Buying a horse or pony

Whether you've loaned a pony previously, or you’re looking to buy your first horse/pony, your journey to horse ownership should be an exciting experience!

But, as with everything in the equestrian world, it's essential to be prepared for the unexpected during your pony-buying adventures.

Let us help take some stress out of the horse-buying process, because we're here to support you every step of the way!

Plan ahead before your purchase

Before replying to ‘for sale’ ads and booking viewings, it’s worth writing down a list of every question you want to ask about your potential new horse. 

Questions you may want to ask the seller:

  • Why are you selling this horse/pony?
  • How long have you owned this horse/pony?
  • Are they good to shoe/clip/load/travel/catch/hack out alone or in company?
  • Have they ever had any injuries, behavioural issues, or health problems?
  • What’s included in the sale price (e.g. tack, rugs, etc.)?
  • What evidence do you have of this horse/pony’s ability in specific activities (e.g. hacking, pony club, riding club, show jumping, dressage, eventing, showing, etc.)? 

Remember that owning a horse or pony requires daily dedication, physical strength, and a reliable pair of yard boots, too! 

So, some of the tasks you’ll need to tick off your ‘to-do’ list before bringing your horse home include:

  • Finding a local livery stable (if needed) that’s easily accessible (e.g. on a public transport route, if you don’t drive) and offers everything you need (like an arena or off-road hacking).
  • Deciding which type of livery best suits your budget and work schedule (e.g. DIY, assisted, part, or full livery).
  • Preparing stables and land for the arrival of a new horse (if keeping them at home) by making sure you check fences, plan muck heap management, organise storage, etc.
  • Having the contact number for a vet, farrier, and other equine professionals who will help to keep your horse happy and healthy.
  • Preparing all the equipment you’ll need for mucking out (e.g. tools and wellies!), riding (e.g. hat conforming to latest safety standards), and caring for your horse (e.g. grooming kit).
  • Setting up an equine first aid kit and a human first aid kit.
  • Having transport ready for your horse and, if you don’t have your own trailer/horsebox, be able to organise transport at short notice when needed (e.g. for events or emergencies).

For a more detailed dive into everything you’ll need for your new steed, check out our horse owner checklist!

Matching your ability to your new horse’s capabilities

To give both you and your new horse the best possible beginning to your journey together, it’s essential to be fully aware of your current riding level. 

For example, if an inexperienced rider takes on an untrained horse, that’s often a path to disaster that leads directly to A&E! Likewise, should a gentle yet experienced horse end up with a first-time owner, their story is probably going to be full of smiles instead of tears.

Another knowledge point to consider is your experience in equine management. Do you know how to safely tie a haynet, or how to care for a horse with a hoof abscess?

Assessing your level of expertise in terms of the practical aspects of caring for a horse is vital, because their safety, health, and welfare will be entirely your responsibility. You need to be confident in your skills to properly care for a horse, to ensure that both of you can enjoy your time together safely.

If you’d like a second opinion on your riding ability and stable management skills, we suggest contacting a qualified riding instructor. In case you don’t already know of a local riding instructor, the British Horse Society (BHS) Find a coach feature can help.

Enlist an experienced helper

Whether you’ve had horses your whole life, or you’re planning to purchase your first pony, the support of an experienced helper is invaluable when viewing a potential new steed!

Letting your emotions lead the way can create problems later if they lead you into buying a problematic pony. From checking for lameness to commenting on a horse’s conformation, your helper is the second opinion you’ll need to help keep your feet firmly on the ground. 

When deciding who to choose as your helper, pay as much attention to their experience level as you do to their honesty. After all, you’ll want support from someone who’ll tell the truth if they feel a horse you’re viewing isn’t the one for you. An example of the type of person you might like to invite along to help you is your riding instructor – because they understand your riding skills and knowledge base.

Buyer beware! Red flags to look out for

Here are some of the ‘red flags’ to look out for when viewing your potential new horse or pony:

  • They’re tacked up when you arrive.
  • It’s obvious they’ve already been exercised, e.g. sweat patches, tiredness.
  • Seller refuses to ride/have them ridden for you to watch before your trial ride.
  • There’s something ‘off’ about their behaviour, e.g. lethargy or overexcitement.
  • People are nervous while moving around them, tacking up, grooming, etc.
  • Anxious around the seller/handler, e.g. head shy, hiding in a corner, etc.
  • Aggressive tendencies, e.g. ears pinned back, threatening to bite, etc.
  • Signs of damage in their stable or along their field fence, e.g. chewing.
  • The horse you’ve travelled to view has already been sold, but the seller has another horse available who ‘might be suitable’.

Spend some time with your potential new horse

It’s important to make time to get to know the horse or pony you’re thinking of adding to your family. 

By spending time observing your potential new horse, and interacting with them in their current environment, you can confidently gauge whether you’d make a great partnership.

‘Vet’ them before you get them!

Once you’re happy that the horse you’ve viewed, and spent time with, is the answer to all your equestrian dreams, you should consider getting them vetted.

During a pre-purchase vetting, a registered vet will complete an assessment of the horse or pony you want to buy. To find a suitable vet, you can visit the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) website.

Although it’s always recommended that you select a Stage 5 vetting, there’s also the option to book a Stage 2 vetting. Both types of vetting involve a full physical examination of your potential new horse, along with a check of their microchip and passport. However, a Stage 5 vetting will also include a ridden assessment, post exercise evaluation, and a blood sample.

The blood sample taken from a horse during a vetting detects any substances that may be present during the examination and will be stored by the Veterinary Defence Society (VDS).  

Please note: Many horse insurers require a vetting before they’ll provide an insurance policy for your horse, so it’s worth checking your insurer’s requirements before deciding upon the level of vetting.

While your heart could easily overpower your rational mind when viewing a horse, remember that they’ll be part of your family for a long time – and they’re an expensive investment. Having your potential new horse vetted can help you feel informed, and give you peace of mind, before making the decision to buy them. 

Important: A vetting is only valid on the day it’s performed, so, if a seller states a horse has been vetted recently, you’ll need to double-check the date on their paperwork. 

Process their paperwork

Ponies equal paperwork! 

From their passport and livery yard contract, to vetting certificate and insurance documents, adding a horse to your family will require a lot of admin. 


All horses and ponies are legally required to have a passport

So, you’ll need to check whether the seller has provided a valid passport for your new horse prior to purchasing them. 

While their details may appear correct, a vet is the best person to evaluate whether a passport is valid, because they can assess your horse and confirm microchip details.


Livery yards usually require you to sign a contract before bringing your horse home. 

Always ask questions to make sure you are completely happy with the livery contract before signing it, since you’ll need to understand all your obligations as a livery client. 

Every livery yard has a unique set of rules and expectations. For example, if you’ve chosen a DIY livery contract for your horse, you may be responsible for yard duties like maintaining the field fence or managing the muck heap.

Horse insurance

While it isn’t yet a legal requirement to insure your horse, most livery yards require clients to have public liability insurance as a minimum. However, it’s always worth considering vet fee cover and death cover when insuring your horse, too. 

To help you make an informed decision about insuring your new equine family member, check out our horse insurance cover guide.

Don’t forget: If you need some support with your new equine friend, after bringing them home, our horse advice articles are packed with helpful information!

Looking for more horse advice?

Support and advice so that owners and riders can take the very best care of their equine.


Need horse insurance?

Horse insurance can help cover the cost of veterinary treatment if your horse gets injured or falls ill.


We know pets

Animal Friends Insurance is a multi-award winning FCA-regulated pet insurer, founded in 1998 to provide industry-leading pet insurance and first-class animal care to create a better life for every animal.
As one of the UK’s largest pet insurance providers, Animal Friends works with vets, veterinary professionals, and partners pioneering the latest veterinary technology & healthcare advancements to achieve our vision.
Our policyholders have helped donate over £8.5 million to more than 800 animal charities worldwide and by educating and inspiring others to act on current events and responsible pet ownership, Animal Friends is driving positive change for animal welfare and conservation.