Buying a Horse: Your “No” List

So a recent thread on the COTH forum got me thinking- What is on your “No List” when buying a horse? What faults can you absolutely not look past? Wha,t during a PPE, makes you stop and pass on the horse?


Started with flexions

Keep in mind- standards change with budget. I was working with a small budget and wanting a very tall horse, so I was willing to overlook some things. If my budget had  been a lot higher (think 20-40k) then I would definitely not be so forgiving of some things. My main must haves were 16.3 plus hands, some natural hunter movement, sane with little to no “crazy”, and not older then 10 but really preferring much younger. All for 4 figures.

Spine x-rays


I did quite a bit of horse shopping before Rio, and vetted 2 before him, so I have a pretty good feel for what I want and what I cannot overlook, so here is my list:

  • No crazies. Nothing with a tendency to buck/rear/or bolt for no obvious reason.
  • No chronic spookers. If you are ridden in the same arena every day, and every day you spook at the same corner of the arena, I do not want you.
  • No stifle lesions, no kissing spine. Some stuff on the vetting is ok, but not in the stifles. As long as my vet felt the horse would stay sound jumping with some maintenance, I was willing to overlook things. I am ok with joint injections to keep a horse comfortable and an Adequan/Pentosan regimen.
  • No chronically bad feet requiring tons of special shoeing, pads, wedges, etc. Hoof supplement? Fine. The occasional special-ish shoeing- Ok, but nothing extreme.
  • Absolutely nothing smaller then 16.3. This is not a vanity thing- You guys have seen my long legs on Rio, and he is a solid 17.3.


That is basically it! I had no real training requirements. Rio had no jumping experience when I got him. Training-wise I would have been open to any horse that was at least under saddle. Conformation-wise, he is not perfect. Some people don’t like his eye. He is a bit base narrow behind. He has a slight roach back. But for me, he checked all the boxes and is my dream horse, so I make no apologies for being a bit picky and having a tight budget. I really dislike when people act like you should be happy with anything if your budget is small, because that is so far from the truth. If you are patient, and willing to dig a little deeper, you can find that horse that is perfect for you and get what works for you.

So spill, what are your deal breakers???

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  1. Good question! My list 7 years ago when I got Gem was pretty much a horse with 4 legs and a back 🙂 oh the naïveté. My list now is much different: no crazy. I like quirky and I like personality but no crazy. No green broke. Must have the basics down. I’m too old and not interested in teaching the horse how to walk under saddle. No buddy sour, can’t go out alone. I ride alone a lot. The horse must be comfy riding on trail solo. Period. No glaring tack fitting issues. I’ve been through the ringer getting a saddle to fit my mare. Nope. Not again. No wonky hooves. No kicking or alpha type behavior. Horses are home and I can’t break things up so the better be friendly and well adjusted. I want a lot!

  2. When I get my next horse, I think my list will be pretty similar to yours. I think the bolting and spooking points are things I vary on. If it’s due to green and it’s honest spooking, I think that can be trained out with time and experience.

    My height isn’t going to be as restricted. I want closer to 16hh than 15hh as it’s easier to jump if they are a bit taller and I’m no small fry.

    1. I agree, the jumps look a bit smaller when you’re on something a bit higher off the ground lol! I also think a little occasional spook at something actually scary is fine, but I feel like once they learn to spook to avoid work it can be really frustrating to overcome

  3. I’ve never really thought of a no list, but I guess my main one is built for unsoundness. When I do a PPE, I want the conformation to indicate the horse is built to event. Justin is a little conformationally challenged, and while problems come up all the time, I want the greatest chance of success! Also on my no list, greys… as striking as I think they are, I just can’t handle another!

  4. I’ve owned 15 horses in my life and didn’t PPE any of them. I only PPE’d one horse ever and passed on him due to a chip (which ended up never bothering him). Granted, my most expensive horse ever was 5k, and the rest were under $1500. 😉 The vast majority of them I didn’t ride first either. Ah, projects are fun. I’ve never actually purchased one that wasn’t intended for resale… the two I’ve bred were my most intentional horses, and the ones I was pickiest about. So I really don’t even know what my dealbreakers are when it comes to shopping, I’ve never been in the position to be that picky or to shop for a horse that I actually intended to keep for myself. I have a list of dream qualities in a horse but unless I win the lottery I’d never be in a position to actually apply that set of criteria!

    1. Wow I would have never thought that! My reasoning is the exact oppositie- although I don’t plan on reselling Rio, I wanted to PPE anything I bought so that if I did resell him I’d know what a seller would find, and be more prepared to price accordingly. Have you ever been burned on a project when you went to resell due to a buyer doing a PPE? I love that you can breed your own, because then you will always know their entire vet history!

      1. I haven’t really been burned, honestly. A few of the ones I’ve sold have come up with something on the PPE, but nothing that was a huge deterrent. One person passed on my expensive hunter because he had a chip in a hind ankle, but they came back later because even with that he was still the best they’d found. They bargained me down a bit, but we both got a fair price. The chip never bothered him. Another one had some slight navicular changes, another had some minor stifle issues, etc etc. I honestly think all of them have something, it’s just a matter of what you and the horse can live with. I never spend much on a project… the rule is no more than I could sell them for as a trail/pleasure horse, which is why they’ve all been cheap. Henry was supposed to be a quick flip but that didn’t really happen. 😉 Not for sale!

        1. I 100% agree! Every horse is going to have something, and as long as they are sound in consistent work it doesn’t both me. As we all know, even horses with 100% clean PPEs can get injured on the pasture after all. Love the story about people coming back for your hunter!

  5. Yeah I’m all about the brain. I don’t really care about color or sex but if they are spooky or quirky I will pass. As for height anything over 15.3hh. I prefer taller but am not totally picky. I like your list! I think it’s totally reasonable and am glad you found what suits you!

  6. Chronic spookers are definitely a no no! I can deal with spooking over new things or you’re feeling good. There is no reason to spook at the same flower box you ride past every single day. Strangely enough I am not bothered by height but I suppose that’s what happens when you’ve got short stumpy legs. ?

  7. I was mostly focused on temperament and training — I wanted something going around and doing what I wanted that was quiet. I didn’t really have a lot of deal breakers beyond that… since in my budget even that was tough!

    1. I love this reply! I think too many people look over perfectly suited/trained horses for what they need due to a small vet issue (that is perfectly manageable) or a small conformation defect that doesn’t effect the horses ability to perform the task required

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