Before buying the horse

Before buying the horse

Buying a Horse Part #2

Once the decision is made to start shopping for a new horse, the fun begins! Last time I discussed methods of finding suitable horses as well as the importance of having an experienced second pair of eyes to assist you in this quest. Today I’ll outline the rest of the process to head you in the right direction of finding that special equine partner.

Once the decision is made to start shopping for a new horse, the fun begins!

Last time I discussed methods of finding suitable horses as well as the importance of having an experienced second pair of eyes to assist you in this quest. Today I’ll outline the rest of the process to head you in the right direction of finding that special equine partner.

Once you’ve found a horse that you are interested in meeting it is time to contact the owner, trainer or selling agent (whoever is in charge of the sale).

It is important to have a list of questions prepared and to take notes as you listen to the answers. If you are inexperienced then this is something that your trainer or experienced horse friend can do for you.

The questions should begin simple. Confirm the price, age, sex, height and breed of the horse — assuming you already have a bit of information about this particular horse. Ask what the horse’s background is, where he came from and what he has done. This information should tell you if he is a suitable candidate for what you are looking for.

For a second I want to stand on my soapbox and voice my educated opinion on the idea of buying a young horse for a young rider. Young riders should learn to ride on a safe and educated horse and then progress onto a more challenging but still a schooled horse. The decision to purchase a young horse should not be made until the rider is well into their riding career and then only under supervision.

Riding a young or inexperienced horse requires skill, patience and experience to be successful. A learning rider should enjoy the process of learning to ride without having the worry of the inconsistent, unpredictable behavior of an unschooled horse. Many riders have lost their confidence and desire to ride because of a young horse and many young horses have been irreparably damaged in the hands of an inexperienced rider. Enough said.

Continue asking questions about the horse’s behaviour — does he trailer well? Can you clip him? Does he bath easily? Does he like to be trail ridden? Does he tie? Ask why the horse is for sale. There is always a reason and it may not be exactly as stated. Don’t read into the answers but remember that this person is trying to sell you a horse, kind of like the proverbial ‘used car salesman’, and may tell you whatever they think you want to hear.

Ask about the horse’s health and soundness history. Hopefully they will be honest and disclose all relevant information, but that is also why it is critical for you to do your due diligence and have a veterinarian perform a pre-purchase examination before you buy the horse.

If everything sounds good and you are still interested then it’s time to schedule an appointment to take your trainer with you and try out the horse. Request that there be someone to ride the horse for you and demonstrate what its capabilities are; the seller should provide a rider. Watch carefully how the horse behaves and reacts as well as what it can do. Your trainer may decide to ride the horse to further assess its suitability.

If everything seems suitable then it’s your turn to ride. Give yourself time to feel comfortable and get used to the horse’s movement. Ride the horse at your comfort level and tell your trainer if you feel unsafe.

If the first try-out ride goes well and you are interested in continuing the process with this horse you can arrange to ride the horse again or to take the horse on trial. The question of letting a horse go out on trial is a loaded one, with many good arguments on either side. If you are on a program with a reputable trainer at an established stable it is often a possibility. It does allow you the opportunity to see if you bond with the horse and feel ready to purchase him or not.

If the owner declines the request for a take home trial, ask if you can ride the horse regularly where he currently is. That may mean extra driving for you but it’s worth the investment. After a few more experiences with the horse you should be able to determine whether the horse is what you are looking for.

The last step of the process should always be a pre-purchase exam. Having a veterinarian assess the horse from nose to tail will help give you the peace of mind of knowing that your new equine partner is healthy and fit for the job you are intending him. Discuss with your veterinarian your intended purposes and any concerns you may have.

I hope this gives you some ‘food for thought’ regarding this matter and a little help preparing for the day you shop for a new horse.

Shelly Graham is a local rider, trainer, horse breeder and Equine Canada certified coach.