Ask the horse person

If you’re looking for a first horse for a kid or an adult beginner, what you want is something like this: older, well-trained, sensible, gentle, forgiving of mistakes, willing to put up with all sorts of nonsense without flipping out.

With an older horse (midteens and up) you can expect some soundness issues thanks to the ravages of arthritis, but in many horses these are manageable with proper care, and an aged horse can give you years of pleasure.

I was lucky. My first horse was a favorite with everyone who knew him; they still cherish his memory. I had him for thirteen great years. Today is the second anniversary of the day I knelt by his head and said goodbye as the vet’s needle released him from this life.

Skip In Place (Nick) - April 3, 1992 - September 16, 2005. Nick, you were something special. Rest in peace, big guy.

How intelligent are horses? Will they really run back into a barn that’s on fire?

They’re not as smart as pigs, maybe dog level, though that’s arguable. Horses know what they know – they have tenacious memories, especially for things that frighten them.

Yes, horses do run back into a burning stable. They associate their stall with security. In the terrifying chaos of a fire, they will bolt for the place they feel safe.

I’ve had horses I considered quite stupid. Until they outsmarted me.
Seriously, they vary greatly, just like dogs. They are as smart as they need to be. Don’t expect them to do your algebra homework for you.
And they can read your mind.

What ETF and Hello Again said! I’m going to expand on that just a bit. Bear in mind that, with horses, YMMV. It varies a LOT.

In my experience, horse costs are a function of the following…

Age: The horses most in demand seem to be those between 5 and 15. You’ll probably pay more for one in that age range.

Talent: Whatever the horse’s job (cutting, hunter/jumper, dressage, reining, etc.), a horse that’s good at that job will cost more than one that isn’t.

“Ease of ride”: A well-trained (“made”) horse will cost more than something that still needs a lot of work (“green”). Likewise, a calm, forgiving, tolerant animal will usually cost more than a fire-breathing dragon that doesn’t tolerate fools (or beginners) lightly.

Soundness/health: Some horses come cheaper because they have maintenance issues (e.g. need corrective shoeing, joint injections, etc.), have a health condition (e.g. Cushings), or are limited in what they can do (e.g. they shouldn’t be jumped, galloped hard, or carry more than a certain weight). You’ll pay more for a horse without those issues.

You won’t be able to find a horse that’s great in all four areas without paying a hefty price tag. However, if you’re willing to take on an older horse that may have some maintenance issues or would never take you into the show ring, you can save some.

For a trained, pleasure horse over 5 years old, you’d probably pay $2,000 to $15,000 around here. Towards the lower end, you’ll find horses with more maintenance issues, who tend to be older (16+), and probably won’t take you into the show ring. Towards the higher end, you’ll find horses with fewer maintenance issues, aren’t so old, and may competitive in smaller or local shows.

If you want a horse that’s competitive at the bigger shows, you’re going to pay a lot more for a well-trained animal. But, since you indicated a good pleasure horse, you likely aren’t interested in more than the occasional, smaller show, if that.

As Hello Again said, don’t buy a horse until you’ve had at least a year of lessons. It’s good advice.

Placid, well-trained horses can have their moments of idiocy. You need to develop some riding practice and skill to handle those. You also need to learn the basics of horse care/maintenance. Even if you do full board, you are the primary person looking out for that animal’s well being. You can delegate a lot, but you need to know enough to do it responsibly (e.g. know when your horse is getting substandard care). There are thousands of good books out there, but nothing replaces hands on experience. For example, you can find hundreds of diagrams showing how horses with founder or laminitis stand, but many horses aren’t quite as obvious about it as a diagram.

Also, you may not really know what you enjoy before you try it. Maybe you think you’d be happy just trail riding only to get into it and find you’d like a horse that could take you over small jumps. Or maybe you want to go Western rather than English or vice versa. More importantly, you have to find out what type of horse best suits you. Some people prefer smaller horses. Others feel better on larger ones. Likewise, some prefer a horse that needs more prodding to get going while others like a horse that carries them a bit.

Finally, you may decide you really don’t like it that much after all. There’s nothing wrong with that. Horses, even if you board, are a big commitment. If you find you don’t have the time/desire to enjoy your horse much, you’ll still spend a lot of time and money caring for it. It may seem romantic and fun, but it’s not for everyone. Some people try it and get scared (especially if they don’t take lessons first). Others think “meh, not as fun as I thought.” Better to know you’ll enjoy it before taking the plunge!

The herd = safety. Horses will run towards the herd, whereever it is. I don’t think a horse would run back into the barn if their herd leaders and seniors were already outside. I could be wrong on that last bit. (Also, horses that don’t normally live in a barn won’t run into one that’s on fire).

In my experience and opinion, horses excel at learning sequences of behaviors. Their ability to memorize complex sequences and replay them on command (sometimes years later) exceeds that of a dog. On the other hand, their ability to problem solve is limited, much more limited than a dog’s. If I had to theorize why, I’d say that its because they don’t often find a problem they can’t solve by eating, pooping, or running away.

Don’t forget kicking. :wink:

I did some research on this about three years ago in my area. The best thing I found was a stud farm that had an indoor arena, heated barn, outdoor arena, and backed up next to a state park with trails. The owner/breeder/trainer would sell you a registered foal (Arabian) before it was even born for about $1500. At that point of course you didn’t know if it was a horse colt or a filly. Once the foal was born, the price went up. For certain colors, the price went up. If something went wrong during the delivery you could cancel the deal, but you couldn’t cancel the deal because you wanted a palomino and the foal turned out to be bay. The owner would spread all the coasts–foal, board, training–over a period going up to three years. (She assumed a certain time commitment on the part of the owner for training, I think it was 20 hours a week.) It was about $350/month and it seemed like a pretty good deal–if you wanted to spend that much time. I don’t think she would have made the deal for a beginning rider.

She also leased horses. That was about $200/month and included vet care, but not training. Supposedly, if you were leasing a horse, you and the horse would train together, and the horse would already be trained to the point where a not-so-experienced rider could handle it. She had a couple of instances where people shared a lease.

I would definitely have gone that way, except I decided I still couldn’t afford it, either financially or the time commitment, and I would prefer some breed other than Arabian.

If you take riding lessons in your area, you will hook into a network of horse people, and if you’re really into it they will all help you work something out. As Maddy Strut and others have said, it’s a big commitment. Fun, though. I miss being a horse owner.

I can’t imagine buying a horse without at LEAST that much experience! Do people actually do that?

Thanks for the info everyone…very interesting!

Yes they do! Even worse, sometimes they do that and buy a young, unbroken (or at least very green) horse figuring they can “learn together.” I won’t say it never works out, but the odds are very, very much against it!

I don’t know why. If you really want to ride no more than once or twice a week, lessons are much more affordable. And no mucking stalls!

So, the Op never returned? I would love to be able to have horses again, but we have so many other holes we pour money into… :rolleyes:

A guy I used to know decided it would be very impressive to play polo. And somebody told him you didn’t need to ride all that well to play. So, without any experience, he went out and spent $25,000 on a polo pony.

This did not end well for the horse.

This is actually a horrible deal for the buyer. In fact its crazy. You can’t ride the horse for at least 3 years and in that time you pay $12,600 (350x36). Two additional years for the horse to know anything about anything, the total is up over 20K! You can buy a heck of a nice horse, already trained, for way under that budget.

Sure, but you still have the stable fees. And yeah, I know there are cheaper places, but to have an indoor arena, outdoor arena, and access to the state park, 20 minutes from downtown, it was a pretty good deal.
Along with the stable fees, vet fees, farrier fees, and all the training the breeder did.
For instance once the foals are a certain age–pretty young–they are all halter-trained. Shortly after that they are separated from their dams for short periods and taken for walks to teach them good behavior. The trainer and staff (and volunteers) work with them every day, even as babies, so they won’t ever be behavioral problems. They will be well socialized.
I went on a couple of foal walks, handling babies that hadn’t been sold yet. The owners were along, and they were happy with it. One of the owners had leased a mare to ride until the baby was old enough.
There were people doing this as an investment and selling the horses as 3-year-olds realizing more than they’d put in. (Money only–not time.)
And there was someone doing it to learn what went into training, in preparation for her next horse being a $125 BLM rescue horse.

I tried to be reply to this, but everytime I became incoherent with a mix of fury at this woman’s willingness to take advantage of the clueless and and admiration for her evil genius… I mean business acumen. Let is suffice to say, if you think this is a good deal, you have been mislead.