A few weeks ago, I offered up several tips on how to market your sale horse. This week, we will be tackling the best practices of horse shopping and ways to ensure your purchase goes as smoothly as possible.
When talking about buying horses, it is always best that you have an honest conversation with yourself about what you are looking for before you start going out to try new horses. How experienced a rider are you? How much are you looking to spend? What skills do you want your future animal to possess? If you can’t write down the answers to these questions it means you probably aren’t ready to buy. Seriously! I could tell you some horror stories about impulse buys gone very wrong.
If you are a first-time horse buyer and you aren’t even sure where to start, I would recommend you get help from a seasoned pro. Many buyers will shop with their trainers or coaches to help narrow down the field. Generally speaking there are fees involved in this arrangement so have a thorough conversation up front as to the expectations of both parties. I have seen this work in several ways:
10% to 15% commission on the purchase price to be paid to the trainer who found the horse.
$100 to $150 assessment fee for the trainer to come with you to look at a horse you have picked out. Again, you pay this to the trainer for their time. The buyer should also cover food, gas etc. for the day.
Why is this a good idea? Your trainer knows how you ride and what type of horse agrees with you. Further, they will be working with you in the future and should have your best interests at heart to find the right animal. Often times emotion can be at play (it’s exciting to buy a horse) and you, as the buyer might be wowed by the flash of the first horse you see, even if it is not the right match. Your coach will help keep you grounded.
Let’s say you have found the horse that might be the perfect match while shopping online. It is perfectly acceptable to start a correspondence with the seller by phone or email. I like email since I have all of the answers recorded online. Find out about vices, maintenance needs, and the level of training. Why? Because if you buy the horse you will be dealing with all of these things down the line. Be an informed buyer!
Once you have found a horse online or through a coach, it is time to go take a test ride. If you make an appointment, show up on time. Wear riding clothes and bring your saddle just to make sure all of your bases covered. I like to watch the horse being tacked up so I can see that he/she behaves on crossties, see if it lets you pick his/her feet and isn’t too irritable being girthed up. I run my hands down the horse’s legs to feel for any bumps and lumps that shouldn’t be there. When it comes to riding time, I always ask to watch the seller or seller’s trainer ride the horse first. Take video of all of the gaits in both directions, especially if you are looking at a few horses. You want to be able to review the video after the fact. Again, this is a good way to prevent emotion from letting you make a bad decision.
Once you have found “the horse” it is time to get the vet out. Why, you ask? You wouldn’t buy a new home without an inspection and the same goes for horses. Schedule a pre-purchase exam with your veterinarian. They will give the horse a once over to be sure everything is looking good. If you are looking at more expensive horses, many veterinarians will recommend X-rays of key joint areas like feet, hocks and stifles. If you are looking at a very pricey horse, you might also include ankles and back in the X-ray list. A basic vetting starts at around $300, while a full workup with blood tests and X- rays can be as high as $3,000. Make sure you build this amount of money into your budget up front. You would hate to buy a riding horse that is unsound.