So often, new riders want to buy horses that are “cheap, good, young and sound.” They can go through months, even years of disappointment simply because these horses hardly ever exist, whether it is in polo, jumping, dressage or any other discipline.
You must have heard, if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys, not horses.
If a horse is cheap, there is very probably a good reason for it. It may be that the horse is lacking in its training or is physically or mentally compromised.
You very rarely find a horse that ticks off all the boxes. It may be cheap and good, but then it is rarely young and sound. Or if it is cheap and young, it may not be good for you as young means you have to train it or there may be a suspicion it is not going to be good enough. Even trainers don’t waste their time with lousy stock, so if they aren’t good, these horses will go at bottom of the barrel.
Don’t forget, part of what you are paying for is the training of the horse. If you expect a horse that is well schooled, you have to realise the time that is put into schooling it is worth something.
Cheap and young and untrained is probably the easiest to find if they are “unfinished” horses. If you go for an unfinished horse, you have to ask yourself, are you capable of schooling the horse yourself?
To pair a young horse with a novice rider is often a recipe for disaster. It is also slightly unfair to the horse as it may never reach its full potential.
I recently heard of a dangerous situation. A lady who wishes to take up polo wants to buy a horse cheaply because of her budget. She already rides an older polo pony, but it is unsound and unsuitable for polo any more. She was recommended a good schoolmaster from Argentina but it may be out of her budget. Instead, a vet has suggested she buys an Arabian endurance horse and convert it to polo.
This is a disaster waiting to happen.
A novice player does not even know what skills she needs to retrain a horse from another discipline. By and large, Arabians are known for their nervous temperament. The horse doesn’t neck rein and would have to be taught this. It is not even particularly young.
The vet, who has never played polo before, and who just happens to have the “right” horse available for sale, deserves to be exposed. This is the same vet who sold a polo pony that was given to him knowing the horse was schizophrenic, to a very novice and nervous rider after he changed the name of the horse.
As I wrote in Caveat Emptor, a horse dealer is a horse dealer.
Let’s face it. If a horse is cheap, it doesn’t tick off all the boxes of cheap, good, young and sound.
But are all the boxes actually necessary? What if it is an older horse that the owners are looking to sell on to a good home. In that case, it isn’t young, but it may still be a good buy, depending on your time horizon.
If you are looking for a horse to learn on for a couple of years, this older horse may the horse for you.
Age should not be a limiting factor when buying a horse for a novice rider. In fact the younger the horse, the more likely it will have problems as it is less “established” in its work.
A young rider learns from an older horse, just as a young horse is taught by an experienced rider.
Most novice riders need an experienced horse with a great temperament that knows the game. They learn on this horse for a season or two before they progress to a better, faster model. These experienced horses are called schoolmasters.
The schoolmaster may be older, but it is good and if it is manageably sound, it ticks three of the four boxes.
And for those who can find them, a young schoolmaster is worth its weight in gold.
If you know how long you want this older gentleman for, then view it as a cost of learning. For example, if you buy a 12 year old horse for 30,000 and sell it two years later for 20,000, you have spent 10,000 or 5,000 per year to learn on that horse.
It is better than spending 40,000 for a younger horse and learning nothing on it, because you have wasted two years. Also, after two years you will have a horse that has gone downhill and very probably lost value because you were not teaching it anything much other than bad habits, so you will not realise what you paid for it anyway.
Invest in a schoolmaster, because they are ones that are going to teach you and actually hold their value.
So the next time you ask for a horse that is cheap, good, young and sound, think what you are asking for. If they are good, young and sound, why should they be sold to you cheaply? They should command a good price.
Be wary of offers that are too good to be true, because usually, they aren’t.
If you aren’t sure, get good advice. Don’t ask anybody and everybody, but get good advice.
Advice is always available from experienced horsemen if you ask nicely. But if you ask everyone randomly, the experienced horseman is likely feel his advice is not valued, and may not bother giving you any advice at all.