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The Perfect Pair: 10 common-sense tips for matching horse and rider

There are some duos who seem like a match made in heaven. Think about singers Brooks & Dunn or icons Mickey and Minnie Mouse – you just can’t think of one without the other.

There are some duos who seem like a match made in heaven. Think about singers Brooks & Dunn or icons Mickey and Minnie Mouse – you just can’t think of one without the other. Then, there are those not so compatible matches who come to mind – since it’s a political year, we’ll just mention John McCain and Barrack Obama.

What does this have to do with you and your horse? Well, how well do you get along? Is it a loving relationship or more of a love-hate connection?

Brad Lange of Lange Ranch Quarter Horses near Oglala, SD, grew up ranching and loving horses. Today, he and his wife Stacia ranch with his parents and brother and sister-in-law, while also training horses, teaching clinics, and offering private lessons. Stacia specializes in training barrel horses, while Brad focuses on ranch and team roping horses.

From their experiences, Brad has amassed a list of do’s and don’ts for riders as they seek out the perfect horse. Here, he shares 10 points to ponder before you make your next purchase.

1. Mismatched Experience. Lange says among the biggest mistakes he sees made in buying a new horse is that often inexperienced or beginning riders (or their parents) think they should buy a young horse for the new rider and the two can learn together. “That’s usually a mistake,” says Lange. “Instead, the best match for an inexperienced rider is usually an older experienced horse to learn on,” he suggests.

2. Don’t Get Sidetracked By Beauty. As the saying goes, beauty is often only skin deep – or as Lange likes to say “Pretty is; is pretty does.” To explain, Lange says people often set out to buy a horse that matches some perfect, pretty picture in their head – and as a result, they forget to evaluate the more important riding characteristics. Hence, they may end up with a pretty looking horse, that doesn’t do what they want it to.

Thus, Lange says focus more on the horse’s abilities. “If he’s good and you can learn from him, don’t put so much emphasis on pretty. Start with a solid horse and down the road you can always upgrade to something else,” says Lange.

3. Shop Around. Here, Lange simply says, “Don’t buy the first horse you see.” He advises doing your homework and evaluating several horses to find the right match. If you like one during the “shopping” process, Lange says it will most likely be there when you go back..

He adds, “If you are truly interested in buying a horse, most people will let you try riding it several times before you make the purchase.”

4. Watch Them Show. Along with doing your homework, Lange advises watching a horse show – especially if you plan to use him as a show horse. Lange says, “Some horses are great at home and fall apart at the show and vice versa. So it is important to watch them both at home and at the show. A lot of their ability depends on the individual horse and how they were trained.”

5. Be Willing To Pay A Little Extra. When it comes to horses, Lange is a firm believer that “you get what you pay for.” Specifically he says, “You don’t have to spend ridiculous amounts of money, but if you want a safe, reliable horse, be willing to spend a little more for it.”

Along with that, he adds, “Not getting hurt can be worth a little extra money in the end.”

6. Avoid The “Fixer Upper.” Of this, Lange says, “Some horses can’t be fixed – even if you are a good rider – and, it’s certainly not the way to learn. He cites buckers as horses to avoid, as well as horses that maybe haven’t been treated the best or get scared in certain situations. “Absolute kindness won’t fix everything,” says Lange, and he adds that it’s often not worth the risk of getting hurt.

7. Consider Personal Preferences. In making your horse selection, Lange says to recognize your personal preferences – much of which will hinge on your riding and training experiences. For instance, consider how the horse’s disposition suits your own personality. Sometimes a laid back horse is better for a person with a high-strung personality – sometimes it’s not.

Likewise, consider the size of horse you feel most comfortable on. If you are a tall person you may want to be matched to a large horse. Again, this will depend on personal choice. Lange says, “I’m 6’3” and I’ve road both big and small horses. It all depends on what your comfortable with.”

That said, Lange emphasizes that these should not be limitations, only considerations as you select the right horse for you.

8. Never Stop Learning. Lange says lessons for you and your new horse are almost always a good idea. He says, “If you think you know everything you’ve stopped learning. I always ask questions because that’s how you get better and continue to learn.”

9. Listen. When you are shopping for the right horse, Lange says it is important to be willing to listen to the advice of others. From his experience he says, “Do not be offended if an owner or someone else says they don’t think a particular horse is right for you. They are just trying to do what’s best for you and the horse.”

10. Be Smart. Lastly, Lange says when it’s time to make a decision try not to make an emotional one. He says, “Don’t buy with your heart, buy with your brain; think the situation over.”

And, if you just don’t know what do do, Lange suggests hiring a professional to go with you to look the horse over. “That can be money well spent,” he concludes.