Tips for Buying a Weanling

Searching for the Dream in A Young Horse

Do You Think it’s Impossible to Tell a “Dream Horse” from a “Dud Horse” at Even a Few Days Old?

picture of andalusian horse

Alot of people start out looking for a 2 or 3 year old Andalusian horse, "preferably under saddle". Do they realize how few purebred Andalusian horses there are? Even fewer pure Spanish ones? At first it's hard to believe there aren't that many aged Andalusian horses out there for sale. And then you get hit by sticker shock. Maybe you think it's impossible to pick out a young horse. You’ve found the “dream breed” and you’re ready to make an investment in the future. But you've realized by now that all the best horses are offered for sale as foals, weanlings, and yearlings.

So, how do you tell which one to buy? Since it’s so exciting looking at newborn foals and weanlings you’re sure to get emotional. You may even get frustrated.

Stop and think, what am I really looking for?

Do you know what type of riding you’ll be doing? Do you know the caliber of horse you require? Will you be doing dressage or reining? Trail riding?

Study in Advance. You’ll be confident you’ve made the right decision and proud of the youngster you bring home. Whether you’re looking for your first horse or adding to the ones you already have, it’s useful if you have a few ideas about how to evaluate young horses. After all, they’re gangly and small and under-developed compared to the beautiful animals they’ll grow into.

The best way to evaluate a young horse is by its closest relatives – the mother and father (dam and sire).

My experience has shown that the young horse will grow up to closely resemble his or her mother, with some of the traits of the sire thrown in for good measure. Hopefully you want the good traits of the sire thrown in with the good traits of the dam thrown in. Sometimes the foal can outshine either parent by careful planning and breeding. But most likely the foal will still not be “too far off base” from the parents. In other words . . .

“The Apple Doesn’t Fall Very Far From the Tree”.

Oh sure there are exceptions. Occasionally a champion horse pops up from out of nowhere. But that’s not how the top breeders do it. You want consistency. Even beginners with little horse experience can successfully choose a young horse. As long as they are very objective about the parents. But in order to do so, they need to know . . . . . .the breed standards. Study the Origins of the Breed. For example, the pure Spanish horse came from where? Spain of course. So looking at examples of fine Spanish breeding should be paramount if you’re looking to buy an Andalusian.

picture of andalusian horse

You know, besides the looks of the parents, their nutrition and health and the health of their offspring are important too. When looking at any young horse to buy you must take into account the care that the parents received while they were growing up and the care that your foal received while in the womb as a fetus. This is because nutrition is such an important ingredient to the final horse conformation product.

Breeders Who Are Intent on Producing a Good Product Don’t “Skimp".

Their job is to provide everything that horses need. They don’t “leave it to nature”. And if they truly love their horses, they make sure they have year-round shelter from flies, wind, and foul weather. These horses, after all, are making them profit. Wouldn’t you feel better about buying a horse from a breeder who ran a “tight ship” rather than one who lets the farm run out of feed, the water troughs get low, and stallions stand in stalls never getting turned out?

Isn’t it easier for you to judge the future potential of a young foal if both his parents “had everything” and reached their potential as well? Horses can be stunted early in life or even deformed if they don’t get the proper nutrition and exercise. Your veterinarian can help you evaluate the actual health of the youngster. Don’t forget to take into account the mental health of the horse you’re looking at. Even foals have personality. Foals need nurturing, buddies to play with, and lots of room to run outside. Isn’t your horse’s toddler years of social and physical development important to you? Of course.

What About Conformation?

The best way to judge the conformation of a young horse is to get out and look . . .at A LOT of them. And while you’re there, look at the parents and siblings.

Carefully evaluate the dam and see if you can find her traits in the foal.

Then look at another foal and dam. See if you can find the similarities there. Take along photos of horses from Spain, if needed. Review, review, review. For example, it’s easy to see and evaluate the topline of a horse where the back joins into the neck through the withers. If the dam has a notch in her neck at the withers like a Thoroughbred – doesn’t the foal have one too? 

Then try to compare between foals. Is the notch in that one’s neck a little less than the notch in the other one’s neck? How about hindquarters and balance. What about overstride. Winging? Toeing in? Traits or faults can be seen and evaluated in the young horse if you look hard enough.

The age of the foal will have a lot to do with your perceptions. A foal one or two days old hasn’t even had time to get it all together yet. He can barely stand up. But you can see that one foal has larger knees and longer bones with bigger joints at a day old than another one. At a few weeks old, you can see things like how upright the neck is, how long the back is, what the shape of the head is going to look like. At a few months old, you begin to see muscular development, the strength in the hindquarters, the slope of the shoulder, the reach at the trot. Upon weaning, some foals are stockier with shorter necks and others are more like a willow branch and float at the trot.

Learning the difference between traits and faults is an important task for the breeder-to-be. You should ask yourself, do I like the traits that the mare has? Does she have some minor faults I don’t like? if so, can any of these faults be bred out in one breeding? Or will it take years of breeding to correct the faults?

You should place a lot of value on what you’re seeing in front of you with the foal and his mother.

Then go back to your original goal. If you’re looking for a dressage candidate, does the mother look like she’d make a great dressage horse?

To sum up: Since there are so few mature Andalusian and Lusitano horses for sale in the U.S. you will have more choices with a young foal. Buying a foal is not much different than buying a stallion or mare. You can even buy a "trained" foal - one that has been imprinted at birth and handled often by knowledgeable horse people.

Skyhorse Ranch - Andalusian horse breeder in Texas with Andalusian horses for sale. Breeders of PRE Pura Raza Espanola horses with cartas from Spain. Selling black, grey, and bay Andalusians. Recommend Andalusian stallions at stud. Pictures, history, facts, and info. Spanish Andalusian horse farm. Bloodlines from Spain in the USA.

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