Who Shouldn’t Buy A Horse

Who Shouldn’t Buy A Horse

I love my horse.  I’m a relatively good horse mom these days, and I was a relatively good horse mom in the past… but there have been times where I had no business thinking about or even doing a lease to own on a horse.  It’s hard to see when you’re in the middle of the situation and want a pony oh so badly, but really there are a lot of reasons not to buy a horse and a lot of people who shouldn’t own one.

I’m not saying don’t lease or don’t ride, but ownership is a whole ‘nother ballgame.  It’s not for everyone, and some days I question if it’s for me!  Some of my “rules” (I use the term rule very loosely here) apply more to someone wanting a show horse as opposed to a pet horse.

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Who Shouldn’t Buy A Horse

Someone who has X amount of money saved up and finds a horse for sale for the exact same amount – thus leaving no cushion and nothing ready for outside of the normal monthly expenses.  The purchase, no matter how large or small, is just a drop in the bucket.

You can’t ride/go out to the barn more than a 2 days a week… on a good week, and can’t/don’t want to pay for training rides.  We all know that we aim to go out to the barn as much as possible, but life often gets in the way.  If a good week is 2 rides, then that means that there are plenty weeks where you only get out once or at all.  Horses that you expect to show and behave need to be ridden.  Sure, every horse is different but you can’t expect the average creature to get one or two rides a week and then prance around in the show ring like a pro.  If your horse does this, hug them and dip them in gold because they are one of the good ones 🙂  If I couldn’t ride as much as I luckily can right now, I’d be half leasing for sure.

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You have absolutely 0 idea what discipline or kind of horse showing/training you want to participate in.  Before I get flamed about how versatile certain horses are, relax.  I’m not talking about “I might want to do low level dressage or maybe some eventing!” but someone who is like “I’ll do jumpers!  No, western pleasure.  Saddleseat looks cool.  You know, I’ve always wanted to try cutting!”  I am all for cross discipline training and think it benefits any breed of horse, but if you have no idea where your heart wants to go with horses there is a good chance you may buy a sweet horse and then ask it to do a job it’s not made for at all.  There’s no problem with waffling around, but do that with lessons or some different short term leases.

You resent the time/money that you spend on horses.  I am not rich, and I do not have a ton of free time.  I spend all my extra time and money on my horse, but I really make a point to not be all, “Man, if I didn’t have my stupid ass horse I could afford that nice dress… or that new kitchen counter top… or a jet ski.”  Horse ownership is a sacrifice for most of us, but if you find yourself resenting the horse for what you can’t have… it’s probably time to sell him.

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You are an advanced beginner/intermediate rider, don’t have a trainer, and don’t really take lessons at the barn you board at.  This is probably pretty self explanatory.

Your horse caring experience is limited to what you read in Marguerite Henry books, and once again… you don’t have a trainer.  Books are awesome.  Substitute for doing standing wraps, knowing when or when not to call the vet, and applying a poultice to an abscess… they are not.  If you’re green and you don’t have a good trainer/barn owner to help guide you through the newbie phase – stick to lessons.

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I’m sure there are a LOT more examples of reasons why you shouldn’t buy a horse – so what do y’all think?  What are your “red flags” that set you off that someone shouldn’t enter the wonderful world of horse ownership?

45 thoughts on “Who Shouldn’t Buy A Horse

  1. This is a great post and a great list. Seriously. At the therapeutic riding center where I work, we have lots of volunteers who have little/no horse experience. Some of them decide, after a few weeks of volunteering, that they simply MUST acquire a horse of their own. This is (almost) never a good idea- they get the impression that horses are all fat, friendly, and easy to handle, because all of the horses here are. (Because they have to be. Because we put people with disabilities on them. Duh.) They don’t realize that how many hours I’ve devoted to perfecting feed rations for the 31 year old mare who’s missing teeth, or how late I’ve stayed waiting for the vet to come evaluate a horse who nearly poked his eye out on who-knows-what. Six months later, they’ve been given an unbroken 8 year old draft mule and don’t know what to do with it. (This happened.)

    My determinant for horse ownership? Do you ever use the word “majestic” to describe a horse? Yes? Then you don’t need one. No sane horse person says that.

  2. This is a great list, but I disagree with #2. It pretty much describes 90% of the horse owners I know, including close friends. My 2 best friends both have very young children and have not been able to ride for the last 2 years. One of them seriously considered selling her mare but was terrified of where she might end up, so she leased her out. My friend still goes out to the barn 3-4 times a week to visit her mare, if only for a few minutes, and to make sure she is being properly taken care of. (This was part of the lease agreement.) My other friend rough boards her 2 senior horses across the street from her house. Morning and evening feedings are a family event, but she has absolutely no time to ride when she has to work full time plus take care of 3 little ones.

    Another good friend of mine from the barn in FL ADORES his horse. But he can only see him on the weekends because he works 12 hour shifts for UPS 5 days a week. He pays for optimal care for his 21-year old QH, and you can bet that if that horse so much as gets a scratch on himself, the owner is immediately notified and the vet is consulted. I know few horses as happy as that QH.

    We have several absentee owners at my current barn. Some are in law school or med school, and others are retired and live far from the barn; they might come out once a month at best. They don’t want other people riding their horses. I can understand that. But these owners pay a premium price for the best care possible for their horses, and are in close contact with our barn manager, who makes sure that the horses are well-taken care of. The owners are promptly informed of any issues.

    In all of these scenarios, the horses are happy, loved, healthy, receive adequate turnout, timely farrier trims and appropriate veterinary care. I don’t think every owned horse needs to be ridden and/or have a job. As long as the horse is loved, is receiving proper care and isn’t expected to suddenly perform at the level of a fit horse, I think it is perfectly fine for them to live the life of a retiree indefinitely. This might be a waste of talent in some cases, but most of the time, a life of certain love and proper care (even if riding is excluded) is always better than the horse ending up living a life of abuse, misery and potential early death.

    A red flag for me is a first-time horse owner who decides to rescue a horse, never having taken a lesson before, and having no clue how to take basic care of a horse, never mind dealing with all the behavioral and health issues that can accompany a rescue. I can’t tell you how often I see this happen. The new owner ends up terrified of horses, and what could have potentially been a nice horse ends up ruined for good.

    1. I think the post was for *show* horses, specifically, but I see your point. I know lots of folks who can only ride on weekends, but pay to keep their show horses in training the rest of the week. That’s fine – the horse is being ridden so it can do its job at a show. This is different from having it be ridden twice per week, then expected to perform well at a show.

      I’ve also personally had a retired horse boarded at a retirement facility. I only saw him once a month, but I got regular text/calls/email/photo updates, and I knew he was getting the best of care. But, he wasn’t in a show situation, or even a riding situation, and I was able to keep close tabs, so that was OK.

    2. Yeah, I completely agree with everything you said when you are keeping a horse for a pet/companion/friend/leisure riding. In no universe do you need to ride 5x a week to enjoy a horse for those reasons!

      However, I will stand firm on that a *show* horse or a horse in training with specific goals in mind needs to be ridden more than 1-2 days a week. Otherwise I feel like it’s a bit unreasonable to expect that same horse to perform at a certain level without adequate miles and practice.

      1. Oh definitely! I agree: a show horse/performance horse needs to be in regular conditioning work to be able to compete at his best. And likewise, I’m against people who keep their horses locked up in a stall all week and then expect the horses to be able to go for a 25 mile trail ride on the weekend without collapsing. There was a lot of that in PR. People who treated their horses like motorcycles. A person like that has no business owning a horse, either.

  3. I don’t own a horse right now, even though I’m an experienced rider and have done some training, because I simply can’t afford it and I can’t afford to move somewhere where I’d actually be close enough to the barn for a good week not to be two rides. (The ONLY two places I could board – at one the arena is not available in the evenings and the other only takes horses that they can use in their lesson program, and I’m not having a horse I would be wanting to show ridden by students who might “untrain” it. There are circumstances under which I’d allow my horse to become a schoolie, but that’s not one of them).

    Red flags:

    1. I must have a mare in case I want to breed later.
    2. I want to train my horse so only I can ride it. (Fortunately the person who said that never, to my knowledge, got their hands on a horse).
    3. I want a special bond just like in My Friend Flicka/pick your sappy kids’ horse book.
    4. Isn’t it cruel to geld them?

    I can think of quite a few more. Oh, and I agree about the discipline hoppers. Try all of those disciplines out and then pick one before buying a horse. Work out what you really want to do.

    1. Part of the reason I chose my mare when I was given the choice between her and a colt is because I plan on breeding her someday. It isn’t always a bad thing. 😉

  4. Oh goshhhhh. SO MANY PEOPLE I know that embody all of these and yet still own a horse. Last month someone at my barn didn’t know what Blue Kote was–and she has owned horses for 15 years. And that’s just the beginning of it. But she cleans up when she shows, so I guess it doesn’t matter, right? GAH!

    1. Haha, I wish that horse showing for adults was like it was when I was in 4H. You had to know a decent amount about care and health to even participate, and some of the classes asked questions about horses as part of the pinnings!

      1. I really wish there was 4H or Pony Club for adults. I didn’t really know it existed as a kid and my parents likely wouldn’t have been able to pay for it or chauffeur me around. But now I’m playing catch-up I feel like!

  5. I swear, you must follow me around and write posts about the concerns I have. It’s honestly creepy! But great post — I recently talked a friend out of purchasing a place for “trail horses and a boarding barn” who has never laid a finger near a horse on any occasion.

      1. Bahaha! When I wrote that I *almost* said “we must be long lost twins with ESP or something”

  6. haha too funny, and very true. even though Jennifer offered me wizard, I waited a while year to take him because I knew I didn’t have the time or money for him. now I spend all my time and money on him, but at the end of the day I’d rather be doing that then having a raging social life and new clothes. loved your article!

    1. Same. Had a serious discussion with hubby when I decided to take Simon, and now I try not to complain about the things I can’t do because I have him.. he’s worth it!

      1. My last boyfriend was insanely jealous of the time and money I spent on my horse.. so I had to have a serious talk with the current boyfriend (ummm soon to be fiance) before we started dating, and he’s been fantastic. But I do sometimes find myself saying stuff like “oh I wish I had money to do such and such…” and then nipping it in the bud and saying “well, I could have money to do such and such if I didn’t have my horse, but I love my horse, and its worth it.” And still trying to make time for the boy so he doesn’t feel completely neglected! 😉 But supportive boyfriends/husbands are the best! 😀

  7. Preach it girl!!! I wish I could like this a million times!

    I don’t think people get that I spend 6 days a week at the barn, we don’t go on vacation because the horse is my responsibility, I haven’t bought real clothes in DAYS because Henry needs something, even when I am tired and need a “day off” I still end up at the barn taking care of Henry 98% of the time, when I was in the hospital having my daughter- I worried about my horse (lol) and begged hubby to go check on him.. all that to say I never have regretted a moment of it… i LOVE the barn and riding! It’s not always easy BUT it’s apart of me … a passion not everyone has and most don’t understand.

    1. I guess I should preface… my daughter is well taken care of too- it’s just me that keeps wearing the same old clothes and lacks anything, Henry and B are spoiled!!

      1. Oh and I work full time, have a young child and a hubby who works pretty much 4 days straight a week so I am basically a single mom when he works… anyone who says it can’t be done, I am living proof it can 🙂

  8. Amen about the beginner riders who think they can just putz around without a trainer. Unfortunately that happens far too often and then they or the horse end up in a bad situation. I don’t mean to be a snob and imply that everyone must take lessons multiple times a week (more power to you if you have that kind of cash!) but I’ve always taken that quote from Black Beauty to heart: Ignorance is no excuse. There really are so many things that can go wrong with riding and horses in general that you need someone steering you right for at least the first several years. And by then you would hopefully realize that the more you know, the more you find you still have to learn.

    1. I agree with the Black Beauty quote. People may not mean to be cruel, but ignorance is very cruel because it’s the animal that can suffer. That is not to say that beginners are cruel if they own a horse though! It just isn’t an ideal scenario in my opinion.

  9. I kind of disagree with some of these, however I agree with the majority. The only ones I disagree with is “You are an advanced beginner/intermediate rider, don’t have a trainer, and don’t really take lessons at the barn you board at.” I got Red when I had only been on a horse once. When I was like 6. And it was a pony. We walked around and I dismounted, then beforehand I rode Red on a trail ride where we went in a line. I don’t have a trainer, nor do I take lessons, but we’ve got along just fine. The other one is “You can’t ride/go out to the barn more than a 2 days a week… on a good week, and can’t/don’t want to pay for training rides.” and I don’t really DISAGREE, but on a good week, I ride 3 times, mostly 2, and Red is totally fine. I think it’s good for him to have a break. Although, some weeks I’m out there every single day to ride. But, I am out there every day unless I get sick, something happens, I’m on vacation or whatever, I think that’s the main thing for a lot of horses. It totally depends on the horse though. But AMEN on number #1..Gah I hate it when people do that!

    1. Yes, however your mother sounds like an experienced horse owner and she has been there to guide you. You also don’t show Red (at the moment), and my 2 rides a week comment was pointed to people who show their horses.

  10. I don’t know what I like more: this post or the comments! In some ways, I violate a few of these rules, but I think that if you do, you can make up for them with a concrete understanding that a horse is like a child. You need to be devoted to them, give them whatever they need (and then some), and do what’s best. If you’re a little iffy on your discipline of choice and sketchy on having a concrete trainer, the most important thing is to be willing to act in your horse’s best interest. I look at it like putting him first EVERY TIME. If ever it came to the point that his welfare was compromised by anything I do, then it’s time to change what I do.

    A guy I went to school with told me he and his wife were thinking about buying a horse. I will let you pick out the red flags to this story yourself. He said his wife wanted to learn how to ride (!). They could keep him in his parents’ back yard (!). But they didn’t have time to be out there very often (!). Once or twice a month (!) was good enough, right? Oh. And he was thinking he wanted an Arabian or Thoroughbred (!) – the solid, beginner-friendly type of horse that lives so easily in someone’s backyard, after all.

    1. Some rules were meant to be broken, ha! I know that I have violated a lot of rules on this list in my horse career, both when I did and didn’t own horses. Not everything can be ideal, but that doesn’t mean it won’t necessarily work out!

  11. Red flag – spouse/significant other isn’t supportive. It’s hard for non-horse folks to understand the total commitment horse ownership is. If they aren’t supportive, they wind up resenting the time, money, emotion, etc. involved. This can apply to parents too.

  12. The money thing is the biggest one for me. Horses don’t care if they show or not and most of them don’t mind just being pasture ornaments so as long as they are being cared for adequately the rest is all icing.

  13. This is a great post and I wish more people would read this before they would consider such a big commitment. Although I was one of those people who kind of jumped in before I knew much. I think as long as the person is committed on making themselves better and learning throughout their horsey journey then it is not a terribly bad situation.

    I am such a hypocrite of #5 because that is exactly what I was. I was a novice rider with an unbroke horse. In most cases this absolutely would not work and most of the time should be avoided but in our case kind of grew together. I was totally committed and didn’t care how long it took for us to get where we are today. Do I regret how much time we’ve lost? Maybe. But the process and all the amazing things we did in between will be apart of me forever.

    I think the one that would stand out to me most are how many people need to know their basic horsemanship skills. Knowing what to do for colic, how to ride…, horse anatomy, knowing when to call the vet and farrier, just simple things like that. There are so many people I wish I could help with this problem :/

    Again, great post!

  14. 100% agreed. I love all my clients dearly, but I have a few who, even with a trainer, really shouldn’t own horses. There is a LOT more to horse ownership than riding and paying the bills.

  15. This is probably the greatest list I’ve ever seen. Wish more people understood that horses aren’t like planting a garden or buying a dog—not that those aren’t ALSO commitments—but coming out once a month to pet your horse and feed it cookies out of your fanny pack is NOT a great display of horsemanship. Please please please lease a horse before buying.

    I LOLed at Stephanie’s addition of “majestic.” I similarly think that if you think *every* horse is beautiful…you haven’t been around horses long enough. I love horses, but they aren’t all beautiful. Sorry.

    1. I’m sorry, how is it poor horsemanship to visit and love on your horse once a month?

      The amount a person rides per week was something I didn’t agree with in Lauren’s list, but she was specific about show horses, so I can understand that a bit more – still not 100%, because if a person comes two times a week but doesn’t expect their horse to have magically learned something the other five days I don’t think that’s a bad thing… and when it gets down to the brass tacks, the only difference between a “pet” horse and a “show” horse is that a show horse goes to shows… so taking a “pet” horse to one or two shows a year basically makes it a show horse… but I digress.

      I cannot fathom, however, saying that someone who doesn’t go to the barn 5x a week is displaying poor HORSEMANSHIP. Explain that one to me, please, because I think it’s a bunch of bull.

  16. Great post! There are so many people I know that own horses, and I just want to smack them.
    As much as I want a horse, I keep having to rationalize to myself that I can’t own one. I KNOW better, but I like to fantasize a little too much lol
    At least I know not to act on it.

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