Buying your first horse can be a challenging ordeal, and if you don’t have an experienced trainer helping you look, you could end up in a very sticky situation. Horse sellers are not always ethical people, and many will do anything to ensure a sale. Every day, horses are bought that are inappropriate for their riders, and terrible accidents ensue.
To protect yourself and your family from the purchase of an inappropriate horse, follow the below guidelines explicitly and never hesitate to call on a vet or trainer’s advice.
1. Inspect the horse yourself.
Never send a friend to look at a horse, or buy one sight-unseen. In most cases, this is a rather large investment for you to make in this animal, and you should give yourself every opportunity to evaluate the purchase. Schedule a time to meet with the owner – the trainer, too, if one is available – and set aside at least an hour to look over the horse.
2. Ask to see medical records.
If the owner is experienced and knowledgeable, he or she will have kept an extensive record of shots, illnesses, injuries, and veterinary visits. Past injuries and illnesses can be indicative of chronic problems, and these should be primary indications of whether the horse will be right for you.
3. Ask to see papers.
If the horse is registered, the owner should have the papers for the horse and any necessary documentation. It will give the horse’s breed, color, lineage, markings, and any other relevant information.
4. Research the owner.
If you are buying the horse from a particular barn, research the history of the stable. Find out if other people have bought inappropriate horses, or if they were lied to during the buying process. This will give you an idea of the owner’s character and moral standpoint.
5. Ask the owner or trainer to ride the horse.
Before you step foot in the saddle, the owner should offer to give you a demonstration. To avoid any possible accidents, watch how the horse behaves for its owner, and note any obvious character or behavioral issues. If you think that the horse is too hot for you to handle, then don’t get on it. There are other horses to look at, and you don’t want to end up in the hospital.
6. Ride the horse.
If you are still considering the horse, ride it. Get a feel for how it moves, feels, and behaves with you on its back. Does it respond well to your cues? Does it stop when you ask? Can you control the animal?
7. Ask about habits.
Horses come with bad habits – that’s just the way it works. Some horses are cribbers (bored horses that suck and chew at the wood in their stalls) and others paw, kick, refuse to be bathed, and shy away from clippers. Ask about the horse” temperament and ask to see a demonstration. Have the owner cross-tie, bathe, clip, and hold the horse still while you watch.
8. Have the horse vetted.
To vet a horse means that you pay a veterinarian to examine the animal and determine any possible problems. They will take blood samples, x-rays, and perform lameness exams. This is crucial, and not a step to be skipped. Horse sales are almost always final, so you can’t return it when things start to go wrong.
9. Request to keep the horse for a week.
A solid, legitimate horse trader will allow you to put a deposit on the horse and take it home with you to try for a week. This will give you further insight into the horse’s behavior and suitability for your family. During that time, observe any potential problems that might crop up in the future. This will also negate the possibility that the horse was drugged the day you bought it.
If you follow the above steps, you should be safe when buying your first horse. If possible, bring an experienced trainer along for the ride who can better estimate the intelligence of purchasing an animal.