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Keith's Checklist For Buying The Right Horse For You!

Updated: Apr 5, 2023

It’s that time of year when more people are thinking about a horse purchase. Spring is in the air, and folks want to get outside and do the things that winter weather has kept them away from.

Whether you are a first-time horse buyer or someone that has rode and owned horses all of your life, there are a few things that you should keep in mind when you are looking for a new horse.

One of the most important things to ask yourself is how confident of a rider you are, this will dictate the type of horse you need to be looking for. The general rule would be the greener the rider, the older, quieter and more broke the horse you would be looking for. So don't be looking at a young horse that does not have much-riding experience outside of an arena. You want to be aware that some horses are arena-broke but aren’t world-broke, and just because a horse works well in an arena doesn’t mean that they’re going to be solid on a trail.

The second thing to keep in mind is how much time you will have to spend with your horse. If you can only ride him once or twice a week, then you need to have a really solid older horse that isn't going to be a problem when you haven't ridden him in a week or more. These older solid horses are much sought after, and as a rule, don't come cheap. And they shouldn’t be cheap, as it takes a lot of time to develop a solid, soft, dependable horse.

Third, if it's a certain discipline that you plan on getting into, it’s a good idea to enlist a local trainer that can help you find a horse that will fit your level of skill. When you start any event or competition, you need a horse that is competent at his job, be it roping, reining, cutting, barrels, or otherwise. You’re looking for a horse that you don’t have to help too much, a horse that knows the job so that you can focus on learning. This is also true if you are looking for a pleasure and/or trail horse if you go and buy a horse that has only been used to compete on inside an arena and you want to take him out and ride him in the hills, this might turn out to be way more work than you want and many something that your skill level won't allow you to do safely. I have many videos on Cowboy Campus that will teach you how to get better at building both your and your horse's confidence at new challenges, but it is so much easier to have a horse that has a background in the activity that you would want to do with them.

Fourth, it's a good idea to get a horse that fits your skill level and how much time you can spend with them. If you are new to the game, get some help from a local trainer or trusted horseman (or woman) to steer you in the right direction.

Fifth, it is also a very good idea to get the prospect that you’re looking at vet checked. You may be dealing with the most honest person in the world, but the horse may have an underlying problem that even the owner doesn’t know about. So it is money well spent to have a veterinarian's opinion on the horse. Try to get an equine vet that does lots of presale exams so that they know what to look for. I could go on and on about the things to do and not to do.

Sixth, understand that your budget will often dictate what kind of horse you can get. Remember the old saying, good horses aren’t cheap and cheap horses aren’t good. There are always some exceptions to the rule, and sometimes we stumble upon an amazing horse at an incredible price but be prepared for what a good horse can cost. When you’re starting out, I would recommend spending as much as your budget will allow to ensure you get the most experienced horse possible. A green rider and a green horse can cause a disaster, and we don’t want that. You know what they say, green and green equals black and blue. But that being said, a green rider and an experienced horse will create an awesome foundation for the rest of your riding career. Again enlisting a trainer's help can ensure that you get the very best bang for your buck, no pun intended.

Seventh, horses are individuals, and even an experienced horse can have an issue. Like with any purchase, its buyer beware. Absolutely bomb-proof horses are few and far between. It's very hard for any seller to guarantee that a horse will never take a wrong step, get spooked, or react negatively to a situation. They are living, thinking, and emotional creatures, so their behaviour cannot be fully predicted. Therefore it’s hard, if not nearly impossible, to guarantee how they will react. In saying that, there are plenty of good horse people out there that are producing good solid riding horses for the sale market. In the Cowboy Campus Club, we have an entire mini-course on staying safe while riding, and I feel it’s important that all riders learn these essentials to stay safe, regardless of how well-trained the horse they are riding is.

Finally, my eighth tip, trust your gut when buying a horse and don't overlook any potential red flags.

So, by being honest with yourself and getting help if needed, you can be confident in your purchase. And remember that if you have any problems down the road that Cowboy Campus can show you the way to a better relationship with your horse.

PS: on a different note, I have been getting some calls about doing clinics in the future on what I teach inside the Cowboy Campus Club. If you would like a clinic in your area, shoot us a message, and we will work to get one set up! Contact us about attending or hosting a clinic by emailing us at, and stay tuned for clinic announcements in the Cowboy Campus Connection newsletter.

Happy trails!




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