Buying a Horse – How Much Training Should it Have?

Trained versus Untrained Horses

For most people (e.g. excluding large breeders, horse dealers and such), it is usually best that you purchase a horse which is already trained to the level you will be using the horse at. If you will be using the horse for basic riding it should be trained to this level pre-purchase; if you are using it for advanced riding then you should buy a horse that is trained to the advanced level. If you are using it for show jumping, it should already be trained for show jumping.

Of course, one can purchase an untrained horse or a partly trained horse. Such a horse will be less expensive to buy. Also, you can instruct a trainer on exactly how you want the horse trained, and you can have the experience and pleasure of participating in this. However, against these advantages, there are a number of disadvantages:

Training Costs. The cost of training will be in addition to the cost of the horse. To begin with, there are the costs of the trainer. In some cases the trainer will come to you but if not, you will need to transport the horse to the trainer or stable the horse with the trainer, either of which will be additional costs. Due to individual differences, it can be difficult to state precisely how much it will cost to train a horse, but such costs are frequently (one could even say ‘usually’) under-estimated. It is often the case that when one adds in all the final costs of training, it would have been less expensive to have purchased an already trained horse.

Accidents. Occasionally there are accidents during training, even with good trainers, especially during early training when the horse is less predictable. Even in the case of minor accidents, there may be vet costs.

Mis-Training. Trainers vary both in terms of approach and in quality. Furthermore, in order to secure the training contract at an economical level, trainers may rush the training or under-estimate the amount required. If this occurs, at best you end up with an incompletely trained horse and at worse a horse which has been mis-trained, resulting in undesirable behaviors.

Feel. Two horses, trained in exactly the same way, will provide a different riding experience due to individual differences. Horses differ due to breed, build, training and individual genetics. Consequently, how comfortable you will be riding a horse is more predictable with an already trained horse than with an untrained one.

Health Examination. A trained horse is easier to evaluate for injuries or other defects as one can ride it and one can watch it carefully while being ridden in each gait. Although one can examine an untrained horse, the examination by necessity is less complete.

Because of these factors, buying an already trained horse is often less expensive, less risky and less stressful than buying an untrained or partly trained horse and then having it trained up.

You should not try to train a horse yourself, unless you are a professional horse trainer or working under the complete supervision of a professional horse trainer. When non-professionals train horses, the horse will almost certainly pick up bad habits and behaviors (which are very time consuming and expensive to correct), as well as the risk of accidental injury to the novice trainer.

You should also be wary of buying a partly trained horse based on the seller’s commitment to fully train it. Having made the sale, many sellers will rush the training and cut corners, in order to minimize their costs and receive payment as soon as possible. One should only make a purchase commitment when the horse is fully trained and you have ridden it to ensure that you are completely satisfied with the result.