So you’re on the hunt for your next partner in crime, your future Olympic champion, or soon-to-be best friend. Congrats! You are now involved in the most exciting and simultaneously frustrating process in the entire world! The idea of horse hunting gives goosebumps to us all and brings our mental checklist to mind.
You know, the one that keeps a running tally of all the qualities you’d like in your ideal horse? We all have one — just admit it. In honor of Sport Horse Nation’s four-year anniversary this month, I’m here to lend a few friendly tips for the next time you’re scouring the globe for your perfect equine.
1. Create Your Mental Checklist
The first place to start is by compiling a rough list of the skills you would like your future horse to have. What level do you want the horse to be competing at already? Do you mind one that is greener, and if so, do you have experience with green horses so you know what you’re getting yourself into? What are your competitive aspirations?
A lot of people theoretically want a horse that has athletic abilities that exceed what they will actually need, and that is fine, but it’s important to realize that generally, the more athletic the horse, the more difficult they are to ride. Sometimes, a less flashy horse might bring you more educational opportunities, and more fun along the way.
Once you have your list of abilities, think about the character and personality type that fits you best. Do you have an electric butt, and therefore should stay away from the hotter type horse? If you’ve been riding for a while, you can think back to other horses that you’ve ridden and consider the personalities that automatically clicked with yours. When considering the temperament of your future horse, it’s also important to factor in what lifestyle you expect him/her to lead.
If you only ride a few days a week, or don’t have access to a lot of turnout, you’ll want to remember that as well. Within this category, I will allow the mare/gelding preference, because many believe that there is a strong correlation between sex and temperament. However, I would be amiss if I did not mention that my bay warmblood gelding has more opinions about life than any chestnut mare I’ve ever met, so don’t believe all the hype!
2. Be Realistic About the Right Horse for You
The next step is sometimes a bit difficult, as it means you have to be totally honest with yourself and maybe get a tough second opinion. When looking for a new horse, you absolutely have to be realistic about your own riding abilities, limitations and goals for the future. It’s far too easy to be swayed by the romance of the moment and go home with a horse that is too much for you, which ends up being overwhelming or frustrating more often than not.
This is where having an excellent and trustworthy coach comes in because he or she can help you assess if you’re going outside your own realm of capabilities. That being said, it’s not a terrible thing to buy a horse that’s a challenge, as long as you’re prepared for it and have access to education to help you along the way.
3. Set Your Budget
Perhaps most obviously, the next part is taking a good look at your finances and setting yourself a realistic budget. Equally important is realizing that no, you can’t have a 6-year-old warmblood gelding that’s winning at Preliminary and has a perfect vetting for $5,000. Having a budget isn’t a bad thing, but overestimating what your dollar will bring you is a certain way to be bummed out.
Horses are unfortunately expensive (as we all know too well!), and part of the process is figuring out the numbers. Equally important is realizing how much it costs per month to maintain said horse, without even factoring in emergency costs or competition upkeep. A free horse is never just a free horse!
When you’ve done all these things, you’re a little bit closer to finding your future superstar. There are hundreds and thousands of different horses out there — all different sizes, shapes, colors and with cool talents that make them unique. Inevitably, there is a match out there for you! Might I suggest starting your search at Sport Horse Nation?