I call it the “Green and Yellow make Black and Blue” phenomenon. As a Senior Certified Equine Appraiser and as an Equine Expert Witness I have seen numerous situations where nice, young, green horses have been ruined by very green “inexperienced” and scared “yellow” riders. Conversely, I have seen some potentially very talented riders end their careers early or riders who have always dreamed of owning a horse become injured or permanently scared to ride due to being overmounted on a green “untrained” and scared “yellow” horse. The two are like mixing oil and water. When parents call me for advice on this very subject, I ask them, “would you give your 17 year old keys to the car to teach your 16 year old how to drive?” The 16 and 17 year old may be excellent kids, but since they have very little life and driving experience, lack maturity, and may well react out of fear, their reaction to an emergency or fearsome situation may be very dangerous!
Young horses need correct consistency in their training. In my opinion, it typically takes a horse three times to learn a good or bad response. As an example: Say a young horse spooks at something and spins and the rider becomes scared. The rider does not know how to correctly fix the situation but knows he should try again. Upon trying again, the horse becomes more upset, spins faster and the rider falls off becoming “Black and Blue”. The horse bolts back to the barn where there is security and his buddies. The novice rider is not injured but scared, fetches the horse and loyally mounts back up. Upon trying a third time, the horse spins, bolts and bucks, unseating the rider once again. The horse has learned by unseating the rider he can get back to the barn. You have now officially trained bad behavior into a horse and it will take time and money to fix it. It will also take months to develop confidence back in the rider taking time away from developing good riding skills.
Because novices (including novice horse parents) are inexperienced, they do not understand that the value of a horse is in part due to their training, behavior/attitude and their life experiences. Whatever the discipline, it takes time and skill to train a horse properly. Time and money has gone into the training of a trainer, training of the rider and owner, just as time and money goes into training of a horse. They go hand and hand.
Individuals make the biggest mistake thinking that if they buy a young green horse for an inexperienced rider the two can learn together. Most believe they will save money buying a young unfinished horse. They do not want to spend the money on an older, finished horse to learn to ride. They fear a little arthritis, corrective shoeing or other minor issue due to age will be costly. But they do not consider the cost of developing a horse or the cost of ruining a horse!
If you are a young rider or inexperienced rider, the very best option is to find an aged, well-schooled and trained horse, that is mentally tolerant of novice riders. We call these horses “Packers”. Twelve to twenty years of age may just be perfect! This horse may very well have some lameness issues that can be managed with maintenance options such as shoes, supplements and injections. A very small price to pay for the thousands of dollars and hours put into the training and exposure to elements. And the horse may well be priced about the same price as the 3 or 4 year old green horse that you think would be a better buy. The difference is the novice will be the one putting the thousands of dollars into the training of the green horse. The novice may also unintentionally be setting their own training back as well.
Horses do depreciate when they reach around 12 years of age. Some fluctuations depending on the discipline. But that great training does not evaporate with the depreciation. Take advantage of it. Finished older horses with some maintenance issues are golden. Buy gold and be golden!