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Don Jessop

Color, size, breed, personality, age, confirmation and soundness... they all matter. But what matters most? What are the priorities and how do you find out the less visible traits in your potential new horse?


Do get really clear on your goals. Outline the horses desired training level to compensate for your skill level and desire activities.

Do clearly establish your own skill level. Too many people overestimate their own skill and buy horses that don't fit them.

Do write a detailed list of all the things you want. Cost, color, size, breed, personality, age, etc. Having a deep list doesn't mean you get exactly what you want, it just gets you closer.

Do consider, no matter what you buy, a horse is a horse. Even the best horses have bad days, so no need to ever be frustrated.

Do prioritize personality over color or looks. A horse that doesn't suit your learning or leadership style will be more challenging. Unless challenging is what you want. Make that clear in your goals.

Do check for soundness or potential soundness issues. Buying a potentially unsound horse due to feet or leg problems, or any other, leads to a short career with your horse and leaves you wondering if you can afford retiring him or finding a good home for him.

Do consider a window in time, no matter how good the horse is, where transitioning from one home to another causes disorder and a lack of focus for your new horse. Be gracious during that window. It could last six months to a year or more before they are fully integrated in your new home environment.


Don't buy a green, untrained horse, if you want to enjoy safe group trail rides or arena riding anytime soon. The only way you'd consider this horse is if you are skilled enough to train yourself or financially secure enough to hire a good trainer for several months of dedicated work and many more touch up training sessions for the next year or so.

Don't buy a horse that doesn't suit your goals. Or... at the very least, be prepared to change your goals for that horse. I've acquired horses in hopes of making a great riding horse, only to find out their going to be a long, long road to success and choose to make them into a nice liberty horse instead. Or perhaps they would make a great learning horse for someone who wants to understand the mechanics of horse behavior and mastery of the foundational skills needed to address challenging horses.

Don't acquire horses like an addict. My best friend told me he spent over seven hundred thousand dollars on horses over his career, and today, twenty years later, he has no idea where any of them are. He could afford it, but the average person becomes "horse poor." Too many horses in a small space because they can't help buying for potential but have no time to train because they have too many to feed.

Don't assume you can tell what a horse is like in one setting. Always plan several sessions with a prospect and in several settings. It's the only way to know if there is any consistency in the training. Lots of horses display great behavior on hot, sunny days, close to home and turn out to be dragons any other time. Don't get fooled by the home court advantage.

Have you got any of your own do's and don'ts? I never proclaim to know every answer for every scenario. That's why I love your feedback. Add your own do's and don'ts in the comments below.

Stay tuned. These articles are coming out soon.

Testing a new horse for:

learning capabilities
high pressure environment
and soundness...
Thanks, Don

Don Jessop - Blog Welcome

Hi! I'm Don Jessop

With Mastery Horsemanship

I write to inspire, educate and encourage you on your horse and personal journey.

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