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5 Tips For Horse Selection

Apr 20, 2008
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 made.


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 to ride.


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 - Buy Sell or trade anything equine related. Get More Horse Classified coverage and distribution with less cost and work. Wonderfull Horse Social Community
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