Do you buy a young horse? Or a bike?

There is a temptation, looking at the price of good-quality “going” dressage horses, to want to buy in early.  A weanling is generally pretty reasonably priced, after all. And one’s imagination of the quality in the future can be seductive.

On price: I have cited this piece before, but it is a good wrap up of costs–though keep in mind again that I do not know these people–though I admire their thought process:

They mention that buying a young horse can be a bargain in “money now” but there is a lot more to consider.

In purchasing a youngster, the temptation to attempt to “beat the market” should be resisted unless all of the following are present in your life and ride.

1. You own or know of a suitable place to “store” your youngster.  This place need not have rolling green hills and board fences–though these are nice–but it must have several acres, safe fencing, a good worming program and companions for your youngster.  Ideally several horses of the same age group and size.  A pipe coral in northern LA is not ideal.  Playmates over the fence teach all the bad habits of a stalled horse, and none of the good.  Keep in mind that if the board at this place is $250 a month you will have “invested” $12,000 in board and likely have $20,000 in an unbroken four year old.

2. You are a professional skilled at working young horses, or know of (and are willing and able to pay) a short string of professionals to cope with the basic tasks your young horse must learn.

3. You are a professional skilled at working young horses, or know of (and are willing and able to pay) a short string of professionals to cope with the basic tasks your young horse must learn.

4. Read items 2 and 3 and go no further if you have any doubts about this.  Handling and riding a young warmblood is very different than handling and riding an older horse–or breaking a Quarter Horse. The goals are different, the tasks are different.    The budget for this training is $8-10,000.

5. If you have gotten this far, how do you choose your youngster?  The short answer is the apple does not fall very far from the tree–the young horse is quite likely to be very similar to its parents.  So when you pick your young horse you should choose something whose mother  and father you have ridden and liked–or something that is very, very closely related.

And you?  If you are thirty, in four years you will probably ride exactly like you do currently–unless you plan to do something radically different in your education.  If you are 50, we all hope you will not ride worse at 54!  (I’m sorry, but most 50 year olds who ride, and are not professional riders, usually have desk jobs, long commutes, family obligations and do not get enough exercise.)

Horse people are notoriously bad at assessing their own level of skill.  They are also very, very good at retaining a fantasy of someday it will be better.  This is a human trait.   See New York Times Three Cheers for the Nanny State

A sample: We have a vision of ourselves as free, rational beings who are totally capable of making all the decisions we need to in order to create a good life. Give us complete liberty, and, barring natural disasters, we’ll end up where we want to be. It’s a nice vision, one that makes us feel proud of ourselves. But it’s false.

But you say you want in the end to breed and have a horse like Totilas?  (The ultimate Carbon Fiber.)

Please make sure you are equipped to ride him!


The ten-million-euro wonder horse from the stable of Paul Schockemöhle.

I am sure broken and trained by an adult amateur.


Not the tale of The Black Stallion?


A horse backed up by a team that looks just like your local professionals?

Sjeff Janssen and Edward Gal, Totilas’ former rider.

From an article

Is this a more suitable choice?


Having ridden my share of young horses (and having ferried to the emergency room a number of people at several barns riding unsuitable young horses!), almost ten years ago I bred the spotty one above.  (No he is not a quarter horse. 100% Warmblood.)

Grand daddy:


Mother was a hot three year old mare from Grande and Davignon (Donnerhall/Pik Bube) lines.  Sire a Dutch horse in AZ who was an FEI horse, but known for throwing really solid temperaments.  The professionals in all the barns I worked in raved about the character of this horse’s offspring.  Nice jumping horses too.

How come I did not breed to something flashy and hot?  The mare was that already and what I thought at the time (and still do) is that we don’t have enough horses bred specifically to be easy for adult amateurs to ride.  And guess what?  The spotty one above is super easy to ride–and if you know what you are doing he is a very nice dressage horse too.  More than that, you can put anyone on safely and go for a trail ride.  He’s nine now.  Worth his weight in gold–AFTER three years with several professionals all of whom knew exactly what they were doing in their various tasks.

Could I sell him for what went into him?  Not a chance.

Therefore the tale of the bicycle–see this post:

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