Shopping for Horses, in Method


By Doug Hamilton


I have bought a few over the years.


This is quick advice given to a friend who was going to go looking for a horse for themselves. 


Initially, this was written about traveling to Iceland to look for horses, but really this is just universal advice for going shopping for horses anywhere:


      In hearing news of people, I hear that you are off to Iceland soon to look for a horse.  You will have an incredible experience.  In thinking about it, I would tell you just a couple of ideas. 


            Firstly, in your mind, know what you want and judge against that.  You are well educated now in Icelandics and horses anyway, so look for what you want and be clear about that.     


            When you go shopping for horses, people will bring out all sorts of horses for you to look at. You are not obligated to ride any of them or to buy any of them.  If you see a horse coming that is clearly not what you want, be clear that you are not interested and do not bother riding it. 


            I tend to like to let the sellers start by riding their own horse.  That way I can see if it is in the ballpark of training and character of what I want.  If I ride a prospect, within a few moments usually I can feel if the horse is okay to the level of training I want.  Eventually I want to then know if the horse is independent and able to ride out and away on its own.  That is usually a combination of training and character that I am careful to smoke out.  If I am interested this is something I really want to know.  How jumpy, light and sensitive to the bit and leg?  How the horse is mentally?  Has the horse been taught to yield to the bit yet?  Can it be?  How soft or not is it?


In shopping, you will know the horse you want when you ride it by contrast with everything else.


If just from the ground you can see that a horse is not really what you want, you do not have to bother or risk riding it.  Just say you are not interested.       


            Look for the combination of talent and training you want and stick to that.  You will not have time to be riding everything nor should you.  I know that you want a good horse so it will take some work for you to find it.  Arrange as you can also to take some lessons with really good people.  They usually will help you network on to good horses for you.             


            There are always some trainers who just want to sell horses and they can kind of fall over themselves when they smell blood.  Once you get going in an area some will try to have you over to their stables and you can waste a lot of time.  You have to judge also the trainers as well as their horses.  There are a lot of horses and trainers who have little to show. 


            Really, you need not hurt anyone's feelings when you say 'no' to some horse they want to show and then move on.  In process, you have to do this so they will bring out the horse you want.  It is part of the process of narrowing down to what you want. 


            Then also in process look around for trainers or for riders who train horses like you want.  


For instance, I would suspect that the guy who was the recent head master at the Icelandic Riding School is a guy you ought to seek out and try to take lessons from.  I suspect he is the type of rider you want and trains the horses you want.  His name is Reynir and he lives in the Borgarnes area.  I spoke with him and he is a real solid guy with lots of classical riding background and completely rooted in Icelandics...the best of both.  He is well known and highly respected and people can help you get a lesson with him if you persist.  It would be worth your time finding him.  The same thing with Baddi (Baldvin Ari) in the North for instance.  Go visit him up in Akureyri. Ph.354 461 3845 or  It would be worth the trip.  A lot of really good horses originally come from up there.  There are other good people there too.  Lukka up North  also is a very good contact in her area to visit this way too.  Magnus Larusson and his wife, Svanni > are teaching at Hvanneyri Agricultural College over in the Borgannes area too ph.433 7014 895 2237.  Sigurdur  Oddur Ragnarsson 354 855 0913 near Borgarnes.  Eldhestar in the south is a good place to start a trip looking for horses. If you have never been to Iceland, you can take the flybus into town (Reykjavik) from the airport and then Eldhestar  can pick you up downtown at the bus station and take you outside of town to their farm and hotel.  From there you can then ride and sleep directly after your flight to get going looking for horses.  These are all good people who can point you to good horses.  There are many others too.     


            They will network you on to the type of horses that I think you will really like.  If you are only going to be there for a few days, you have to keep moving so do not feel like you need to be obligated to be entertained by everyone.  Just say thanks and keep looking.  Get up early and keep moving.  You can use everyone's phones and it is cheap to call around Iceland.  Once good people there see what it is you want then some networking can get going for you. 


            Keep notes on the horses you ride so that you can compare them as you move around.  You will know the horse you want when you ride it by contrast with everything else. 


            Everyone's sense of what is good is different.  People's pride can be prickly, a little thick and stupid may be too.  Just stick to yours.  Keep your eyes open.  Because you are experienced and you can ride, you will have a lot of fun with this.  


            It will be fun to hear your experience when it is over.  


        Good hunting!   Doug Hamilton