Tips for Buying a Dressage Horse

Whether you’re looking for a dressage schoolmaster or buying a young, green horse, you can take a variety of steps to ensure your shopping is a success.


When it comes to buying a dressage horse, riders want to find the best partner they can afford. Professional horseman Steven Wolgemuth of Graemont Farm in Manheim, Pennsylvania, shares some of the most frequently asked questions he receives from clients, particularly amateur riders, who are searching for horse buying insights.

Is buying a dressage schoolmaster a good idea, since they drop in value after a few years?
Generally, if you hear yourself saying that one of your major goals is to improve your riding in the next few years, you should consider a schoolmaster–a trained, experienced horse. Few who have made this decision have been sorry later. The experience that can be gained from riding a schoolmaster can provide the owner with an education that they will always value. You can buy a schoolmaster and then sell him after two years to recover money to put into a younger horse. The question to ask yourself–what is education worth to you?

Isn’t buying a young horse a better investment than buying a schoolmaster?
If you still dare use the word “investment” and “horse” in the same sentence, you probably haven’t had enough years in the industry. Unless you have the expertise to bring a horse along quickly and effectively through the levels in a time frame aggressively proportionate to the horse’s aging, your horse is not going up in value. For instance, if you buy a very nice 4-year-old for $25,000 and the horse turns 8 years old and hasn’t done well at Second Level yet, you will be hard pressed to get any more than you’ve paid for him. Meanwhile, you’ve spent a lot of money on lessons, training, blacksmith, board, etc., and you’ve used up four years of your riding life at the lower levels. Keep in mind that life is short. Your riding years are even shorter. When you’re “doing the math” make sure you put a high value on having years of riding at the upper levels.

What is the best way to find out about horses for sale?
If you were to travel to a few of the USA’s major dressage shows and you were to ask those who finished at the top of their classes, “How did you find your horse?” you would soon notice a trend. You would soon realize that many or most of these successful dressage riders found their horses by using a professional network of one sort or another, as opposed to just calling on classifieds.

Where is the best place to find a young 3- or 4-year-old dressage prospect?
Calling breeders can sometimes prove to be productive in finding young horses. This is best done by finding magazines with stallion issues of years past and calling these farms. At Graemont, we have had success shopping in Europe and picking up outstanding young horses that have been rejected in the stallion inspection process. Since the best riding horses may not be otherwise qualified to become approved breeding stallions, many fine young horses come on the market each year in Europe. This may be an excellent way to afford a fantastic horse within a low budget.

Where is the best place to find unbroken horses?
Again, calling breeders in the USA can be productive. Since buying unbroken horses is highly speculative, you may be well served to buy something out of a mare that was a good riding horse. Rideability is difficult to predict by watching and handling a young horse from the ground. You have a much greater chance of getting a horse that you like if its parents were horses that you could ride and be happy with.

For more information on the many facets of purchasing a dressage horse, visit the “Buyer’s Aid” section on Wolgemuth’s website

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