goals, knowing what to look for and being prepared before you go shopping.

You can instantly download more horse buying tips in my ebooklet ’92 Tips You Must Know Before Buying Your First (or Next) Horse‘.

These tips will guide you through every step of the horse buying journey – how to prepare, where to look, what to look for, making an offer and what to do before bringing your new horse home.

Your Turn

What advice would you give to someone buying her first horse?  Sharing your experiences or questions is simple.  Just leave a comment or share your thoughts below or through FacebookLinkedIn orTwitter.

Share this post to spread the word about a better way to work with horses.  Enjoy your journey!


For more practical and in depth tips on improving your Confidence and your Partnership with your horse, order my book “Confident Rider, Confident Horse: Build Your Confidence While Improving Your Partnership with Your Horse from the Ground to the Saddle”.   NOW AVAILABLE on Amazon.com!

 Interested in organizing a Confident Horsemanship clinic at your location? Click here for more information.

You’re welcome to use this article in your newsletter or blog as long as you notify me and include my credit information: ~ Written by Anne Gage, Confident Horsemanship (www.annegage.com).  

Click here to grap your FREE REPORT “The 3 Most Important Secrets You Need to Know to Develop Confidence with Horses”

Brought to you by Anne Gage ~ Confident Horsemanship – Putting you and your horse in good hands.   www.AnneGage.com

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10 thoughts on “Thinking of Buying a Young Horse? Why It May Be the Wrong Choice for You

  1. Pingback: Thinking of Buying a Young Horse? Why It May Be the Wrong ... - AutoBlog

  2. Thank you for this post. Wish I’d had this info when I was 15 and bought my first horse–a green broke 3 year old Quarter horse gelding. I had read all the books that said, “Don’t buy a young horse for your first horse,” but thought I was the exception to the rule. Thankfully he wasn’t dangerous, just stubborn. I cried because he was such a stinker from pulling away from me when lunging to bucking when I asked for the canter. Thankfully a kind trainer came into my life and helped me a lot so I could enjoy him more. I did learn perseverance through that horse, however! I agree with you wholeheartedly. It’s not wise for horse newbies to get young steeds. About the only exception I can think of is if the new horse owner has an amazing trainer that can oversee the relationship and make sure the horse is turned out for long periods of time, ridden daily by a seasoned rider, and THEN the new owner might have an enjoyable equine partner. Thanks again for your insights.

    • Susan – thanks for sharing your story. I did the same thing as you – except I was 20. I talk about Trooper in my book. I wonder if you suffered a lot of bumps and bruises through your journey with your first horse as I did. Back then I still had some ‘bounce’ in my body. It’s not the best (nor the easiest) way to learn. I agree whole heartedly with you about having a good trainer if you do buy a green horse. But, be prepared to stand at the ring side watching more than you’ll be riding for a long while.

      Enjoy your ride. 🙂

  3. Great post. As with humans, horses are living longer. If you want a SAFE horse for your child, the 20 year old is more likely to be the right choice than the 5 year old (yes, I am aware that exceptions to the rule do exist, but for the most part, you will find this is true). For adults, do you want to enjoy riding or be anxious the entire time about what may happen? Get the good broke, solid horse. P.S. If you aren’t planning to run barrels or event, you probably don’t need a horse with flawless x-rays. You probably don’t have flawless x-rays, and yet you manage to go to work each day, don’t you?

  4. This article was very helpful in that it really settled the notion that it’s a bad decision to buy a young horse as my first. While I have been riding for about 25 years, it has been random and sporadic – never really getting into a consistent riding program – which inevitably, left gaps in my horse knowledge and understanding. That’s not to say I don’t take seriously the horses’ cues and body language. I try my best to “listen” to the horse – on the ground and in the saddle. However, because of the time gaps in my riding/exposure to horses, I have developed a SLIGHT fear of being injured/kicked. I haven’t ever been kicked – only bitten once and that wasn’t serious. I recently started working at a barn that houses multiple OTTBs. This experience is worth it’s weight in gold to me, and has really given me the chance to see, first-hand, why it’s best to purchase a horse that “knows his job” and enjoys it too. A young horse, as you mentioned, can be unpredictable and any mistakes we make as humans (particularly new horse owners) will only damage the horse’s educational growth and nobody wins. There are 2 horses at my barn whose owners are afraid to ride them. They’re gorgeous show-quality horses too. One of those horses was bought sight-unseen – ridden once and spooked and dumped her rider. The owner hasn’t ridden her since this happened. It’s a real shame to see this stunning chestnut mare pacing nervously in her stall – wanting attention & direction. So just in a few days of seeing for myself what problems easily arise when newbies buy horses that are “too much horse” for them. Thank you for this article – every person considering a horse NEEDS to see this! Enjoy your riding!

  5. Hi, I wanted to ask, what if your interest in horses is largely to do with Straightness training and ground work? I am 21, I am looking to buy my first horse (I’d say I’m an experienced rider who’s been out the saddle for about 2 years). You article has raised a lot of red lights because I was really interested in buying a rising 5 mare. She has been brought on slowly by professionals and has an AMAZING affectionate, kind temperament. The perfect temperament for me. When I ride I like to do a bit of everything but I don’t ride to only focus on one thing – I don’t have a favourite. Recently I have been really interested in training horses from the ground and although that might not be everyone’s ideal, I think I would enjoy doing this. I have a very good trainer who has lots of experience who will help me. But now I feel like I’m being reckless and silly!

    P.s I learnt to ride when I was 5 and she threw me off almost every time I ride (2 days a week for 5 years) and I must have been crazy because it never hurt my confidence. I learned to land on my feet haha.

    • Hi, Jessica … Thanks for your question. Every situation is different. You’re are an experienced rider. It sounds like you’re working with an experienced trainer and your goal is to patiently bring a young horse along – focusing on building a solid foundation through ground work. Problems arise when someone who is not experienced with handling or riding horses gets a green horse as their first horse. Besides the huge learning curve for the person, the horse doesn’t always end up being the right horse for the discipline they want to do.

      If you do purchase the young mare, take your time and enjoy the journey together.

  6. Thanks so much for writing this article! You absolutely nailed it. Too many people with limited experience with horses buy youngsters in the hope that they’ll “train eachother” – and that just doesn’t happen! Imagine a class of school kids were studying for an exam and the teacher said “I don’t know any of this either, oh well I guess we can learn it together”! That teacher would be really letting those children down!

    A bit of background about me, I had weekly riding lessons since I was 5 and had horse shares throughout my twenties, I’m 30 now. I’ve seen many friends take the plunge with horse ownership and seen some good matches and some downright dangerous ones.

    I bought my first horse a year ago, a 17 year old Irish sports horse who had a great showjumping career and honestly I can say it was THE best decision I’ve ever made.

    Buying an experienced horse that’s “been there, done that” just fills me with confidence. When I take her out to local shows I know she will a) not be freaked out by it b) enjoy her job and c) keep me safe. I’ve loved getting to know her, and she’s taught me so much above and beyond the lessons of my early years.

    When you ride horses as your passion, your fun, your hobby and not your job, you need to be honest about the amount of time you can put in & what you hope to do with the horse.

    I was, and I have been rewarded with a fantastic mare!

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