Top 10 Questions to Ask a Horse’s Seller


Learn how to safely make your equestrian dreams come true…


1. How long have you owned the horse?

2. Where did the horse come from?

3. Has he/she been professionally trained? If so, by whom?

4. Who rides the horse now and how often?

5. Where do you ride the horse most often? (i.e., arena, roads, trails)

6. Has the horse ever been turned out with a group of horses? If so, where is he in herd status?*

7. How is the horse for the farrier?

8. Can I access his current veterinarian and any vet records?

9. Is there a possibility of a trial lease before I purchase?

10. Is there a “buy back” policy or money-back guarantee?


If any answers to these questions leave you with a nervous or uneasy feeling, there may be some subterfuge going on. Be aware that an unsound horse can be treated with painkillers like bute before you arrive to look at him. This will temporarily take away any lameness but will not cure or prevent soreness from returning a few days after you’ve purchased the animal. For that reason, always get a vet to check out the horse, regardless of the purchase price.

Why should you hire me as a purchase consultant or a coach once you’ve bought your horse? The answers are in the many stories I relate in my book, Herdmates to Heartmates: The Art of Bonding with a New Horse.

I don’t sell or broker horses. I am an independent horse professional whose only goals are to help you find the horse that is appropriate for your skill level and interests, and to make sure you and your horse get to build the kind of relationship that will keep you safer in your equestrian activities.

*The answer to this question may give you greater insight into the horse’s temperament. If she’s alpha in a herd, she may try to dominate humans, too. If he’s at the bottom of the totem pole, an omega horse, he may be used to drawing confidence from his rider.


Contact Bonnie today for a free consultation

(928) 899-5088


“Bonnie Jackson has guided me to the tools and information I needed, and helped me create a safe  environment in which I can pursue my equestrian dreams with my new horse.”—Maureen K

“I bought my first horse when I was in my 40s. Bonnie’s book and her expert advice and coaching have helped me and my horse to feel more trusting of each other. I’ve learned so much in such a short time!”—Cindy S

Categories: The Psychology of Horses, Training Tips | Leave a comment

What a Good Beginner’s Horse Looks Like – Week 3

Description on YouTube: “HR Leo Bar Reed (barn name Leo) is a 13 year old super nice gelding. He is 15.2 hands tall and very stocky. He’s a sorrel with real light manes, almost flaxen. Leo is very gentle. Easy to ride, not lazy at all, he definitely has some get up and go, but is always very easy to control. Good neck rein, roll back. Great horse for trail riding, ranch work, roping, playdays. Also would make a great husband horse. He’s a lot of fun, smooth ride and a reliable horse.” More on the website, Located in northern Texas. $2950

What I like about this horse:

-He is quite responsive to his rider and he is big enough to easily carry an adult beginner rider.

-He has a good handle and three nice gaits, what looks like a smooth lope.

-He has a good start with tarps and flags, which is a good foundation if you’ll be using him for western competition.

-He is shown by a knowledgeable rider who, I assume, would be available to demonstrate him and answer any questions should you travel to see him.*

What I would advise:

-Vet check

-Ask to see him ridden out alone from the facility. (I do this with all the horses I buy to see what comes up for them.)

-Work with a trainer or get some riding instruction to get started right with this gentle, willing horse.

*Remember that viewing a video is merely the first step in buying a first horse. You need to visit and try out the horse. NEVER buy a horse online or sight unseen, no matter how tempting it might be. By being present with the horse, asking questions of the seller, engaging your own intuition, and checking your personal list of requirements, you can avoid a possibly disastrous impulse buy.

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Week Two: What a Good Beginner’s Horse Looks Like

Description: Candy Man! Awesome anyone can ride gelding for sale! This guy is about 15 years old, 14.3H and just as sweet and gentle as they come! Nice walk trot lope! Wonderful ground manners! Perfect kid/beginner/guest horse! The video says it all! 623-628-7663 Located in Scottsdale! $2950

Remember that viewing a video is merely the first step in buying a first horse. You need to visit and try out the horse. NEVER buy a horse online or sight unseen, no matter how tempting it might be. By being present with the horse, asking questions of the seller, engaging your own intuition, and checking your personal list of requirements, you can avoid a possibly disastrous impulse buy.

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What a Good Beginner’s Horse Looks Like…

Description on YouTube: “Tonto, 11 year old Paint Gelding. This very large paint gelding recently came from Stephenville Texas. He is over 15 hh and is very much on the lazier side. Tonto will stand for saddling and tacking or anything you wish. He is easy to bridle and is not head or ear shy. He is no problem to catch in the pasture and typically likes attention and grooming. This gelding is a gentle giant without a mean bone in his body and likes attention. Loads in any horse trailer and unloads great. This gelding is impressive and eye catching under saddle and a joy to ride and be around. rides bareback, healthy, sound and barefooted. Quite attitude and not a bully in the pasture. Can ride western or english style. We have ridden this horse down the road and he is nothing but gentle and willing. Tonto is more of a follower than a leader. Beginner safe does not apply to every horse we have, but it sure applies here.. This gelding is suitable for a first horse. Bargain at this price! Price Is $1100.”

Remember that viewing a video is merely the first step in buying a first horse. You need to visit and try out the horse. NEVER buy a horse online or sight unseen, no matter how tempting it might be. By being present with the horse, asking questions of the seller, engaging your own intuition, and checking your personal list of requirements, you can avoid a possibly disastrous impulse buy.

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Start Off on the Right Track with Your New Horse…

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From Herdmate to Heartmate: A Bonding Workshop for New Horses and Their Owners

From Herdmates to Heartmates: A Half-day Workshop for Horse Owners Who Want to Build a Better Bond with Their Horses


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From Herdmates to Heartmates

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The Pony That Outgrew Us

One of the consequences of choosing a pony over a horse is that your children will outgrow the smaller animal just as surely as they outgrow their shoes and clothing. With any luck, a child-friendly pony will be passed along from one loving home to the next, giving a succession of children their first joy of horse ownership. When my son was five, however, a pony came into our lives that would put a new spin on this notion.

Her name was “Bandy,” short for abandoned, which she most certainly had been. Dumped off a truck into a barren oil field in Fillmore, California, she was little more than a battered skeleton with no food, little water, and a scant desire to keep on living. Some people across the road watched the pony standing motionless in that field for the better part of a week before they got it in their heads to call someone.

At the humane society, volunteer vets gave Bandy a 50-50 survival chance, all the while pumping her full of fluids and antibiotics, smearing her wounds with salves, and taking a “wait and see” approach. But a lone farrier, working on the pony’s cracked and overgrown hooves, sensed the heart of a fighter pumping deep within her frail chest. The farrier started appearing daily with an astonishing array of groceries for the pony. Equally astonishing was the rate at which the little animal made them disappear.

After the two-week limit was up for her to be at the Society, the farrier took the pony in and started making calls. When one is looking for a suitable mount for a child, word gets around. Before long, my son John and I were strolling down to the farrier’s paddock to “look a gift horse in the mouth.”

Let me stop a moment and address some of the issues in the last paragraph as they relate to choosing a mount. First, rescued and emaciated horses are not always the best choice for a new rider. As their body condition improves with better nutrition, so may their temperament change or—more accurately—begin to finally emerge. Second, as I’ve already stated, a “suitable mount” does not necessarily need to come in a pint size. In fact, the smaller the horse is the more headstrong and feisty he may be. In the wild, this fierce determination may be what keeps him alive. Third, a free “gift horse” may come with considerable baggage—from lameness to behavioral problems to use restrictions—all of which need to be factored into the equation. You may end up spending more on maintenance with a free horse than you would with a horse you purchased.

The first time I laid eyes on Bandy, tears rushed into them. She was without a doubt the ugliest pony I had ever seen. Her head was three sizes too big for her emaciated frame, her backbone loomed like a small mountain range, and her angular rump seemed borrowed from some miniature bovine. An unevenly shedding coat seemed to start with a base color of brown, over which a maddened graffiti artist had gone wild with silver and white paint. Standing straight up and out from her body and going from black, to white, and back to black again, her mane and tail gave Bandy all the gravitas of a Mattel toy. Finally, white hairs ringed her pink eyes, heightening the suspicious stare with which she regarded all things in her world. Dreamy childhood images of a sweet and corpulent Shetland pony faded from my brain as Bandy cast me a sullen look and moved to a distant corner of the paddock.

“She’s a bit shy of people but won’t put up too much fuss about being caught,” the farrier told us. The phrase “Too weak to resist” crossed my mind as I watched her amble in slow motion around the corral, her mouth just inches above the ground. And so, just four weeks after her rescue from the “field of horror,” we took Bandy into our care.


My son John with Bandy circa 1992


At the feed store, I watched with misgivings as the cash register total climbed into the triple digits. Free pony, my you-know-what, I muttered as I opened the back of my SUV and loaded in about four cubic feet of grain, supplements, and medications.

To her credit, the little girl could eat. In all the time we had her, I never once saw her turn down a morsel of food. In fact, once her own portion was consumed, it was a never-ending source of amusement for us to watch her commandeer whatever food her pasture mate couldn’t gobble down in time. Raising herself up to her full eleven hands, Bandy would scream so loud and so high, it was a wonder that packs of dogs didn’t instantly appear from all directions. There was never any fight. With the noise she made and the skill with which she maneuvered her hind end at him the Arab gelding she shared space with could do little more than flee in terror.

I had no tack for a pony, but finally managed to locate a pony-sized shocking pink nylon bridle with a diminutive curb bit and took my son for a first ride on his very own pony. As we climbed a small hill in the pasture, I looked back just in time to see John slowly siding off Bandy’s rump, accompanied by many tufts of shedding hair onto which he had been desperately grasping. In the quiet of the breaths he drew between howls, I explained that he was now just two spills away from “bein’ a real cowboy.” He and Bandy both stared back at me in hostile disbelief as I announced he would need to get right back on for the spill to count.

Sadly, the day eventually came when I realized that my son was not going to be the young horse lover I had been and had hoped he might become. By this time, after over a year in residence with us, Bandy had grown into an athletic and robust firebrand, a shining example of her Pony of the Americas breeding. Her energy and drive far exceeded my child’s endurance and abilities. Ever more frequently, we were returning from trail rides exhausted—John physically and me emotionally—from trying to keep the pony controlled and the rider safe. It was clear that our little girl needed a home with a child better suited to Bandy’s emerging powerhouse personality.

I put an ad in the local paper and turned down a few dozen phone callers who were looking for a quiet “bomb proof” and “dead broke” pony. Not Bandy, I politely told them, and felt like adding that there was one down on Main Street outside the market if they had two quarters. Finally, a suitable home appeared and I arranged to bring Bandy over for a 30-day trial lease. I had great hopes, as my ad had caught the eye of a woman with three young daughters who had Pony Club experience and wanted to compete in gymkhana events. Of course—gymkhana! Racing around barrels and poles would be a perfect fit for an energetic, athletic pony. I drew up the lease papers, faxed them to the woman, and waited for the weekend, I would take Bandy to what I hoped was a forever home.

The night before she was to leave, I let myself into Bandy’s paddock, armed with a carrot. I had done this nightly for the past year and a half. The treat usually bought me time for a furtive hug of the stout neck and the opportunity to bury my face for a moment in that Mattel-made mane. In my heart, I knew I was saying goodbye to more than just my son’s pony. Bandy had become the dream horse I would have wanted at his age.

Normally, my drawing close to her made the little mare nervous and she would always move away to a safe distance. Tonight, however she stood still for my embrace long after the carrot had disappeared. Her stillness seemed to hug me back and say, “It’s okay, Mrs. Jackson, don’t cry. I just outgrew you is all.


I just outgrew you, that’s all…

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What Makes Natural Horsemanship…Natural?

twinkpedestalFILTERNatural horsemanship seems to be a popular term in the horse world these days, intriguing to some and intimidating to others. Really, it’s quite a simple concept—the ability to enter a horse’s world and think and move in ways that communicate positively to them in “language” they understand.

This idea can be applied to many species with which we share our lives and this world. For instance:

Natural dogmanship: Watch Animal Planet and National Geographic for tips on how to think like a dog. You will learn what a dog’s priorities are—what certain body language and sounds mean and, most importantly, how to become the “alpha” in your dog’s life.

Natural catmanship: Understanding the domestic cat’s attitudes and habits has long been a source of humor, but much can be learned from the subtle ways in which felines create willing servants out of their otherwise assertive owners.

Natural livestockmanship: Read the books of Temple Grandin ( Thinking in Pictures, Animals Make Us Human, Animals in Translation) to understand the importance of caring for pets and livestock humanely and with an eye to reducing the agony that meat animals in particular endure during their short and purpose-driven lives.

To learn natural horsemanship, we start by understanding the psychology of prey animals and what is important to them. “Eyes in front, born to hunt. Eyes on the side, born to hide.” Or, in the horse’s case, born to startle, jump, and flee the area.

To help a horse overcome their natural instinct to flee is to make a horse safer to ride. How do we do this? By accepting the limitations of a horse’s world (they cannot understand the limitations of our world) and offering them what they need and seek:


“A horse doesn’t care how much you know until he knows how much you care.” –Tom Dorrance via Pat Parelli

If you take some time with your new, old, or borrowed horse, you will notice the things that are important to him or her. As you learn more about natural horsemanship, you will learn a language with which you can draw the horse to you as a leader draws followers.

Some horses may have great skepticism about what it is you offer and will require even greater patience on your part. They may balk, walk away, or become dominating. When faced with this skepticism, resolve to:

  • Relax..Breath…Observe any emotions you feel.
  • Put a smile on your lips
  • Keep offering the relationship
  • Think of the “Bigger Picture,” i.e., what is your ultimate goal with the horse?

Being able to relax and see this “bigger picture” is what will distinguish you as a true and sensitive leader and partner, rather than just another predator coming out of the bushes. Establishing a relationship on the ground, through simple games and activities, forms a bond that will help you stay safer and find more joy in the saddle.

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Horse Whispers… Adventures in Equine-Assisted Growth for Groups


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10 Things to Check Before You Mount Up For a Ride on Any Horse


Some items on this checklist might be hard to negotiate, especially with a “dude” or rental horse, but not impossible. Ask the horse’s owner if you can just work with the horse on the ground for a while prior to getting on the horse. Even if you only accomplish a few items on the list, you will have moved that much closer to ensuring a safe ride.


1) It has been said, “a horse doesn’t care how much you know until he knows how much you care.” Take a few moments to bond with the horse. This can be as simple as finding an itchy spot and giving it a good, satisfying scratch. Horses will do this for each other in pasture and they don’t ask nearly as much as we riders do.

2) Make sure you have proper riding gear, including a helmet. If you are skeptical about the value of safety headgear please visit

3) Inspect the horse’s feet for any rocks, debris, loose or missing shoes, or cracked hooves.

4) Take a walk around the riding arena and check for rocks or debris that might injure the horse (or you, should you dismount quickly).

5) Inspect the tack—including making sure the saddle’s cinch/girth is tight enough, and checking the headstall, reins, and chin strap—for proper fit and signs of possible weakness.

6) Observe the horse’s movement and facial expression. Don’t get on an obviously agitated horse without knowing what is causing the agitation.

7) While still unmounted, make sure the horse can go over a two-foot obstacle without discomfort. If he can’t jump it or refuses, there may be a saddle fit or lameness problem that needs checking out before you mount up.

8) Make sure the horse will respond to rein pressure: If possible, wrap a rope of at least 10 feet around his rump (on the opposite side of where you are) and see if he will “unwrap” himself by following the pull of the rope and walking in a tight circle. Does he bend his neck or brace it? How well he responds to this will predict how well he responds to the feel of rein pressure.

9) Check for a horse’s responsiveness to your leg by applying pressure to his side with your hand or fingers, on his barrel just behind the stirrup. Notice how much pressure you need to move sideways a few steps.

10) If you have access to it, check the horse’s response to a plastic shopping bag tied to a riding crop. You would be amazed at how a loose Wal-Mart bag on the trail or in the arena can ruin an otherwise enjoyable ride.

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