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Buying My Lesson Horse vs Buying a Non-Lesson Horse?

I finally have the opportunity to buy a horse of my own.
My trainer has offered to let me lease or adopt my lesson horse (as he’s a rescue), who is just SUPER sweet. There is not a single bad thing about his personality and temperment, but his conformation is just awful (all 4 legs toed-out, an either MAJOR goose rump or something from a injury earlier in life, really deep/almost inverted-looking chest, the list goes on). He is a 7 y/o QH and has just started jumping, so we don’t really know how high he may eventually be able to jump, wether it be 5’ or 3’. I’m also nervous about him tripping or falling after a jump. In August, he tripped on a trail ride, resulting in me going over his head and breaking my collar bone in 3 places and arm in 1, which makes me even more nervous, esp with his splay footedness. He isn’t the greatest looker, as stated earlier, his conformation is horrible.
I can either adopt him, a horse I absolutely love (but am not sure about how successful of a jumper he’ll be), or I can buy a good-looking horse with jumping experience from someone in the area.
(& I can’t help but feel bad about having 2nd thoughts on adopting him because of his appearance :confused: )

How long have you been riding? What level are you riding at? How often do you ride currently?

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I bought my lesson horse, but she has good conformation and is pretty. Most importantly, I feel safe as houses on her. Looks should not factor into a purchase but I’m shallow. You don’t feel safe on this guy, and his conformation makes your goals uncertain. I would pass.


It sounds like you have kind of answered your own question here. You like him, however there is concern about success and safety. That to me, on its own is probably a no-go. Also, soundness is another potential concern if he is oddly put together. Get something you an have more certainty and stability on, that may also have that amazing temperment and personality you enjoy.


I think the lesson horse you describe sounds very unlikely to have a successful jumping career at 2’6". Do you want to buy a horse with issues that may not be able to do the intended job because you feel sorry for him? That’s up to you.

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I would never buy a horse with a history of tripping. Especially I would not think about jumping this horse.

He is in a safe situation with lessons. Leave him there and spend some money on a sound horse that has proven ability to do the job you want.


Do you really want to sign up for a horse that you are nervous about (tripping) with a potential future of soundness issues that may make him unridable?

Yes, any horse could end up with issues that make them unridable (or worse) but starting out that way may not be the best for you.

I’d keep searching until I found the right horse… doesn’t trip, decent conformation, shown that it can jump what your goals are :slight_smile:


Thank you all so much, your replies really helped!

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I agree that staying in the lesson program is probably the best use and future for this horse. He’s already good at that job, and if it turns out that his jumping height is limited, that’s okay too, since there will always be lower level lesson students who can ride him at the level he’s comfortable with. You can still be his friend, assuming you’d still be at the same barn with a new horse. You don’t have to feel bad, because he doesn’t need saving. He’ll be just fine.

Now, be careful in your search for a horse! Lots of lesson students make a mistake when they buy a horse because all they have ever ridden are good-natured lesson horses. A horse who isn’t ridden as much, or as supervised, may have some quirks that you haven’t had experience with yet. Don’t go for anything too green or too high-strung. Find a horse you enjoy riding.


Handsome is as handsome does in horses.

Meaning that you are less likely to get a good ride out of a horse with major conformation flaws, and will not get a good ride out of a horse with injuries or unsoundness.

You might want to get Deb Bennett’s book on functional confirmation if you are horse shopping.

Wanting the basic good conformation and health that makes a horse look and move nicely is simply smart horsemanship, not being shallow :wink:

When the army rejects recruits with health problems or people fail the fitness test to enter fireman training, that’s not shallow. Just realistic.

Things that it would be frivolous to prioritize would be color, markings, long mane and tail, pretty head.

I also wonder about your lesson program. You are continuing to ride a horse that tripped on the trail and nearly killed you and now they want you to buy this horse?

Go find another lesson barn.


(I’m not sure if “Quoting” is how you tag someone, but it seems that’s what people I’ve seen in other forums do to reply to a specific person)

THANK YOU for the army reject example! That really helps me to not feel so bad!

And my trainer gave me the option to change horses, but I chose to stick with the same horse. He just seems so special?? It’s not really about the ride, more just spending time with him. Like I could just go into his pasture and stand with him for hours & be totally content. He’s my 6th lesson horse over the course of 9 years, and I’ve just never felt this kind of connection?? with a horse before (cheesey, i know :ambivalence:). So, it’s not like riding this horse was the only option my trainer gave me, it was just my choice :slight_smile:

OP-I own an ugly horse, and it does take a sense of humor. Now my boy is sound, with a catty, athletic jump, but he is really homely. I tell people that they can say whatever they want, but they must be kind.


At this point in your riding life, I wouldn’t worry about looks either way. Pretty is as pretty does. Look for a horse that is already safely, soundly doing the job you want it to do and has a temperament suitable to your experience level. Conformation need not be perfect, but any flaws should be such that they aren’t going to put you in danger or contribute to soundness issues. If you expect to eventually be jumping up to 3’, it sounds like your lesson horse is probably more suited to stay in the lesson program with lower level riders.


Hard pass for me. Tripping is dangerous, as you have found out. I would keep looking. I think this is less about his looks and more about safety. I can’t believe your instructor still has you jumping a horse with known tripping issues!


This isn’t the right horse for you, and that your instructor would suggest it does not make me think well of him/her. Your safety is the most important thing. There are plenty of horses you can make a strong emotional connection with out there, and some of them may even be sound and athletic and fit for your intended purpose.

In general, if someone is willing to lease you a horse instead of selling it to you, it’s always a better deal to be the lessee rather than the buyer.

In general, horses in lesson programs are only for sale if they’re too expensive for the lesson program (ie selling will allow the lesson program to replace the horse successfully with cash left over) or if they’re not working out well for the lesson program. (The third case is that they don’t belong to the lesson program permanently and were always for sale.) That doesn’t always mean the horse is a bad fit for the buyer, but it’s good to understand why the horse is not working out for the lesson program but WILL work out for you. Lots of examples where that is true, if you go in with eyes open. But good, sound, reliable lesson horses are a speciality all their own and often not easy to replace.

Good luck finding the right horse! I promise he or she is out there.


Did he only trip once? I don’t think that is enough to have that as a red flag. Really, if you try a new horse a few times, you aren’t going to find out if he can be clumsy on trails either (unless it is soundness related, but could just be attention related). I would probably lease this horse, and just enjoy him until you are bored and ready to move on. Having a horse you just genuinely like is hard to find. I guess it depends on your priorities and goals though. Nothing wrong with having goals and recognizing that this horse won’t achieve them with you…but if your goal is to have fun/enjoy your time, then he just might. Don’t feel that jumping a certain height is a required goal.


In my profile I have it set to get notified if I am quoted in a post.

But, to ‘tag’ someone start with the ‘@’ character and then start typing their screen name and select the person you want… @hurryupharry :slight_smile: I get notified when I am tagged also.

It costs the same to keep a pretty, sound, safe horse as it does to keep an unattractive one with potentially unknown future soundness issues (a youngish qh with terrible conformation does not bode well for the future)

there’s tons of pretty, likeable, super broke ranch horses out there that can be taught to jump and many jump quite well, while also being hardy sorts.

dont get trapped into thinking it’s only this horse or another local horse. It’s winter and there’s lots of very nice horses going for very cheap when people get the big winter hay bill.


A solid school horse is worth his weight in gold, or at least hay and oats. It sounds like the owner s trying to be rid of him, which raises my suspicions. If this program has lessons all winter, he should be a part of the program. Unless the trainer has lost clients recent, she shouldn’t be looking to unload a useful horse.


Tripping once doesn’t necessarily mean the horse is not safe. Any horse, even the most sure footed one, can trip. Repeated tripping may mean he needs a different shoeing job, such as a rolled toe, or that he needs to be ridden more balanced because he is too much on his forehand, or there can be a physical problem. But only one trip does not make a horse unsafe. Also, repeated tripping on the trail can be a horse that has not learned to pay attention to the uneven ground because he has always worked on smooth ground–we got horses off the race track, and had this problem. What we would do was turn them out in a rugged pasture and woods fenced area; after a few weeks of learning how to cope with the terrain, no more tripping with them when we rode them.