Horse Buying Checklist

10 things to look for and three things to avoid when shopping for your new horse.


What to Do When Shopping for a New Horse

  1. Have a vet evaluate your prospect for soundness before purchasing, but be realistic: The age of the horse is a big factor.
  2. Pay attention to the horse’s attitude and disposition. If your horse has an attitude problem, it will be extremely difficult to ride.
  3. Choose your discipline and objective, and stick with it.
  4. Choose a breed you prefer, but be willing to look at other breeds for comparison.
  5. Set a price range, but be willing to go above the range by about $1,000.
  6. Set an age limit, but be open to a span of five years around that age.
  7. Figure out ahead of time what questions you want to ask the seller.
  8. Choose a horse with good, quiet ground manners.
  9. Choose a horse you can develop a relationship with.
  10. Decide what perfect-horse aspects you can sacrifice in order to meet your budget.

Avoid These if You’re a First-Time Horse Shopper

  • Auctions: Horses that are auctioned off usually wind up there for a reason, rather than being sold through the general market. You don’t need to find out why. For the most part, these are mystery horses and not much is known about them. You often won’t have much chance to ride them or talk to their owners. Unless it’s a reputable breeding farm where its reputation is at stake, stay away from auctions.
  • Buying a horse that has “potential”: Buy a horse that has potential only if you are the gambling type. That is what equine potential is – a gamble. You may have to fork out a great deal of training money to get that potential out. Weigh this against the asking price of the horse, your goals and your abilities before you jump at a horse with “potential.”
  • Buying a horse that is green: The old saying “green horse, green rider” is very true. A novice with an untrained horse can be a terrible combination. You may end up spending a lot more money for training your young horse than you ever dreamed possible.

Further Reading
Be Smart When Horse Shopping


  1. i have to say this is a great checklist and To Do list! because my mom baught my horse sight and scene from alabama! and we kind of got jipped and weve put a lot of work into her over the last 8 or so months and im still not on her!! but i love her to much to let her go

  2. Hey horse channel. I see that you have a point about not buying a horse from an auction but those horses are most glue horses so wouldnt you want to save them?

  3. Nice checklist. But there is one thing: the auction block. I live in Canada (please excuse the fault of location below) and most horse buyers that do not have $5000 ready (I know only one horse person that can buy for so much currently) have to go to auctions. My horse club, realizing this, spends atleast one meeting at an auction to educate about the best posibble way to buy at auctions. We also run lists on the best auctions to go to. Heres the tips I can give:
    Do not take the sellers word, in most cases it is a twisted form of the truth.
    No excuses allowed for Conformation, dispostion and gender faults. Study up before you go and take a knowlegdeable person along.
    Be prepared to give up some money for future trianing bills.
    If anything seems wrong don’t buy!!!!
    I bought my horse at an auction and yes she has many problems although all are training problems. Some magazine of the HC should run an article about auctions because there are some many especially young riders that go to auctions.

  4. Hi I’m not trying to sound rude but some of the best horses can come from auctions.You are saving animals from slaughter or other bad homes.And some people like to buy green horses for the challenge.

  5. VERY helpful im 12 and im looking for a great first horse i am to the level trotting so this really helps im going to answer all those questions and i know that ill find the perfect horse for me!!!!thanks

  6. My horse was bought from an auction and she is wonderful, but not one of the diamond in the rough. She has show records, papers and came in great health. It’s just making sure that you know conformation by sight, go to a reputable auction, not some backwoods in the middle of nowhere kind of place. Also, it helps to take a knowledgable horse friend or mentor with you to help assess. Arrive early at auctions to view the horses before and go ahead and mark which ones you’re interested in so far. You can find great horses in auctions, you just have to know what you’re looking at and looking for.

  7. i found this pretty helpful im 13 and doing partner trot(paralel) work in Dressage on a beautiful danish warmblood. i reall would like to own a fresian i LOVE them!but i would most like doing show jumping or eventing.

  8. I think that all this information is good. One thing I would like to much as another person had mentioned is to take a respected horse owner or mentor with you. I took two with me to look at my first horse. I’m glad that I did took them with me. I would also check around to see if anyone knows that dealer or horse person. Not to make anyone mad but a lot will lie about somethings about the horse to get rid of it. If you aren’t experience with horses in the market then don’t go to horse auction. I couple of my friends got wonderful horse from them but they had experience with horses to know the signs of druggie and everything else that goes with auction. Great comments too from people. Thank you to everyone that has said something about this article. Thank you to the person that wrote this

  9. Oooh come on you can buy a green horse!! there the soo fun to ride and train! I ride a green horse and were eventing for the 2end year….hes soo fun. But i love to ride the trouble makers tho

  10. hey you guys your so right some of the best horses come from auctions i got my horse from an auction when i was 10 and now im 15 ive had him ever since hes a registered tb gelding hes a bay 15.3 hands his name is Peterpan and he just turned 9 we do english and i just started doing three day eventing its so much fun im nervous for my first competition though any tips tell me about your dream horse if you have it or not!!!!

  11. Some very good horses come from the auctions. You certainly know what to look for so be sure to have a very knowledgable person with you. I purchased several from there and have had great satisfaction. Perhaps the sellers do not know what they had! Maybe they need the love they should have given the horses they gave up.

  12. I agree with every thing , but you should also put “color choice” as no-no. It is the silliest thing in the world to look for a horse of a certian color. ( unless you do driving with pairs )

  13. I agree about auctions. I’ve had wonderful experience buying horses from their. Of course you need someone thier with knowledge if you don’t. I just think it’s sad on how many of those auction horses go to slaughter every week. Alot of these are good well broke horses of all colors and breeds.

  14. I sure will look for these. But I am not a Novice, so I am going to get a young horse so that I can train it on my own but very good information for novice riders wanting to get a horse, And must be willing to go over $1000 if necessary, but I have a beautiful new filly halter-broke and not working under-saddle until she gets her withers. I know I’m going on and on but what’s not to say? Haha. Well also make sure you can pay boarding or your instructor or friend or someone could share-board with you, after all that’s what I’m doing. 😀 Good Luck to all of you horse buyers! Also make sure your horse fits YOU properly don’t want a 16hh when you’re short (no offence:)) Ask First if you can test ride your (possibly) horse before you buy, once again Good Luck, hope you find your right match and love your new horse!

  15. I agree with staying away from auctions where possible, but I went to a work horse auction and found my dream horse. She is a Spotted Draft, and I didn’t buy her at the auction because nothing was known about her. However, I couldn’t get her out of my mind so I contacted her buyer (a horse trader) and asked to come look at her. I ended up paying more for her by not bidding at the auction, but she’s an excellent horse, and the only reason for her sale was that her mate had died (struck by lightning) and the man that owned her didn’t want to work a single horse. So auctions, if you look with an experienced eye and take the time to go out and look at the horse before bidding can sometimes pay off. It’s still a gamble, but I can say that if care is taken, these gambles can pay off big time. I got a horse worth $5000 for a fraction of the cost.


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