It’s easy for the population of unwanted horses which rescues handle to be falsely labelled by people, because at some point in the past the horse and rider were not well-matched for one another. Understanding how to pick the right horse can greatly reduce the number of equines at risk in our country.
Firstly, a potential horse buyer needs to have a serious heart to heart with themselves and ask, Do I have enough emotional, educational and financial resources to embark on this journey? Owning a horse is so much more than just buying and riding. If you’re not sure how to honestly answer this question, getting involved with a local barn or rescue is a great way to get your feet wet in the equine world without the huge commitment.
If you said yes, then let’s begin!
In order to have a positive horse-buying experience you must make sure that horse and rider are as well-matched as possible. Seems simple enough, right? Unfortunately, the world of horse buying and selling can quickly become a difficult and frustrating experience because so many people are selling or buying their equine companions for the WRONG reasons. The reality of the situation is there are a higher percentage of unethical horse sellers than there are ethical ones. At the end of the day most horse sellers are just looking to make a profit.
So how can new horse shoppers arm themselves to make sure they are getting exactly what they need out of their new companion? Talk to your vet and horse friends to learn as much about the industry as you can. Education is the key to success and the more tools you have to help navigate your way through the industry and its people, the better. You need to be able to ask good questions and recognize good answers.
Defining what you as a buyer truly want and need out of a horse is the first step to a successful relationship. Don’t let yourself be led astray by the 16hh, 5-year-old, unstarted, dapple gray Andalusian stallion when in reality you need the 15-year-old dead broke Quarter Horse (QH) gelding of any color. We are human and it’s our nature to be attracted to the beautiful and the challenging, but there is no faster way to the land of danger and frustration then getting in over your head. Be prepared to turn down a lot of horses because they don’t meet your NEEDS.
For example, if you are looking for a steady beginners’ trail horse, big enough for you and your husband, trail experience, bombproof, and sound – you NEED a middle-aged horse around 15hh or larger who has years of training AND experience out on the trail. He doesn’t need to be the most beautiful horse, but as it was said in our beloved children’s classic Black Beauty “Beauty is as Beauty does”. This example illustrates how you SHOULD be passing up the 6-year-old green broke, off the track Thoroughbred who has a sleek glossy coat and chrome to match. Being strong by sticking to your guns can save you some serious headaches down the road.
Sometimes horse sellers can be too good at what they do…selling horses. We call these individuals horse traders. They have a trick or answer for everything. The prettier the horse the harder it might be to resist their claims, explanations, and demonstrations. The point where this can be dangerous or disappointing is when horse traders go to almost any length to make the horse APPEAR to be exactly what you WANT. They can turn an 18-year-old, unsound, grey QH with a bad attitude into a 10-year-old, sound, happy QH. How can they do this, you ask? They have many tricks up their sleeves including administering pain killers and sedation to hide lameness and attitude.
So how do we protect ourselves against tricks like these? Education! Lean how to roughly age a horse by its teeth and to look at their body for signs of age, wear and injury (both past and present). Go watch lots of sound horses and lots of unsound horses and learn to see the difference.
Here is just a brief list of things to ask anyone trying to sell their horse (the list can be endless). If the seller has the horse’s best interest at heart, he or she will be more than happy to go over all of your questions. If the seller replies with quick responses that feel generalized and without detail, thought, or care – this should be a red flag.
- How long have you had the horse?
- Why are you selling the horse?
- What is the horse’s riding history? What has it done, seen, been exposed to etc..?
- How much training has the horse received, and by who? English, western, trail, specific discipline?
- Is the horse considered green or well broke?
- Has it been exposed to children, dogs, travel?
- What is the horse’s medical history, history of colic, lameness, or injury? Up to date on vaccinations, worming, etc..?
- How about it’s feet? Will it need shoes? Any history of founder?
- Can the horse be on grass pasture, in a stall, in a pen with other horses?
Remember to be courteous to all equine sellers. Not all of them are just out for the money and being a responsible horse buyer means being respectful to the seller and his/her time.
If you don’t feel you have enough knowledge to properly go through this process, PLEASE hire a trainer or vet to help you look at and evaluate a horse. You should always have a vet do a pre-purchase exam on any horse you are interested in buying.
Never be afraid to ask questions or ask for help.
CHR hosts a clinic for first-time horse owners or those interested in becoming horse owners called Purchase to Performance. (This clinic will be offered again in 2018, see our upcoming events page for details.)