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Looking to Buy a More Advanced Performance Horse? Ask Yourself These 5 Questions First.

Last updated on February 28, 2024

Looking to Buy a More Advanced Performance Horse? Ask Yourself These 5 Questions First.


When I was about 10 years old, my parents decided it was time to buy, what I considered my first “real” performance horse to run barrels. Prior to that, I’d been on my uncle’s old calf roping horse, who was the epitome of a great kids’ horse. He would go whatever speed his rider was ready for, do *almost* any gymkhana or rodeo event willingly, and happily babysit the younger cousins as they plodded around the area while the parents roped or worked the barrel pattern. 

But it was time for an “upgrade.” Although willing, Ol Dusty was no longer fast enough to make it to the winner’s circle at the level his rider was. My family found a great “step up” horse who, bless his heart, probably had quite the back story, but who taught me my first lesson in what it meant to step up my riding and adjust my riding to fit an already trained horse. 

While there is always more to learn in matching horses and riders we think there are a few important questions to answer before buying a more advanced horse.

5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before “Upgrading” Your Performance Horse.

1. Do I just need more training to better ride my current horse?

  • We’ve all seen it far too often – an excited rider purchases a well-trained, proven, finished horse, only to have very limited (if any) success in the competition arena, which inevitably leads to loads of frustration.
  • We all love a finished, been-there-done-that horse. But the fact is, they generally come with their own set of buttons and quirks. If you don’t know how to ride at their level and “push” all the right buttons, you may not see the success that their previous owner and trainer saw.
  • Consider investing in lessons or at least a phone call to their last owner/trainer who saw success with them to learn some very valuable tips.

2. Does my current performance horse need better training?

  • Depending on your discipline and the issues holding you back from winning at your desired level, many of those things could be solved with additional training. Have a horse that throws his head up? Maybe he never learned proper headset or to break at the poll. Have a horse that won’t use their back end when turning or pivoting? Maybe they never learned to engage their hind end and plant an inside foot in a turn.
  • Spending money on a trainer to increase your horse’s performance is a heck of a lot cheaper than buying a whole new horse!

3. Would better or different veterinary care help my current horse enough to make a difference?

  • We are all so thankful and grateful to our local veterinarians, but the fact is, there is so much to know and stay up on that very few vets are actually equine performance vets. If there is a lingering soundness issue or any other recurrent health issues, perhaps scheduling an appointment with a true equine performance vet will help your horse feel better. Feeling physically better will ultimately allow them to perform at the higher level you desire.

4. Am I willing to invest the time and money- on lessons and additional training- it takes to get in sync with a new horse?

  • True, there are those super-talented riders who can “jump ride” a horse and win, but most riders need time and lots of miles to truly get with a new horse. While you probably want to start placing higher immediately, climbing aboard a new horse won’t necessarily mean winning right away. Many riders can expect to spend 6 months to a year getting comfortable with a new horse.

5. What style of performance horse will realistically fit me and my budget?

  • If you naturally fit a more ratey style horse rather than a free runner, try to pair yourself with that. If you don’t have the time, patience, or money to haul and season a green horse, then plan on investing in a more seasoned equine partner. Ultimately, if you have to clean out your savings and sell your house to buy THE best horse out there in your discipline, but you cannot afford to maintain the horse at the level it takes, then your money and dreams will be wasted.

Food For Thought


We all wish our favorite equine competitive partners would last forever and be able to compete at the top all the days of their lives. But the truth is, they cannot, and we will probably have to purchase or train another horse. Thankfully, there are many resources and true experts available to help you find the best horse for your money, schedule, and experience. Hopefully, these 5 questions will help you and give you some good food for thought before you begin the hunt for your next performance horse!

Content for informational purposes only. Proud written for Animal Element by the team at