Horse shopping can be an exciting and a scary time. You will be spending a lot of money on an animal that you only get to look at a couple of times before handing over the cash. I am by no means a professional when it comes to the horse purchasing world, since I’ve only ever been involved in the purchase of my old pony and my mare, but I learned a lot from the experience.
The single most important thing to do when purchasing or considering a horse is to go with your gut. I spoke to many sellers over the phone and their phone mannerisms often dictated whether or not I would make an appointment to view the horse. Sometimes, when viewing a horse, you get a gut feeling about the animal or the seller, whether it be good or bad. I find that it is often best to listen to these gut feelings. The very first horse we checked out seemed perfect, but there was something off about him. I just wasn’t sure that he was the right fit for us. It turned out that his eyes were beginning to show signs of what we believed to be cancerous tumour growth. Thankfully, myself and my parents trusted our gut feeling with him, and we didn’t purchase him.
It is also important to pay attention to the body language of the seller, as well as the property itself. We went to look at horses in the spring, when things were just starting to thaw, so all of the farms we visited were muddy and not in the best condition, but we could still tell which farms were well managed. The overall upkeep of the farm can be an indicator of the type of business the owner runs. A fancy barn doesn’t mean a better horse; my mare is excellent, and lived primarily outside. The family that I bought her from had a barn only for broodmares and foals, and the horses that buyers were looking at, as they often looked at more than one during an appointment. The body language of the seller can indicate their level of honesty. Sometimes these signs don’t indicate the quality of horse that you are purchasing, but an honest seller with a well-kept property is less likely to land you with a horse that isn’t what you bargained for.
When I went to look at horses I went with a list. I had created this checklist based on what I was looking for in my ideal horse. For my family, it was all about being bomb-proof, as these horses would regularly be around wheelchairs, and one would be used as a therapy pony. We included things related to health, like the vaccine status, and things related to training, like the familiarity with hoses, trailering, and the like. Your list depends on your priorities, but using the same list for each horse provides an easy way to compare prospects.
Purchasing a horse is an exciting time, because the possibilities seem endless. Each new appointment to try a horse comes with excitement. It is important to stay level-headed and open-minded in these appointments so that you can end up with a horse that fits well with you.
AQHA has a great article on things to consider when purchasing a horse, which can be found here.
Equine Legal Solutions also has an excellent article specifically for first time buyers, found here.