Chances are when you began riding Dressage, you had no idea how difficult and demanding it could be.  Or, perhaps it was the notion that there would always be something more to learn that piqued your interest.  Maybe you started riding Dressage because your heart wasn't in the jumping.  Whatever your reasons, having the right equine partner will determine to a large extent your feelings of success and progression.
Like anything else in life, there needs to be a plan for your riding so that you can make good decisions about which horse is right for you.  Most people let their primary deciding factors be availability and economics.  The purchase price is certainly a valid point, however, you must remember that all horses cost the same to board and train, whether they suit your needs or not.  In fact, the majority of money that most people have in their horses, centers on upkeep and training, often exceeding the purchase price.
For most amateur riders, the number one consideration should be safety.  When you are deciding on the purchase of a horse, imagine yourself riding the horse under extreme conditions, i.e., a blustery cold day out in an open field.  Would you feel comfortable?  does he have good ground manners?  Are you able to lead him, trailer to a clinic or show and feel comfortable getting on him?
One of the biggest pitfalls is an intermediate skilled rider buying a green horse.  You can learn together, right?  Unless you are under constant supervision by a professional, it is a recipe for disaster.  Even under supervision, the progress will be painfully slow.  Knowing and acknowledging your limitations as a rider will go a long way toward making you happy with your choice.  Everyone wants the breathtakingly beautiful horse with the huge gaits that make your heart sing to look at.  Most people are better off leaving such horses to the professional and choosing something more sensible.  If you think of horses like men, there are some you date and others you marry because of their ability to be a good partner.  Sensible doesn't have to be boring and a schoolmaster doesn't have to mean a stiff neck and no extended trot.
Buying a horse is a very emotional decision.  One of the best things you can do is to hire a professional to help you evaluate the suitability of a given animal.  Your input is critical in helping them help you make the right choice.  You must provide clear answers to the following questions: 1)What are my goals, short and long term, 2) How often will I have access to professional training or lessons? 3) What is my confidence level? 4) What is my budget for horse purchase and training afterwards?  The more concise your answers are, the more the professional can steer you in the right direction.  Choosing a professional that you will have a continued relationship with is most desirable.  They can serve as a balance to help you keep your emotions in check and make the most rational choice.
You want a horse that you can feel excited about riding each day.  Learning to ride well is a difficult task with many frustrating moments that can be made so much easier with the right partner.  Even though it might seem like an arranged marriage at first, after the first year, you will learn to love a horse which is a willing partner.  Choose a horse that meets your needs and let him be your hero!

 by Nancy M Smith


May 2006



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