Buying a Icelandic Horse: How do I find my Dream Horse?

Pferd im Sonnenuntergang

Finding your dream horse is not that easy. We can tell you a thing or two about that - for Marie from #teamsportsfreund, it took numerous test rides until she found her personal dream horse. Why buying a horse is often more difficult than expected and what you should look out for when buying your dream horse, we want to tell you in our article.

Autorin: Karolina Kardel, 360 Grad Pferd

When you decide to buy a horse, you probably already have concrete ideas in mind. You know whether you want a gelding or a mare, a four or a five horse. There are also coat colours you like better than others, and you know your budget and how much your dream horse should cost.

It is good to have an exact idea of the future horse. After all, the horse should not only stay with you for the next two or three years, but ideally for the rest of its life. If you are keen on tobogganing through the forest, you should definitely not buy a three-horse - even if it has your favourite colour and fits into your budget. And if you are a fan of passport races, you will certainly not be happy with a four-horse in the long run.

On the other hand, a concrete idea of the dream horse naturally also means that the search becomes considerably more complex. Therefore, not only the head should decide. The heart also has a certain say: sometimes the planned dream horse is standing in front of you - but the spark just won't ignite. Instead, your heart beats for a horse you weren't really looking for, but found. A gelding instead of a mare and instead of a wind colour, the horse is a boring brown - except that with this horse, brown is suddenly no longer boring at all.

Anna Kesenheimer with Alrun: Two pace enthusiasts

What does a horse cost?

One of the most important points when buying a horse is the question: How much does a horse actually cost and what can I afford? Here you should not only know how much money you can spend on a horse, but also clarify the question: What do I actually get for my money? Does 6,000 euros really buy me a well-trained all-round leisure horse with an easy-to-ride tölt and wind colour markings or do I have to cut back on this budget and take a bay horse that does not tölt instead of a wind coloured horse?

In the following we would like to give you a rough overview of how much horse you get for how much money. Of course, there are always exceptions, and horses can be cheaper and more expensive. For example, whether you buy your horse from someone who makes a living from it or whether you buy your horse privately plays a role here. The location of the horse is just as important as the country of origin. In Denmark you can sometimes get "more" horse for the same money. The same goes for Iceland - of course, you don't have to forget the import, which also costs money.

Besides, a big horse with a special color costs more than a small chestnut with little mane, but which moves just as well.

  • 10.000 Euro: Solid leisure horse
  • 15.000 Euro: Fancier pony for small tournaments, youth sport, very young talented horses with little training, sport horses that are sensitive and demanding to ride.
  • 20.000 Euro: Young horses with a lot of potential, very well trained middle class horses, older horses successfully in sport
  • 20.000 to 25.000 Euro: Young horses with potential for LK1, very well trained sport horses
  • from 25.000 Euro: LK1 horses, stallions and mares with very good pedigree

This list serves as a guide and is completely non-binding and has no claim to general validity.

Claudia von Blumencron didn't have to look for her dream horse: she simply bred Töfri herself

What level of training should the horse have?

This question is absolutely important in the search. And it doesn't matter how old the horse is, whether it's eight or 15 years old. A young horse usually has more nonsense in its head than a grown-up, ten-year-old horse that is already at peace with itself. But you should know whether you are looking for an inexperienced horse that you would like to train yourself or a riding horse that has at least completed basic training.

Whoever buys an Icelandic horse usually also wants to tölt. That's why for us tölt is part of the basic training. Only with an oiled horse can you really assess how this gait is and whether you can ride it well yourself. You can see how secure the tölt is, whether it is more passable or more trotting and whether the horse needs more tension or more looseness in order to be able to tölt in time.

Furthermore, the horse's level of training is about what it knows and how much experience it has. Quite a few horses are broken in in a rush and sold as trained. But in the end, the horse can't do more than ride straight. Our tip at this point: Look carefully and ask the horse seller too much rather than too little:

  • Does it know how to train in the arena, on the oval track and in the indoor arena? Or has it only been ridden in the indoor arena because it is too skittish in the arena?
  • Does the horse know how to ride off-road - alone and in a group?
  • What about ground work, was the focus during training only on riding or was the horse trained solidly from the ground?

One more hint: The age of the horse alone is not decisive for the level of training. A ten-year-old mare that has been used for breeding most of her life and has only been under saddle for a short time is no more an experienced riding horse than a young, six-year-old gelding.

The dream horse looks different for every rider.

What temperament should my horse have?

In addition to the question about the level of training, the question about temperament also plays an important role. After all, you want to have a good riding experience. If you are a timid and cautious rider, you will probably not be happy with a horse that has a lot of go. If, on the other hand, that is exactly what you are into, you will certainly get bored quickly with a calm and leisurely horse.

Then it plays a role how sensitive your dream horse can be. Should it be able to forgive rider mistakes and inaccuracies or should it prefer to react promptly to every small change in seat? Sensitive horses are often described as particularly fine and easy to ride. But if you are not (yet) ready to ride such a horse, you will not be happy. And between you and me, there is absolutely no shame in not wanting to have a sensitive horse. If something doesn't suit you, you don't have to take on a new challenge just to keep up with others or to prove something to someone else.

How much do you want to and can you accompany your horse? Do you want to be a passenger after a long day at work? Then you should look for a horse that is motivated and well balanced. Other horses, on the other hand, need a rider who is constantly on, because otherwise the horse is jumpy or starts to run on the forehand in the pass.

What are my goals with my horse?

Do you want to go compete or do you prefer to relax in the woods?

Do you want to compete with your horse, do you want to be on the road and ride courses, do you mainly want to ride out, do you want to ride more demanding dressage lessons, do you primarily want to have a horse that looks good and for which you earn a lot of admiration? These points also play a role when buying a horse, because not every horse is suitable for everything.
If I as a rider enjoy riding in competitions, I need a horse that is sufficiently strong and has the right gait mechanics. If I primarily want to ride out in the forest or go on long-distance rides, the movement of the forehand is less important - but this does not mean that you should lower your expectations of the horse. We think that everyone should have a good horse. What "good" means in each case is, of course, individual and for one person a three-gaited horse is the best horse because she can ride super dressage lessons with it. For another, a fast five-in-hand is the best horse. What we mean by that is: You should not put yourself and your abilities down and say "oh, that's enough for me!.

Where can I find my dream horse?

The search for a horse usually starts on the internet. In addition to the relevant horse sales portals such as ehorses, or rimondo, it is always worth taking a look at smaller sites such as or There are even many horses advertised on eBay Kleinanzeigen. There are also various Facebook groups where horses are offered for sale. These sales portals can give you a good feeling for a realistic price-performance ratio. If there is no price listed, don't be afraid to ask. You will get a first idea of what you like - and what you don't. Our tip at this point: Don't just look at texts and pictures, but also at videos. You should always listen to yourself and ask yourself how you like the horse's movements. This way you train your eye and your feeling for what you like.

It is often worthwhile to have a look at the websites of larger farms and stud farms, where in most cases several horses for sale are presented. This has the advantage that you can look at several different horses and try them out. As already mentioned, it is not always the dream horse that moves in with you in the end.

Because you should definitely go and look at the horse more than once, it makes sense to look in the immediate vicinity first.

You should also ask your friends and acquaintances for recommendations and ask other riders with more experience for support.

An insider info from our own experience: When Marie from #teamsportsfreund was looking for her second dream horse, she had the opportunity to try out a total of 19 horses. She herself says that she is very grateful for the experience because she learned a lot. Of course, not everyone has to or can try so many horses. And you should also remain polite and moderate and spare the sellers' precious time. But if you want to buy a ready-made riding horse, we recommend at least two places to go. How can you know which riding feeling you like best if you have never felt it (we will come back to the subject of riding feeling later)? If you are looking for a raw young horse, the riding feel is of course irrelevant - because of course you can't test ride the horse.

What do I look out for during the trial?

A happy couple for over 10 years: Veronika Conen and Dagfari

When you have found the horse that suits you and have talked to the salesperson, you make an appointment to get to know the horse. The more horses you try out, the more you will get a feeling for what you like - a four-beater, a five-beater, a lively fire horse or a leisurely sofa horse. When it comes to the question of gait disposition, it is not only what you like that plays a role, but also what type of horse you are: If you have a high basic tension in your body, it can happen that you have too much tension for a harmonious ride on a five-gaited horse. If you have very little tension, you may find it difficult to ride well on a four-gaited horse that needs more tension.

There are also horses that demand more physical fitness and attention from the rider when riding. Not everyone likes this and not everyone can do it. Marie, for example, quickly finds a more intensive rein connection unpleasant. She prefers a horse that demands less contact and with whom she can stroll through the forest without paying attention. Her advice to all those who feel the same way: "I recommend that you just sit down like a sack for a short while during the trial and do nothing. Does it upset the horse or does it just become pacey or trotting and longer in the neck? !

Ask who has trained the horse and who has mainly ridden it so far. A comparable riding style will make it much easier for you to follow up.

And another tip: Take someone with you who has horse experience and knows you. Because one thing is clear: we as prospective buyers are not very objective. We might think the pony is so cute that we overlook the much too short back, for which we will never find a suitable saddle with our figure. Or we don't care that the horse under us only walks piggyback. Here, an objective observer helps to gather pros and cons. After all, ideally the horse should stay with us for the rest of its life and not have to leave after a year because we can't ride it properly and can't find a suitable saddle. Your companion can see whether you feel comfortable on the horse's back or are anxious and stiff.
Have your companion film you riding. The videos help you to objectively recognise afterwards whether you harmonised well with the horse or not. Do you like the horse? Do you like yourself on the horse? Do you harmonise with the size of the horse or does it seem disproportionate? A video of your trial ride can provide information about this.

In addition, your companion may think of points that you can't think of. Because there is one thing you should definitely do during the trial: Ask questions!

  • Where does the horse come from (if the seller is not also the breeder)?
  • Who trained the horse?
  • Has the horse had any illnesses?
  • Were there any accidents?
  • Has the horse had other bad experiences and is afraid of certain things?
  • How does it behave in the herd?
  • What does the horse eat?
  • How does it behave in the woods?
  • Is the horse afraid of the vet?
  • Is the horse afraid of the farrier?
  • Which shoeing does it have?
  • Can it be sprayed in a relaxed manner?
  • Does the horse know cars and meet them in a relaxed way?
  • Does it go willingly into the trailer?

You should also take a look at the equine passport. It contains all the important information: the age, the markings, the life number, the pedigree and the vaccination data. A horse passport that is not well maintained does not make a good impression!

It is best if you are allowed to fetch the horse yourself and get it ready. That way you can see how it reacts to you: Does it run away when you come with the halter? Then maybe it hasn't had the best training experience so far and has learned that it's worth running away to escape the unpleasant training situation - we'll tell you more about this in our series on the horse's learning behaviour. You will get a more objective picture and can get a better impression. Does it stand relaxed at the grooming place? Can it be touched and groomed everywhere? Does it perhaps have back pain and flinch when you clean its back? This, together with the appearance of the back, should be a first warning signal.

Let the current owner show you the horse first. Then you can see how it is ridden and how it moves under the rider. Our tip here too: Film the demonstration (but ask permission first). Then you can compare it with your own ride.

Don't be afraid to test ride, it's not a performance test!

During the test ride, you should always check in with yourself and ask yourself whether you feel comfortable and confident at the moment or whether you would prefer to just ride at a walk and get off again quickly. Do you have the confidence to do everything - including pass and canter? Do you get through with your aids? Can you ride a shoulder walk? It doesn't matter if the salesman tells you how much potential your horse has and how great he can become in the future. Because not everyone is a professional and can ride out what the professional promises. Instead, you should like the horse NOW. You should be happy, even if the development initially remains at the same level, which in many cases means that a lot has already been achieved. What is not uncommon, but also quite normal, is even a (temporary) deterioration of the horse.

In all this, don't just evaluate the horse, but also the relationship with the seller: Can you ask all the questions and do you get willing answers? Can you have a good conversation or is the chemistry not right? A good gut feeling is immensely important. A serious seller will answer all your questions when you buy a horse and can also give you a tip or two later on if there are any problems - after all, he (usually) knows the horse better than you do.

Do I have to buy the horse immediately?

The trial ride was good, you liked the horse. Now the question is: buy immediately? Even if the seller is pushing and says that there are other interested parties: Don't rush into buying a horse, but first go home and sleep on it. And if you are still sure that it should be exactly this horse, say yes.

In the best case, you can make a second appointment and ride the horse again in the field to make your final decision.

Is a vet check important?
Yes, absolutely! We strongly recommend that you do not forego the purchase examination under any circumstances. A vet will assess the horse's health and check whether everything is in order or whether your dream horse might be lame or have problems with the respiratory tract and cough every now and then, which the seller has not told you so far.

By the way, Marie found her dream horse with Marleen Stühler

Have you already found your dream horse? What hurdles did you have to overcome and what tips do you have for buying a horse?

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Abschwitzdecken von Sportsfreund Studios
Sportsfreund Studios

The Sportsfreund Studios blog contains numerous tips on dealing with horses. From fitness training to the learning behaviour of horses - you can read it all here. The blog is written by Karolina Kardel from 360 Grad Pferd.

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