Buying a Horse For Your Child
By: Triple Crown Insider- Chelsea McEvoy
Remember the day you bought or received your first horse? I was fortunate that my parents provided my first horse when I was in elementary school. At the time, we were the typical “first horse family”—we had an ill-fitting saddle and didn’t feed appropriate grain for the horse we had. The gelding was 21. He was grade, but I believe had cutting and working cow horse lines, so he was hardy, which was a good thing. I am now 10 years older and 10 years wiser. It is truly amazing to go back to those pictures and see how much I have changed things. Based on my experiences and opinions, I compiled a short list of things that I wish people would know before buying a horse:
- The older the better
This one is aimed at parents. I had a 14.2 hand gelding as an 8-year-old. He was 21, worked cattle his entire life, and had been through about everything you could ever imagine. If you are looking to instill confidence and the desire to pursue horses in your child, look for a horse like that. By the time your child is ready to move on to another horse, his/her first one will be ready to either retire to be a pasture pet or will have enough years left to be handed over to another aspiring rider. Those types of horses have much more to teach and very little, if anything, to learn
- Little kid DOES NOT = pony (in most cases)
I have been to countless fun shows, and it never fails. Each and every fun show has that one rider/pony combo that just cannot get anything accomplished. Let’s all get on the same page here and agree that anything under 12 hands is a little stinker 90% of the time. Occasionally, someone finds a mini or smaller pony that is just a sweetheart and does everything asked of it. I know that bigger horses can be intimidating to throw your 5-year-old on, but I promise you—it is easier to find that old, experienced and lazy 20-year-old horse that someone is willing to practically give away to a younger rider.
- Do your research on nutrition
Every horse owner battles with “nutrition.” Why? Because every horse is different and there lies the challenge. Normally horses are at the mercy of their owner, meaning they are dependent on what we feed and when we feed it. Google “how much hay does a horse eat in a day?” and you get numbers ranging from 10-25 pounds. Hay consumption depends on multiple factors: age, workload, and size, just to name a few. Often age caused the most concern because older horses tend to need more hay, but sometimes their teeth don’t allow them to consume as much as they should. Consult a feed expert, or vet to get as much information as possible to assist your senior citizen in being a healthy weight.
- Five-panel test (or a thorough vet check!)
In 2015 I purchased a 4-year-old foundation bred mare, an absolutely beautiful horse. At the time I knew little about the five-panel genetic test for Quarter Horses. I was looking to purchase this horse myself, so I wasn’t too keen on spending an extra $90 and waiting a week for the test results. The 4-year-old mare was registered, had 8 weeks of training on her, and was listed for $2,500. I was so excited to buy my first project and get her on the barrel pattern that I opted not to do the five-panel test.
I purchased her in May of 2015. We had a great season, won money, trophies, feed, etc. I was happy and thought I was set. In November 2015, she slipped going around the second barrel and came out of the arena lame; lame enough to call the vet. X-rays and ultrasound found that her stifle was bone-on-bone and had been that way for a while. Horses who love their job will destroy themselves to keep doing it. She had not taken a lame step before this, and now she was retired from barrels at the age of 4. I listed her for sale and advertised and was asked multiple times if she had been five-panel tested. I finally had someone interested and she sent in the panel test. My mare came back as a carrier for PSSM-1, meaning she should not be bred. So…now I have this 4-year-old mare who can’t be bred and can only be lightly trail ridden. I managed to find a family that wanted a part time trail horse and essentially a pasture ornament. Due to how broke she was, I sold her for $1,200. Considering I paid $2,500, I lost $1,300. If I had paid $90 for the test, this story would be much different. Lesson learned. (Even spending the money on radiographs to check the horse’s legs are something to consider if you want your potential new horse to have a performance career.)
Become as educated as possible when buying a horse. Most veteran horse owners will be more than happy to give you advice. Remember, everyone has their own way of doing things and you don’t always have to agree, but the more you learn and experience, the better horseman/woman you will be.