Home and ContentsQuestions and Answers A to ZBuying a horseBehaviour & psychologyHorse and Pony CareTraining HorsesHelping Hands HorsemanshipSchool Your Horse Help DeskSafety with horsesCompetition PageHorse & Pony StoreHoofbeats - The BlogAbout Us and Contact

Conformation, Top Ten Owner's Expenses, Tips for Buying, Mileage... (on this page)

Next page... → (Sales talk, Galvayne's Groove in teeth, Buying a Child's First Pony, Owning My First Pony Article)

Buying a horse or pony involves important decisions. You need to consider carefully what you would like to do with it - whether it is just for fun or for competitions - you need to know how much you are willing to spend and also where you are going to keep it. With all the excitement that comes with buying a new horse, first time buyers often don't take into consideration how much it costs to keep a horse. Remember that after you have paid for the horse, the expensive part of stabling it and caring for it is only just beginning.

Tips for buying a horse or pony for beginner or novice rider
  • Older horses and ponies with kind temperaments are more suitable for beginners
  • Match the horse/pony to the rider's ability
  • Bring someone experienced with you
  • Ask what mileage (experience) horse has
  • Try to get a trial period
  • Pay a vet to check out the animal
  • Pay less for windsucker, crib biter, weaver or sweet itch or don't buy

The importance of conformation

The conformation of a horse is one of the most important considerations when buying. Conformation means how a horse is put together and is vital to the way it moves. A horse that moves well is less prone to wear and tear and should have a longer working life than one that moves badly. A good mover is also worth more money as a competition horse. Very few horses have perfect conformation but the buyer should always aim high. 

An uphill picture
When looking at a horse, it should stand squarely on all four legs. It should present an ‘uphill' picture with withers higher than hindquarters. An uphill horse finds it easier to lift its front legs for show jumping and dressage. The head should not be too big and the neck should be long and well set into the shoulders, without appearing thick. The horse's body should have a well-rounded look with good top-line. Imagine drawing a circle where the shoulders are and a circle where the hindquarters are. Ideally, these two circles should be the same size for a balanced horse.  The horse shouldn't have too narrow a chest when viewed from the front and there should be plenty of room for its lungs to function properly, producing more stamina. The legs should look the correct length for its body and its knees should be board and flat.  

Straight mover

When examining a horse, always ask the handler to walk the horse away from you and trot it back to you. Watch carefully to make sure that the horse moves straight and that it doesn't swing any legs. Some horses brush their fetlocks together and this can cause damage as the years go by. When walking, a horse's hind feet should step over the hoof prints left by the front feet. The walk should be active and loose. If the horse has a good walk, it will normally have good trot and canter paces.

Training for beginners to advanced riders
Click photo to visit website www.annsfortequestrian.com
Tuition available
  • Dressage lessons on Medium Level horse
  • Show Jumping training
  • Beginners to advanced riders in all disciplines, including polocrosse
  • Trainer based in Co. Tipperary, Ireland
  • Patricia Lalor, BHSII. T  SM, Horse Sport Ireland Tutor
  • Tel. 00 353 52 61 21191 or Mobile 00 353 87 6828234

Take care when choosing a first pony
Ponies with mileage will be less likely to frighten a young rider

The term 'mileage' may not be an advantage with cars but it is definitely a bonus when applied to horses and ponies. Mileage means experience and exposure to different types of riding events and it is worth a lot


A horse or pony with mileage is good value

The term 'mileage' may not be an advantage with cars but it is definitely a bonus when applied to horses and ponies. Mileage means experience and exposure to different types of riding events and it is worth a lot. A horse with experience is one which has been taken on many outings, has competed at shows and, if a pony, has been taken to the Pony Club and is used to many different little riders on his back. Horses and ponies with mileage are very useful for beginners. This also applies on a competitive level. A good rider who is keen to compete at dressage is often advised to buy an older horse with experience. School-masters are ideal to learn advanced dressage movements on as it is very difficult to train a young horse when the rider doesn't know what to do either! In the hunting field, an experienced horse is a pleasure to ride compared to an excitable young one who could give you a crashing fall at the next ditch.

Horses and ponies with mileage may cost more but it is money well spent as long as the animal is healthy and sound. Above all, if you are buying a first pony for your child, you must consider what price you would pay to keep your child safe? I have heard of far too many parents buying young and sometimes unbroken ponies for their children starting off. Some young ponies may be sensible but is it really worth the risk?

10 Tips for buying a Show Jumper
  1. Good athletic jump 
  2. Soundness
  3. Trainable temperament
  4. Good conformation
  5. Strong dark feet
  6. Suitable breeding & relations
  7. Traceable history
  8. Kind eye
  9. Good back for saddle fitting
  10. Instant liking of horse

Good conformation is vital for a dressage horse


10 Tips for buying a Dressage horse

  1. Soundness
  2. Trainable temperament
  3. Good strong dark feet
  4. Good paces/movement
  5. Horse stands up proudly
  6. Good self-carriage
  7. Good self-balance
  8. Kind eye
  9. Good back for saddle fitting
  10. Instant liking of horse


A 24 year old pony ideal for learning on

Ten expenses with owning a horse or pony  

(The prices quoted in this article are in euro and apply to Ireland).  

1. The horse or pony itself – Young horses and ponies with little experience usually cost less but it is not a good idea to buy an inexperienced horse or pony unless the rider is able to cope with a lively young animal. Putting ‘mileage’ on a horse costs time and money and, because of this, an average horse with experience and an ability to jump at least one metre in height will cost between €2,000 and €6,000. An average pony with pony club experience or other good mileage will cost between €1,500 and €3,000. Obviously top competition horses and show ponies will cost a lot more.

2. Vet's examination – It’s safer to have your horse or pony vetted before you pay for him. A vet’s examination to check heart, lungs, limbs and eyes should not cost you more than €150 unless you also wish the vet to take blood samples to check for substances such as sedatives or painkillers.  

3. Livery – There are three main types: (a) Full livery – where the horse is stabled all the time but may also have grass turn-out. The horse is fed and mucked out for you. This will cost between €70 and €150 per week depending on the facilities offered by the equestrian centre.   (b) DIY livery – where the horse is stabled and may also have turn-out but you do all the work, including supplying the feed and bedding. This costs between €50 and €70. (c) Grass livery – where the horse is kept in a field all the time and rugged up in the winter. This costs between €30 and €50 per week.

4. Bedding – A bale of dust-free, good quality shavings could cost as much as €8.50. Other alternatives are straw and paper. Straw is cheaper than shavings but is harder to store unless you have a hay barn available.

5. Feed – A small square bale of hay is approximately €3.00. A bag of average horse feed (called hard feed) is between €10 and €14 and how much the horse needs will depend on his size. Ponies are much cheaper to keep at home as they don’t need as much food.

6. Vet’s bills – Allow for at least one visit from the vet each year to vaccinate your horse and perhaps it is safer to budget for two visits. Just to drive into your yard, the vet will charge you at least €35 and then add on whatever else has to be done. It is cheaper to take the horse to the vet’s clinic but this involves loading the horse and driving there which may not always be the easiest option.

7. Horse box – A new horse box could cost around €5,000 and you can find second hand ones for €2,000 upwards.

8. Tack – Bridles cost between €60 and €200 depending on the make and quality. A new saddle could cost between €550 and €1,500 while a second hand saddle could cost between €250 and €500. It is well worth getting advice from an expert when purchasing a saddle. A good quality winter turn-out rug for a horse costs about €150.

9. Farrier – It is essential to have your horse’s feet looked after regularly. You should budget for the farrier to come every four to six weeks. It costs at least €70 for a set of new shoes.  Ponies under 128 cm don’t need shoes unless competing. Ponies which are prone to laminitis are often better with front shoes as their feet can get sore. The farrier will need to pare the hooves of a horse or pony without shoes so allow about €10 to €15 for this.

10. Riding lessons – A lesson shared with others in an average riding school will cost about €20 and a private lesson at least €40.