Choosing a Horse / Pony
There are many traps in buying a horse / pony for your child. The most important thing to remember is that you are buying an animal which is very strong and very intelligent, The temperament of the horse must be looked at very carefully, so choose one that is compatible with the person who is going to ride it. Above all, be patient, and ask advice. Ask at the local pony club. They know what is out there and can put you in contact with other pony clubs. Don’t go into this venture hoping to make a profit at the other end as this rarely happens. Owning a horse is an exceptional experience and gives the rider skills for life.
Thinking of Buying?
1. First decide how much you want to spend, and try not to go over this limit.
2. Decide on the area you want to travel looking for a horse (you can spend a lot of money and time going from one end of the countryside to the other).
3. Suitability: decide what you want this horse to be able to do e.g. if you want a show jumper it must be able to jump. For dressage it must be able to do the movements that are required of it. An eventing horse must be brave and not afraid of water and ditches etc. and must be able to jump cross country fences. A games pony needs to be smaller and nifty on its feet. Do not buy an ex racehorse (thoroughbred or standard-bred for children! These horses may be cheap, but are not generally suitable for children at pony club). Also Stallions are not suitable for children at pony club. NZPCA rules state that under 5 year old horses cannot compete in championship events.
4. Colour: have in mind the colour you would like e.g. a grey horse may not be right if keeping clean is a problem.
5. Sex: decide if you want a mare or a gelding.
6. Age: for the young inexperienced rider, an older school master should be encouraged, aged between 12 and 25. If the rider is more experienced, a younger horse may be alright, and only if there are experienced parents to help. Make sure it has been schooled. Riders who are at school do not have time to train young horses or re-school thoroughbreds unless they have heaps of help.
7. Available riding time: think about how much time the rider has to ride. If the rider is away at school, you don’t want to be training a young horse etc
8. Size: if a very short or young rider, choose a smaller pony. It is hard to get on and off on your own when you have one too high. Match the horse to the rider ie heavier riders need a cob type of horse.
J Check out as many advertisements as you can. Even advertise yourself for the horse / pony you would like.
J Ask around the local pony club and other horse disciplines for any horses / ponies that may be coming up for sale.
J Make a list of the ones you like, that are in your price range etc.
J Decide on a day or weekend you want to go and see them.
Making an Appointment
Ø Ring the people you are hoping to see.
Ø Ask as much as you can over the phone, this can save you quite a lot of traveling and disappointment.
Ø Ask if they have a video they can send you.
Questions to Ask
F How old is the horse / pony? How long have you had it?
F Why are you selling?
F How much - are you negotiable?
F What comes with it? Eg cover, saddlery etc.
F Temperament: Is it good to handle? Has it got any ticklish spot? Is it quiet around other horses? Is it happy to be by itself or does it need company?
F What has the horse done?
F What are its strengths and weaknesses?
F Is it easy to catch?
F Is it good to shoe? Who shoes it now? Could you give me the phone number?
F What is it like when it is brought back into work after a spell?
F Is it used to traveling in a truck or float? Does it load easily?
F Is it good in company?
F Is good in traffic? Anything I need to know? Can it be ridden along roads happily on its own? Is quiet when it heads towards home? Does it need to be ridden every day to keep it quiet?
F Does it tie up perfectly? Has it ever pulled back? Why?
F What sort of bit does it use in the various disciplines? Why?
F Do you have to use a whip / spurs?
F Ask for references e.g. pony club coaches, previous owner etc and follow them up.
F Who do you have lessons with? May I phone her / him?
F What pony club do you belong to? Who else can I ring?
F Has it ever been lame? Why? When?
F Has it ever tied up? Had staggers? Wind sucked? Is it a head shaker? These are very undesirable conditions in a horse.
F Arrange for a day and time that suits to look at the horse.
F Ask that the horse is not saddled when you get there.
ü Take a video camera if you can.
ü Be early. Try to be there when the horse is being caught. Check its reactions to everything. Does it nip when grooming certain places? Does it lay its ears back when saddle is put on? Does it have to have more than one saddle blanket or extra padding under the saddle? Are there any bare or white hairs where saddle goes?
ü Look for signs of work ie sweat marks that could mean it has been just ridden.
ü See the horse without a saddle, to check for saddle sores, or any other injuries around the saddle area.
ü Check any brands (if there are any).
ü Check the legs for any scars / sores etc. Ask for the history of any injuries.
ü Note how the horse behaves when handled. Always ensure they are safe to handle, especially if young children are involved.
ü Check that all feet can be picked up easily.
ü See how it works in. See it at the different paces, e.g. walk, trot, canter and gallop. See how it comes down after the faster paces. Take an experienced rider with you to ride it or ride it yourself if you can, before putting a younger rider on board. Note: only continue if the new rider still feels confident. Don’t feel obligated if you don’t think this is the horse for you.
ü Check how it goes over the jumps - both show jumping and cross country. Again, ride it yourself if you can, before your child gets on.
ü Ask if it requires any special aids.
ü Ask for the worst things it may do.
ü Ask if you can have it on trial (not many owners will let you do this, but it is worth a try).
ü Check what it eats? If you are in an area that does not have much grass at certain times of the year, poor Doers are not the horse for you. Does it have to have additives?
ü Can you drench it easily? What product do you use? When did it have its teeth last checked? Who did this treatment?
ü Ask for the previous dressage tests and have a read of them. Also have a look at the horse’s registration book if it has one. (Any results of this horse can be looked up on the NZEF website (it is under Links on our NZPCA website) if it is registered. Look under the discipline ie dressage, eventing etc click on results and choose which competition you want to check out).
ü Are they open for a vet check?
Always be diplomatic. Remember, this is someone’s friend they are selling, and it is a very difficult time for most people. Try to keep any negative comments to yourself.
Go home and think about what you have seen and heard. Discuss it with the new rider; after all, if she / he did not get on with the horse, it is not use going any further. The horse’s temperament must fit the rider’s temperament.
Safety is paramount!!!
Ring the people as soon as you can to say if you would like another visit, or to turn down the animal. This is a common courtesy. The sellers will be waiting for your call! Don’t be pressured by the seller saying there are ‘other people really keen’.
J Take another person for a second opinion.
J Test it out once again, at a different venue if possible and in the company of other horses.
J Take your own saddle to see if it fits. You may not want to pay for another saddle.
J Negotiate a price. Sometimes it is worth paying that little extra for safety and peace of mind.
J Arrange for vet check. Include a blood test. This will tell you if the horse is lacking in anything, as this may also affect the way it is going.
Go back again if needs be. If the horse has not been drenched before, you will need to ride it after it has been drenched, just in case its character changes. When the final purchase is made, give the previous owners time to say goodbye to their mate. Look after your new horse, and keep the previous owners informed of any wonderful things that you are doing. Bear in mind that some horses can be a little nervous and on edge when they arrive at a new home. They need company and handling and riding to put them at ease. Make sure the paddock is safe and there is shelter and clean water available to them at all times.
Most riders wanting a pony will fall in love with the first pony they see, and will want to take it home for everyone to see. By following the advice given you will be able to make an informed decision and purchase a pony that will give endless pleasure and confidence while building a happy partnership with an equine friend.