Should You Take On a Project Horse?

Updated July 27, 2023
A girl looking lovingly at her paint horse

Many horse owners will have the opportunity at one time or another to take on a project horse. You may feel like an open space in the barn needs to be filled, or have a project horse given to you unexpectedly. 

For many who do not have the financial means to buy a trained ride, buying a project horse may be a good option. If you are thinking about adding a project horse to your herd, here are some things you can do to make a responsible decision. 

What is a Project Horse?

Project horses need time and training to reach their potential and your riding goals. Every project horse has a different history. Learning as much as possible about their training and experiences is important to know if you are up for the challenges ahead. 

In some cases, project horses are very well trained at one point in their lives and have, for one reason or another, lost conditioning and muscling and need someone to refine or bring back their training. They may have become pasture pets after an injury, been neglected or abused, or just need a refresher. 

The Perfect Project Horse

The scenario surrounding a project horse might sound like this: a good friend from college has a sound thoroughbred she picked up a few years ago off the track but never had the time to work with. She’s had a few students ride him in the past, but he’s been living as a pasture ornament for the past two years. He has three lovely gaits, a knack for jumping, and a sweet personality.  You may come across this project horse and hate seeing talent wasted. How could you possibly say no?

Create a Project Horse Pro/Con List 

To help you make a sound decision, write a pro and con list for the potential project horse. Your list might look something like this:

Project Horse Pros

  1. Being able to advance or refine your riding skills with a new challenge. 
  2. If this horse is well-behaved and learns quickly, it is possible to teach lessons and earn money from this horse.
  3. Having a project horse to bring along could be a fun experience! Help them improve, grow, strengthen, and succeed.
  4. If the training or other plans don’t work out, you could sell the horse or lease them to another rider as a training experience.
  5. Potential companion horse to other horses at your barn.

Project Horse Cons

  1. Do you have the time to take care of a new horse, other horses, and life responsibilities?
  2. More expenses like feed, tack, boarding, and potential vet bills.
  3. Do you have the skills to advance this horse through their training challenges?

Getting Help

After you compile the pro/con list, see which side is more heavily stacked and if you can find attainable solutions to the problems. Once you decide, don’t forget to get some hands-on help with training and tackling challenges. Sometimes, project horses are more of a project than we initially thought. 

Don’t try to tackle this alone. Contact other riders, family members, trainers, and barn managers for support through the process. Nobody wants to see a talented horse wasted. So have fun with it, and remember it's all hands on deck, not a solo mission!

The information provided in the Horsemanship Library is based solely on our SmartPak authors' opinions. SmartPak strongly encourages you to consult your veterinarian or equine professionals regarding specific questions about your horse's health, care, or training. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease or behavior and is purely educational.