The eagerness to buy a horse shouldn't override the sense
in choosing a good one. What a "good one" is varies widely
depending on what you want the horse for. A horse that would
be totally unsuitable as a Western pleasure show horse might
be ideal for weekend trail rides. The less than talented jumper
might make an outstanding hunter under saddle horse, where
jumping isn't required.
Five major points to look at: Feet, legs, attitude, suitability,
conformation. Which order these appear will be different for
a three day eventing competitor than it will for a 4-H horse
for a 12 year old.
No foot no horse. Proper foot care can make a huge difference
in the way a horse moves, in his attitude (especially if improper
care leads to pain leads to bad attitude) and in long term
soundness. However, not all foot problems can be seen standing
in front of the horse looking at him. Navicular and other
issues can lurk underneath and not be visible. Look closely
for signs of rings, waves in the hoof or changes in appearance.
A horse with a serious injury or illness can often be detected
months later as the hoof grows out if close observation is
Good legs that will hold up are important. That said, many
passed on the young John Henry and others because of their
less-than-ideal leg conformation - and they remained competitive
for years at the top of their game. Leg structure will be
much more important on a show horse or hard performing horse
than it will for those weekend riders. Leg structure doesn't
necessarily mean absolutely straight. Too straight can be
a problem also.
This can be connected to handling - if a horse is hurting
or afraid he will act differently than if confident and trusting.
On the other end is horses that have been mishandled and are
aggressive. A bold, confident sometimes "tough" horse is often
tolerated or even welcomed in the competitive field. For a
backyard horse ridden by a 4-H member attitude should be one
of your biggest selection issues. Attitude can mean the horse
is willing to work with you and even if he doesn't understand
he will try. It's manners and a nature of being neither too
aggressive nor too fearful.
There is a different look to a reining horse than a hunter.
A Saddlebred is built for a high headed look and while they
compete in Western pleasure within their breed, in open competition
they probably will not get much of a look over the quarter
horses, Appaloosas and paints that move with a level head
carriage most belief is proper for Western. A horse who is
fearful outside of the world of the arena would be unsafe
as a trail horse. There are horses that are wonderful at what
they do but taken out of that element they can't handle it.
Choosing a horse for a breeding candidate will have different
qualifications than one chosen for barrel racing. Just because
a horse has a wall of show awards does not mean he'll be the
best choice for backpacking into the wilderness on an elk
hunt. A pony with enough "fire" for an adult may be an enjoying
challenge to drive but too much for a child wanting to learn
Like the other factors, this will vary depending on what
you want to do with the horse. Halter conformation is not
necessarily what you need...the chances of a quarter horse
world champion halter horse jumping a series of six foot jumps
at the world level of jumping competition probably is not
going to happen! (It certainly hasn't yet!) The conformation
of a breeding mare would include proper reproductive health
and conformation - improper vulva structure can result in
infections and other problems that can affect her long term
fertility and your bottom line.
These five traits will vary but are all five important to
have in order of priority for what YOU want in selecting a
horse. What YOUR preferences are isn't what the seller's might
be. It won't be the same as many other people. Choosing the
right horse can mean the difference between an enjoyable activity
and an expensive burden that is resented.
Before looking at horses arrange these in order of preference
and make notes as to what you *need*. What you would *like*
factors in but if it comes to a choice of an ideal Appaloosa
and you prefer the pinto - will you let color cloud your judgement?
Some don't like chestnuts, or bays - but the ideal horse for
your situation can often end up being that color! You don't
ride color - pick the best horse.
Have an experienced friend look with you - someone who can
remain objective and not get swept up in a fancy halter or
pedigrees. Choose the best horse for the job and chances are
it will be the best decision.
About the Author
Ron Petracek was raised in southern Idaho with horses and
the great outdoors. With this continued passion He now shares
through a a vast equine network. Learn more by clicking the
links below. Amazing
Horse Classified System