A horse of sound mind and body!
Sheila Kelly Hart, California
I think a calm demeanor is most important.
Nicole Laraia Dumas, Connecticut
The willingness to please with the heart of a champion.
Mindy Romosca, South Carolina
A kind, friendly disposition. I’ve owned a lot of horses in my 55 years, and I’ve only kept the kind ones. There’s no use wasting time when there are so many good ones out there. Being able to enjoy your horse is way more important than trophies or fame. I’m just lucky to have kind horses who also happen to be talented and beautiful.
Joni Patten, Georgia
A sound mind and willing personality.
Melissa Carr, Nevada
Personality all the way. I bred and raised the one show mare I have right now. She is a sweetheart at home, and she comes when called, no matter how far across the pasture she is. When she is at shows, she is a professional. She wants to look good, do good and win. She does not get mad when I get nervous and mess up. She is always happy to try again. If a horse is like that for her person, you can win anything because they are fun to ride and fun to watch.
Krystal Kuhl, Florida
Athleticism, attitude, appearance.
Nancy Bannerman, Massachusetts
I look for one I can connect with—one who will teach me and who I can teach. I also search for a horse who is calm, responsive, not too high-strung and not too slow. I’m not yet ready for a green horse, so I look for a nice, easy ride.
Elizabeth Chung, New York
I ride and retrain off-the-track Thoroughbreds as eventers and jumpers. If the horse is a rescue, I want to see his interest in me. Is he curious? Will he trust me to do something awkward or uncomfortable to him? This will show me how much he wants to succeed and have a chance at life.
Mellisa Davis Warden, South Carolina
Curiosity, perkiness and the look of “I’ll only consider bucking you off but don’t believe me when I threaten.” Personality and character matter most.
Reverie Relaxations, Massachusetts
Disposition/Personality - Definitely!
Lost Creek Ranch and Carriage Company, Wisconsin
They have to be kind, forgiving and honest. They need to jump from anywhere despite some amateur mistakes that I may make and not hold a grudge!
Rachel Schaeffer, Maryland
Confidence. When I first got on Tessie, after being away from horses for a good fifteen years, I felt this overwhelming sense of confidence welling up from her. I deal with a lot of fear as a rider, but despite that she takes care of me, staying steady. But she is very much awake and will move forward when I ask. She is my friend. I felt it within two strides of riding her.
Willingness is THE most important quality to me. My mare tries so hard to please me each and every day, not just when riding but also on the ground. It really strengthens our bond.
I look for a kind eye. They say that what you breed in, you don’t have to train in. In my experience, a kind eye leads to a kind soul.
Personality! To me that makes a happy horse! One who has no personality has been drilled to death, treated poorly, or hates their job, and that makes for a poor show or working horse or companion. It also tells me to avoid those trainers or owners too.
His temperament. But other things such as size, ability, posture, and quickness follow quickly. But the temperament needs to fit my ability and liking.
Monique Van Galen Last
The horse’s eye. It tells you a lot about their personality. I have always gone for a kind intelligent eye.
Tyler Chiddenton, Canada
I look for a horse with a calm attitude, but life in his eyes. Some horses get very shut down by prior experiences or harsh training, so they may look calm but be entirely different under all that. I once took a horse on trial who had been “broke” rather harshly, and he turned out to be a completely different animal when I got him home away from his trainer. It was not a good situation for my sister as a beginner rider and we were fortunate she was wearing her helmet and didn’t get hurt badly. So now I am very careful.
Rhonda Stock, Canada
Carleton Thomas Henrich, New York
A horse with a good, kind heart, a willingness to work hard and one who is forgiving of your riding errors. Also, one who makes a connection with me. I’ve been leasing the same horse for 7 years and he tries so hard 100% of the time and has a heart of gold.
Em CM, New York
Intelligence and responsiveness.
Mylene Hengen, France
The most important trait I look for in a horse when buying or leasing is a kind disposition and personality.
Dennise Brown, Canada
Eagerness. A horse that wants to work and learn makes you want to as well! Eagerness can compensate for so many “flaws” like a funny jumping technique, a fear of his or her own shadow, etc. My new horse, a 17.3 hh Hanoverian comes when called, leans into brushing and is so impatient until he gets into the ring. A pole on the ground gets his ears perked up, and just seeing a jump gets him all excited. He’s an absolute pleasure to work with, even through the bucking fits, because of that eagerness and playfulness he has.
Emily Harris, Canada
A sweet temperament while still being a little hot. I don’t want to be pushing the horse forward all the time.
Afton Kehoe, Canada
Respect for each other.
Vanessa Lovel, Illinois
Do your research! Make sure the breed you want is a good match for you and your plans for the horse. Get him/her vet checked! Especially when leasing, this is a must! But after all that, a horse that will become your best pal with a great attitude and personality. Of course conformation and health are of upmost importance, but those are givens. You want a horse that you can’t wait to see the next day...and a horse that you never want to leave! That’s the best feeling!
Margaret Duncan, Maryland
Ann Barton Harbison, Pennsylvania
In all honesty, that they need a good home!
Meg Forrest, Michigan
This may sound crazy, but God chooses my horses for me. When I was buying my last horse I had a fancy young hunter prospect shipped up from Florida. For a couple of weeks I tried to love that horse but nothing about him felt right. A few months before a horse had been abandoned at the barn I ride at. He was a rack of bones and couldn’t hold a candle to the fancy guy but I tried him anyway. He was “the one!” I’ve had Silas for two years now. He’s the most talented jumping horse I’ve ever owned. His name “Silas” means “gift from the woods.” When I first met him he walked out of the woods to see me, and now I know that he is God’s gift from the woods to me.
Sarah Hickner, Virginia
I saw a horse for sale online and had a gut feeling that I must go see her even though she was seven hours away. When I called to see if I could see her they said she’d been sold, but that night they called us and said she was for sale still. We went saw her and bought her on the spot. Her training is questionable and she has issues, but I wouldn’t trade her for any horse in the world. I had a connection to her and I will gladly work through her issues.
Martha Dillon, West Virginia
There is no such thing as the perfect horse, and if there was, I would never be able to afford to buy him. Every horse has problems. I look for those problems and see if they are something I can deal with. Maybe it’s a hotter horse that needs to be ridden every day. Do I have time to do that? Or an older horse that is going to need hock injections? Can I commit to keeping up on those? Seeking out the weak points keeps me from being disappointed and frustrated later when those weak points become bigger problems later on. And it is much more fair to the horse, since he is going to go to a home that is a great match for him too.
Melissa Sandness, New Mexico
I have to agree with the eyes. I guess that is why I am so sad for my horse who recently had his eye removed. It has been a very emotional journey that is not over yet. The eyes are like a window into a horse’s soul.
Wendy Thrailkill Hatcher, South Carolina
If the horse can jump and has a good personality.
Hailey Chmara, Connecticut
They need to be sane and sound.
Grace Tirado Perez, Florida
Read more answers to this question in the February 2013 issue of Practical Horseman magazine.