The person who is making an effort to get his first horse rarely ever goes about it in a businesslike manner. So often, he has become so horse-conscious and is so enthusiastic about the prospect of owning his own horse that he overlooks the many things that he should be seeking in the horse that he expects to make his personal mount.
He is generally so anxious to become a horse owner that he buys one of the first horses he sees, regardless whether it is suitable for his use or not. The first consideration, of course, is to make a serious attempt to get a horse that will be satisfactory to you and that will do the work you want done and in the way that you will enjoy it.
Even though someone else may own this horse and has got along with it satisfactorily, this does not mean that it will suit your needs. From observation of more than twenty years, I have learned that many individuals think that simply because they can stay on a horse’s back without falling off and can guide this horse in the direction they want to go, that they are experienced horsemen.
They leave the impression with people they meet that they know a lot about horses, that they know just what they want, and are not inclined to accept any suggestions to them about the kind of horse that would be suitable for their use. This type of buyer has difficulty in getting a satisfactory horse because he rarely has any judgment about the kind of a horse he needs, nor is he a good judge of horsemanship.
The amateur horseman would profit most by learning early that it takes years to become a proficient horseman. It is not learned in a week or a month and not even in a year. There are exceptions, however, where some individuals seem to be natural horsemen, but such people are rare.
One of the first and most serious mistakes a beginning horseman makes when purchasing his first mount is basing his choice upon price alone.
The horse should be selected for suitability first, and then purchased even though there may be some slight difference in the price the buyer expected to pay. It does not always mean that high-priced horses give the most satisfaction. In fact, in many cases, a reasonably priced horse or sometimes even a low-priced horse may be just what the purchaser requires.
However, the price should not be the determining factor. For example, a beginner may hesitate to purchase a horse at $200, even though the upkeep and expense may be as much as $500 a year. So it would be unreasonable to hesitate to purchase a horse that seems suitable just because the seller was asking a few dollars more than the purchaser expected to pay, when the cost of upkeep is so great compared to the original cost.
A horse that gives you no pleasure and satisfaction and is unsuitable for the work you want to do would usually be too expensive regardless of the original cost. In fact, you would be better off without the horse even if you got it as a gift.
The one thing that should be the deciding factor is whether the horse is going to be satisfactory and whether you will get the pleasure you should have from ownership. Since 1980, there have been many changes in the way horses are bought and used by the most of the horsemen for whom this book is intended.
Although pleasure riding and showing are the principal uses, there is now a rapidly growing demand and use for breeding horses for racing. Small breeders are now located in many areas where there were none in 1950. These breeders and owners could probably profit from one who has been an owner of horses for fifty years and an observer several years before that.
Although the comments given here apply to the person who is getting a private riding horse, most of what I say applies to anyone who requires animals for breeding purposes.
Where to buy your horse
There are several places where you can buy a riding horse which may supply just the horse you are looking for. On the other hand, you are just as likely to get a horse that would not be suitable. At least this is true until you have had considerable experience. Probably the most satisfactory source of a pleasure-riding horse is from a private owner.
I mean the private owner who is selling his horse not because there is something wrong with it but because he is no longer in a position to keep it. People sometimes buy a pleasure-riding horse only to experience reverses later on or find it necessary for a number of reasons to dispose of it. A careful inquiry will get you a fairly correct amount of information on such a horse.
By taking your time and not buying too hurriedly, you have a chance to try this horse out and see it under conditions that should tell you whether it would suit you. Of course, some people buy horses that are satisfactory and then spoil them, or in some instances the owner is not a practical horseman and does not know what a first-class horse should be able to do.
An intelligent buyer should be able to determine these facts by careful observation and some well-placed inquiries. Probably the most widely used source of pleasure-riding horses is the horse dealer. There are all kinds of dealers from whom you can purchase your horse, and they have all kinds of horses—good, bad, and indifferent—and the dealers themselves are of all kinds too.
Some are reliable and will make an effort, if you cooperate with them, to sell you the animal best suited for you. If you can find a deal with that reputation, you will do best by putting yourself entirely in his hands, telling him exactly what you want, giving him full details of your horse experience, and then act on his suggestions.
Such a dealer is not as available as he should be. The buyers he meets are largely to blame for this. Many of these pleasure-horse buyers think they know more than the horse dealer, and when he realizes that the customer can’t be told anything and that good suggestion are wasted, he is likely to sell the man anything.
Some horse dealers have no scruples at all, nor do they have any judgment about the ability of an amateur horseman. They will sell horses which they know are unsuitable and which should be sold only to the most widely experienced horsemen. Often they sell these horses without any sort of warning advice.
This kind of dealer almost always gives his horses the same general description. A $50 plug horse will get the same kind of a description that the reputable dealer might give a $500 horse. Indeed, the dealer I mean has only one description and recommendation for every horse he has to sell, and that is that the horse is 100 percent sound, of good age, and will give satisfaction under any and all conditions. In short, every horse he offers you is perfect.
Another way to get your pleasure-riding horse is at the horse auction. Auction sales are held in various localities, sometimes at regular intervals, maybe once or twice a year. Some of these horse sales are big affairs wherein several hundred head of horses are sold at a time.
As far as auction sellers know, they offer an honest, fair description of the horse; but when you buy a horse, aside from its soundness and general appearance, you are generally obliged to take and keep what you buy. Horses are mostly consigned by sellers who want to dispose of them, and although many very fine horses go through these sales, a large number of misfits or unsuitable horses are among them, and if you happen to get an undesirable animal you have little recourse.
There is yet another source of getting a pleasure-riding horse, and that is to watch the advertisements in local newspapers or sectional newspapers as well as horse papers and other magazines that carry general advertisements. Those who have horses to dispose of advertising them for sale. You are just as likely to get a satisfactory horse by this method as any other.
During recent years there has appeared a type of horse salesman that one should guard against. This is generally an owner with limited experience in both the use and ownership of a horse. Such owners, in their eagerness to sell the horse, often exaggerate the qualities, and one of the worst misrepresentations occurs with regard to the age of the animal.
It is not unusual for them to sell a horse as an eight-year-old when he is eighteen or older. This happens far too often. These owners also neglect to tell the buyer about any faults or vices. When they are caught up in such tactics, they usually plead innocent, and that is all the satisfaction the buyer gets.
There is no hard-and-fast rule by which anyone can advise you where you may obtain the ideal horse. Buy your horse where you find it.
The Horse to Buy
People who buy pleasure riding horses have various notions of the kind of horse they would like to own. Some have a preference as to color. Many object to and would not own a horse of a certain color even though the animal was 100 percent satisfactory as to type, conformation, and the use they expected to make of it. Others want a horse of a certain size.
Often, small persons like big horses. Just why is difficult to understand. They are not easy to handle: they are difficult to mount, and the rider does not nor can he truly feel at home in the saddle of an oversized horse. The experienced horseman will hardly ever decide against a horse on color alone. While everyone may have a preference as to color, the horseman with wide experience and knowledge will consider it secondary.
The size of the horse is not always proof that this horse will be most satisfactory, even for the heavy rider. Some horses that are very large, especially a tall horse, may not be a satisfactory weight carrier at all. A shorter horse and a short-backed horse, one more on the chunky order, will usually carry a lot more weight, even though the former is two or three inches taller and a couple of hundred pounds heavier.
To give the greatest enjoyment and most pleasure, a horse should be balanced as to height and length. The most satisfactory pleasure horse is that one that shows some evidence of breeding. This is generally shown by legs that are free from long tufts of hair and by a small head and neat, trim body conformation.
Such horses usually carry considerable blood from saddle horses, standardized horses, Morgan horses, or any of hundreds of light horse breeds. They are trim and neat in appearance and look good under saddle. One type of horse that often does not make a satisfactory riding horse, although many of them are recommended for this purpose, are the small, undersized draft or workhorses.
Many of these horses are short and chubby and have typical draft-horse legs with a lot of hair on them, their feet are large and they usually have a heavy, disproportionately large head. The only recommendation for these horses is the size.
Most of them are not very tall—about 15 hands or slightly more, and they are usually not too heavy, but they do not have the right body conformation. This type of horse is hard riding and is not fast and handy as one would expect. They are small for a satisfactory draft or work horse and the dealers often pass them off as a riding horse. Actually, they are not of riding quality at all—just a small, undersized draft or work horse.
Do Not Buy These Horses
In general, I would advise the person about to buy a private pleasure mount to pass up the ordinary livery horse or one that has been used in a riding academy or riding stable. Some good horses have been purchased out of these places, but most often they have seen their best days and are not very satisfactory. Livery horses in most stables develop a lot of tricks; many of them are barn sour, and with the amateur or beginner are likely to cause a lot of trouble.
They get in the habit of doing whatever they want to do regardless of their rider, and when once they have developed this habit they are not easy to cure. Livery horses are also undesirable because they have had such hard use that they are pretty well worn out.
Some of the better stables watch their horses very closely and sell them off after they have had the best use out of them. It is not good business nor profitable to buy a crippled or injured horse regardless of how fine he might be if normal. Cripples may recover and make very fine horses, but there is always the danger that a crippled or injured horse will remain so.
The most common mistakes made by the amateur horseman in selecting a personal mount is that of buying a young, inexperienced horse, perhaps an unbroken colt or one that has been used very little. This is the most unsuitable mount for an inexperienced person to buy.
The chances are very great that with an inexperienced horseman and amateur rider such, a horse becomes so badly spoiled as to be utterly useless. For best results I recommend buying a mature horse, one five to ten years of age that is well broken and trained and that has had the kind of use that you expect to give it Until you have had a lot of experience with horses and know how to handle them under all conditions, you should not buy a horse that has been spoiled.
Under proper handling and management, some spoiled horses can be made into first-class animals. A spoiled horse is usually the result of improper handling by an inexperienced horseman. They are often sold at bargain prices, but the time required to get these horses working satisfactorily is entirely too great, and it is unlikely that the amateur horseman will ever get any satisfaction or pleasure from them.
Stay away from them; don’t ever buy a horse that you have reason to believe has been spoiled. Nor would I advise you to buy a very old horse for a personal pleasure mount. Some are very pleasant to ride and use and in their day have been rated among the best.
However, if you get one of these old horses, enjoy the horse and get along well with it, its age begins to make the horse undesirable, and soon you may find it necessary to retire the veteran. In buying a riding horse, you should keep in mind that horse dealers usually never offer a horse for sale that is more than twelve years old.
They call an older horse ‘‘smoothmouthed,’’ and if you insist on their telling you its age they will say the horse is about twelve years old. Many of these so-called twelve-year-olds are actually seventeen or eighteen, maybe even twenty. For this reason I advise the buyer to try to get a horse of good age—and by that I mean somewhere between five and ten years old.
Try The Horse Before Buying It
You should ride this horse just as you would expect to ride it if you had purchased it. Don’t depend on a five or ten-minute ride if you expect to buy the horse for use over a long period of time. Many horses will ride fine for a few minutes, or when taken around where they are accustomed to the locality, but away from their home surroundings they prove worthless.
It would be better to have the seller or someone else ride along with you on another horse and then ride at some distance from where this horse is stabled. Ride on the highways if possible, or at least ride under the conditions you expect to encounter after you have purchased it.
Don’t try this horse if it is already under saddle and turned over to you. I mean by this that if you are interested in purchasing this horse and find the horse under saddle and being ridden by someone, do not mount this horse or give it a trial under such conditions.
Make a future date with the seller or owner, go to the stable or barn where this horse is kept, and start out from there. It is a common practice wherever it can be worked with horses that are barn sour or stale to saddle them up, have someone ride them on the trail or along the highway or elsewhere, and when a prospective purchaser wants to try them, drive out in a car to where the horse is being used and try it out from there.
This gets the horse away from the bam and stable without a lot of trouble; and another thing, if this horse happens to be a little stiff or sore, by taking it out and wanning it up it goes sound.