Whether you’re buying a new horse or assisting a less experienced friend, riding unfamiliar horses can be a daunting task. At Pony Club Australia, we believe in prioritising safety and adopting a systematic approach to ensure a positive experience. Here’s a comprehensive guide to help you navigate this process safely and effectively.

Assessing an Unfamiliar Horse

Before you even mount an unfamiliar horse, it’s crucial to evaluate their foundation responses. Here’s a step-by-step process to follow:

Check Response to Reins:

  • Ask the horse to step back from pressure on the reins.
  • If the horse’s response is delayed or heavy, it may indicate difficulty stopping or slowing under saddle.
  • Repeat the step-back exercise several times to gauge the horse’s stop response quality.

Owner’s Insight:

  • Ask the owner about the horse’s previous training
  • Identify any potential risks and, if possible, request to see the horse ridden first.

Mounting and Initial Control

When mounting an unfamiliar horse, start slowly to build confidence and control:

Begin in Walk:

  • Do several walk/halt transitions until you’re confident in the horse’s response to your aids.

Advance Cautiously:

  • Only proceed to trot and canter once you have full control at the walk.
  • If jumping, perform at least one trot/halt transition to ensure the horse’s stop response is reliable under pressure.

Key Considerations When Purchasing a Horse

When it comes to buying a horse, thorough evaluation and careful consideration are paramount:

Age, Height, and Scope:

  • Know what you need in terms of the horse’s age, size, experience, and future potential.


  • Set a realistic budget that meets your requirements.
  • Consider leasing as an alternative to purchasing, especially if you need access to a more experienced horse.


  • Get to know the owner and rider well.
  • Ask extensive questions about the horse’s history, rider, and management.
  • Test ride the horse multiple times and on different properties if possible.


  • Depending on the asking price, a pre-purchase examination can be invaluable.
  • This exam is not a pass/fail test but provides an overall check-up and soundness assessment.
  • It can include a drug screen to ensure the horse hasn’t been given substances to mask issues.


  • Agree on a fair price or lease terms for all parties involved.


  • Ensure all sale or lease agreements are documented.
  • For purchases, make sure registration papers and documentation are transferred to the new owner.

Final Thoughts

Navigating the world of unfamiliar horses can be challenging, but with the right approach, it is more likely to result in a positive outcome. Always prioritise your safety and take the time to evaluate and understand the horse thoroughly before making any decisions. By following these guidelines, you can make informed choices and enjoy a safe and rewarding experience.