Most adverts give plenty of clues as to what to expect when you’re viewing horses. When the advert say not for a beginner - then it’s not for a beginner, and no amount of praise in any other areas can negate this statement. Are you a beginner? This is a tough one as there is no magic number of years that make you experienced. There are kids jumping Grand Prix and there are adults with 30 years experience who barely get out of walk. If you can’t comfortably get on a horse you don’t know and go for a canter, then yes, you can probably be classified as a beginner in this scenario.
It’s really difficult for us to assess ourselves as riders but nigh on impossible for the seller to assess you from the ground. When you’re watching someone ride a well schooled horse once or twice it is impossible to know how advanced that person is, mainly because you have no idea how they might respond if things don’t go well, or more importantly, how they feel on the horse. You might be riding around looking amazing but feeling very nervous, there are not many horses that deal with nerves particularly well - they’re around, but few and far between. They are herd animals and someone must be in charge, so hey, if it ain’t you…. So stop asking the seller what they think, and you decide how you feel and whether you have the ability to take this well-schooled horse to a whole different environment and make it work.
If a horse is described as sensitive and you flap about a little then it’s not for you.
If the advert says this horse requires leg to hand balance and you don’t know what that means, it’s not for you.
If the advert says the horse is greener than grass and so are you, it’s not for you.
If the advert says this horse requires very soft hands, and you tell your instructor about it and they grimace, then it’s also not for you.
Learn to read between the lines of an advert because generally the seller is not trying to mislead you but will pose things in a more acceptable, saleable fashion. Also, please don’t go look at horses that you know are not right for you, or that you can’t afford, or that you actually aren’t even in the market to buy until next year. Sellers are not free pony ride providers and have better things to do with their time than show you a horse you are not going to buy.
Riders ‘over-horsing’ themselves is probably the most common issue, know where you are at with your riding and what you feel comfortable with. Just because you can afford it doesn’t make the flashy bred warmblood who is out competing and winning right for you. If you have a trainer, involve them in your decision process and take their advice. They often know more about your current abilities than you do. If you don’t have a trainer, why the hell not?
The other big recipe for disaster is when you buy your dream horse and take it home only to decide that it needs time to ‘settle in’ to it’s new environment so you give it a couple of weeks off, then it seems a little grass effected so you spend another couple of weeks getting some supplements into it, then it loses a shoe or you go away for the weekend and the next thing you know two months have passed. The horses training has disappeared, its energy is through the roof, it’s developed one hell of an attitude and when you do get on it promptly deposits you on the ground and then you’re wondering if the seller drugged it or you have been otherwise misled. Nope. You just mismanaged the whole process.
Caveat Emptor - let the buyer beware - please satisfy yourself that the match is a good one, and then manage the change of home in a way that keeps the horse fed, worked, cared for in the manner to which it is accustomed. Most sellers are more than happy to provide a full run down of what the horses life looked like with them, what they got fed, how often they got ridden, how hard the workouts were, how often the galloped on the beach versus schooled in the arena etc, it's up to you to ask for this information and use it to your advantage - it's likely to make the whole new horse thing a whole lot more successful and fun!