Know What You are Looking for in a Horse

You may have three or four things in mind such as age, soundness, size, and disposition. It really depends on your riding ability, where you are looking to go with your new horse in the future, and your price range (more expensive horses have more to offer!). This is a good time to analyze your expectations and question whether they are realistic. The best way to do this is to go to a horse sales site (such as and see what your “perfect” horse typically sells for; rather than just looking for horses within your price range, pretend that you have your choice of any horse regardless of price. Average the prices of all the horses that appear in your search to give yourself a good idea of how practical your expectations are.

Shop for a Horse

When you see one that catches your eye and meets your requirements carefully analyze all the information available to you; look at all the available photos, read the description, and watch all the short videos. If you don’t feel that you have enough information available to you e-mail to ask for more. This is good feedback for sellers; they need to know how useful their websites, descriptions, and other media are to you. Create a detailed chart showing all the potential candidates that you have screened with owner contact info, location, and asking price.

Accurately Describe Your Riding Ability

Be prepared to tell the seller how many years you have been riding, how many lessons you take each year, and what types of horses you have been riding or have owned. It is never a good idea to exaggerate your riding ability. You don’t want a seller to tell you that a horse is quiet when it isn’t; don’t tell the seller that you are a very experienced rider if you aren’t. My site offers a Rider Evaluation to see how compatible you will be with the horse you have in mind. This is a very general way to correlate your riding experience with the patience and potential of my horses.

Order a Video

Make the seller work to sell their horse; DO NOT DRIVE to see any horse until you have seen a video. If you see a horse that you could consider buying take this opportunity to ask questions not addressed by other media that you have studied. This is also a good time for you to describe your riding/owning experience and what your goals will be with your new horse. It is unethical and perhaps even illegal to sell a horse to someone if you know that it can’t physically meet his or her specific needs. Some sellers will be glad not to consider ethics if you haven’t described your goals for the horse. I like to know how the horse will be cared for and if you will provide a good home. This is a very important time for you because this is the time that you try to be the favorite potential buyer. Later on when you fall in love with the horse the seller will be much more willing to negotiate if the seller knows that you will provide a wonderful home.

Watch the Video with Everyone You Know

The more that you watch the video(s) the better that you will be prepared to ride the horse. It is usually a good idea to show the video(s) to all of your knowledgeable horse friends. Watch it with you trainer, farrier, vet, and anyone else you know who can offer you some insight on how well the horse will work for your goals.

Call to Schedule an Appointment

Be clear with the seller about what you are looking for in a horse and discuss your trainer’s thoughts on the video(s). You will get directions to the farm at this time. Some sellers do not give you their address over the Internet without first speaking to you over the phone, due the risk of horse theft. After speaking on the phone about the visit you should get directions via e-mail so that they can be very specific. Mapquest is not a usually a good idea for traveling to see a horse (especially with a trailer), as you may be driving into rural areas where roads may not be consistently marked; you may need directions that say “turn after the tan house with the red barns” in addition to mileage and road signs.

Meet the Horse

When you come to try the horse you should bring your own saddle, boots, and helmet. You will probably not need a bridle, girth, or saddle pad; these are usually personal items specific to horses like our socks and underwear are to us! When visiting the horse at the barn, ask questions about how the horse might behave in your own barn and how quickly he may adjust to your schedule. This is a good time to look over the legs and feet. If you see an old injury feel free to ask how it happened and how long ago. Keep in mind the things on your list and don’t pick at the horse too much. Pointing out each and every blemish on the horse makes the seller feel as though you are preparing them for a lower price; this may damage your status as the favorite customer. You should offer to tack the horse up yourself and to ride it first; this is the only way you will get an idea of what it will be like when you own the horse. If you are uncomfortable riding first ask the seller if the horse can be longed or ridden until you work up your courage. Once you are riding continue to ask questions and to talk about your ride, give the seller an idea of what you would like to do next so that you can get instructions or the jumps in the arena can be moved to suit your needs. If you are more of a beginner don't be affraid to ask the seller to give you a riding lesson type of experience; most would be happy and willing to do so. Don’t be shy, you drove a long way and have a right to get a really good feel for how the horse will behave under your riding. If you would like the seller to get on to show you other things that the horse knows and to also give you an idea of what the horse looks like from the ground don't use all of his energy on your ride!
If everything goes well give the seller a general idea of when you will be in contact again. If it didn’t go well, usually both know it, but it is still nice to send a note of thanks.

Discuss Price

Recall your price research and now do a search for how similar horses are priced to determine if your potential new horse is overpriced. You should only try to negotiate with the seller if they have suggested that they are willing to compromise on price, you truely believe that the horse is over-priced, or if you feel that the seller really likes you. It is never a good idea to threaten the seller by telling them that you will find another horse if they don’t negotiate. Sellers know that you were shopping in a given price range because you can afford it. You know how many horses you will be looking at in the near future and sellers know how many people are looking at the horse. You should never trust that you are the only one interested in a nice horse; keep in mind that if you like the horse someone else probably does/will too.

Take the Horse on Trial

If you had a good ride and liked the horse ask to take it on trial as soon as possible. DO NOT purchase any horse without a minimum trial period of three days; there is absolutly no reason not to allow a trial period! If the seller can't trust you, why are they selling you their horse? Trial periods: 1) keep you at the front of the line, 2) prevent the horse from being shown to other customers, 3) allow you more time to get to know the horse and/or get it checked over by your vet, farrier, and trainer. You should get an insurance policy and may have to pay a deposit as well as sign a contract. Needless to say, you should care for the horse very closely to how he would be cared for at home. This means feeding the same grain, supplements, and similar hay and providing similar turn out. Sellers love to hear from you during the trial period; send a few e-mails to tell how the horse is doing.

Buy the Horse

Make a plan to pay for the horse on time so that the seller doesn't have to report the horse stolen.