Looking for dressage prospect or school master - on a budget

Where are you all finding horses these days? I am shopping and can’t even find things to look at as all the old standbys seem to be gone. Looking for a sound horse with good gaits, a good mind with the potential for third level. In a perfect world, I would luck into a schoolmaster. Sadly, budget is around 15-20. 15.3-16.2 mare or gelding. I am tall and leggy so must have a larger barrel. Ideas on breeders, reputable sales barns, people who have a knack for finding good horses?

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Surprisingly I’ve seen some decent unstarted youngsters for $20k (but not for much less). These would be unstarted two year olds, though, and good, but not excellent movement. Depending on how nice you want, you could potentially find some dutch harness horses in your budget, or if you’re willing to buy sight-unseen, I find random farms in the middle of nowhere tend to have cheaper stock (think middle of Canada or the US). But anything under 20k is generally likely to be unstarted (depending on the quality you’re looking for).

I saw some just this morning on https://warmblood-sales.com/. Just search for <20k and see what pops up!

(edit: updated the link - not sure who the other farm was!)

15-20k will get you a senior schoolmaster who will not pass a jog, and has glaringly obvious soundness issues. It will also get you a very nice foal, a good weanling, or an off-breed with basics. If you dig hard and long enough, you might find something that “has to go” or is way out in the boonies. The market is softening, but it’s not that soft yet.


Middle aged to senior, off breed hunters that for whatever reason need a flat work only home; on FB.


There are also word of mouth type options. My mom’s mare was 9 when we got her, and at the time would have been a decent fit for you based on your description. She was a word of mouth purchase, and because we’d put out there what we were looking for we had first option… but had 3 other people willing to dish it money if we didn’t. Off breed (Friesian/unregistered “Andalusian” I suspect was actually Spanish mustang cross), and has mostly walk/trotted on rocky mountain trails her whole life. So sure footed and quiet which is what we wanted for mom. She has pleasant gaits which wouldn’t win regional championships, but she’s so rideable she likely would have scored at the top of her capability, and won frequently at local shows. I schooled her for my mom since she hadn’t done much of anything, and on the bit became her default, and lateral work and lengthenings were simple to install, as was piaffe, which I accidentally taught her while trying to teach her to be more active behind in ground work. Changes were also easy on her. Had she been targeted at showing, she would have probably gotten someone at least through their silver fairly easily because she was so simple and easy to time. I don’t remember for sure but think she was $7500 which was a good price for a super good trail horse, which was what my mom wanted. I’d expect her to still easily be in your price range if the same horse showed up today.

There are horses like that for sale all the time… but you have to be in the right place at the right time. Letting as many people around know what you’re looking for is your best bet, since most sale sites will have pricing more in line with what has been a fairly insane market. Someone who wants to know the buyer, find a good home for their horse, and isn’t selling for the money as much as fit is who you’d look for.


I hope this is allowed to post but I poked around for a couple minutes and figured I’d mention some of the horses I saw in case they’re of interest to you.

  1. 10 yr old Westphalian mare, 15.3hh at 20k negotiable. Located in Colorado, currently schooling 2nd level & has a correct change.

  2. 9 yr old Oldenburg gelding, 16.1hh at 18k negotiable. Located in Virginia, currently schooling 1st/2nd level. Has been in 8 months of professional training w/ an FEI dressage rider but hasn’t been in consistent work for the past 2 months.

  3. 8 yr old KWPN gelding, 17.1hh at 7k negotiable. Located in California, ad is pretty short but says he’s easy going & suited for dressage work. A little larger, wasn’t sure how firm you were on the height preference.

  4. 13 yr old Hungarian Warmblood X Thoroughbred mare, 16hh at 18.5k negotiable. Located in Oregon, currently trained as a hunter but could go the dressage route, has changes.

  5. 14 yr old Hanoverian gelding, 16.2hh at 17k negotiable. Located in New York, has shown at 1st level, currently schooling 2nd level but has trained to 3rd level before.

  6. 17 yr old Oldenburg gelding, 17hh at 15k CAD. Located in Red Deer County, AB. Has shown PSG at schooling shows. A little tall as well and you’d have to import from Canada if you’re in the US but solid candidate otherwise.

  7. 15 yr old Canadian WB X Arabian gelding, 16hh at 13k CAD. Located in Grande Prairie, AB. Has shown at 2nd level, schooling 3rd. Has flying change & lateral work. Again in Canada but could be worth looking into.

  8. 4 yr old Friesian gelding, 16.1hh at 20k. Located in Pennsylvania, schooling intro/training, good brain & movement.

Edited to add more horses. Also, Facebook has a surprising amount of horses despite the fact that we’re not supposed to be advertising horses on there.


I lucked into my schoolmaster horse less than a month ago on FB. 18yr old 16.1h Oldenburg has all the movements for 3rd, possibly 4th bought for jumping but has done Eventing and jumping in the past. Seller advised she is difficult in the dressage arena. She had been showing in the 1.10m jumpers with minimal maintenance for the past 2 years and had sat due to owner losing interest before that. She has some “issues” mostly just worry and anxiety from always getting worked hard and not getting much turnout (those issues are very quickly resolving) and I anticipate being able to show in the dressage ring without issue. Paid right at mid four figures which, in my opinion, was a right STEAL. She was very lightly advertised (one post on sellers personal page) and I only found her as I knew the seller from being in the same area as her. It is/ was a stroke of luck but I don’t think it’s too rare - the seller I bought her from had bought a 17h+ older fourth level schoolmaster a year ago for a similar deal and they just went to regionals and did well. Seller also purchased another jumper doing 1.20m with kids but with no USEF record for a steal as well. The jumper she bought is off breed and smaller but they are out there. I think some intense FB searching may be required.

Sometimes you can find an OTTB that is a nice mover and still sound, ideally with a few months off and a few months with a trainer to get them started as a riding horse. I know a trainer who used to specialize in preparing these horses for their next career and then selling them as either eventing, HJ, or dressage prospects depending on where he saw talent. If you’re lucky you might even find a TB who never raced. Do have a thorough vet check on any horse who has raced!


You can find deals on horses who won’t pass typical vet checks but may still be sound (bad x-rays mostly). I know sellers who get very frustrated with horses that have moved without issue for years but won’t sell because of the rads.

Obviously this has risk but that’s one way to get a deal.

Both of my horses failed vet checks with prior would-be purchasers and have been fine for me (they passed my vet checks though).


I checked out #3 since I’m in CA also, and reading between the lines, I bet that horse is coming off an injury. He’s built like a jumper, but only suitable for “light riding.” Buyer beware.


Most of these ads have big red flags (physical or behavioral) in the wording, so a bit of a gamble.

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Oh 100% there’s definitely something up with a good number of them for the price to be so reasonable. Just figured I’d throw some links in anyways in case OP is located near a few of them & could check them out! Sometimes you can get lucky and find a pretty nice horse for a reasonable price!