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.






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

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


5 Tips on caring for horses that live out during the winter

Every winter, most horse owners face the challenge of wet, muddy paddocks. This can give rise to horse health issues such as mud fever, foot abscesses, pulled muscles and rain scald to name but a few. 


  1. The right ‘clothes’

Horses are very good at regulating their own temperature but when they get wet they feel miserable and their immunity drops.  This leaves them open to coughs, colds and worse.  Consistently damp hair can create a problem with rain scald where large tufts of hair fall out.  If you have a native horse or pony, they tend to be more hardy than the finer breeds so a thin rug would often be sufficient for them.  Thoroughbreds etc. often require thicker duvet rugs and ideally neck covers to keep them warm.  The other benefit of rugs is you have cleaner horses for when you go riding.


  1. Standing in mud

Muddy gateways are the bane of most horse owners’ lives in the winter.  When the horses stand in wet mud, the lamina separates regularly causing abscesses to form where infection sets in.  Mud fever is another common problem and especially common with heavily feathered horses such as cobs.  This is where the mud collects and remains damp creating an itchy and crusty rash.  It can sometimes make the horse feel quite unwell.  Crushed chalk can be put down to help absorb the mud or you could consider electric fencing off the gateways where possible.


  1. Feeding

When the grass has stopped growing, the horse is reliant on feed from its’ owner to provide the necessary nutrients.  Good quality hay is a must as it provides bulk to help keep the weight on the horse as well as vitamins from when it was made.  Ideally this should be fed on the ground but some horses trash it before they have eaten much which is wasteful.  If you use haynets, ensure they are not low enough for the horse to get his/her hoof caught in it and not too high that it causes neck strain when they are eating.  Whether you feed piles of hay on the ground or individual haynets, take care to place them far enough apart to save arguments amongst your herd which can result in costly vets’ bills.


  1. Water

Remember to keep water troughs clean and accessible.  If there is an overnight frost or a prolonged period of very low temperatures, it is crucial that you check the tanks regularly.  Horses always need a plentiful supply of water but they are even thirstier when eating dry hay and maybe hard feed too.


  1. Inside space

You may be lucky and have access to stabling which is ideal when the fields get too muddy for safe turnout.  If you don’t have that option, you could consider a mobile stable or field shelter.  These buildings come fitted with ‘sledges’ enabling you to move them around using a 4-WD or a tractor, depending upon the size of the building.  The panels are made the same as stables but instead of being fixed onto brickwork, their base is a framework of either steel or timber complete with fixings to accept a tow strap.  They can be open fronted, fitted with a gate or have a stable door on them. 


New Season New Horse

Mobile Field Shelter

Thinking of buying a new horse ready for the season?

With the fields drying up and events to plan for, you may well be ‘horse shopping’. 

Introducing your new horse home can often be a bit worrying in case it jumps out of the paddock, kicks your other horses or runs through electric fencing.  If you don’t have an available stable, a mobile field shelter is a quick and easy option that won’t break the bank.  The field shelters can be fitted with stable doors and be bedded up in exactly the same way as a stable using rubber mats.  They all come with a full towing kit.

Should you choose to fit guttering to the building with a water trough you can make full use of the rain water and solar lighting is always helpful.

The basic design of these handmade buildings can be altered to accommodate windows, talk grills, louvre vents, clear roof lights (to let in extra light), chew strips, full height internal kick boards or even an opening ‘top door/window’ at the back or side of the building for a new horse to look out of and meet other members of his new herd.

From £1232 + vat (£1478.40 inc. vat) you can buy a 12 x 12’ mobile shelter on timber skids which includes delivery and installation within a 40 mile radius of TN21 9HJ. 

The maximum recommended size for a mobile field shelter is 12’ deep x 24’ long.  Any bigger than that can cause problems for towing.  The smaller buildings will easily tow with a decent 4wd vehicle but the larger buildings require a tractor to move them. 

Why not consider adding a mobile storage unit or hay barn.  There are many options are trained staff would be happy to give you more information on.

Getting Ready For Winter

We have been really lucky with an extended summer this year but now is a great time to ensure everything is ready for the winter ahead. 

Be sure to check roofing felt/Onduline is fully secured and hasn’t perished.  You don’t want to see daylight when you look up from the inside of your building. 

The fixings on guttering can come adrift with the weight of autumn leaves and can block up.  Free flowing rain water from the gutter downpipes can be collected in a water trough for animals.  It’s a shame to waste natures’ gift.

If you don’t have electricity in your building and want to avoid tussling with a torch, there are some great solar LED lights on the market at very affordable prices.  They are simple to suspend from a hook on the ceiling.  We have found this one to be very good

If you building doesn’t have a floor, you could consider laying some rubber grass mats on the ground followed by some rubber stable mats.  This will help to protect from the mud and give a solid surface for either horse bedding or storage.  If you have a mobile building, you can pull the mats up when you move it and re-lay them in the new position. 

We are a knowledgeable and friendly team at NFF Ltd. and would be very happy to advise you regarding maintenance of existing constructions or if you are considering building something new. 

Sycamore Log Cabin

Top Ten Ideas for a Log Cabin

Our Log Cabins make fantastic guest rooms but there are a huge range of possibilities that a Log Cabin can offer. Below are ten of our favourite uses for a Log Cabin!

1. Animal House

A Log Cabin can make an ideal place for pets, providing an indoor space without having to be in the house, making a mess. A cat-flap can be installed making it a great place to pop a bowl of milk and some cat food for your fluffy felines, or a place for your dog to play with its toys. For smaller animals, a Log Cabin gives plenty of space for hutches and cages while providing the warmth that rabbits and guinea pigs need. Some have even built an aviary inside a Cherry!

2. Library

You might be thinking this can be achieved with a trip to Ikea and purchasing a few Billy bookcases, which is true.. but why not fit it with something a bit more classy. Then install a nice comfy old leather reading chair and an ornate end table – giving you the ultimate cosy sanctuary to ‘read’ in with a nice big glass of wine!

3. Private Bar

In some of our larger models it can indeed be feasible to install a bar area, complete with stools, a music system and of course an area to mix your favourite drinks! There is plenty of space in a 5m x 5m Birch for a table or two, allowing you to create that ‘down the pub’ night in your garden!

4. Games Room

Ever wanted to set up your own poker night with the lads (or lasses) but a late night in the kitchen is less than ideal? Or a place to practice some darts into the evening? A log cabin can provide the space you need to have a few mates over to play as late as you like, without waking up kids/wife/hubby!

5. Teenager Hangout

Of course you would never stop your child/grandchild from spending time with their friends, however: teenage boys can be smelly – teenage girls can be noisy. Why not give them a small ‘home’ of their own? A log cabin is a great solution as it allows teenagers to have the freedom and privacy they crave… but it allows you, the parent, to keep an eye on them and make sure they stay out of trouble!

6. Artists Studio

With plenty of light and space, a Log Cabin is ideal for setting up an easel and pursuing your artistic passion for painting. Perhaps you’ve been putting it off for years but now you have the time and space to finally pursue that long lost hobby!

7. Barbecue Buffet

Barbecues are great, however a common problem is with the huge amount of dishes: green/rice/potato/pasta salads, bread, sauces, and that’s even before the myriad of meats has started sizzling! A log cabin can provide a buffet space for guests to serve themselves, and act as a makeshift kitchen to cut up rolls, toss salads and marinade meat.

8. Music Room

A log cabin can be sound-proofed to provide a place to practice a new instrument in peace or jam with a few friends. You could even go all out, filling it with the latest recording gear and turning it into the ultimate home studio!

9. The Study

If you have a child in school or college, you will probably know that it can be difficult to get them to focus and get on with their homework. With so many distractions in the house, such as phones, iPads, computers or games, it’s no wonder they get distracted. A log cabin can be a great place for a quiet area in which to study, not just for kids but adults too! Why not learn a new language or a new skill to help your career go in a more exciting direction!

10. Workshop

Our Log Cabins provide a nice retreat within the garden to work on a project or repair bikes, electronics, broken pottery etc… Being out of the house means being away from typical distractions such as the phone or emails. Plus you can let the kids know that it is your space, and your space alone!

Our log cabin range offers one crucial benefit compared to a standard shed or workshop: 44mm walls. This means that the building benefits from greater strength and rigidity when compared to perhaps a standard timber workshop.We supply various different designs, which can provide plenty of daylight to help with those fiddly little jobs!


Our new Gazebo!

NFF’s new Gazebo

If you go down to our Merriments Display Centre you will find the latest addition to our already huge range of garden buildings. Our Gazebo offers the best of both worlds – two solid walls acting as a wind break and providing a nice shady spot. The two frame sections allow a nice summer breeze to flow and a place to sit in the sun. It all depends on the choice of position in your garden: a north facing spot will provide a cool shady sanctuary – while a west facing spot will give you a place to enjoy splendid sunsets.


Measuring 3.5m x 3.5m, this gives you a huge space for garden furniture. There is plenty of room for a table and chairs, enough to seat a large barbecue party. If you would rather just have a quiet place for a sun bed, there’s room for two and a table.


The Gazebo is built using the same 44mm thick logs found on our Log Cabins offering the same high level of durability and longevity.  As with our Log Cabins, the Gazebo comes with free roofing felt and free wood preserver, included in the price.



£1750 – 3.5m x 3.5m Gazebo


£650 – Install

£370 – Shingle Roofing Felt

£600 – Timber Base


Don’t forget to have a look at our other gazebo – The Wentworth. This octagonal gazebo can be built using fully boarded sections to act as a windbreak. The placement of these sides are fully customisable, allowing you to order the perfect building for your garden. The Wentworth is a smaller building, in either 8′ x 8′ (2.4m x 2.4m) or 10′ x 10′ (3m x 3m).

Wentworth Summerhouse

As with all of our buildings, it is always best to get in contact us or call (01435 813 535), if you have any questions. Our experienced team will be able to advise you on the best possibilities for your garden.

Summerhouses and Home Offices now live!

The latest sections of our website are now live! The Summerhouses and Home Offices sections are now fully accessible to browse and should help you to make an informed decision when purchasing a garden building


Popular Summerhouse

The Summerhouse section contains a myriad of possibilities in terms of size and design. For instance we have the aptly named Popular Summerhouse which allows for plenty of sunlight via the glazed doors and four windows as standard. This can be upgraded (pictured above) to add an extra four windows on the side of the building. Plus the building measures under 2.5m in height, which is typically more ‘planning friendly’.

Helmsley Summerhouse

One of our favourites here is the Helmsley with the additional veranda (pictured above). This features floor to ceiling windows on three of the four walls, with smaller windows on the rear of the building. This allows for sunlight at all times of the day, and with the veranda it gives that little extra area perfect to sit with friends after a barbecue or party.

Home Offices

Home Office

Our Home Office is designed and manufactured exclusively here at our headquarters in East Sussex. Fully insulated, double glazed and with a premium electrical pack included as standard, this really is a great solution for any home requiring an extra room to use as a study, library, office, music room, therapy room or teen crash pad – the possibilities are endless!

For land Rover

Great care and pride has been taken in the design, for instance the walls have been made with an air gap containing a moisture resisting vapour barrier, the floor is made using moisture resistant floor boarding and the roof is covered with premium EDPM RubberCover. This means that our Home Office is resistant to damp and therefore ensures that it will last for many years to come.

With prices starting at £4800, including delivery (within 40 miles of TN21 9HJ) and installation, this is a fantastic offer!

Jayne Torvill opening our new Display Centre at Merriments

Log Cabins and Sheds Display Centre Opening With special guest Jayne Torvill

This Good Friday, 3rd of April at 11am, our new display centre of log cabins and sheds at Merriments, (Hurst Green in East Sussex) will be having its grand opening. Come and see our brand new range of log cabins including Elm and Chestnut. Our log cabins are built using 44mm thick logs and are fully double glazed as standard.  We have a range of sheds, summerhouses and wendy houses on display for you to browse so there is something for the whole family, whether its a place for gran to read a book or a place for the kids to play! Stables and Mobile Field Shelters are also on display courtesy of our sister organisation NFF Equestrian. Our fully insulated and double glazed Home Office is also on display as our sales office. We have installed a panel heater which is thin and discrete, whilst being very efficient.

We are offering £100 off Log Cabins for orders placed on the day

This is a fantastic special offer. Place your order on the day and make the most of your garden this summer, with one of our superb garden buildings.


Meet our special guest Winter Olympic gold medalist: Jayne Torvill! She will be there for a friendly chat and also as a patron of Tomorrow’s People. Refreshments will be provided in the form of tea, coffee, cake and soft drinks. Why not make a day of it, and enjoy a stroll around the delightful gardens and stop for a delicious bite to eat in the restaurant! The gardens will be opening on the 1st of April, so why not make it the first visit of the year!

There is plenty of parking and access is easy via the A21 from Hastings or Tunbridge Wells. From Maidstone, Merriments is towards the end of the A229. So if you are in that part of East Sussex or Kent this Good Friday, make sure to stop by and visit our festivities.

We look forward to seeing you there this bank holiday weekend!


Merriments Gardens,
Hawkhurst Road,
Hurst Green,
East Sussex
TN19 7RA