Finding the Perfect Starter Horse

Top Quarter Horse breeder and trainer Sandy Arledge helps you find the perfect Western show horse.

Q: My 11-year-old granddaughter has a grade pony on which she learned to ride, and now has expressed an interest in showing. I’d like to buy her a “starter” show horse. What should I look for?
Anne Lassiter
Providence, Rhode Island

Is your young rider ready to graduate from trail pony to show mount? Follow these tips to find the best horse. | ? Arabian Horse Association

A: Look for a quiet, teen-age show horse that’s honest and serviceably sound. Color doesn’t matter, nor does gender. I’ve had just as many sorry geldings as I’ve had sorry mares. Look instead for experience, disposition, and suitability of horse to rider.

My breed of choice is Quarter Horse, because you can usually find one with those traits. Still, you can find one in any breed, depending on what your granddaughter wants to do. Use these tips when shopping.

  • Be realistic. There’s no such thing as a kid-proof horse. Do pick the safest horse possible–one with high mileage and low reactivity.
  • Ask for a trial period. If possible, take a prospect home and have your granddaughter ride him under supervision for 30 days. A horse that’s safe for one 11-year-old may not be safe for another.
  • Enlist a trainer’s help. Better yet, find a respected trainer who has a reputation for successfully hooking up kids and horses. A trainer likely will have better resources and “matchmaking” skills than you do.

This article first appeared in the August 2003 issue of Horse & Rider.

Ready to look for the right horse for you? Go to, the premier classifieds site of the Equine Network, to search for the perfect horse!

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