If you are considering taking the leap and buying a horse, take a look at these handy tips so you can have a good experience in this process. Becoming a horse owner is a huge commitment, it is financially expensive and time consuming, but also well worth it if you buy an equine partner that fits your needs.
Before you begin
- Make sure you are well aware of the various costs that comes with horses; veterinarian, shoeing, boarding (or keeping your horse at home), insurance, etc. Buying the horse isn’t what is expensive in the long term.
- Make sure you have the time and energy to take care of your horse.
- Assess your goals and needs, the horse has to be suitable for you; do you want to compete? Do you want a family horse?
- Realistically consider your experience and the type of horse you want; do you need an older horse that knows the ropes? Do you want to bring a young horse through the levels?
- Determine what are your deal breakers; it can be anything from price or build, to age. Write a list of things you don’t want to budge on.
- Think of things you can compromise on; again, write a list!
Searching for the perfect horse may take a few months so be prepared for a long road and a few letdowns. The first step is telling your equine friends that you are looking for a horse, they may know of a horse that is not yet advertised. They are a lot of online horse classifieds as well.
When reading an ad, pay attention to what it says as well as what it is not saying. For example, why doesn’t it say that a horse is sound or vice free? Write down these questions so you won’t forget to ask the seller.
It is always best to ask plenty of questions to the seller before making the trip to see the horse.
Try to find out more about:
- The horse’s experience
- His temperament
- His competition record
- His health record
- The reason he is for sale
- If he is good alone and in company
- His current lifestyle (lives in a stall or outside, ridden every day or once a week, type of feed, type of bit, etc. so you can replicate it at home)
If the horse still appears suitable, it is time to set up a visit. Try to take a trainer or someone of experience with you, they can see things that you don’t and will often be more objective about if it’s the right horse for you.
Pay attention when the horse is tacked up before the ride, it can give you good indications of his temperament. Use this moment as well to take a good look at his conformation. Look for clues that the horse was worked or made quiet before your arrival (sweat marks, lack of hay and water in his stall).
Make sure someone else rides the horse first and video the horse so you can have a look later, at home. If you are viewing multiple horses, this will help you recall them better at the end of the day.
Remember that your first impression counts! If the horse has good manners and temperament and you have a good connection with him, it is often more important than the type of the horse.
If you decide to go forward after viewing the horse
- Ask if the horse is on any medication or supplement, for how long and why
- If possible, view the horse 2 or 3 times before the purchase
- Try to ride the horse in different environments or at different times of the day
- Do a pre-purchase vetting with your own vet (at least, not the seller’s vet)
- It is always best to include a drug test and X-Rays
The pre-purchase vetting isn’t a “pass or fail” type of test. Try to be present so you can discuss any issues with the veterinarian and ask for his opinion. A set bowed tendon might be a deal breaker for an upper level horse, but it may be fully suitable for a lower level or a pleasure horse.