Eventing is often deemed to be the ultimate test of horse and rider, but with so much to ask, what do top riders prioritise when they’re looking to buy their next eventer?
Experienced event horses don’t always have perfect conformation. But you should discuss any issues with your vet before deciding to buy, to make sure that any imperfections aren’t going to impact on soundness or performance.
“Conformation is quite far down my list,” says Sam Watson. “But I’d be wary of significant flaws that could jeopardise soundness.”
On the other hand, H&H’s eventing diarist Lauren Shannon really emphasises the importance of conformation. “Horses can look different to one another, or have their own weaknesses, but it’s important that they are in proportion,” she says.
Similarly Georgie Spence says: “Feet and limbs are especially important. My vet and farrier always say to me “no foot no horse”.
“But then I seem to have several thoroughbreds, and they tend not to have the best feet in the world,” she adds.
A trainable temperament and a willingness to learn are high on the agenda for most eventers. The horse must be obedient for dressage, bold across cross-country and careful in the showjumping.
“I like a horse to have a genuine, quiet temperament, but to be a bit sharper when they are ridden,” says Georgie.
Lauren likes a “kind eye” and Sam looks for something trusting.
When looking to buy an eventer there might have to be an element of compromise in terms of movement and jumping ability.
A good quality, balanced canter is everything for Sam. And the trot and jump have to be “good enough to work with”.
“Improving a walk is diffcult,” he says. “So having a good one is a bonus.”
Georgie would prioritise a good jumper over a flashy mover.
“If I couldn’t find a horse that moved and jumped well, I would probably go for one with a better jump,” she tells H&H. “With my showjumping background I have always preferred a good jumper.”
Lauren also emphasises the need for a natural jump. “You can teach a horse dressage throughout its training, but you can’t teach an uncareful horse to be careful!” she says.
Where to look
As Lauren says, “you never know what you are going to find and where” – it could be through word of mouth, a dealer or a private seller. But the classified pages of Horse & Hound magazine and the online horses for sale on Horseandhound.co.uk are great places to start.
Sam relies on trusted producers and breeders at home and in Ireland. “I don’t play the numbers game or take chances on a horse that ‘could be anything’,” he says. “I know where to find future four-star horses – I just wish I could afford to buy all of them!”
Making a decision
With so many factors to consider, the prospect of buying an eventer may seem overwhelming. But Sam advises that it is “all about clicking“.
“If you and the horse are enjoying yourselves and feel at home in those first few moments together then little else matters.
“If a horse ticks every conceivable box but you’re instinct says something isn’t quite right, then trust it and walk away.”
In this week’s special Badminton preview issue of H&H, get a glimpse of the cross-country course and read our ultimate guide to the tradestands.