Buying A Horse- Where To Begin

Infographic 8 steps to buying your first horse
Steps to buying a horse

This is the third and final part in the series of how to go from absolute beginner to buying a horse. This part in the series has so much information that I will divide it into steps. If you would like to visit part one (how to find a good lesson barn) or part two (taking lessons and leasing a horse) you can find those by clicking on them. In this part will go through purchasing your first horse.

Woman with a horse in a shopping cart.
Horse shopping!!

So now that you have been taking lessons for at least a year or more and have been leasing at least 6 months or more you might be ready for a horse of your own. Some people never buy their own horse and to you I say, “smart!” Just kidding (not really), but in all reality leasing is generally less expensive than owning your own and is totally fine! However, if you have decided that you want a horse of your own then keep reading!

I have outlined 8 steps to buying your first horse:

1).Finding someone you trust to help (ideally this is the person you have been working with for lessons)

2).Care of horse (where will it be boarded, vet, farrier, transport, insurance)

3). What are you looking for in a horse? (budget, age, height, experience, breed travel)

4). Searching for the horse? Who will be doing the searching?  (you or your trainer)

5).Talking with sellers to determine suitability/availability

6a). Making an appointment to see the horse and Trying the horse/determining suitability

6b). Trial

7). Pre-purchase exam

8). Negotiation/Buying

Well dressed woman in riding clothes holding a horse.
Find a trainer

1).Finding someone you trust to help (ideally this is the person you have been working with for lessons)

Finding a good instructor and trainer to help you find that horse is going to be ideal, it’s very hard as a new horse person to negotiate all the hurdles that come with buying a horse and to make sure you aren’t getting taken advantage of in the process. Hopefully this is the same person you have been taking lessons with for the past year so you have a relationship with them or are going through someone recommended by those you trust in the industry.

I find that a lot of people want more horse than what they can actually handle and I try to pair their expectations with some reality and find some middle ground so they can get a horse that they will enjoy and fit the bill for what they want to do. 

hand with a dollar sign above it
How much will they charge?

Even the best trainers can have some bias- make sure to find out what they charge to help you buy a horse and how they get paid to know how much to budget for their services and also to know where the incentives are. This will help keep the process more transparent. Most people work off commission (generally 10% of purchase price) so just keep in mind that the more expensive horse you buy the more of a payday that trainer gets. Maybe the more expensive horse is better, but maybe not. Keep this in mind when comparing horses if your trainer is pushing you harder towards the more expensive one. Ask yourself is the horse worth that much to you? However, I do find a lot of trainers at the grassroots level aren’t in it for the money and want you to buy the horse that is right for you.

woman in a meditation pose in front of a clock.
Have patience

Be patient when horse shopping (easier said than done I know), this can take months depending on the time of year, your budget, your location, and your expectations. If you want a high level horse at a low price (which is what everyone wants!) you might have to be looking for a while until you find the perfect deal, but if your budget is good for what you want (your instructor can help you with this) then you should be able to find something within 3 to 6 months or even sooner. Some people find the perfect horse the first try!

Click here for more tips on buying a horse and stay tuned for Step 2 Care of horse (where will it be boarded, vet, farrier, transport, insurance) coming soon!

Sample list of questions to ask sellers when buying a horse:


Mare, Stallion, or Gelding?

Height? If young, how big may it get? How large were its dam and sire?

Weight? Has this fluctuated any?

Registered birth date? If not registered, what is the foal date? If unknown, what is its estimated age range and who estimated it?


Are you willing to transport?

Asking price?

Where is the horse located?

Owners name?

Any tattoos or branding?

Color and appearance? Markings? Any obvious healed injuries/scars?

Do you have any tack for sale for this horse?

Will any other items be included with sale (such as blankets, brushes, etc)?

Has a coggins test been done? If no, will you be paying for one before the sale?


How long have you owned?

Why are you selling?

Horse’s background? How old was it when it was broke?

Is it registered? Is registration up to date and in your name?

How long has the horse been for sale?

Have any potential purchasers paid to had a prepurchase exam done?

Would you agree to a trial? How long?


Kept alone, stalled, or pasture with others?

Status in herd?

Feed? Any limitations (such as no grain, pasture, lush spring turnout, allergens, etc)

Has it been underweight or overweight?

Is it fed with others or separated?

Allowed to graze (if no, may be bored or not do as well on grass)

Worming program?

Does it respect and/or periodically damage fences, buildings, stall, etc? What type of fences are used?

Vet / Health

What are the horses current health needs or issues?

Any history of colic?

Ever been lame or foundered?

Any skin or ear conditions? Are they permanent, recurring, or healing?

Any eye conditions?

What past injuries or illnesses or health concerns or non-routine vet visits of any type has the horse had? Are they permanent, recurring, or healing?

Any allergies?

Any X rays taken?

Is it up to date on shots, and which ones? Did vet do?

How often does it need teeth floated?

Can you release vet records?

Can I have permission to call your past:




Previous Owner?

Would you like to recommend anyone else as a reference for this horse, or you as a seller?


Hooves – does it wear shoes? How often does it need trimming?

How is the horse for the Farrier and Vet? How does it behave?

Any general comments on the health of the feet from you or the farrier?

Habits & Vices

Describe it as stubborn, sensitive, mellow, energetic, calm, open to instruction, fast or repetitive learner, affectionate, pushy, respectful or not, hesitant, fearful, untrusting until it gets to know you? Anything else?

Has anyone ever been hurt by it?

Vices? Cribbing, tail rubbing, weaving, pawing, wood chewing, pulling when tied, trailering poorly, box walking, tail rubbing, etc?

Tolerate bathing?

Stand Tied?

Has he ever bit, kicked, bolted, reared, charged, or broken something? What are the circumstances, and frequency?

Any other dangerous behavior?

Is it head shy? Is it uncomfortable with ears being touched, bridle, or halter? Is it sensitive about any other areas?

How does it behave during ground work?

How does it behave during saddling? Is it girthy? Does it prefer a certain saddle or other tack?

Trail Riding and Showing

Does he Trailer, Load, stand in trailer?

Trail ride with or without other horses? Lead or follow?

How often been ridden trails/out?

Spooky and what does he spook at?

Response to spooking (bolt, buck, rear, freeze)

Road safe? Better on open fields, or wooded trails?

How many days a week does the horse need to be ridden?

Other Work

What disciplines are appropriate for this horse?

Any past professional training? How long? Type? Name of trainer? When? How old was the horse when it was broke?

What has the horse been doing (riding alone, riding with others, ground work, pasture pet)? How often?

Who can ride? Who should not ride? Any kids? Green riders? Does a trainer need to be supervising? Suggest

Experienced only?

What type of tack used has been used? Does it prefer certain tack over others?

Does it have any bad habits under saddle, such as chewing the bit, throwing head, pulling, laying down, tripping, fighting to eat grass, etc?

Anything else we should know?

What is the worst thing this horse does?