9 Ways to Tell if You’ve Found Your Forever Horse

Horse head close upSo, you want to buy a horse. But not just any horse, you want to buy a horse that you will own and love forever–a “forever horse.”

Many new owners hope to find a horse they can keep for the longterm, and owning a “forever horse” is a noble endeavor. It’s a kindness when a horse finds a good person who will care for them until “death do us part.”

If you’re searching for a forever horse (or if a forever horse has set out to find you), here are ten factors to consider when determining whether or not you have found your forever horse:

  1. Your first impression of the horse was a positive one. Gut instinct won’t be your only factor for making a major life decision, but you should absolutely consider your intuitive first impression of a new horse. Some studies indicate that first impressions can prove to be accurate, and others show it can be difficult to change your first impression later on, even if you want to.
  2. Experienced horse people in your life agree that the horse is a good fit for you. Before you take advice from just anyone though, be sure the person:
    • is someone who has your best interests in mind,
    • has a credible opinion, and
    • understands where you are at in your horsemanship and where you hope to go.
  3. You can afford the horse–both the purchase price and any cost required for his or her regular maintenance and (if needed) training. If you want to be able to keep a horse forever, you have to be able to afford it. This means choosing a horse inside your budget from the get-go. Do your best to set a realistic budget and to evaluate the costs associated with a potential horse to make sure it adds up.
  4. You feel safe working with/riding the horse. There is always risk when it comes to being around horses, but do yourself a favor, and make your own safety a priority. This means avoiding horses that are clearly not safe for you to handle, no matter how badly you want to help or “fix” them. Evaluate the horse “as is” (not as you want or think they can be) against your own skillset “as is.” If you can’t handle the horse safely, then move on. There are no guarantees in horse training.
  5. The horse is sound. If they are not sound, then you need to be okay with their limitations and the management practices needed to keep them comfortable enough to maintain quality of life.
  6. The horse has the health, soundness, conformation, and athletic talent or look needed for your chosen riding discipline. There is no such thing as a perfect horse, and training and care can compensate for many limitations. But out of fairness to you and your horse, choose an animal that actually has the potential to succeed in the career you’ve chosen for them. The loftier your goals are (ie: “I want to ride in the Olympics!”), the more important it will be that you find a horse suited for those particular goals.
  7. You can list more reasons why you should buy the horse than reasons why you shouldn’t. It might sound simple, but a pros and cons list is a good way to assess whether or not you’ve found a good fit. I recommend also making a “dealbreaker” list of things you absolutely cannot tolerate in a potential equine partner, and then rule out horses accordingly. Dealbreakers are characteristics that negativity impact your safety, happiness, or values in a significant way.
  8. The horse stands out after you’ve looked at more than one horse. For many folks, looking at a variety of horses before choosing a final horse is an important part of the buying process. Informed consumers look at the what’s available on the market and find the best fit–they don’t settle for whatever comes along first. It may be that the horse you choose is the first one you look at; but allow yourself the privilege of comparison during this big decision.
  9. The horse makes you smile. When you think about the horse, you feel happy. When you’re around the horse, it’s positive. You really look forward to spending time with them. And hopefully, you can imagine the horse growing old in your care.

How did you know you had found your forever horse? Share your comments below!


  • Emily Wilmot

    I got my girl Hops in the most expensive, difficult, and ultimately worthwhile manner. We acquired a TB broodmare prospect sight unseen. She was stunning. I had been working on a TB breeding farm for 4 years at that time, but this was the first broodmare who was truly “mine” (and the rest of my family as well.) We bred her to the fanciest stallion on the farm and I had the time of my life during her pregnancy. Kentucky Derby dreaming and all that.

    A mare’s first foal can be on the…unimpressive side at birth. Undersize, etc. So it went with our newborn filly. She was upright in the pasterns, smallish…but brave and smart. Had our first vet bill on her at 2.5 days of age when she wasn’t pooping properly. Got her through that, then she had a problem with her withers (never fully diagnosed even though 2 vets poo-poohed it.) Multiple experienced horsewomen told me “your mare is gorgeous. She will compensate you for this baby with her future foals.” Then June 28, 2007, came…one of the worst days of my life to that point. Had to send our mare to the hospital for colic, which was due to peritonitis, and she didn’t make it. I grew up a LOT that previous night and day.

    And then I had a homely, hairy, wonky orphan foal to deal with.

    Said foal will be seven years old on March 14. We have been through e v e r y t h I n g together. She had a neurological problem as a weanling, which we defeated. The first time our race trainer looked at her, she said “I hope you want a pet, because you haven’t got a racehorse.”

    I – *I* – timid me – broke her to saddle. The first time I sat on her, she looked at me and said “oh weird. You’re up there?” She has given children their first pony rides. She expresses emotions such as embarassment, like when she sat down the first time she went on the overhead jogger and the first time she was tied. I rode her in a class at a schooling show, terrified and whispering John Denver songs to her the whole time, after which I was able to promptly cross “Ride In A Horse Show” off my bucket list. She has spooked out from under me, turned around, dropped her head and said “OMG are you OK?!” She has taught my dad how to lead a horse. She carried on a love affair with a stallion from afar. She will walk, sans lead rope or halter, directly from her field to her stall. She has gotten loose at a show after I was too nervous to properly cinch her up and the saddle fell off. Since everyone but her went to the racetrack, she was put with the fillies from the following years. Thus we have several generations of fillies who all think their name is Hops and who come when called.

    I could go on and on. She is a joy. And forever – of course. We did go about it the hard way. If anyone else owned her, she wouldn’t be here. I’ve asked many times – “why me? Why did it have to be MY horse with all these issues?” As a wise relative once told me – “That’s exactly why that horse belongs to you.”

  • Colleen Jaramillo

    She stood on a small hill in the BLM adoption pen and looked at me. I checked every other pen and came back to her. Almost lost her to colic from the stress of fighting being loaded that first time. She pulled through and accepted the people who helped her. I got Military National Finals1st runner up Queen on her and even my 5 yr old rode her at the rodeo. My first Mustang Gypsy (Weed).

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