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Buying a Bulgarian Horse

Where to buy a Bulgarian horse is an often asked question. There is no doubt that buying a horse or pony for the first time is an exciting experience, particularly if you have come to Bulgaria from another country where you just simply couldn't afford it. It's easy to get carried away by a set of big brown eyes but the horse batting its eyelids at you may not be the right one for you. Beginners and first-time buyers frequently make common mistakes; over-horsing themselves or buying a downright "bad 'un", taking the fun out of what should be an enjoyable and fun hobby.

The most important advice we can offer is: if you don't know what you are doing, take someone with you who is really experienced. This will avoid many of the top pitfalls which new horse buyers make.

Top mistakes

Experienced horsemen will tell you that the most common thing they see are people buying an untrained horse. They are usually cheaper but this is seriously false economy if you are a beginner. Youngsters can look very cute but are not reliable and you could be putting yourself (and others) in danger. Older horses which are inexperienced and untrained can present an even bigger danger as they are much stronger and may not be inclined to do what you want, having been left in a field for the first 6 or 7 years of their life, contentedly doing nothing. If you are starting out, get yourself a horse which you can enjoy from the moment you get it home.

Many starting out into the world of horseriding turn down older horses in their teens yet many of these sound horses can be ridden for many years to come. Indeed, if you are only looking to do light hacking or driving, this could be just the most suitable partner. An older, well trained horse can really benefit the inexperienced rider.

It is a romantic idea to see your young horse grow up and train it yourself. Mixing young horses with beginner riders is not safe. Learn from a horse which has seen all the spooky things which the world presents to them and have fun.

A word about auctions. There are plenty here in Bulgaria but it takes a good eye to buy at auction. It is not unknown for horses to be drugged to make them look calm when they are in reality nothing but a bundle of nerves on a daily basis. Ill health and lameness can also be easily disguised. Auctions can additionally lead to impulse buying just because you so much want to go home with a horse. Don't buy that horse on first look. Go and see others. Buying on a whim could mean you don't select the horse most suitable for you.

It is sad to see numerous horse buyers purchasing mares with the comment, "Oh well, if it doesn't work out, I can always breed from her". There are plenty of auctions or sales where you'll see the harrowing results of this kind of unknowledgeable breeding experiment.

I must admit, as a beginner I did over-horse myself - another common mistake. He was just so beautiful, with excellent conformation and had been round intermediate level cross-country courses and won. The reality is that I shouldn't have bought that horse and was only lucky that he was incredibly kind. If you've only been riding a few months, steer clear of high performance horses as they are usually unsuitable for learning. Better to find one which matches your skill level.

Bear in mind the time and expense of looking after your horse. You can't leave a horse for the weekend unless you can find someone trustworthy who can take care of him. Be prepared for dealing with your horse, come rain or shine... or deep snow and ice.

Costs and care

As in other countries, the price that you will have to pay for a horse in Bulgaria will depend upon age and breeding. Many good horses never hit the 'open' market and are snapped up by neighbours and other locals. You are likely to pay up to 1,000 leva for an experienced riding/driving horse and 450 leva for a baby.

If you are big into spending or are really looking for a performance horse, then you'll be interested to know that the first ever elite horse auction took place last year in the village of Strazhitsa (north eastern Bulgaria). It was organised by the Bulgarian National Horse Racing Association, where nearly 50 pedigree horses took part and prices went up to nearly 28,000 leva.

Consideration needs to be given to the breed or type of horse you are going to buy and much of this will depend upon what facilities you have. The most popular breeds in Bulgaria are Eastern Bulgarian, Arabians, Shagyar and cross breeds. Hardy breeds will be fine living out all year but those of finer breeding will need to be brought in to stabling during the winter.

You will need to buy hay, particularly for the winter months. Prices vary from region to region but bank on 3 leva a bale. Check out with your neighbours, they will be a mine of information about where to get the best quality and prices.

Grazing can be a completely different ball game in Bulgaria compared with most other European countries. You will see horses out on common land all over the country. Your local Mayor will be able to tell you where you can graze your horse if you do not have sufficient grazing of your own. Remember, though, they may need to be tethered or cobbled to prevent them moving too far or causing danger to traffic.

As an experienced ex-endurance rider, I would long for a horse again here but, sadly, costs don't currently permit. Bulgaria offers some of the most splendid riding and driving country I have ever seen, with almost unfettered access to open countryside - and having the added bonus of no horrid gates to deal with. Get the right horse for your level of skill, saddle up and go !

Useful sites
The most famous equestrian stables and stud farm with horses for sale
The ultimate horsey visit with museum, tours and beautiful horses

Bulgarian Equestrian Federation

Horse riding club and horses for sale (Rousse) (Blagoevgrad)