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Top Ten Things to Remember
When Buying Your First Performance Horse
by Keli Hendricks

10. Know what you want: Do you want to cut, rein, or ride working cow horse? Do you want a horse you can show or would you get more enjoyment watching your trainer show your horse while you take occasional lessons on him or her? Whichever you choose, it’s important to decide before you shop. If what you really want is a horse you can trail ride and learn to show on, there is no sense in checking out futurity prospects.

9. Have realistic expectations: You will not find a four year old, beautiful, broke, sound show horse that your grandkids can ride for five thousand dollars. Not now, not ever. But if you do find one, be sure to take me shopping with you next time.

8. Real life is not like the movies: Unfortunately, horses in real life resemble Flicka as much as your average man resembles Prince Charming. Horses are not dogs either, and they don’t bond with humans like dogs. Yes, they do respond better to some riders than others, but the “renegade” horse that can only be tamed by your love is the stuff of legends. As much as you might want to save or fix some horse, that fantasy is not a recipe for success. It doesn’t work with men, and it doesn’t work with horses. Trust me.

7. Take a knowledgeable horseperson with you. And I’m not talking about the neighbor who has horses in their backyard and won’t stop giving you advice. If they’re always telling you how much they know about horses, chances are they know less than you. Take a professional and don’t hesitate to compensate them for their time. It will be money well spent.

6. If you are buying a show horse, see it show if possible. Much like Jekyll and Hyde, some horses are very different creatures when in the show pen. Videos are great to have, but there’s nothing like seeing a prospect show in person.

5. Get a pre-purchase. However, bear in mind that a seasoned show horse is much like a human athlete and probably has had an injury or two in its career. Many also require special diets and medications to keep them in top shape. Don’t panic over every little bump a vet might find. Many things are manageable with good care.

4. Get a trial period if possible. Many sellers won’t be open to this and for many good reasons. It doesn’t necessarily mean they are trying to hide anything. But if they will allow you to take the horse home or to your trainer’s for a trial, it is certainly a plus. Remember to be considerate and not overwork the horse; treat it as if it were your own.

3. Remember it costs just as much to feed a good horse as a bad horse. If you can’t find what you want, think about looking at higher-priced horses. You are going to be spending a good chunk of change every month on your horse, so it might as well be the horse you want.

2. Make a decision. If you have tried a particular horse two or three times, it’s time to fish or cut bait. Don’t make everyone crazy asking if you can try the horse on a Tuesday on the beach at sunset, or just try it once more to be sure it can slide on asphalt with your English saddle on. This behavior gives trainers and sellers grey hair, and you will be cursed.

1. Have fun, but expect ups and downs. Even if you have lots of talent, a great horse, and a great trainer, there are going to be days when you wish you’d spent your money on a very long, tropical vacation. Training and showing performance horses is an alarmingly difficult sport. It eventually humbles absolutely everybody, so while you might not be able to enjoy the inevitable hard times, it helps to know that the victories, however small, are well worth it.



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