I am pleased to introduce the first guest post on this blog by Mike Shortridge from Horseseller.
Tips on Buying Dressage Horses
If you are planning to buy a dressage horse, whether as a beginner or an experienced dressage rider, there are a number of things to take into account before you part with a single penny. With a dressage horse it’s all about finding a horse which will take to the training, above anything else.
However, there are a few tell-tale areas to look out for when choosing a dressage horse, which might help you to avoid making an incredibly expensive mistake – here are our top tips on what you should be aware of:
1. Does the horse have a good temperament?
If you want a horse which will work in such a controlled discipline, you need to be sure it has a very sound temperament. It needs to be trainable and reliable. A horse which is really easily spooked is not going to perform well in a dressage ring full of people.
You need to make sure that the horse is a really good listener and will follow what you tell it to do – essential in a dressage horse. It needs to have spirit and to want to perform, but it also needs to follow your guidance – it’s a tricky combination to get right.
The horse needs to have charisma to perform before a judge and the kind of personality which means it will enjoy taking part in the competition side. If a horse is too quiet and shy it won’t become a good performer no matter how hard you try.
2. Can the horse move well?
A dressage horse needs to be well put together and able to balance and carry weight so how it moves is vital. If a horse is a flashy prancer it doesn’t mean it’s going to be good at dressage – it’s more about how the horse balances its back end.
A good dressage horse needs to be able to carry itself on its hind legs and have a strong canter above all else. Training can improve the way a horse moves its front legs, but training the rear of a horse is much more difficult.
Make sure you see the horse moving in all potential gaits and from all angles before you decide to make any commitment to buy it.
3. Does it have good breeding?
Breeding can certainly play a big role if you are looking to enter top level competitions but a horse should always be judged on its own individual performance and merits as a pair of siblings can still perform in completely different ways.
Breeding can be a good guideline for temperament however, it shouldn’t be the only thing which is taken into consideration as good dressage horses have come from all sorts of breeding backgrounds in the past.
4. Where do I go to buy a good dressage horse?
There are specialist dressage horse databases available as well as the classified sections of specialist horse magazines. Or you can go straight to a dressage breeder. Countries including Britain, Germany and Holland are particularly known for their quality of dressage breeders.
5. Do I buy a trained horse or one I can train?
This is the key question which all dressage riders face when considering buying a dressage horse – should they go for an older experienced horse, or a younger one which has more years available in which to compete.
It really is dependent on your needs and requirements but it’s worth bearing in mind the risks of buying an untrained young horse. You have no guarantee that it will take to the training and be a good dressage performer and it could take months or years to find that out.
An older experienced horse will at least allow you to improve and practice your dressage riding techniques straight away, helping you to develop your skills and confidence as a rider, while knowing your horse is totally capable.
Older horses can live long and healthy lives so it might not be the dead end you think it will be, and you will save a bunch of time and money that you will need to spend on professional training for a younger horse too.
Buying a dressage horse is a big investment so you need to make sure you choose the right horse for all of your requirements. Take your time and shop around until you find exactly the right horse for you, otherwise you could end up making a costly mistake.
If you do go for a younger inexperienced horse, make sure you factor in the extra cost of getting him trained up as this might take you over your planned budget. Make sure whichever horse you go for has the right combination of spirit, strength, movement and trainability and you can’t go far wrong.