Buying Your First Horse?

Buying your first horse is a huge step. It took me years to accomplish this step.  In case you haven't already thought of them, here are a few questions you might want to consider.

How much will a good horse cost?

Horses are priced based on a few different things. 

  • For show horses, those with recent high level wins will demand a higher price.  In this case, you are paying for likely future success in showing the horse.

  • For ranch horses, those with experience working the branding pen, roping and doctoring in the field will ask a higher price.

  • For more basic riding horses, learning to ride and maybe starting to compete, the horses will be priced based on training and showing experience. 

Any horse is worth somewhere around $600 at auction for meat value.  Professional training costs about $1,000 a month, including board.  So if the horse has been in training for 10 months, you should expect to pay at least $10,000.


If you are looking at a less expensive horse, consider why it is not worth more?  Does it have an injury that prevents it from training and competing?  Does it require expensive ongoing care?  Is it sick with heaves or Cushings?  Does it have some habits that make it a challenge to ride or even stable?

Finally, consider the value of your personal safety.  Can you afford to be thrown violently into a tree or fence?  Do you have the experience to train the horse successfully?  It's a lot harder than it looks on "Heartland" and it takes a long time.

There are two basic ways to buy a horse.  

  1. You find the perfect horse for you, with the help of a trainer that knows your abilities and desires and you pay top dollar - Maybe $30,000 or more.   You bring your horse home, get to know them and you start riding or competing at your level right away.

  2. You find a horse that might be able to meet your requirements with some training.  You buy the horse and install him at your trainer's barn.  You ride a little but mainly, the trainer rides your horse and prepares it for your needs.  After several months to years, your horse is ready for you to compete and you've spent the same $30,000 but over time.

What about the rescue horse?

There are several horse rescue operations around and they always have a full slate of horses.  When I went looking, I found many that were very young with no training at all.  There were also several that might have been suitable but were obviously sore, limping at pasture.  And then there were a few crazies.

My conclusion was that my well being was worth more than a cheap horse.  And I wanted something that I could start riding right away.  I didn't know anything about doctoring a horse and I wasn't confident with the crazy ones.  So I reluctantly left the rescue empty handed.

crazy horse 2.jpg
crazy horse 1.jpg

How do you evaluate a horse?

Experienced horse people know how to look at a horse.  They check that the legs are straight, that the weight is carried directly over the feet and a thousand other little things.  You can learn to evaluate a horse both standing and in motion but it is a skill that takes a lot of practice.  

Like people, horses with good bones and strong muscles are more likely to be athletic in their movement.  Injuries generally show up when they are worked.  Unless you've been at this a long time, it's a good idea to ask your trainer to help you find the right horse.  They know your skill level, your discipline and the level of work you will need from the horse.  

Colour may seem important at first, but a good horse that takes you where you want to go is the best horse - regardless of colour.  As young kids notice, "All the horses are brown" at most western events.


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