Investing in a horse of your own is tremendously exciting! For most of us, it's also a big financial commitment. Even if the initial cost of the horse is modest, the ongoing upkeep in terms of board, training, veterinary, and farrier expenses is substantial. Remember it costs as much to keep a cheap horse as it does an expensive horse…and even more expensive to keep a lame horse! Just as with any investment, be sure to do your due diligence and hire the right experts to guide you. Your trainer will be the point person for the transaction—he or she will likely be the resource for suitable mounts and the interface between you and the sellers. If you don’t have a trainer, I highly recommend you find someone who is familiar with your ability, experience and goals before you start your search.
Here are a few things to consider:
1. What’s your goal with this investment? Is the horse a teaching horse or an investment horse? Are you buying this horse to take you to the next level? If so, you’re looking for a horse with some experience--one that has a track record of teaching others. Is the horse more of an investment, something you plan to sell in a year after he develops? Then you’re looking at a younger horse, with a clear vet check—but you’re also allowing for the fact that you might not be able to ride as much. In general, it’s best not to pair green riders with green horses.
2. Should you lease instead of buy? Once you’ve established your goal for this investment, you can also consider whether you want to lease or buy. Leasing is a great way to have a horse for a shorter period of time, but of course you have to allow for the fact that, like rent payments, you don’t have any equity at the end of the term. Sometimes it’s feasible to lease to buy, and in that case a portion of your lease payments will go toward the purchase price.
3. Ask for a trial period on your home turf. It is commonplace to ask to take the horse for a trial period for a few days. You will be required to pay for hauling, board and care, and training during the trial period and you'll have to agree to certain terms. Your trainer will negotiate the arrangement.
4. Get a vet check. Even if it’s a short term lease, have a trusted independent veterinarian do a hands on examination. Make sure you talk with your veterinarian about your intended use and long term plan for the horse. Some horses may be sound enough for the short term but not for a long term investment. If it’s a purchase or a longer term lease you may want to have a more complete exam, including X-rays and a blood draw.
5. Get a written contract. Whether you're buying or leasing, be sure you are clear on all the terms. It's best to have everything written down so that all parties understand the agreement. This is especially important if you are leasing a horse. You'll want to outline who can ride the horse, how and where the horse is to be kept, when and how the horse can be returned, among other details. I highly recommend hiring your own equine attorney to help you review or write up the contract.
There’s a lot to think about! Let me know how I can give you a Leg Up!