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When looking to buy a green horse for a specific discipline (in my case, eventing) what kinds of things should I be looking for? What specific conformation or personality traits? Soundness, of course, I get a full vet check (bloodwork, x-rays, etc.) on any horse I buy, but is there anything else?
Well you need to make sure the horse is not too green or course, a little training under their belts always helps. You need to be sure that you can handle the horse in question. Some green horses are hard to control unless you are very experienced and it is alway important that the horse and rider mesh well together. Believe me, there is nothing more frustrating than riding a horse that you cannot seem to get along with. Look at the sire and dam and ask about their personality and bloodlines and other offspring. It may help tell you how successful your horse will be. Always look for great conformation: upright pasterns, good hoofs, a strong back and good muscle tone and always ride the horse before you buy it. Happy hunting!
ATTITUDE! For eventing, you want a horse who is bold, confident, and, to be quite blunt, intimidating. You don't want your horse to spook at jumps or crowds of people. When it comes to eventing, especially in the jumping phases, the bigger horse with the bigger heart usually takes the medal.
You should probably look for something that has a confident and independent attitude, but not something that you will not feel absolutely comfortable riding. Also, you don't necessarly want something that jumps into everything head first, it's nice to have a horse that 'looks' (not backing off ) and pays attention to what he/she is jumping. Note that bigger is not always better (particularly in eventing- In case you doubt me know that I successfully ride a 14.1 pony at the Prelim. level) so unless you are really tall I wouldn't suggest looking at anything over 16 hands. As someone already stated to look at horses with good conformation... as this will increase soundness in the future and allow for a longer career. Basically make sure they have fairly clean legs and are well balanced and proportioned, even if they don't have perfect conformation. Definately ride them... if you are really interested ride a couple of times- and bring your trainer along with you. You don't want to rush into things (it's hard not to, I know)... but you want a good partner that you can work with so you can take care of each other, so unless you are completely sure don't feel that you have to buy him/her. As always-like you said- get them vet checked BY YOUR VET! Good luck!!!
Why go for green for eventing? I mean, I understand the concept and the philosophy... and the reasoning behind training a new horse specifically for your purposes, but... eventing's not easy. I'd be scared to take a green horse eventing. They're usually fairly young... have you checked out how many people in the eventing world have been successful with green horses? How many years of training did they have with those horses? It'd be good to ask somebody you admire in the eventing world this question you are asking random internet browsers. Ask if it's better to get a stallion or a gelding, or a mare, too. They'll each have different temperments. Ask your own trainer - who knows your style of communication with horses what they would suggest.
I think it could be a good idea to train completely for your purposes, but at least basic training would be a must, I would assume. I mean, it's a huge jump to take a green horse into an event and expect them to do well, no matter how confident they are - only because it's such a dangerous sport for both horse and rider. That said, look for Dutch Warmbloods or Thoroughbreds (they're generally the most successful eventing - they're bred for it), generally at least 16 hh. Look for a horse who loves to show off, but also can keep it in control, and that you're comfortable with. Remember, dominance is great, but especially being green, training's going to be long and hard if the horse is also stubborn. Eventing's not just about jumping and cross country... it's also about dressage and form. The bigger the horse you get - and the more controlled you can keep that horse in the show ring as well as the cross-country, the better you'll look riding it. Getting a horse with attitude is great, but keep in mind that you'll have to balance that attitude by letting the horse know that while he's supposed to intimidate every other horse and other person around the show event - at the same time that he can NOT intimidate you. Ever. It'd be a shame to put all that time, work, energy, money, and effort into training an event horse only to realize the thing's just too much horse for you or too stubborn.
I'm curious as to your previous riding experience, especially eventing.
I only ask so many questions because eventing is what I always wanted to do, but before I got to that level, ran out of money (expensive sport). I think it seems like the most fun a person could possibly have riding english. It's got adventure, class, intrigue, mystery, history... Now that I've got a little savings, I figured it might be fun to check out getting back into. I've been researching eventing specifically, looking at the horses and riders who have been the most successful and trying to figure out how/why. If I were you, I'd try contacting one of them or their trainers, and asking those people - folks with years worth of experience, as well as taking your own trainer's advice because that person will know your communication style with horses and will be able to help you find a good match.