Let’s say you just brought your new horse home and you are super excited. I mean who wouldn’t be right?! But, the more you ride them, the more you realize they aren’t the same horse you tried before you brought them home. Knowing what questions to ask and what to look for is very important when test riding a horse.
First, always ask about the horse’s background. Who has trained and ridden them? How high have they competed? Why are they up for sale/lease? If they have competed at all ask for their registration number if a competition can be accessed. I have run into several people that have said that a horse has competed up to a certain level, but fail to say that was 4 years ago. While it isn’t a lie, it isn’t the total truth either. Always double check everything you can.
Make sure the owner or trainer you are meeting with knows a little bit about you. How long have you been riding, what level you are currently at, what you are looking for, any quirks you want to avoid, etc? This may bring up some questions for the owner and allows them more to go off of when showing the horse.
Ask about general care as well. Are they on any supplements, do they need shows, are they up to date on everything? This will help you get an idea of what this horse’s monthly costs will be. If you are on a budget, don’t look at anything that will put you over it. I don’t care how fancy or cute it is. After looking at something out of your budget, 9 times out of 10 everything else won’t look as nice. Make mental notes as you go along and try to get the full picture of what having this horse really means. You don’t want to go to sign the papers and pick them up and find out that they need supplements, shoes, and vaccines when you thought they only needed shoes one every so often.
If you are looking for something to learn on, ask how they are in that area. Are they sticky to jumps, are they spooky, are they a nightmare to get round? Of course, some things are caused by the rider and can be taught but you don’t want to make a trail horse into an eventer when you are just learning how to 2 point. If things are adding up, cross that horse off your list. I was once told one horse was a point and shoot hot horse but then told I would need to ride with spurs and a whip to get things done. Keep a running tab of when 2 + 2= triangle. Make sure you know exactly what you are getting.
Of course, ride the horse! If you have your trainer there, which you should, have them give you a mini lesson. Jump something if you want to jump things at home. Do transitions, circles, diagonals, halts. Also, try and get them round. Ride as if you are at home and this was your horse. Of course, follow the barn rules and know their restrictions but don’t be afraid to really ride the horse. You are going to have to eventually. If you feel uncomfortable riding them, talk to you trainer and see if it’s workable. You don’t want to bring something home that you are afraid to ride let alone pay big bucks for a lawn ornament.
Sometimes the horse is exactly what was advertised other times it’s not. But knowing how to handle both situations is definitely a great skill to have up your sleeve. Remember this could be your future partner. Choose carefully and after you get all the correct facts!