Ah, the memories of Golden Ponies…

Trail riding is one of my very favorite things to do – assuming, that is, that I have a good, trustworthy and fun horse to ride. We all know that riding a spooky or dangerous horse is not much fun at all.

Ellie and Edie

Snuggling with Ellie, the most amazing trail pony.

Fortunately, most every horse I’ve owned has been good on the trail and we try to get out there when we can. It renews the soul and keep us both from going crazy.

There’s nothing like being out in nature and relaxing with your horse. It’s such a bonding thing! You have to trust each other.

The horse trusts its rider to provide leadership. He asks, “should I pass that scary looking fallen log? Will that dog (horse sees it as possible WOLF) attack me? Do I need to worry about that rustling in the bushes?” The rider has to radiate relaxed unconcern. It’s all cool, we can do this, horsie. You are big and brave. I will take care of you.


Sometimes I sing to my horse which seems to comfort her,  and singing distracts me, too. CAUTION: You need to pick a soothing song, nothing with screechy notes. You’ll feel pretty quickly whether your horse likes the song…or not.

Alex:Ellie trail 10-11

Eliana, the very best haflinger ever, ponies a young haflinger friend at Wunderlich County Park.

On a trail ride, I have to trust the horse. She will not bolt. She will not take me over the cliff. She will not jump off the bridge plunging me to certain death. She will not suddenly whirl causing me to fall off and be impaled on that stake over there…

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Yes, you see how my mind sometimes works, this is why it’s a good idea for me to sing. Or talk, if I have a friend with me. And so, we all relax and enjoy the ride and I stop thinking, “what if…”


Not my horse, but a horse is the best way to see the country around Jackson Hole, WY.

Trail riding builds our relationship because we have an adventure together and trust each other more deeply. We come back from the trail feeling even better friends, refreshed, relaxed, and happy.

Below is a 30 second trail video from several years ago. At the time, I was lucky enough to own TWO gorgeous haflinger trail horses. My husband was riding behind on Ellie, taking a trail movie with his iPhone when he should have been minding the horse. I’m in the front on Amadeo.  At the time I was annoyed at him for fooling with his iPhone, but I’m glad now to have the memory of a ride on such gorgeous golden ponies. Look at that Haflinger tail in the video! We are in Carmel Valley, California, for this ride, at Jack’s Peak County Park.

Does this pony make my butt look big?

People have asked me “how big is too big” to ride a pony? Well…it depends.


The tres amigas: Carol on Teake, a 14.3 hd Haflinger; Edie on Ellie, a 14.1 hd Haflinger, and Amy on Puca, a 14.2 hd Haflinger. Puca has evented very successfully with a 160 lb adult (not the rider in the picture).

There are several questions to consider:

1) Is it safe for the pony? Is the pony strong enough to carry your weight without being stressed or damaged? 

2) How do you look and feel on the pony? 

1) Can the pony carry your weight?


Winterlake Juliet, a Welsh Cob mare, about 14.1 hds. Note the strong, solid legs. You can’t see her feet, but they are excellent, and she has great breadth of loin for good weight bearing capacity. She occasionally carried my 185 lb husband on short trail rides, but would have been too small for an every day horse for someone of his size/weight.

Ponies come in all shapes and sizes, just like us. A pony with sturdy conformation, good solid bone (strong cannon bones and feet), a short strong back and good breadth of loin has good carrying capacity. It should, of course, be well muscled and conditioned for the task you ask it to do. Like any horse, you should monitor its fatigue and not over work it. That said, ponies are pretty strong relative to their size.


Phyllis and Champagne, a Welsh Cob/quarter cross pony. Phyllis is about 5’6″ and Champagne is about 14.1 hds.

Many have postulated  “20% of the horse’s weight” as a reasonable guideline for carrying capacity. That’s 20% of his HEALTHY (ideal, not obese) weight, a good thing to keep in mind especially since so many people allow ponies to be overweight (don’t! it’s bad for them). And the 20% includes the tack, which can weight up to 20 lbs if you have a heavy western saddle and pad. Estimate the weight of your tack, add your own weight, and using the excellent chart below, see what size pony you could ride:

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As you can see, the size depends on your own expertise and the task at hand. If you want to just go on an easy trail ride, well, you can ride a small pony because you’re not asking much. If you want to jump, that pony needs to be comparatively larger because the stress is greater. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

Ellie loves to jump!

Ellie loves to jump! And at 14.1 hds with a short strong back and excellent bone, she has easily carried my 5’6″ body over fences 3′ and higher (fence in picture is only 2’6″).

Overloading and/or overworking your pony will cause damage over time and your pony cannot remain sound if you do so. However, if you remain within reasonable guidelines, ponies tend to be very sound and healthy animals who can live long lives and give years of fun!

2) How do you look and feel on the pony?

Many people stay away from ponies because they expect them to have short, choppy gaits, or they think they are not competitive against big horses.

Keeping up with the big horses in the warm up ring

Far Above Par keeping up with the big horses in the warm up ring

Yet today’s sport ponies are bred to move like warmbloods and they win against warmbloods, often winning even at a national level (read https://horsesage.com/2014/12/11/three-famous-ponies-and-small-horses-you-should-know/). There are a number of ponies here in California who are winning Regionally and doing very well. My own pony, Far Above Par (“Finn”), very quickly qualified for the Regionals at Fourth Level this season.

Personally, I find riding ponies feels like driving a sports car. Easy handling, quick and responsive steering, starting, and stopping, and you don’t have all that weight to move around the ring! Some of the big horses feel like a tank or a super tanker, like you have to plan so far ahead how you’re going to make that turn…

Admittedly, it’s takes a little mental adjustment to get used to seeing yourself on a pony. I rode big horses for a long time and you have a mental picture of yourself on a big horse. Then you see yourself on a pony and you think, “my legs are too far down the side.” But give it time, you can get used to it, just like fashion. Remember, we used to think this looked really good:

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or this:

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In the end, wear what feels comfortable and fits and flatters you NOW. Just as we wouldn’t be caught dead in those fashions any more, we might not want to ride the same kind of horses we rode 20 or 30 years ago. We’ve changed and our needs, riding disciplines, interests, and bodies may have changed.

Ride what feels comfortable and fits you and your lifestyle NOW. Have fun, and hug your horse (or pony).

Finn is trustworthy under saddle. What a good boy!

“Pony Brain”: it ought to be a compliment

Finn the New Forest Pony is curious and intelligent.

Finn the New Forest Pony is curious and intelligent. In this motion shot, he’s offering to do anything I want if I will give him a treat. Ha! Nope, not going to happen.

Ponies are often accused of having “Pony Brain,” which seems to involve being

  • stubborn,
  • obnoxious,
  • obsessed with food,
  • opportunistic,
  • rather tricksy and uncooperative.

While I won’t deny that ponies tend to be intelligent, hardy, and survivors, I tend to think of these as positive and generally endearing characteristics. Not to mention that many of them do have a sense of humor which they don’t always use appropriately.

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We’ve all had horse owning friends who shrug, roll their eyes, and say dismissively, “Pony Brain!”  Ever notice that when their 16 and 17 hand horses do the same behaviors, no one accuses them of having a Pony Brain? Guess what: they’re all just horses. In my opinion, some are smarter than others, and they all have different personalities. Pick one with the personality, size, and type you like.

To loosely paraphrase Inigo Montoyo of The Princess Bride:  “I do not think Pony Brain means what you think it does.”

I suggest that we consider Pony Brain a compliment from this day forward. While I couldn’t uncover any scientific research that ponies are more intelligent than horses, many people seem to think they are. They’ve had to survive on their own in tough and rugged conditions for hundreds (thousands) of years, not to mention surviving the not so tender ministrations of charming little children. That takes a certain intelligence and toughness, not to mention the ability to take care of yourself.

Pony Brain in my experience equals:

  • humor
  • willingness
  • trainability
  • an ability to figure things out
  • plus ponies are usually smart enough not to take you over a cliff or through a fence.
  • They’ll take care of themselves (and you, in the process).

As long as you are smarter than your pony, Pony Brain is terrific!

Ellie and Edie, good friends.

Ellie the haflinger has a good brain and she uses it, almost always for good.

Why my horses keep getting smaller

Ellie loves to jump!

Ellie loves to jump!

In the last some years, each horse I’ve bought has been smaller than the one before. I’ve owned, loved, and enjoyed horses as large as 17 hands, but my current horses are two wonderful and athletic 14.1 hand ponies.

Why would an (average size) adult choose to ride ponies? Because Ponies are the

                                    Sports Cars of the horse world!

They’re agile, athletic, generally sound and healthy, intelligent, trainable, adorable, have Personality Plus, and are fun, fun, fun! At 5’6″ my legs hang a little long on them, but as long as I keep my weight within bounds, they carry me very comfortably and competitively in dressage, over fences, and down the trail. Ponies can WIN against the big horses and will always have a fan club because they have such charm and panache.

Finn showing 3rd level dressage

Finn showing 3rd level dressage

They’re smaller and closer to the ground, which is good in every way.

  • Easier to get the saddle on and off.
  • Easier to mount/dismount.
  • You can see to brush the top of the horse.
  • You can get the halter/bridle on easily. No giraffes!
  • Less far to fall (although I try to avoid falling at all)
  • Spooks and antics tend to be less terrifying. However, be advised that some ponies can be very quick, athletic and catty in their movement, so take them seriously.
  • Usually easier to handle on the ground with some decent training (just smaller, so that makes it easier).
  • Require less feed – much less expensive to feed.
  • Many have great feet and can go barefoot, at least behind

Sometimes, riding my ponies or just being with them makes me feel like a little girl again (and a happy one, too).

So maybe Ponies are the Fountain of Youth? I kind of think so.

My renewed love affair with ponies began at a dude ranch with Ruger, the Quarter Pony. Here we are about to cut some cows!

My renewed love affair with ponies began at a dude ranch with Ruger, the Quarter Pony. Here we are about to cut some cows!

Horses or People?

Ellie is everyone's friend

Ellie is everyone’s friend

My haflinger Ellie has many friends at the barn who greet us with, “Hi Ellie!” (big smile and pat for Ellie). Then they realize I’m looking at them waiting, waiting. Hello? Oh. “Hi, Ellie’s owner!” Yeah, Hi.

I know how it is.

Horse first, then person. In fact, I wouldn’t recognize many of the people at the barn without their horse.

If I see them at a store in town, I look at them vaguely, thinking, “I know you from somewhere, but something’s wrong…” Could it be that they don’t have a helmet on? Or a horse attached? Yes, that could be why they are hard to recognize.

When I travel, I’m always looking for horses, too. Been that way from childhood. “Horsie, horsie!” spied grazing in a field from a train window. When I see horses out the window, my mind automatically starts to analyze their probable breed, age, condition, quality, type of fencing, and so on. Just can’t help myself. Embed from Getty Images

On a recent trip to Belgium, we saw some really nice moving horses pulling tourist carriages in Bruges. How many times did my husband have to hear my comments on their conformation and gaits? And then hear me go on about how they worked them too many hours and I was worried about some of them who looked really tired by the end of the day, all that trotting on hard pavement, what was it doing to their joints, they couldn’t last long under such conditions, poor things, and so on.

I notice horses because I am bonded to horses. I look in their eyes as I pass and I feel for them.

Are they tired? Do they like their job? Do they seem well treated? I hope they are. For the record the carriage horses of Bruges were well fed and well cared for, in spite of the long hours and hard pavement. I comforted myself with the thought that at least they had a job and maybe they got to go live in a lovely grassy field some of the time. Who knows?Embed from Getty Images

Interestingly, horses tune into us, too.

There are studies that indicate they are very aware of our emotional state and that some horses may lower their own heart rate in response to our anxiety. http://www.thehorse.com/articles/29455/study-horses-more-relaxed-around-nervous-humans In other words, they try to calm us down and exude peace. I’ve received that gift from my horses at times, and I’m grateful.

Ellie, one of the kindest horse friends I've known

Ellie, one of the kindest horse friends I’ve known

Horse Shopping 103: Research and learn the market

Before we make a horse purchase, it’s a good idea to educate ourselves about the horse market so that we know how to find what we want – and how much to pay for it. 

Pick me!

Pick me!

Before I would consider a major purchase like a new refrigerator or a car, I always do some research! I read reviews, do price comparisons, reliability ratings, and so forth. Unfortunately, although most horses cost more than a refrigerator, they are not quite that standardized. Still, there are many resources out on the web and I encourage you to begin educating yourself before you start shopping. In other words: begin to understand the Horse Market.

  • Learn about breeds and their uses and traits. For example, an eventing horse needs stamina and a lot of agility, so a Friesian would be a poor choice if eventing is your dream. That beautiful Friesian would be happier doing some lower level dressage or taking you down the trail, while a thoroughbred or TB-cross would probably be great for eventing! Their endurance and desire to run would be terrific on the cross-country course. Many Quarter horses excel at western dressage, cutting cows, and ranch horse disciplines, yet because many are built slightly downhill, most would find it difficult to do FEI level dressage. On the other hand, that uphill Dutch Warmblood who could do FEI dressage beautifully, might be a total klutz and nut case if you asked him to play with cows.
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Horses have been bred for centuries for certain uses.

Along with educating ourselves about breed traits and what might be suitable for our needs, we can talk to experienced owners of the breeds you are interested in. Breeders, trainers, owners – most of them are happy to talk about “their breed.” Just know that they will be biased and you might not get the whole scoop, so be sure you do as much research as possible. Ask breeders specifically about any health issues in the breed. That doesn’t mean your horse will have that health issue, just that you need to be aware of a tendency in the breed. For example, many pony breeds tend to be Insulin Resistant, and so we must to be careful not to let them get overweight and feed appropriately lest they founder. Usually manageable, but something to know. Many breeds have something endemic to the breed but it’s just something to be aware of, especially for the vet check.

Certain temperaments are usually associated with each breed, too, although of course each horse is an individual. You may find as you research that you start narrowing down your choices to a few breeds that particularly interest you because they can do what you want, AND their temperament suits you.

  • Now start looking at online advertisements well before (3+ months if you can) you actually enter the market. Use national sites such as http://www.warmblood-sales.comhttp://www.dreamhorse.comhttp://www.dressagedaily.com (if you’re a dressage rider), or if you tend towards hunter/jumpers http://www.proequest.com. Find the sites that focus on your specialty (such as eventing, endurance, western, etc.) and peruse their ads. Often you can set up and save specialized searches  with your criteria (age 7-12, height 14.2-16 hds, etc.). I also look at local advertising sites (here in CA we have http://bayequest.info). Watch lots videos of sales horses and make note of the ones that appeal to you. Keep good records! I make a file folder and keep notes in it on the horses I’ve looked at and what I think of them.

The time you invest NOW on the internet will save you time and money later. By looking at many horses now online, you will educate your eye and narrow down what you are REALLY looking for. 

You will also start getting an idea of what prices people are asking for horses, although you won’t know the selling price, which might be quite a bit lower. Still, it gives you an idea of what the horse of your dreams might cost.

Some of the horses you see advertised may still be for sale when you do enter the market, and you may want to go see them. The price may even have dropped by then, or be more negotiable! Many horses take quite some time to sell – months or even a year or more – while others sell in a few days. This isn’t always the horse’s fault if it takes some time. The rate at which horses sell depends on many factors, and a horse may be on the market for a long while and yet it’s still a really good horse. Maybe the horse is not located near a major city or airport (so no one bothers to go see it), or it is not well advertised, or it is a bit IMGP1118_2overpriced (but the seller might take an offer), or the video does not show the horse to good advantage. All these things can keep a horse on the market. Or it might be still on the market because…there’s a darn good reason and you would not want it either.

Looking at lots of ads for horses begins to educate your eye so that you can tell the difference (some times) between a horse who might be on the market a long time because he’s a little bit difficult to go see, or because he’s really not worth going to see. You also learn what you like and what you don’t like.

  • Refine your criteria as you go through the research and learning process. Keeping in mind the criteria you have decided on – age, training, temperament, price, etc. – see if you are finding it ANYWHERE in the country. Do this whether on not you plan to travel far to find your horse.

If I search for a few months and never see a horse that meets my criteria anywhere in the country…then I am being unrealistic and need to redefine my criteria.

I’ve seen this over and over again, where we want to get champagne horses on a beer budget. Can’t be done. 

There are lovely inexpensive horses out there – don’t get me wrong – but they will not have extensive and impressive show records, be young, super fancy, with absolutely no flaws or health issues and super amateur safe temperaments. This kind of horse is expensive. Every once in a blue moon you will run into a desperate seller who needs to sell a wonderful horse fast and you will get an incredible deal…but that is very unusual. Generally, if the horse is valuable, people know it and they will hold out for a good price. Or something close to it.

Be realistic about what you can afford and think carefully about where you might compromise juliete_02in order to find a horse that meets your budget AND your needs.

  • Ask: Is my search working well? Am I finding it? In my search, I should be seeing a number of horses that interest me, even if they are a little too expensive or a bit too far away. For example, if I’m shopping for a horse that is $10K or less, and I’m finding horses I like in the 12,500 range, that’s within negotiation range. But if everything I like is $25K, I’d better find more money or rethink my champagne tastes. I’m going to have to accept some kind of significant flaw (probably a health issue or past injury) in my dream horse in order for the seller to lower the price that much. If it’s a manageable issue or a cosmetic flaw, it may not matter so much. Alternatively, I may need to take a much older horse, who still has a lot to teach but whose price is lower because there is some risk associated with older horses. We have to consider trade offs in shopping unless we have a large budget. Remember the old adage in bargain hunting: if it doesn’t fit and doesn’t look good on me, then it’s no bargain. Hold out for a horse that “fits you.”

We begin the process of horse shopping with an “image” of what we think we want. It’s often quite unrealistic: the equivalent of looking for Mr. Tall, Dark, and Handsome (who of course is rich, charming, and adores us, too!). By the time we actually buy a horse, that image has become the flesh and blood horse who bonds with you (maybe Mr. short, funny, and cute?).

Finn and Edie: short, funny, and cute!

Finn and Edie: short, funny, and cute!

Next up: what to do when you go see a horse and how to evaluate the horse in the test ride.

Horse shopping 102: What kind of horse should you get?

Before I can answer the question of “what sort of horse should I get?,” I have to ask: who am I and what do I want to do with this horse? What is my ability, experience and budget? What are my goals? What are my limitations? What kind of horse can I handle?

Horses vary in size, age, temperament, ability, price, talent, training, experience, show record, looks, gender, and more. Most of them are lovely, and while I might admire them greatly for someone else, they may not be right for me. Before I begin shopping, I have to honestly evaluate who I am today, in this stage of my life.

When horse shopping, many of us are tempted to buy horses that would have been great for younger or imagined versions of ourselves, and then we end up “over-horsed.” We become intimidated by the gorgeous, athletic, usually young, hot thing we fell in love with, wishing we had the ability to ride it. Unfortunately, all too often the owner gets hurt and the horse is resold; or the owner sits on the sidelines watching the trainer do most of the riding.

Too much horse?

Too much horse?

CHOOSE CAREFULLY for who you are RIGHT NOW; not who you used to be, or who you hope to become.

If you currently think you might have the wrong horse…you may find it helpful to read the post, “When it’s time to part company with your horse.” Sometimes it’s just best to find a different owner for your horse, and then you are free to find a better match for yourself.

Once I have figured out what kind of rider I am these days – with my limitations, fears, injuries, issues, and experience, strengths, too – then I can proceed to think about what I should look for. Here are some questions I ask myself when horse shopping:

What do I want to do with this horse? Trails, dressage, team penning, driving, endurance, jumping, eventing or ? I’m sure I left some discipline out! Think about your current riding interests and needs. Six years ago, my husband and I went to a Dude Ranch in the Colorado Rockies. While there, I rode an agile, somewhat hot 14.2 hd Arab/Quarter pony on the trail, and fell in love with him. I wanted to bring him home with me! but I knew he wouldn’t be happy in the confinement of my barn in California.  I realized that I really loved riding agile little horses – ponies! – and that I wanted a safe, fun trail horse. I so longed to ride on the trails and I hadn’t been doing it for years because my dressage horse was too spooky and just not fun or relaxing on the trails. I convinced my husband to let me have a trail pony in addition to the dressage horse (yay! lucky me!), and I began researching large pony breeds. So my answer to “what do I want to do with this horse?” at this time was: Trails! and maybe a little jumping.

Colorado Rockies

Colorado Rockies

What kind of horse would I need in order to do this successfully? I needed something safe, fun, and sound. If it jumped, too, that sure would be nice, because I thought I would enjoy doing some jumping (hadn’t jumped in decades, but why not?).

What kind of horse do I most enjoy riding? For me, it was something small and cute, agile and forward but not hot or spooky. Sensible and safe without being lazy. Hopefully low maintenance (ha ha), didn’t have to be very fancy, and for this horse, I didn’t want to spend much since it was mainly going to be my trail horse. Pretty would be nice, too, since it’s always nice to enjoy looking at your horse, but my daughter reminded me: “pretty is as pretty does.”


What size range will I consider? I’m a big believer in adults on large ponies (that’s another article), but everyone can come up with a size range that feels right. I would simply say here: be open minded. Too many of us think we “have” to ride a certain size, usually quite large, when we might be much more comfortable on a smaller horse. Give yourself a generous size range (a little smaller and larger than you might think) so that you can include many horses in your search. Old ideas about your height and the height you “need” to ride might need to be revisited. Try some sizes you may not have previously considered and you might be surprised!

Which gender? I always look at both geldings and mares (I own one of each). Mares can be very sweet and nurturing and bond deeply to their owners. Generally, they take more tact to ride, but they reward it. Some mares can be difficult when they are in season, while others have no problem. I hardly ever know when my mare, Ellie, is in season. Geldings, on the other hand, are generally considered a bit more predictable. Both are great! Unless you are very experienced, I would not recommend stallions or a horse that has been very recently gelded as these can take some special handling skills.

My mare, Tatiana, gives me a horse hug

My mare, Tatiana, gives me a horse hug

What age? Take into consideration your experience and life stage. If you are “older,” get a mature horse, 8-14 yrs old. Sometimes an even older horse can be appropriate if you are looking for something with a lot of training or experience. The older, still serviceably sound schoolmaster has a lot to offer. If you can handle a young prospect and have experience with green horses, by all means do it! They can be fun, but they are not for the fainthearted.

What breed? Some people have strong breed preferences either pro or con. They will ONLY get a certain breed, or they will NEVER own a certain breed. I’m more flexible, although like everyone I have my biases. While there are variations within each breed, certainly there are tendencies, too. Unless you are an expert and have really researched the breed, try to be open minded about breeding and look at the individual. You might be surprised. That said, if your dream horse is a blonde Haflinger and you really understand the breed characteristics, then get one 🙂 My dream trail and jumping 14.1 hd horse turned out to be the beauty at left.

How much training does this horse need to have? Depending on my goals, the horse needs to already have a certain amount of experience and training invested in it. This will likely be reflected in the price, but it could well be worth it to me. A green (untrained) horse is not always a bargain. When you start to consider how many years (and how much money in board and training) it will be before you can do what you wanted to do – whether that is going safely down the trail or competing at shows – spending a bit more up front to KNOW that your horse can do these things begins to seem worth it. Generally, I encourage people to go for a horse with experience and training unless they are experienced at training horses themselves.

How far am I willing to travel in order to see horses? You can drive certain distances, or get on an airplane and fly hundreds or many thousands of miles…even to another continent. It depends on your stamina and your budget, of course! Remember that each trip costs you time and money, so you’ll want to plan them wisely and get as much information as you can up front. I have a rule that I won’t even get in a car without seeing video and asking a lot of questions if the drive is more than 20 minutes. Why waste my time and energy? Or the seller’s? Of course rules are made to be broken and if someone I knew well told me the horse was worth seeing, I might drive to see it anyway. But I certainly would not get on an airplane without a lot of video and conversation.

What temperament does this horse have?

What temperament does this horse have?

What sort of temperament do I want? Horses, like people, come in all types of personalities and temperaments. Some use a temperament scale of 1-10 (1= very laid back and 10= very hot), while others speak more about personality types such as dominant, submissive, challenging, fearful, and so on. It’s important to think carefully about your own temperament and style and pick the right match. If you tend to be cautious, a reactive or fearful horse will not be right for you. If you are new to horses, a challenging horse will rapidly take over and things will go badly. A horse that needs a strong leader will fare badly if you are not able to be that leader. Even if you are experienced, you may know by now that you like calm, submissive horses, and that’s fine. Look for one. On the other hand, maybe you like them hot and reactive. If you can handle it, fine. Just know what you’re getting and be realistic.

What most people dream of is a horse that is sensitive and forward, but not at all spooky or reactive to “that thing in the bushes.” I do not believe they exist.

Yes, you can train them to be sensitive and obedient to the aids. But in my experience, a horse that is 1-3 on the temperament scale tends to have a laid-back attitude towards everything (including your aids at times). Good news: she isn’t spooky or if she spooks, it isn’t very big and it’s over very quickly. She returns to calm quickly and is generally very sensible, keeping her brain engaged. Bad news: when you want to activate energy, you have to keep reactivating that energy. She tends to return to calm very quickly because that’s her temperament. Great for ambling down the trail, maybe not so great for doing upper level dressage, but pick your poison. Spooky reactive horse? Or safe horse that you have to reactivate frequently? At this stage of my life, I’m picking calmer horses and I’ll work a little harder. When I was younger, I would have picked hotter. Know who you are, what you want to do with the horse, and pick accordingly.

How much can I spend? Recognize that horses that are in the prime age range (8-12), sound, with good temperaments, trained, with experience in the discipline of your choice, good movers, attractive, etc. are usually in high demand and do not go cheaply. Horses that fall outside these parameters – a little older or younger, less trained, perhaps with an issue of one sort or another – will generally be less expensive. We will talk, in another article, about pricing and negotiating.

If you want it all, most likely you will have to pay a premium for it. That said, occasionally you will luck out and find a horse that is a good value for one reason or another.

The owner may be motivated to sell, or the horse may not be an expensive breed, but still able to do everything you want. You don’t HAVE to spend tons of money; but remember: It’s not the buying, it’s the keeping! Board and training very quickly add up. Do not be “penny wise and pound foolish,” buying a horse because he’s a bargain, only to find he was not a good match for you and now you’re stuck with him. Better to spend a bit more upfront and have the right horse, or to wait and keep shopping.Expensive Taste