I recently have been looking to buy a puppy. This search brought me to a breeder who
seemed to have the kind of puppy that I was looking for. “Wonderful!” I thought. So I
wrote to inquire when a puppy would be available and to do a little investigating into
their breeding program. It was then I discovered that I was not a “buyer” but a potential
“parent” to a puppy and it was I, not them, who was to be interviewed to see if I could
provide the proper loving environment for this potential family member. To begin with, I
had to take the “Puppy Questionnaire”. I wrote for a few hours, providing what seemed
like a book to answer the five pages of questions that was to give insight into my
acceptability for puppy parenthood. Afterward it dawned on me that I have purchased
many horses and not once was put through this process. Shouldn’t potential horse
owners need to reflect on their expectations and capabilities of horse ownership, as
With the puppy questionnaire in hand, I began to mull over what is important for
potential horse owners to consider before buying a horse. While many of us, like me,
have bought and used many horses, considering the puppy questionnaire, or new horse
questionnaire, as I will now call it, may seem like second nature; that is, we ask
ourselves questions about what we are looking for in a horse and how we will
accommodate a new horse in our remuda. But for those of you who are new to horse
ownership, the new horse test may offer you valuable insight that you may have not
considered. So here is the puppy revised new horse questionnaire.
NEW HORSE QUESTIONNAIRE
A new horse means added responsibilities. If you have decided to purchase a new
horse, remember that owning a horse can be either the beginning of years of
happiness, or the beginning of an overwhelming responsibility for which you are not
prepared. When you bring a new horse into your family, you make a commitment to
raise, train, and care for your horse throughout his lifetime. This can often mean a
responsibility that spans the next 15-20 years. The following questions will help you in
deciding if you are ready for a horse and if so, which characteristics will help to find the
best fit for you and your horse.
Can You Afford a Horse?
The purchase cost of a horse can be in the thousands or tens of thousands. The cost of
trailering and handling is the responsibility of the buyer. It is necessary to plan the costs
of trailering your horse in your initial investment. This may mean buying a trailer, as well
as a pickup or appropriate vehicle, large enough for pulling the trailer.
A new horse is a long term commitment and the cost of his care is a necessary
consideration. Have you considered the costs involved in caring for a horse? Will your
budget allow for the cost of boarding, quality food, shoeing, and veterinary care?
Are you aware of some of the health problems, which may be common among horses,
especially ones with similar breeding as the one you are considering or ones who do
similar jobs? A veterinary exam is recommended before you purchase the horse to look
for soundness or health issues that are not obvious. Have you budgeted for a purchase
Will you be a responsible horse owner by providing preventative vaccinations and other
appropriate veterinary care including addressing injuries, tooth care, traveling
requirements (Coggins Tests) and health exams?
Do you already have a vet?
If you are boarding your horse away from your own property, you will have to consider
additional costs. Boarding can be several hundred or even thousands of dollars a year,
depending on your area. Can you find and afford boarding if you do not have a safe
place to keep your horse on your own property? If you plan to keep the horse on your
property do you have an appropriate pen? Can you afford to make adjustments to pens,
barn, etc. as needed for a new horse?
Good horse hay can be hard to find and expensive, as well. Can you find good hay in
your area? Would you know what good hay looks like? Can you afford to provide
appropriate hay, grain and/or supplements for your horse?
Training is needed for any horse, and beginning riders buying unbroken horses can
often spell disaster. (It kind of reminds me of a beginning driver putting together their
own car.) Buying a horse must include considerations for training. This can include not
only the cost of a trainer, but other costs such as arena rental, trailering, practice runs
and entry fees for competition. Will it be difficult to spend the money to train and use
Is this particular horse the right horse for you?
What are you looking for in a horse?
Why are you interested in the particular horse you have decided to buy?
Who is the seller of the horse? Can you trust that they are representing the horse in an
honest and knowledgeable manner as to its level of training, skill and health? Can these
things be verified? By whom and what are their credentials?
Are you representing your riding level and ability to care for a horse honestly so that the
seller can help you select a proper match?
Have you done any research on the breeding? Is it important to you that the horse is of
a particular breed? Do you want it to be registered?
What sort of conformation (structure) are you looking for? Why?
If you had to choose between two horses, one with great breeding and perfect
conformation, but low- moderate drive, and one with so-so breeding and conformation
and high drive, which one would you choose? Why?
Are you interested in a horse of a particular sex? If so, why?
Are you interested in a particular color of horse? If so, why?
Younger horses may be harder to deal with and may not have as much maturity,
experience or training. Older horses will not be usable for as long. What age of horse is
most appropriate for your goals?
Is this horse intended for breeding? If so, why?
What Will the Horse’s Living Situation be?
Do you have enough space to keep a horse properly? Is the pen adequate in size? Is
there any pasture available? Is there shelter from sun or snow?
Do you now have other horses? How many?
Do you own or rent your home? If you rent and plan to keep your horse on the
premises, will your landlord be willing to sign a statement allowing you to do so?
A horse needs daily exercise. A fenced pasture, trails, open range or an arena are
options to provide a safe area for you to exercise your horse. Do you have access to an
area to exercise your horse?
What insurance provisions will you make for your horse?
What is your “ideal” goal for the horse, i.e., competition, trail riding, ranch work, family
Are you planning to train or buy a horse trained for competition? If so, what are your
expectations for competition?
Do you expect to be highly competitive or do you just
want to be part of the competition and not embarrass yourself?
Does your price range take this into account, as first-rate competition horses can be in the tens to hundreds of
thousands of dollars?
What is your “realistic” goal for the horse?
What working drive do you feel would mesh with your personality, i.e., hot, mellow, high
What type of personality do you want in your horse?
(Energetic) (Lazy) (Easy to Train) (Fast) (Laid-back) (Always ready to go)
Is your horse trained? Who trained it and what are their credentials? What level of
training has it received?
Can you recognize “red flags” in a horse that is supposed to be well broke, ie.
cinchiness, humping or bucking when saddled, pulling back, bridling issues, not wanting
to get in a trailer, and so on?
What are your plans for more training for your horse? If the horse is already trained, do
you have plans to continue the training or to have someone help you learn to ride your
Are you planning to train your horse towards ranch work? How?
If you plan on training your horse yourself, list any prior horse training experience, types
of horses owned, and what happened to these horses.
Will a Horse Fit Into Your Lifestyle?
How will having a horse change your lifestyle? Do you have enough time and energy for
daily activities of owning a horse? Will it be difficult to spend the time to train and
exercise? Will the horse blend into your routine or will it become an annoyance or
burden? If you often work extended hours, and are already over committed to family
and friends then perhaps this is not a good time to be considering a horse at all.
Who will be the one to exercise, feed, clean up after, train, play with and groom the
horse, get him shod and provide medical care? Be realistic, it is a job for adults or
responsible older children. If you have children, be practical about how much they can
ride and care for the horse. Consider their ages, their exposure to horses in the past,
and their ability to ride.
Safety is always the first concern, for you and anyone else who comes in contact with
your horse. Can you recognize and put into practices to keep everyone and your horse
If you were to go out of town, what arrangements would you make?
Consider what others might say about you owning or buying a horse.
Obviously, there is much to think over when buying a horse. If it seems that owning a
horse doesn’t seem the right choice at the moment, there are many other alternatives
that allow you to interact with horses, such taking riding lessons, renting the use of
horse, or riding with a friend who has horses. Owning a horse is a major financial and
time commitment so making an informed decision based on these questions will help to
ensure that your access to a horse is realized in the best way for you and the horse
helping you to enjoy the ride!