Buying a horse is an important decision. You want a horse that suits you and preferably stays fit and healthy for years, without any frequent trips to the vet. But finding the right horse is not as easy as it sometimes seems. Often your feelings take over from your mind, because ‘he has such a cute face!’ Suddenly it does not matter that it is a 3-year-old unbacked stallion instead of the older experienced mare you wanted. How can you make sure you come home with the right horse? And what should you keep in mind when viewing a horse?
Before you start your search, it is wise to make a ‘wish list’. Write down all the traits that are really important to you, such as age, breed, gender, discipline, etc. Do not let the horse’s appearance play a major role in this. If you are only looking for a palomino with three white feet, there is a good chance that you will miss the perfect horse because it happened to be a palomino with just one white foot. How you further choose to compile your list depends on the goals you have with this horse. You will have different requirements for an eventing horse than for a reining horse. Your own experience also plays a role. For example, as a novice rider it may be wiser to have a well-trained, well-behaved horse that you can practice quietly on instead of a youngster who has little experience. Try to be honest with yourself in this and possibly ask your trainer for advice.
Do you have some horses in mind and would you like to see them? Then take someone with you who has a lot of experience and knows you well, for example your trainer or instructor. They will be able to look at the horse objectively and give you honest advice. In addition, they know your level of competence and they can estimate well which type of horse might suit you. Also, ask them to help remind you of your wish list to avoid making any wrong decisions at first sight.
Observe the behaviour
Not only the riding is important when viewing a horse, everything around it can already tell you a lot about the horse. How does it lead with the owner? How does it behave in the stable? How does it react while grooming and tacking? By observing its behaviour well you can estimate the horse’s character. In addition, pay attention to the horse’s conformation and health. Think of leg positioning, the condition of the hooves, abrasions on the mane and/or tail and stereotypical behaviour.
It is wise to have the owner ride the horse before you get on. This way you can take a good look at its behaviour under the saddle and its gaits. Unfortunately, it sometimes happens that a horse is sedated before riding, so you get a wrong picture. Have the blood tested by a vet if you suspect this. Is the horse good and easy to ride for the owner, it’s your turn. If riding in the arena feels good to you, you could also take a small hack out. A horse can react very differently outside than in the arena.
Clinical examination and transportation
Does the picture seem all correct and would you like to purchase? Always have a clinical pre-purchase examination by a qualified veterinarian. The horse’s overall health is examined and it is checked whether the horse is sound. If desired, a radiographical examination can also be performed. X-rays are then taken of the legs and possibly the spine to detect possible abnormalities.
If that is also all clear, you can proceed to the actual purchase. Make sure that you record any and all agreements about the purchase in writing in a sales contract. If something happens after the purchase, you have that to refer to. Also take care that the equine passport and any studbook papers are transferred, it costs a lot of money to apply for a new one and sometimes this is not even possible.
The last phase in the sale is the transportation of the horse to you. It sometimes happens that the seller offers to bring the horse to you. Of course this can be with the best intentions because they would like to see how the horse ends up. Much more often this is agreed because the horse does not or hardly loads onto the trailer or truck and the owner tries to hide this from you. Are you considering having your new horse brought to you in instead of picking it up? It is advisable to always check whether the horse loads properly. For example, you can ask the owner to put the horse on the trailer during a viewing. If they do not agree to this, often you know enough.
The purchase of a horse remains a big step. It is quite a responsibility to take care of such an animal. It takes a lot of time, energy and money. But on the other hand, with the right horse, you gain so much fun and relaxation in return! And that’s what we are in it for!