Determining your goals, assessing your situation and talking with your trainer are all good things to consider when deciding if you are ready for a new horse. Photo © Kirstie Marie Photography

How to Know When You’re Ready for a New Horse

There is comfort in familiarity, knowing your horse well, understanding their quirks and playing off their strengths. You’ve spent time forming a true partnership, you’ve set goals and reached them and you feel accomplished together as a real team. However, sometimes, you may feel yourself wanting a change – a new challenge, a new class or maybe even a new horse.

While the reasons can vary, there comes the point in every exhibitor’s show career to determine if your current horse and situation are working. This can happen for a variety of reasons, perhaps you’ve outgrown your horse, you need a higher quality horse to accomplish your goals or age is becoming a factor, and your horse cannot perform at the level he used to. Whatever the situation may be, the decision that follows can be a difficult one.

We spoke to a few exhibitors and trainers to get some perspective from both sides and help you determine if you are ready for a new horse. Farley McLendon and Lynne Puthoff, accomplished trainers with successful clients, shared their advice from a trainer’s point of view.

Lauren Stanley and Rachel Nissen, seasoned competitors, gave us tips from an exhibitor’s viewpoint. With their advice, we put together our list of tips to assist you in your decision.

Define your goals

The baseline for determining if you are ready or need a new show partner is to define your goals. Writing these down on paper and putting a timeframe to them can also help establish if your current mount can achieve these or if you’ll need to start shopping.

Lauren agreed that defining goals is essential. “You and your current partner may have accomplished all of the goals that you set out to achieve, and there is nothing left to prove. Or it could be that your current partner isn’t able to help you accomplish your goals. This is nothing personal against them, it’s just not the right fit for you. Once you find yourself in a place of longing for more, it is time to reassess your goals. There is no wrong answer, but being honest with what you want is crucial to finding the right new horse for you,” she told us.

Assess your situation

Asking yourself a few questions about how you feel with your current horse can help direct you down the right path. Be honest and determine if you are happy with the way you and your current horse are progressing, or if you find yourself yearning for a change. Instead, your trainer may approach you about a change before it had entered your mind.

Farley told us, “If I approach a client about a new horse, it’s usually because they’ve achieved their goals and needed the challenge of learning and becoming a team with a new partner. On the flip side, a client could have a horse with limited abilities but wants to be competitive at a different level of shows. This usually means that the client needs to switch partners to one with better capabilities.”

Talk to your trainer 

It is imperative to let your trainer know where you stand and how you are feeling. They know you, your horse and your abilities together and will offer their expertise to guide you in the right direction.

Lynne agreed, “Selling and buying usually is, or can be, a stressful decision and process for most. Clients and trainers need to have open communication on what they want in their show partner. Factors could be the age of the horse and of the rider, a change of interest in the rider’s events they wish to compete in or showing a different breed that brings this decision to light. I like my riders and owners to hopefully achieve all they can or have set goals before moving on if it’s possible.”

Lauren shared her advice from a client perspective, “Be sure to talk with your trainer about your goals to make sure that finding a new partner will help you to fulfill them. Your trainer will also be able to help you find the right partner to make them happen.”

Consider your budget

While we’d all like to go out and buy our dream horse and not worry about how much it may cost, finances do come into play. Have a good handle on what you can afford and if you are ready to make a significant investment for the right horse.

Rachel shared her advice, “Another important aspect to consider is your finances. You may be ready for a new partner to accomplish your goals, but your finances may not be. I have been on that side before where you are not in a financial place to make that kind of purchase, and you have to make the best out of it with your current horse or decide to wait and be patient until you are ready to make that purchase. Leasing a horse is always an option too if you aren’t in a position to make a large investment.”


Determining your goals, assessing your situation and talking with your trainer are all good things to consider when deciding if you are ready for a new horse. Be sure to keep in mind any financial restrictions as that will dictate what your options to buy or lease may be. If you consider the advice and tips above, your decision should be a little more comfortable to make.

Julie Hoefling was born and raised in Akron, Michigan but now resides in Cave Creek, Arizona with her husband, Jerry. She works at Central Garden & Pet (Equine Division – Farnam) as a Brand Manager over grooming, wound, and leather care. Julie shows her horse, Movin the Chains in the Western All-Around events under the guidance of Ryan and Andrea Kail.