Are you considering buying a horse? Don’t know where to start? Learn how to protect yourself from dishonest horse sellers and feel confident in your purchase.
Whether you are getting you’re first horse or your third, you’ll want to make the best purchase possible for you and your family. Here’s how.
Ask yourself, how you will be using your horse. What type of riding you plan on doing will play a major role in the type of horse you will need. If you plan on competing in a physically demanding sport like barrel racing, hunter jumping or endurance riding you’ll want to consider the horse’s age and breed.
If you are looking at something you can pleasure ride with in less demanding arena work, parading or trail riding, age and breed won’t matter so much.
Papers refer to a horse that is officially registered with their ‘Breed Registry’. The horse will be given a unique identification number. The papers will show the animal’s name, I.D. number and bloodline ancestry of the horse. When a papered horse is sold, the papers must go with it. The new owner can then register the horse in their name.
Is it better or necessary to buy a papered horse? That depends on what you are planning to do with it. If you are in the equine breeding business, it is essential. Papers may be required to compete on a professional level in certain events, like jumping or horse racing.
Some people just like the idea of knowing that they own a ‘pure bred’ horse or they feel the horse may have a higher resale value. Do they? Not necessarily. There are too many factors involved to make that assumption. When buying a horse you must determine how important having a papered horse is to you.
A well-bred, papered horse that is too ill-mannered or untrained for you to ride is no fun. Remember, just because a horse is papered, doesn't mean he is well trained. If he is well behaved and he has papers to boot, that’s just icing on the cake!
If you are looking for a good, solid, broke to ride pleasure horse expect to pay $800-$3500. The more training a horse has, the higher the price.
If you plan on buying a horse that can go from 0-60 in 1.5 seconds and is a proven Jr. Rodeo winner, or a Warmblood with advanced dressage training, expect to pay a whole lot more.
Remember, horses that are very highly trained often will get frustrated with an inexperienced rider at the reins. Unless you are under the tutelage of a good trainer you may not be able to make good use of all that training and you very well might 'ruin' a very good horse.
Your money might be better spent on a horse that just has a lot of solid experience under saddle and is a reliable mount. Another thing...just because a horse has a high price tag does not mean it’s a good solid horse. Dishonest sellers will be counting on you to make that assumption!
Be honest with yourself when you are horse shopping. Don’t buy more horse than you can handle. That is a disaster waiting to happen and almost never turns out well. If you are a beginner stay away from:
When you are buying a horse, don’t get overly concerned with a horse’s sex, age, breed or color. Yes geldings do tend to be less ‘moody’ than mares, BUT that is NOT a hard-and-fast rule. There are plenty of ill-behaved geldings and well-behaved mares out there. Each horse must be evaluated individually.
Color does NOT matter. Better to concern yourself with things like straight legs, good feet and an even temperament.
Don’t pooh-pooh older horses. Newbies often put the words ‘old’ and ‘nag’ together as if older horses are something to be ashamed of and avoided. Nothing could be further from the truth. The level of life experience and training that older horses have to offer is worth its weight in GOLD.
By the same token, just because a horse is older, don’t assume it’s a well-broke sweetheart that you can put your grandkids on. Horses can be ill-mannered at any age!
Unless you are buying a horse to compete in a very specific sporting event, don’t place too much emphasis on breed. There are great hoses in every breed and awful horses in every breed. Take it one horse at a time.
It is more important to match your child to a horse based on their riding skill than the size of the animal. Regardless of size, you should only buy an animal that you really trust to carry a child.
Advantages of a Pony
Disadvantages of a Pony
A ‘good’ horse is a horse that fits your needs! What is good for one person is not good for another. Once you have an idea of what you want out of a horse, you can begin shopping.
By far, the best way to find a horse is through word of mouth. Start asking around and put the word out into the horse community that you are looking for a horse. Who are people in the horse community?
If you don’t know anyone, this is a very good time to jump in and get involved. Join a horse club. Volunteer to help out with your local horse 4-H or large animal rescue. Horse ownership is not a prerequisite. Take some riding lessons. Hang around the barn. Ask lots of questions. Ask someone if you can be present next time the farrier comes out. Walk into the large animal vet office and ask around. Let everyone know you are interested in buying a horse.
Often times these people will know of horses that are for sale or ‘looking for a new home’ but are not being advertised. These are the best leads to follow. These people are often familiar with the horse and can tell you a bit about its behavior and whether or not it might be a good match to your skill level. Because they have no personal interest in the deal, you’re more likely to get an honest review, before buying the horse.
The more you can learn about a horse’s background and history the better informed decision you can make. Try to find out:
Start checking the ads on your local craigslist under the ‘farm and garden’ section. You will see tons of horses advertised here. But before you get all excited about buying a horse…we need to address the subject of 'horse dealers' and cheats.
Don’t get me wrong. There are a lot of wonderful people selling wonderful animals on craigslist. But I’m not here to talk about them. I’m here to talk about distressed sellers and the lowest of the low….dirty rotten horse traders.
Distressed sellers are often those people who did not do their homework before buying a horse. They are suffering from buyer’s remorse. They bought the animal, only to find out:
All they want to do it get rid of it and get their money back as soon as possible. They are not likely to tell you any of the ‘bad’ things about the horse. How can you spot these people? Usually they have owned the horse for a short period of time…anywhere from 2 weeks to a year.
The less time they have owned it, the more wary you should be. Another telltale sign is that they have not been riding or using the horse. Find out why. Ask them about the horse's history, where they bought it and why they are selling it. Listen closely to the answers.
Dishonest horse traders are easier to spot if you know what to look for. Start by scanning your local craigslist ads over several weeks time. You will begin to notice that the same person(s) always have a different horse for sale. They may have several horses for sale at any given time.
You will begin to recognize their ad writing style and even start to recognize the same surroundings in the photos they post. They often don’t show their face in the photos. You will notice that they post ads in your area and surrounding areas very regularly.
You will begin to notice that every single horse they have for sale is completely sound and perfect in every way…how amazing!!!!
When buying a horse be on the look-out for fantastic claims:
Sometimes a horse trader’s ads are not so easy to spot at first glance. That’s why you want to make a habit of checking the ads regularly, so you can learn to spot them out before buying a horse off craigslist. These are real ads from a proven horse trader of the worst kind. Notice this person uses the same writing style in each ad:
They are underhanded salesmen in the truest sense. They will tell you anything and everything you want to hear whether it is true or not without batting an eye. For them it’s all about the money. They could care less about your safety or the horse’s well-being.
They have been known to use some very foul tricks to talk you into buying a horse from them:
Red-flag warnings to look for:
And the Biggest Red Flag Of all:
People trying to ‘get rid’ of horses often have something else in common. They have an incredible lack of interest in you. It’s the questions that they don’t ask that should cause you to raise an eyebrow. You will notice that no matter how inexperienced you are or how poor your own horse keeping facilities may or may not be, they are more than happy to sell you a horse anyway.
Honest sellers that have ridden, loved and cared for the animal will be very interested your horse keeping credentials. They want to feel confident that their horse is going to a safe, happy environment. They will be sizing you up and down as a potential owner as much as you are sizing their horse up and down as a potential purchase! Expect it.
Unquestionably, the number one way to protect yourself from dishonest/distresses sellers is to take the horse on a trial period before you make the purchase. This is also the best, surefire way to assure that you are truly finding your perfect equine match!
A trail period is when you take the horse home with you (before buying the horse) for a given period of time. You would not purchase a car without a test drive, nor should you with a horse. This is your chance for a complete and thorough 'test drive'.
Try to get a 30 day trial period. Don’t accept less than two weeks. If the seller refuses a trial period…walk away….no matter the excuse or reason for not doing a trial period…walk away.
If the seller doesn't trust you to properly care for the horse on a trial, why would they sell it to you? A seller that is truly interested in placing the horse in a good home will welcome a trial period. They will be just as interested in a good match as you are.
Why take a trial period as opposed to just riding the horse a few times before you buy it?
Use your trial period time wisely. Take advantage of this time to get to know as much about the horse as is possible. Ride him. Expose the animal to as many different situations as you possibly can.
How does the horse behave with grooming, saddling, under saddle, on the trail, with traffic, in the arena, around dogs, with the farrier, trailering, with new pasture mates?...Test, test, test.
Unlike a dishonest trader, an honest seller will want to see where the horse will be kept. They will show interest in the horse and ‘call in’ just to check up. They will often invite you to meet them during your trial period to go riding together so they can see how you and the horse are working out.
They will be pleased in knowing that they have matched their beloved horse with the right owner…You. This leads me to my next point…
If the horse is working out well and you are pleased with what you see, then you can feel good about spending money for a vet check on a horse that you do not own yet.
What is a vet check? It's a pre-purchase veterinary examination preformed on behalf of the buyer. The sole purpose for a vet check is to see if the horse you are interested in buying is suitable (from a health perspective) for your intended use.
This is a very specific exam for lameness, flexibility, eyesight, heart/lung, teeth, hoof and general over all health and soundness of the horse. The vet will also verify the animals age.
If the horse has arthritis, founder, bog spavins, recurrent uveitis (leading cause of blindness), navicular disease or any other health issue, they will find it. They will also be able to tell you if the horse is prone to any lameness because of conformation (the way the horse is built).
The information that you get from a vet check is your way of knowing if the horse is up to the job you have in mind. Realize that a horse that is not sound enough for jumping may be perfectly suitable for Western Pleasure in the show ring.
I highly recommend you get a vet check before buying a horse. You can rule out the horse having been drugged by a cheat. And the vet can spot health problems that were not disclosed or perhaps known about by the seller.
If the vet finds any health problems, then you can determine at that point if it is a deal-breaker or not. If it is not a deal-breaker for you, you can use this new information to haggle a bit on the purchase price. That's up to you.
Buying a horse, and making a sound purchase, is all about arming yourself with knowledge and doing your due diligence. It is very well worth the effort. Some say "buyer beware", I say "Buyer be Smart!"