Ranch Horse- What I Look For When Purchasing

posted by Stran

When looking for a horse, whether it be a rodeo horse, ranch horse, or kid horse, there are a few certain qualities that I specifically look for. For this particular article I want to focus on what I look for when looking for a ranch horse. You can characterize the 3 qualities as look, touch, feel.

The first of these is confirmation. What does he look like? It takes just as much time to make an ugly horse as it does to make a good looking horse. It might not matter to you what your horses overall appearance is but if you ever try to sell him I promise you it will make a difference to the person who is trying to buy him. When looking at confirmation I start from the ground up. What kind of feet does he have, Are they black or white? Does he have any heel? Is he mule footed? Is he thin or thick walled? What I would like to see is for him to have 4 black hooves with a nice foundation to support. Next, what size bones does he have? Is he a small, medium, or large boned horse? Preferably I like to have a medium to large bones horse. Are his joints clean? Examples does he have any scars, or wind puff, or is he swollen. Very Very important check their knees. Ankles don’t bother me as much as knees. As of yet I haven’t heard of any horses getting knee replacements.  Always remember this “Legs are what feed the wolf”. A horse is only as good as his weakest leg. Next thing I look for is how his neck comes out of his shoulders. Is he high headed or low headed? This will have some indication on how he will travel. Then is he lower in his withers than he is in his butt? This is another indication of how he might travel.

Next is touch. Is he gentle or is he spooky? This is where my priorities have changed over the years. When I was younger and single with no children, it didn’t bother me as bad to have a horse that was really watchey and spooky. In fact that was something that I wanted. But over the years, after being married and having kids I’ve needed to change over to a more gentle horse. I cant take a chance on a horse that might spook and kick or jump on top of you. Its become more of a priority to me now to have a gentler horse that my wife, my boys, and now my little girl can be around and hopefully be able to ride.

Last is feel. The ride. The first thing that I look for is how does he move out. Does he know how to handle himself in different types of terrain? Not just the arena but more importantly the pasture. Does he know how to cross a canyon, a ditch, water, maneuver through cactus? Is he up in the bridle or does he not want to go where he forces you to kick him? Will he hit a trail and stay in it?  Is he sure footed or is he always stumping his toe and tripping?Does he move out on a slack rein or is he always forcing you to pull on him? Will he calm back down and take a slower gait after you have him going fast? Will he watch a cow and get in front of her and if so will he back off and not get chargy.

Depending on your level and your need you can prioritize these three qualities. Preferably they have a good balance of all these things. I have a system that I rate a horse on each from 1 to 10. The better the horse is on each one of these qualities you can adjust the price up and down accordingly. Another often asked question is what should I expect to pay for a good young ranch horse? You can expect to pay somewhere in the neighborhood between $7,500 and $12,500 for a horse that I would rate 8 or above in all three categories.

Here I’ve got Marcos demonstrating how we look for these qualities. 


Here is how you check if you have control of your horses head.


This is a good way to check for a horses flexibility. Bend them to each side.


Here I collect my horse. I do this at all stages. Walk, trot, lope. Pictured is at the walk.


This is at the trot

This is at the lope. It doesn’t matter what horse you are riding. You can apply this to all horses. I like to have them collected with their head level.


It doesn’t matter if a horse can do a sliding stop and slides 5 yards. I just want him to be able to stop underneath himself and use his butt. Their butt is their power source not their front end. You don’t want them to stop on their front end.


I want my horse to get back with his head down level. You don’t want their head up in the air and you don’t want them to drag their front feet while backing up.

Another thing I like to check is to see how he turns around. The main thing you need to watch is if your horse can turn and keep his inside back leg stationary and pivot around it.



Categories: Life, ranch Tags: , , , , , ,


  • Clint Casterline says:

    Stran this is Clint Casterline how is the grey horse doing? Also is Marcos around I met two guys that said they lived three miles from him in Brazil and would like to get in touch with him! R u guys gonna b ropin up north this summer? I told them we could probably drive and meet u someplace! Around the mid of July

  • Kael Drake says:

    I really liked your post! I’ve been thinking about moving my family to a horse ranch for a few years now, and we naturally are going to want to buy horses to raise there. I haven’t ever bought horses before, so I liked that you mentioned how important it is to do a visual inspection of the horse before you buy him. You list several things that I should look out for, like what kind of feet the horse has, or the size of his bones. I’ll make sure to keep these things in mind as we look to buy horses for our ranch! Thank you for the help!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *