So where do I get a project?

Well, things aren’t dire yet-- but my basically retiree mare is due for another round of joint maintainance/outgrowing her previcox, and someone I met at a clinic over the winter expressed some interest in my other mare, and while I love her, I think she is going to max out schooling fourth. The focus and work ethic aren’t there to go higher-- which is fine!

With the initial purchase cost of horses so high right now, am I insane for going looking for a project? I don’t mean a nice youngster, I am considering getting a horse from a program like BLM or even (cringe) from auction with decent conformation and seeing how far we can go. You never know if you could be the one in a million, I guess, and you’ll always have a good story.

Has anyone turned around a real project horse like this? Please share your success stories. Where’d you get it? I’m thinking initial cost of $500-1000. Must be smaller, compact, and reasonably uphill. No TBs. Hopefully it will be sound and smart.


Look at Standardbreds they are smart, level headed and totally fun to work with. I adopted one last year, he is so laid back, has a lovely normal trot and canter and is doing lateral movements like a champ.


I know of a few mustangs that have done well in Eventing (one was 16 hands, drafty type, powerhouse.) And I know there are some mustangs that have made it to the upper levels. Not common, but it’s happened.

I myself have a well bred QH “project.”

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Just know that with most horses from rescues (like the Standardbred Retirement Foundation) you cannot sell the horse, so it’s not really a flipping option.


Eliminating TBs from the pool will curb your options. Not that you can get a good TB for $500-1000 these days anyway.

If you like a challenge, an STB might be a good option… but be aware while they are wonderful horses with great dispositions and very easily trainable, they have zero resale value.

BLM is a valuable option but you need a very specific skill set, and I wouldn’t want to put a BLM in a boarding barn situation; hazard to the workers who just aren’t paid enough to have to deal with an ungentled horse, and it really requires a good handler to make a good citizen out of them.

For your budget, I think you’re looking at auction finds.


Just weighing in here…
Taming and training a feral horse is the most rewarding equine experience i’ve ever had. There are times when tears come from my eyes over the genuine trust and acceptance. So far i have only climbed aboard three of my mustangs. Two of which i’ll be taking to my dressage coach for beginning lessons soon.
The Standardbred i have came from a rescue org, he was a yearling, captured in a feral herd atop a KY stripmine…and HE has turned out to be an absolute dream! He looks the part, structurally, is so brave and trusting, and he’s a mommy-mommy-mommy boy.

Go For IT!!!


Your prospect pool is likely dependent on location.

When I lived in W PA, there were lots of options in the Arab circuit (too tall or big-moving for the breed circuit), OTTBs, and in some cases hobby breeders who let their stock go too long without training.

Now I’m in TX, the options are mainly stockhorse breeds (AQHA, APHA) of a variety of body types/breeding purpose (halter, ranch, rodeo, pleasure…). I’ve been able to find ranch-bred QHs for that price range but they’re either young or older but still unbroke (e.g. 5yo, never seen a saddle). Mine is currently going 2ndish and dabbling with 3rd and is just the most honest try-er I’ve ever sat on. Very cute to boot.


If she was going to go to the direction of a BLM pick I would look for a TIP trainer. I’m not sure of the OPs area but here at West there is an abundance of horse trainers that work with mustangs.


Not crazy, just know the limits of your training skills and patience - don’t get in over your head.

I have a dinky quarter pony I bought at a low end auction a couple years ago (2018, paid $350). He’s not as far along as I’d have expected by now, but that’s mostly due to the lack of good footing in my arena in winter, plus some saddle fitting challenges. He’s kind of goofy looking, definitely not uphill or compact (now 14.1 wearing a 74 blanket) but he’s smart like a dog. Sometimes he uses his brains for good, sometimes not :rofl: but I don’t regret the journey and it’s mostly been fun times. He’s far more capable than his build suggests.


It’s a shame that there is no resale value for STBs. There can be good reasons to choose another breed for competitive pursuits, but I am amazed that more recreational riders and trail riders don’t choose STBs. Most of the STBs I have been around are trainable, tolerant, fairly athletic horses that could do anything (to a certain level) with the right training. They have such good minds!


I would not rule out TB’s. My friend is now showing her OTTB at 4th level with scores in the mid 60’s. she is primarily an eventer and does very well. Can’t remember what TB rescue she got him from. I think CANTER??

Also don’t forget the Keen ridden by Hilda Gurney represented the US at the Olympics.


Somebody suggested Dutch Harness horses, Armish bred.
Not something common in my area. We have fairly little in the offereings at most times though, of any kind.

I echo the dismay that the STBs are undervalued, They sound just fine for the casual trail rider.

CANTERUSA is a place I frequently window shop. The top listings are 5k, some of the horses look nice enough to take a chance on.
Of course with them being trainer owned, track standards are different than show standards.
but they are used to a lot of handling, have seen crowds, etc…

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I know people like them but I don’t want a TB. I know what I like to ride and many of the OTTBs I know have “expired” without warning between 15-20.


I’ll admit I don’t know much about STB. The prospect of not being able to sell it if it comes from a rescue is unappealing, what if I’m ever in a position I can’t take care of it? My only option is to surrender it back to the rescue and lose most of what I spent on it?

Could this be because of their race career? What do you mean, “expired”? As in lost their usefulness, or died unexpectedly?

I will be the first to say that in aged horses (including TBs) maintenance can be difficult, especially if they raced hard (30+ starts). I’ve had several geriatric TBs myself that went for a sharp decline after 20, including my first who had cervical arthritis. Unfortunately, I think this is just the gamble you take with horses… I’ve had such stellar TBs that died unexpectedly before reaching their 12th birthday, then had some suffer pasture injuries and be retired permanently before 10… then was lucky enough to have several that lived well into their late 20s. You just never know, with any horse, how long they are with you. I haven’t personally found that TBs have any shorter or any longer a life expectancy than other breeds.

This is rescue dependent. Most have a right of first refusal buyback clause - some outright prohibit resale. Read the fine print.

STBs have very little resale value, even if they are trained to a respectable level. There is just too much stigma surrounding the breed presently – even a going/confirmed to-the-level STB will be passed by amateur buyers and trainers because they assume not fancy/not competitive or not able to canter. Most pacing STBs have an incredibly elastic trot, and can be taught easily to canter. These horses canter in the field at liberty, they don’t “not know how” to canter – they were just expressly trained to never offer the canter in work. As a general rule they are genuine and love their people, and work willingly and honestly. They are exactly what most amateur riders with a little experience with green horses need.


The lack of resale option with many adoption programs is designed to protect the horse. Period.
They take them back if you fall on hard times even though its a horse you could sell, yes.
But they also take them back if you fall in hard times and the horse is not a sale option for whatever reason.
I see nothing wrong with that.
If you do, be sure to review any contracts you might consider. Its pretty simple.

Honestly, any given day, any horse we have can become valueless from simply cavorting in a pasture. To me, the safety net of a rescue that takes them back is a gift in the circumstance.

As for resale value of STBs… I think any nicely put together horse, who is out doing the job, regardless of pedigree has value to many potential buyers. STB, OTTB, BLM, ranch QH… I don’t see much difference myself between these off brand options.
Caveat, maybe I do actually. Having been around the first two most, coming from an area where STB versatility is more understood, I guess my bias is for the “breeds” I know.


there is a group in Kentucky that picks up ferals and adopts them out. I think they are the ones that collected my guy. I did not adopt from them though, i adopted from a local rescue. Every one of my rescues except one i signed a contract that i would not sell them nor breed them.

The name of the kentucky org is Appalachian Horse Project.

In that price point range you may have luck with a Saddlebred. You have to do a Huge (huge huge) mental adjustment when looking at ads and talking to sellers. If you ask for canter videos you will literally get 5-8 seconds of scrambling canter or be told they’ve never cantered the horse before. I wouldn’t go for an older horse but if you’re comfortable with a 2-3 year old you can get one still barefoot. The ones that are more square and moderate are not seen as desirable for their needs but can be quite nice, especially if taught to actually connect from behind.

There are several great FB groups that are trying to create a bridge between breeders and dressage homes. Some of these breeders are willing to let their horses go for very little because if they do not fit into the saddle seat mold the other option is auction.


Some adoption places do allow you to sell after a certain time has passed. I would never part with my horse :heart_eyes:. I didn’t read that you want a horse to resell, I thought by project you meant something to train yourself for yourself.


I am in at least one Facebook group for saddlebreds! Do you know how they hold up in their later years with the long backs? I’m really partial to the short back, square body, meatball type. I love a hony or a compact horse. I’ve never been a huge fan of long horses or huge WBs.