OwnershipBuying A Horse

Ultimate Horse Buying Checklist: 17 Steps When You’re Buying Your First Horse

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Horses are not cheap, let's set the record straight. Prepare yourself with our detailed breakdown of purchase costs, ongoing expenses and emergency finances that come with owning a horse. Equip yourself with the knowledge you need before making the commitment.

Buying a horse is an exciting experience for anyone who loves horses. But it can also be overwhelming and easy to get burned out in the process.

Don’t let burnout be the reason you give up on finding your dream horse or settle on a horse that is not right for you.

This helpful horse buying checklist will prepare you for finding and purchasing your new equine partner. It will cover everything from getting ready to buy your first horse and finding a good facility to house your horse to finding the right horse for you and the purchase process.

Follow these steps and you will be on your way to a successful first horse buying experience. And hint choosing a horse name is the least of your worries in the beginning steps of purchasing the right horse.

READ POST>> Beginner’s Guide To Buying Your First Horse

buying a horse checklist

1. Decide If You Are Ready To Own A Horse

Before you start looking at horses for sale, make sure you’re truly ready to own your first horse.

You want to make sure that you have the knowledge and experience needed to look after a horse of your own.

But not only do you want to be horse savvy, you also have to be prepared for the responsibilities that come with owning a horse.

Some things to consider:

  • Can you afford a horse?
  • Are you committed to owning a horse for the long haul?
  • Do you have enough time for a horse?
  • Do you have the energy and motivation for a horse?
  • Are you prepared for emergency vet costs?

For a more in-depth evaluation as to whether you are ready to own a horse, you can check out my blog post How To Know You Are Ready To Buy A Horse.

buying a horse for the first time

2. Create A Budget For Purchase Costs And For Monthly Upkeep Costs

One of the reasons I am leasing a horse right now and not owning one is because horses are not cheap. I’m not saying I won’t ever buy a horse again. However, there are many expenses involved with buying and owning a horse that you need to take into consideration.

You have your initial costs that come with buying a horse and then you have the monthly and routine costs. You need to look at all the potential numbers to see what you can afford.

Your budget will affect what horse you buy, the equipment you purchase, and where you keep your horses, to name a few things.

To get an idea of how much a horse costs and the initial expenses, check out my blog post How Much Does It Cost To Buy A Horse? 2021 (Charts With Price Ranges)

So figure out what you can spend to start out and then what you can afford to pay monthly.

read this before you buy your first horse

3. Create An Emergency Fund And Consider Equine Insurance

It’s important to save money for emergencies before you buy a horse. Horses seem to always find a way to get into trouble, although some horses more than others.

You don’t want to find yourself in a spot where you don’t have extra money for an emergency vet bill.

Having a savings account specifically for emergency costs takes some stress off your shoulders, God forbid something does happen.

Think of it as extra insurance.

Actual equine insurance is not a bad idea either! You can look at different insurance companies that cover horse owners.

There are policies that will cover major medical and surgical, loss of use, and mortality in case of death or freak accident.

Liability insurance is not a bad idea either, to protect yourself in case someone else gets injured by your horse.

tips & guide on buying your first horse

4. Decide On A Place For Your Horse To Live

Are you thinking about keeping your horse at home?

Or are you planning on boarding at a horse farm?

If you’re planning to keep your horse at home, you either have the facilities for it or you will have to build one.

Making sure you have the right amount of land and type of land is important as well.

Keeping a horse at home can be cheaper than boarding, but that’s not always the case. It all depends on your situation.

For more on the cost of keeping a horse at home, check out my blog post The True Cost Of Keeping a Horse At Home.

Typically, you don’t want to keep just one horse on your property. Your horse will need a companion. Horses do best living with other horses, but there are exceptions and alternatives.

Another thing to consider is the responsibility and daily work load that will all fall on you if you keep your horse at home.

If keeping a horse at home is not an option for you or that is not the route you want to take, then you will need to board your horse at a barn.

You will want to look at all the available barns in your area and find one that suits your needs.

Barns can be very different from one another, so it is a good idea to come up with must haves for the place you want to board, a budget, and know what type of boarding you want to do.

To learn more about the different types of horse boarding , check out my blog post The Different Types of Horse Boarding: Which Type Is Best For You?

5. Find A Horse Trainer or Instructor You Will Have Access To

Before you go out and buy a horse, make sure you find a qualified professional who has experience training horses and has a good reputation.

This is for a couple of reasons.

First, it will be useful to have a professional equestrian who really knows horses to go with you to look at horses for sale.

A qualified horse professional can give you their opinion on the horse’s potential and help you decide if the horse is suitable for what you want to do and for your experience level.

Second, taking lessons with a trainer after buying your horse will help you get started on the right foot. You will get some direction on what to work on with your horse .

You will start to nip bad habits in the butt if any start to develop.

Plus, taking lessons with your new horse will help build your confidence as you get to know your new horse.

6. Find A Vet And Farrier For Your Horse

Your horse’s health is very important to their well-being and comfort. It is your responsibility to care for your horse and make sure that they are as healthy as they can be.

Part of this obligation is regular vet and farrier care.

Find a reputable vet and a farrier that serves in your barn’s area, you would like to use before you buy your horse.

Then, once you buy your horse, you can set up your first appointments.

Plus, if problems arise when your horse gets to their new home, you will have these professionals a phone call away and already aware of your new horse.

Preparation and precautions are always a good idea when owning a horse.

7. Get A Notebook and Video Camera Handy.

You want to look at a handful of horses to make sure you get the best fit.

Don’t jump the gun and buy the first horse you see just because it is pretty or because you are overcome with excitement.

Horses are a long-term, expensive commitment. Make sure it is the right horse for you.

The more horses you look at, the more opportunities you will get to find the best horse for you.

It can be overwhelming to look at many different horses and remember the details about each one.

This is why you want a notebook to write down answers to your questions and notes about each horse.

With the camera you can have videos taken to help jog your memory of your experience with the horses. You will also be able to see how you worked with each one, as well as their movement, conformation and behavior.

Use these tools to compare the horses and aid your horse buying decision.

8. Purchase Some Supplies And Equipment

Before you buy a horse, there are a few supplies that you will want to purchase. Some supplies you will want to wait to buy until after you get your horse.

There are also some supplies that are not necessary but are nice to have.

If you are keeping your horse at home, the list of supplies you will want on hand will be larger than if you are boarding at a stable that provides some of the supplies and equipment.

You can wait to get most of your horse’s tack and equipment to where you need to know your horse’s size.

Here is a list of basic supplies and equipment you will want on hand to be prepared for your horse.

If your boarding barn has some of these items available for you, then you won’t have to worry about those specific things.

List of Items to Get Before Horse

  • Halter
  • Lead Rope
  • Grooming Kit
  • Shipping bandages or boots
  • 2 Water Buckets
  • Feed Tub
  • Fly Spray
  • First Aid Kit
  • Grain Barrel
  • Wheel Barrel
  • Pitch Fork
  • Broom
  • Scrub Brush
  • Paddock Water Trough
  • Hay, Grain and Shavings

A few things to note on the list above.

The halter is sized but not too specifically. They usually come in a pony, cob, horse, or draft size. From the horses you are looking at, you should be able to get a basic idea of the size your horse might need.

You might want shipping bandages or boots to give your horse extra leg protection for transportation.

For grain barrels, you can easily use a metal trash bin.

For paddock water, muck tubs usually work well if there are only 1 or 2 horses in the paddock.

Before your horse moves in, you want to make sure you have hay, grain, and shavings at the barn.

Make sure any changes in your horses diet are done gradually so when you find out the horse you are getting see if you can buy a bag of grain the horse is on to transition over to the new grain. Unless you decide to keep the horse on the same grain.

9. Decide On Your Criteria For A Horse With An Open Mind

Before you start looking at horses for sale you need to know what you want.

Create a list of must haves and would likes so you can narrow down your search.

Some criteria to consider when looking for your horse:

  • Age range
  • Height range
  • Type of body build
  • Type of riding
  • Experience
  • Level of training
  • Breeds
  • Color
  • Mare or Gelding
  • Temperament

Some of these things are more important than others. I would be more flexible with breed, color, and gender and see these more as a bonus.

I think the most important things for a first horse are the temperament, experience, training level and the correct sized horse.

For more information on finding the right sized horse for you check out my blog post What Is The Right Horse Size For You? Guide To Find Your Ideal Horse Size.

I might be a little flexible with the horse’s age or the discipline of riding , if the horse had a good temperament and sufficient riding experience and training with the potential for the type of riding I wanted to do.

10. Look Through Horses For Sale On And Offline

If you’re looking for a horse for sale, you have lots of options. You can look at horses on and offline.

On the internet you can find horses for sale all over the world.

However you will want to see the horse in person at some point. So it is best to decide how far you are willing to travel to go look at a horse first.

Then remember you will be transporting the horse as well so that would mean stress for your horse and more money from your wallet the father away you go.

As far as online, there are many online horse classified sites that you can search through. There are also horse businesses with websites listing horses for sale such as breeding farms, competition barns, training facilities or lesson programs.

You may also find horses for sale at online horse auctions, but I don’t suggest this for your first horse because you take a big risk by not checking the horse out first.

I also don’t recommend an in-person auction either, as you won’t be able to have a vet look at the horse and you won’t have sufficient time to try out the horse. Sometimes at auctions, uncaring sellers give horses calming drugs or pain killers to cover up behavioral problems or injuries. So beware.

Horse adoption is another option. You can look at local horse rescues in your area . You may find a gem. Keep in mind that many times, though not all the time, horses at rescues may have limitations due to soundness or age. They may have some behavioral issues.

But there is a chance you could find the right horse for you from a rescue, and adoption is a great way to support more horses being rescued.

I prefer to find horses online because of the convenience, but you can also find horses for sale offline.

You can find out about horses for sale through word of mouth. Ask your horse friends and your trainer if they know of any horses for sale and to keep you in mind.

You can visit tack shops and feed stores. Usually, these places have bulletin boards with business cards and flyers.

You can stop by at public horse farms and ask if they have any horses for sale. Make sure the barn is open to the public.

Some horse farms give lessons and board but are private and only have visitors by appointment or visiting with a person that already goes to the barn.

Go to horse shows and other horse events, which sometimes have bulletins with flyers for horses for sale.

For more on finding horses for sale, check out my blog post.Where To Find Horses For Sale? (List Of Different Sites Included)

What other ways can you find horses for sale offline? Let me know in the comments if you have any suggestions!

11. Call And Schedule Visits For Horses You’re Interested In

If you find a horse you are interested in, it is best to contact the owner and ask them questions about the horse before you take the time to visit and try out the horse.

You can do this by email or by calling directly on the phone.

I think calling about the horse you are interested in is a better idea than email.

This is because you can ask questions that you have written down before hand, and then get immediate feedback when other questions arise as you talk about the horse.

Talking to the owner will give you a better idea if you want to proceed and see the horse in person.

If you like what you hear about the horse and they sound like they could be a good fit, schedule a visit, but make sure that your experienced horse person is able to come at that time too.

12. Visit Potential Horses With An Experienced Horse Person

In the world of horse buying, it’s always a good idea to have an experienced horse person or a trainer with you when you go to visit a horse you are interested in buying to get their opinion.

Even if you are experienced with horses, it’s good to have a second set of eyes. Not to mention, they can help you take photos and videos.

When you arrive, be aware of the horses’ state.

  • Are they in the paddock or the stall?
  • Are they tacked or untacked?
  • Groomed or ungroomed?
  • Do they look like they have been lunged or free lunged before you came?
  • Are they sweaty or out of breath?

If the horse is normally sensitive or high energy, you want to make sure the owner isn’t trying to hide it by tiring the horse out, for example.

When you first look over the horse before you ride evaluate the horse’s conformation, ground manners and personality.

You can also take the time to ask other questions you may have about the horse that you didn’t ask over the phone. Make sure you have your note book and video camera handy.

Then look at the horse’s gaits and movement in hand and on the lunge line.

Does the horse look sound and steady?

Try grooming and tacking the horse. Any sensitivities or quirkiness?

13. If Possible Try Horse In And Out Of The Arena

When you are ready to ride the horse, it may be a good idea to try riding in the arena first.

Also, have the owner or your trainer ride first so you can see how the horse moves and responds to the rider.

If the horse looks sound, content and responsive, then take a turn riding the horse in the arena.

Ride the horse walk, trot and canter. Ride transitions between and within the gaits. Try different exercises with the horse to see how the horse responds.

If you plan on jumping with the horse, see if you can jump the horse over some cross rails and vertical jumps .

If you are happy with the horse in the arena, ask if you can ride it outside of the arena. A trail ride would be ideal, but a walk around the farm would be sufficient if that was all that was available.

You want to see how the horse behaves. If they are barn sour, spooky away from the barn or other horses. Do they behave as well outside of the arena as inside the arena?

14. Get A Pre-purchase Exam For Your Potential Horse

A pre-purchase exam is not cheap, and it is another expense added to your initial cost of owning a horse. It can be more or less expensive depending on how much you want done, just the basic exam or added x-rays, for example.

It is not required in order to buy a horse, but I highly recommend getting a pre-purchase before you decide to buy the horse.

This exam helps you determine if the horse is suitable for what you want to do and if there is any underlying health issues or lameness.

That said, no horse is perfect and each horse will have their own issues, some small, some bigger.

You need to decide if those issues are a deal breaker or if they are not a problem for your level of riding. Remember to keep in mind what you want to do for the future as well.

Also, a pre-purchase only tells you where the horse is at the moment. They can get ill or injured after you purchase them. Hence why I mentioned equine insurance and an emergency fund in one of the earlier steps.

15. Finding Transportation For Your Horse

So you have found the horse you want and the pre-purchase is acceptable to you. Now you have to figure out how you will get the horse to your barn when you buy it.

Unless you have a truck and a trailer, you will need someone to transport your horse. Most boarding barns have transportation for their boarders, but not all do.

So find out if someone can trailer from your barn or find a transportation company to trailer for you if you have neither of the above.

I prefer to follow the trailer when I have my horses transported just to watch over them. Consider some leg protection for your horse, especially if it is a long drive.

16. Buy Horse With A Purchase Agreement

You want a purchase agreement with everything spelled out clearly. Make sure you read it thoroughly so you know what you are signing.

There should be two copies. You want to make sure you keep this.

Some agreements may have a trial included or a buyback policy if you don’t want the horse anymore and plan to sell it. They may get first right of refusal if it is in the agreement.

Just in case there was ever an issue about whether you actually purchased the horse, it would help to have a witness sign the papers as well.

17. Bring Your New Equine Partner Home

When you find the horse of your dreams, you are happy with the test rides, the vet check, you sign the papers, fork over the cash and you’re ready to bring your horse home, just remember to take your time.

Let the horse come to their new home and settle in to the new routine for a couple days to a couple weeks. Get to know your horse and start to build a connection even if just from the ground, grooming, grazing, hand walking around the farm.

Let your horse get the chance to feel relaxed in the new surroundings. It could take a little while before your new horse feels at home.

Just take it slow and don’t rush things. You have many years together to work on your training, but your relationship with your horse is at the center of it all.

And most of all, enjoy the moments with your new horse and all the adventures to come.

A few more things to help you out.

Good Luck With Your New Horse!

I hope you have enjoyed my blog post on how to buy a horse. In order to reduce your sense of overwhelm, I’ve given you some useful advice on how to purchase a horse.

Please keep my blog in mind for anyone you know who is interested in learning more about the process of buying a horse.

I would love to answer any questions that you may have. If you would like to contact me, you can do so by emailing me at [email protected].



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Disclaimer Notice: Please be aware that horseback riding and related equestrian activities carry inherent risks. The advice and experiences shared on this blog are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for professional training or advice. Ensure your safety and that of your horse by wearing appropriate gear, practicing safe horse handling, and consulting with certified equestrian professionals. Remember, each horse is unique, and techniques may vary accordingly. Always prioritize safety, respect, and patience in your equestrian endeavors.

Kacey Cleary Administrator
Kacey has been an equestrian since 1998. She was a working student at several eventing and dressage barns. She has owned horses, leased horses, and trained horses. Kacey received an A.S. in Equine Industries from UMass Amherst, where she rode on the dressage team. She was certified with the ARIA and is licensed to teach riding in MA. She has been a barn manager and has run her own horse farm.
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