1. Make a wish list.
Be specific about your must haves and don’t wants. Age, gender, height, temperament, conformation, location, discipline, training, and experience can be specified using filter selections on most equines-for-sale sites. There are literally thousands of horses to view. Sticking to your list will protect you from feeling overwhelmed or spending countless hours trying to view them all.
2. Know what you’re seeing.
If you’re not comfortable with your knowledge of conformation, breeds, disciplines, or equine behavior, enlist the help of an educated horseperson to help you sift through ads that you find appealing. What looks like a terrific find to you may have lameness or behavioral issues that only an expert will catch.
3. Speak with the owner/seller.
Ask about the horse’s history, behavior, experience, health, lifestyle (to see if the horse will fit your housing situation you’ll provide for example), and reason for being sold. Request more photos and videos if the ones posted aren’t satisfactory or recent. See if the seller thinks the horse would be suitable for your level of experience and your future plans for him. Most sellers want to see their horses thrive in a good home and will answer these questions honestly. Unfortunately there are also those for whom the sale is all that’s important and will tell you what you want to hear.
4. Visit the horse is person.
If you find your dream horse, go see it even if it is hours or days away. If going to see the horse is impractical or you feel extremely confident about buying it, do it on a trial basis (you will likely have to assume all responsibility for the horse) or at the very least have a contract with a return clause. If you find a horse you are serious about, having a pre-purchase exam performed before the horse heads your way, or even before you make the trip to see it. That way you will know if it’s healthy, sound, and suitable for the intended work. You will also gain more insight into his behavior (how he responds to being poked and prodded by a stranger), so you can make a more informed decision should you decide to purchase.
While shopping, be aware that there are unscrupulous sellers. Horses can be misrepresented intentionally or because of unintentional ignorance. Be suspicious of ads with:
- Horses represented differently than the way they are being marketed. (If it’s a kids horse, a kid should be shown riding it, not an experienced adult.)
- A registered horse without papers available for viewing.
- Nonexistent, limited, or ambiguous photos and/or videos.
- Soundness guarantees. (The only way to guarantee a horse is sound is by hiring your own veterinarian to do a thorough pre-purchase exam.)
- All encompassing terms like “bomb-proof,” or “safe for anyone to ride.”
No matter where you find him, buying a horse is an important decision. A mistake can end up being costly and heartbreaking. Take advantage of this unbeatable resource with care and diligence. Your next horse may be waiting for you online.