I have been on several horse buying ventures for students, clients
and myself. I would like to pass along a checklist of items for
you to consider and implement while you are looking for your next
an Interview Document.
search for a horse similar to questions you might have for a human
business partner. Ask these questions of the horse you are considering.
- Do you
have the same goals that I do?
- Are we
- Are we
- Do we
share the same outlook toward work and training?
- Do our
skills and knowledge complement each other?
- Can you
stay quiet in your work even though I can't ride you as often
as I would like?
- Or can
you handle a great deal of work toward a performance goal?
- Do you
require a great deal of medical maintenance to be comfortable?
- What kind
of budget is it going to take to keep you comfortable and happy
to be ridden and used?
- Are you
safe even when you are scared?
- What is
your background? How much under saddle experience do you have?
- What have
you accomplished under saddle?
2) How to
find horses for sale
- Word of
mouth is still the best way to find out about horses for sale.
Ask around your barn, your tack store, trainers, other horse
owners if they know of anything that might work for you. You
never know, your next horse could be standing right in front
of you. The gossip chain is alive and working in the horse world!
- Check your
local bulletin boards and organization newsletters. Tack and
feed stores usually have cluttered bulletin boards full of useful
information including horses for sale. State, county and local
organization newsletters often carry classified ads with a horses
for sale section. Your local newspaper will also feature a horses
for sale section.
the web. There are thousands of websites featuring horses for
sale. www.dreamhorse.com is helpful in that it narrows the search
to each state and breed.
3) When you
contact the owner or agent of a horse for sale have a list of
questions ready to ask.
- Tell them
what you are looking for, what level of rider will be riding
the horse, what you absolutely will not accept (for example:
no cribbers, no navicular problems, no stall walkers or weavers,
age, height, color, sex, asking price are at the top of the
of horse's past experience
- What is
the horse doing now?
- Is the
horse currently taking any medications?
4) If the
answers suit your needs then set up an appointment and tell the
owner/agent you would like to see the horse without tack when
you arrive, and that you would like to see the horse ridden before
you try him or her out. You may want to bring your own saddle
in case you do not fit their tack.
5) From a
long distance - If you are interested but too far away to see
the horse in person then request a video. If after viewing the
video you are still eager, ideally, you should have a friend or
trusted professional check the horse out for you or if you can
afford it, drive or fly to see the horse and plan to ride the
horse two days. People do it, but I certainly would not buy a
horse sight unseen unless I had a trusted friend or professional
to fully support the purchase.
to the check the horse out for the first time:
on time and be dressed to ride
the surroundings and how the horse is presented to you (Is it
a clean safe environment and is the horse beautifully and professionally
- Take a
knowledgable horse friend or professional with you to give you
a second opinion. Sometimes they will see things you do not
because you are so involved with the horse and owner.
- Go over
the horse from head to tail with your eyes and hands. Check
his mouth for proper teeth alignment. See if he will let you
handle his ears comfortably. Ask him to pick up a foot, he should
gladly give you that foot. Look for injuries, scars, bumps and
ask about them all. What is your first overall impression?
- After the
first inspection, ask that he be tacked up. Watch how he is
bridled and saddled and what kind of equipment they use. Is
he comfortable and happy about it all or are their signs of
stress and fear? What kind of bit are they using? Does the saddle
the horse under saddle: If the rider/trainer asks what you would
like to see ask that he/she just go about their usual warm up.
Watch carefully to see how comfortable and happy the horse is
about his/her work, canter leads, etc. If there is more you
would like to see such as lateral work or more advanced movements
ask for it. The trainer/rider will either explain that the horse
is not at that level of training yet or he/she will perform
it for you. Just don't hesitate to ask for what you want.
- Now it's
your turn to take the horse for a drive: If you are less experienced
you may want to ask your friend or professional to ride the
horse. But if possible, get on the horse and feel what they
are like to you. The riding relationship is very personal and
you have to feel comfortable. Try all three gaits and make sure
the horse has sufficient knowledge of "whoa" and "go". It is
acceptable if your friend wants to stand in the middle of a
circle and basically give you a lesson on the horse.
helpful exercise is to take the horse out on the trail or in
a field to see how they go outside of an arena. They should
be able to perform all three gaits comfortably and quietly with
sufficient brakes if you need them. You may want to have your
friend walk beside you or take another horse to accompany you.
- If you
still like the horse, ask to come back again at least once maybe
a third time to make sure he/she is the same horse everytime
7) Most sellers
are negotiable. They publish or tell you an asking price but are
open to offers. I have come across one owner who is always firm
on her prices and she will tell you that upfront. She has evaluated
her horse and is confidant in the price and you either take it
or leave it.
8) When you
make an offer on a horse have your offer points in line. You have
a price to offer and then give the reasons why you are offering
this price. If you are lucky the owner will accept your offer
and you can begin the purchasing process, on the other hand the
owner may want to get back to you which is perfectly normal. The
owner may make a counter offer and as in real estate or buying
a car you may be negotiating back and forth a few more times or
one of you may set the parameters and be done.
9) Now that
you have agreed on a price you need to contact a trusted veterinarian
to conduct a pre-purchase exam. I highly, highly recommend the
pre-purchase exam. You need to know exactly what you are getting
with no suprises later on. The cost will vary from vet to vet,
location to location but you can expect at least a $200-$300 bill
or higher for this exam and it's worth every penny.(I've seen
situations where the buyer waived the exam and the horse turned
up wtih a screw holding one of his bones together or a disease
in his hock joint that could have been prevented.) The vet should
check out the horse's general health, teeth, legs and feet, give
flexion tests on the leg joints and take X-rays of the hocks,
knees and feet. If the vet finds a problem that you can live with
you can inform the owner and make a new lower offer based on the
vets findings or you may decline the horse due to the problem.
It just depends on the severity of the issue, and what you plan
to do with the horse. If you are pleasure riding a few times a
week then many physical issues can be overlooked but if you are
planning to show and perform seriously with the horse the problem
may be enough to disuade you from the purchase. Your vet can help
you make these decisions for the future.
10) If the
horse passes the pre-purchase then you will need to discuss with
the owner how he/she would like to receive payment. In exchange
for payment you should ask to receive the horse's registration
papers (if any), Negative Coggins test, any X-rays or medical
papers they may have, vaccination, worming and shoeing records,
and brand inspection card (if any). Each state has its own veterinary
travel requirements and if the horse will cross state lines you
will have to have those documents secured before the horse travels.
Many national horse carriers will include this process and documents
in their shipping price.
a reliable and responsible horse shipper is also best accomplished
by word of mouth. Everyone at one time or another has probably
shipped a horse so ask a vet or a trainer who has done the best
job. Prices may vary but you want the best possible as it's not
worth risking your horse's health over saving a few dollars.
the arrival of your new horse have your vet do a simple general
health exam. Horse's can go through a great deal of stress traveling
long distances and their immune systems can be compromised. Catching
a cold or a respiratory infection is not uncommon. Give your horse
lots of comfort when he/she arrives. Spend as much time as possible
for at least the first three weeks with him/her. There are considerations
for horses coming from hot weather to cold or going from sea level
to high altitude and visa versa. Make accommodations for these
changes and give them time to adapt without stress.
the horse will be everything you expected but if you have questions
most owners will be happy to hear from you. Don't hesitate to
contact me if you have questions about buying a new horse.
Resources PO Box 20187 Boulder, CO 80308 USA