Buying your forst pony or horse

Sally’s Guide to Buying Your First Horse or Pony

A guide to buying your first horse or pony

Buying a horse can be harder than buying a second-hand car. You need it to be in good working order but it also has to be safe to ride.

A vet can check the general health and fitness of the horse but assessing it for suitability and personality is down to you.  Don’t worry, the following tips will help you find your perfect match.

Firstly, you need to decide what sort of riding you intend doing.  Many first-time horse owners want to enjoy hacking around local roads with the occasional canter through fields and maybe progressing to a bit of jumping here and there.  In this instance, safety is paramount as you don’t want to frighten yourself with a horse that is too ‘flighty’. 

What type of breed?

It’s worth taking time to research the traits of different breeds of horse as they are all bred for different disciplines. 

An example would be a Thoroughbred.  They are gorgeous to look at but built for speed and therefore highly sought after for horse-racing.  Asking them to potter around on quiet rides and not fizz up when encouraged to have a canter is not going to work well.  They are also very lightly built (again, this works well for making them as fast as possible) but for everyday use, it can cause issues with their fragile legs not coping well with the pounding of roads.  Thoroughbreds are also renowned for having poor quality hooves which can give rise to problems keeping shoes on.  They are not good in muddy fields and need stabling during the winter months. 

A Welsh Cob, on the other hand, is a much heavier build.  They have very sturdy legs and strong hooves which can save costly shoeing bills.  Bred to withstand the harsh weather of the Welsh mountains, they can live outside all year round with a good rug.  Their stocky build is not designed for speed which makes them better suited to steadier riding.  They can carry more weight than Thoroughbreds and are much easier to look after.  They have thick skin as opposed to the more fragile skin of a Thoroughbred.  This makes them less susceptible to injuries and rub marks from girths etc.

In between the lightweight Thoroughbred and heavier weight Cob is the Connemara.  They are not as thickset as the Cob but have stronger legs than the Thoroughbred and denser coats and tougher skin making them less susceptible to injuries than the fine race-horse types.  The Connemara can suit riders who want something a bit more forward-going than most Cobs but still require a sensible horse. 


Apart from these types of horse, there are many other choices, all with traits specific to their breeds.  Cross-breeds can be a great mix of characteristics but the wrong mix can be disastrous!

Having narrowed down your search, you can start investigating where to buy your horse from. 

This falls into two categories; a horse dealer or a private seller. 

Unfortunately like some second-hand car dealers, a few horse dealers are not reputable and will do their best to sell on a horse that is either unsafe or unwell.  Check reviews online to ensure you don’t make that mistake.  Personal recommendation is always good.

Private sellers are not always ethical either but there a few things you can do to help make your experience a positive one. 

Firstly, don’t let your heart rule your head.  You may ‘fall in love’ with the picture of a horse for sale but don’t raise your expectations.  Be prepared to take the process slowly and walk away if you have any doubts at all.  It is too big a financial and emotional commitment to rush into a decision.

Your preliminary step is to speak to the seller and ask them why their horse is for sale.  Has a teenager grown out of the horse or are they leaving for University and sadly recognising they won’t have time to ride any more?  Maybe the sale is for completely different reasons.  It’s definitely worth asking.

The age of the horse is important too.  If you buy a horse upwards of 8 years old, it will have experience and will have lost much of the immature behaviour you expect in a younger animal.  A horse over 20 years of age is probably not going to want to race around and could come with health issues. 

Consider asking the seller some of these questions: –

What sort of riding have you been using the horse for?

How long have you owned the horse?

Are you sad to be selling it?

Is the horse easy to catch?

Does the horse kick/bite?

Does it live alone or in company?

Is it stabled/living out all/part of the year?

Is it good in traffic?

Is it strong to ride/soft in the mouth?

Has it had any health problems?

Is it shod or does it run barefoot?

Is it good with the farrier?

Does it buck/rear/bolt?

What does it eat? (Some horses exist well on good quality hay others need hard feed to keep condition, especially during the winter)

Does it like being brushed/fussed over?

Does it load well in either a trailer or lorry and is it calm to travel?

Assuming you are satisfied with the answers you have been given, it is time to arrange to meet the horse and the owner.  If you intend keeping your horse out at grass, ask if the owner could leave the horse in the paddock for you to help catch and get in to then brush, tack up etc.  This way you can test whether the horse is happy to be caught and prepared for riding. 

When you arrive, assess the surroundings.  Are they what you would expect or do they fall below the standard you would set yourself?  Does it feel nice?  Trust your instincts.

First impressions are important.  If the horse looks suitable, make a fuss of it in the way you would do if you owned it.  Press down it’s spine to check it doesn’t dip away with apparent pain.  Ask whether it is safe to go around the back of the horse, maybe ask the owner to show you before trying it yourself.  When grooming the horse, feel down its legs for lumps and bumps and pick up each of its feet to ensure it doesn’t mind.  Have a look at its hooves to see if they look healthy and strong.  White hooves have a tendency to be weaker than brown ones.

Time to tack up

When you tack up, see if there is any discomfort as you put the bit in his/her mouth.  If there is, it can be a sign of teeth problems.  Some horses can be head-shy if they have experienced ill treatment in their younger days.  With careful handling, this can come right in time.


If the owner is reluctant to have the horse near a fence or stable door, it may be that the horse is prone to ‘crib bite’ or ‘wind suck’.  This is an annoying habit thought to be caused by stress in its past.  It involves the horse taking hold of a fence rail or stable door and sucking in air.  This trait can devalue a horse as it can make it harder to keep condition on the animal.  It may not bother you but it will make it harder to sell in the future.


Having tacked up, ask the owner to ride for you. Ideally, choose a route to encompass every type of riding that you will want to do yourself.  This may need a little forward planning and perhaps require you to take a bicycle to keep up.  Ask to see the horse ridden on the road in similar traffic to what you would be faced with at home and get them to take the horse into a field for a canter and gallop. Maybe ask them to demonstrate a jump or two if that is what you want to be doing.  Watch the rider carefully to assess whether they are fighting the animal at all and whether they look at ease.  Once you are happy that everything looks safe, ask to get on yourself.  Sit for a moment and see if you immediately feel comfortable and trust the horse.  If you don’t, get off.  If you do, start off slowly and build up gradually to a canter etc.  When you have finished, if you can’t stop smiling, then you have chosen well. 


Last but not least

Before making a final decision to buy, ask a vet to do a 5-star vetting to assess for any problems.  This is not cheap but it will help to safeguard your money and save potentially expensive vets’ bills in the future and potentially a horse you can’t ride or sell on.

Ask to see the horse’s passport which will show you the age of the horse, any identifying features, its bloodline and recent vaccinations.  Check it matches the horse you are viewing.

Don’t part with any money until you are 100% confident everything is legitimate.  Be sure to get a receipt for your purchase.

Owning a horse is a huge responsibility but the most wonderful fun if you choose wisely.






Avoid Planning Costs with Mobile Stabling

Fed up with the mud?

Unless you are very lucky, you will probably spend the winter fetlock-deep in sticky mud. Apart from pulling shoes off, it can cause foot abscess, thrush, mud fever, sprains and more. *

When a horse is cold and wet, it is hard to keep condition on them and can give rise to snotty noses and rheumatic conditions. Maintaining their condition by keeping them dry and well-fed will keep their immunity high and help protect them from illness. Vets are expensive.

Ideally, you’d have a stable to keep your horse off the paddock during the winter months. Limiting turnout helps to preserve your field for the spring.

What is the best type of stable for your requirements?

Conventional stables are a wonderful facility but expensive and time-consuming to build. An architect would need to draw up plans which are submitted to the local planning department and a fee is paid to both the architect and the council. Assuming permission is granted, a concrete base is installed by groundworkers followed by a course of bricks. The wall panels of the stable are bolted through the brickwork.

Mobile stables are a much faster and cheaper solution. They are made in exactly the same way as permanent stables but instead of being fixed to brickwork, they are bolted to a heavy steel skid. The skids resemble the runners of an old-fashioned sledge.

The types of skids for your shelter

At NFF Ltd., we design and construct the skids from heavy-duty steel in our steel fabrication workshop. We take time to weld the joints and brackets to give them extra strength as our buildings are very heavy, due to the high specification timber we use.

Following manufacture, the skids are sent off for galvanising. Galvanising gives steel a shiny silver appearance and is designed to protect it from rusting giving a life span of approximately 35-years. We don’t believe in painting skids as they quickly rust.

Apart from not requiring groundworks, these buildings can be moved around. The shiny nature of the steel and the clever shape of the skids makes it easy to tow the building using a 4-WD vehicle or a tractor, depending upon the size of your stable.

Cheaper skid option

You may not want to move your building very often. In that case, timber skids may be an option. Despite being double kiln dried and pressure treated to preserve them, they won’t last as long as steel but are cheaper. It will still be possible to tow your building but it won’t glide quite as easily as steel skids do. Timber skids are best suited when a building is going to sit on an existing hardstanding and won’t be moved too often. They are still very strong and durable.

Bedding up

In order to make your building practical to bed-up, you may wish to invest in some rubber matting to lay on the ground. We recommend a layer of rubber grass mats, topped with rubber stable mats. You can then bed up in the same way as a conventional stable.

Should you wish to keep the cost down, you might choose to have just a bottom stable door. When you think about it, you are probably unlikely to shut the top door very often.

Planning Permission

To comply with planning regulations, you won’t be permitted to connect any services, namely electricity or water. There is excellent solar lighting available on the market which is cheap and easy to fit. If you fit guttering and a water tank, you can collect rainwater which is not only free but eco-friendly too.

Getting your horse comfortable with its new shelter
A good way to introduce your horse to their new building is to place feed, hay and water inside. Your horse will soon realise how cosy it is.


Making the most of your field shelter this winter

Apart from sheltering your horse/sheep/alpacas/goats etc, during inclement weather, field shelters are good for separating animals at feeding time.

Here are 10 clever tips for making them even more brilliant:

  1. Put some guttering around the building with a downpipe leading into a water trough. Free water!
  2. Have a couple of clear roof panels to maximise the light
  3. A window is a nice addition
  4. Consider putting a half stable door at the back or side of your building. This can be opened during nice weather to give your horse a different view to enjoy
  5. Line the inside of the roof for a smarter look
  6. An overhang provides good shelter and helps to prevent rain from driving into the shelter
  7. A lined overhang minimises draughts
  8. Full height kickboards re useful when horses are prone to chewing
  9. Rubber stable matting can be fixed to the internal walls if your horse tends to kick inside the stable
  10. Stable doors give you an instant stable

View Shelters

Why a Mobile Stable?


NFF’s mobile stables provide cheap, instant stabling for your horse or pony.  With no need for expensive concrete bases, brickwork and hence planning* these fabulous buildings can be towed around thanks to the sledge-like ‘skids’ they are built on.

If you place rubber grass mats, topped with rubber stable mats in your mobile stable, you can bed it up as you would normally.  Should you wish to move the building, you can pull up the mats and replace them once the stable is relocated.  

If your stable is going to be sited away from services, you can invest in some cheap solar lighting for those dark evenings and have guttering with a water tank to catch the rainwater.  

It’s worth considering an overhang for the front of the stable to give your horse extra protection from the elements.

Where possible, avoid facing your stable in the direction of the prevailing wind as you want to keep your beloved equine as snug as possible.

A good way to encourage your animal to feel comfortable in their new home is to hang a hay net inside and make a point of placing their feed bucket inside. 


RDA(Riding for the Disabled Association) New Timber Pavilion

Sally S (NFF Timber Buildings Manager) and Martin Logan (Timber Buildings Estimator) were invited to the Kipling Trust RDA (Riding for the Disabled Association) Grand Opening of their new pavilion.
We were commissioned to design & build the timber pavilion for the RDA complete with disabled toilet access at the side.
The exterior verandah was a popular vantage point for viewing the driving competitions, and also a great place for a social get together.
The founding member, Jan McSweeney cut the ribbon to officially open the building.
We really enjoyed seeing the carriage driving competitions and it was lovely to see everyone having such a great time