Horse Shopping; 5 Keys to Success

Horse shopping can be shopping can be a really fun and exciting time, or it can be terribly stressful and discouraging. A lot of that depends on your game plan and preparation for buying a horse. I have come up with a few key things that you need to have figured out before you start browsing for horses.


Write down exactly what your goals are and what you hope to accomplish with your next horse. This is not the time to be conservative. Write down your biggest dream goals and elaborate on what it will take to get there.


Nobody likes to hear the “B” word or deal with the reality of their budget. But I promise you, you will get further ahead quicker and with less stress if you give yourself a budget that you can afford and stick with it. Don’t stretch yourself too thin in an effort to buy your dream horse, focus instead on getting the most bang for your buck and buy the BEST horse that you can within your budget.

I like to help people shop for horses whenever I can because it’s fun to be a “match maker” and I like to help people find the very best horse they can for the money. I always ask what their budget is before I spend any time looking because it is a waste of time to find nice horses for them that are out of their price range. A lot of people are vague about it or kind of leave the budget up in the air. That makes the whole horse shopping experience too abstract.

Set your budget and stick to it. Scroll right by the horses that you can’t afford so that you don’t waste your time and stretch yourself too thin.


Resourcefulness is what ties your dream goals and realistic budget together. You do not have to have the biggest budget to achieve super huge goals. What you need, is to be resourceful.

For example, maybe your dream goal is to compete and win at professional rodeos. If you have a budget of $2,000, that may seem like an impossible dream. However, if you think outside the box a little and have time on your side, you could find a really well bred yearling with great conformation and potential and put your time into making it the best horse you can. If it pans out to be a pro rodeo horse then great, if not, keep an open mind about selling that horse and get the horse you need. Most likely, you will be able to sell your horse for more than you bought it and you can roll that money towards getting a new horse.

I know this line of thinking works because I’ve done it. I have never had huge amounts of money to spend on a horse, so I have had to be resourceful and open minded about the process.

My theory is that I need to be uncompromising about the goal, but flexible about the route to get there.


Get an honest assessment of your ability and the amount of time you have to spend working with your horse. I find that most people OVER estimate their ability and end up in a train wreck situation when the horse they have is not broke enough for them. Not only is this a disappointing situation for both the owner and horse, but it can be very dangerous. I highly, highly recommend working with a trainer who knows you and knows your ability so that together you can find a horse that is a good match up for your ability and personality.

Jolene Montgomery was featured on Racer’s Edge on RFDTV in an episode all about buying horses. She talked about the different types of “broke” horses, and I thought she was spot on. Everyone has a different definition of what “broke” means.

Whether you need a horse that is “dead broke”,  “fancy broke”, or “green broke” is up to your ability and schedule. If you only have a couple days a week to spend riding, you shouldn’t get something that is only green broke even if you are a great rider. If you have plenty of time to spend riding and you like a horse that is really tuned up and responsive, then put your money towards the fancy broke horse. If you are a beginner rider, or have a lack of confidence in the saddle, find a horse that is dead broke so you can continue to improve your skills on something that is safe.

Evaluate your ability, figure out your budget and decide whether you need to put more of your budget towards how broke the horse is or towards other factors like age, breeding, natural talent and conformation.


Before you spend a bunch of time looking at horses for sale, get educated on conformation, breeding, the way a horse moves, and how all of that factors in to future performance and soundness. This is especially important when you are looking at a prospect that hasn’t proven how it will perform yet.

It is interesting to look at the conformation of winners in barrel racing. Angela Festervan really helped me learn how to evaluate conformation and movement for the job I want the horse to do. You are going to want something different for a barrel horse versus a cutter and its important to know the differences.

If you don’t know what you need to be looking for, then ask someone that could help you. There is so much information out there and so many people who are willing to help that there is no excuse to go into horse shopping uneducated.

In summery, horse shopping should be FUN. With every new horse comes a world of possibilities. If you do a little foot work to get yourself educated about your next purchase and you set some goals and a realistic budget, you’ll be in great shape.

Keep in touch with me on Facebook at JE Performance Horses LLC



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