Buying a Horse Online: Now That???s a Gamble!

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    Most of my single horsey gal pals have given Internet dating a whirl. Thankfully I am hunkered down in a marriage, because I can barely deal with email. I can’t imagine what I’d wind up with if I trolled online for a guy who didn’t mind shoveling horse poop. Even scarier, in my viewpoint, is buying a horse online, particularly one you haven’t viewed in person. But apparently lots of folks do just that.

    My own sister, Jill, did it. About six years ago she struck up a conversation (online, of course) with some of the kindhearted souls who run CANTER. It’s an organization that matches up Thoroughbred race horses on the brink of retirement with potential buyers. Despite my very vocal misgivings, Jill fell in love with the online photos of a flashy gelding named Rusty Gun. Through CANTER, Jill contacted Rusty Gun’s trainer at the track and asked about the horse’s soundness, trainability and temperament. Nothing set off any alarms. He was lightly raced, serviceably sound and easy to handle. When the trainer added, “This horse has got a lot of personality,” my sister was sold. She’s always had a soft spot for quirky horses.

    In a few days Rusty Gun (who would later be re-christened “Topper”) was hauled all the way from his home in Michigan to Turf Paradise, a race track outside Phoenix. Once Jill got a phone call that he had arrived, she hitched up our trailer and headed to Arizona. When she came back with the horse in tow I was very nervous. What had she brought back with her? She let the ramp down and out walked a lanky red gelding that closely resembled his distant relative, Secretariat. An added bonus? He took one look around the place, stared for a moment at the barn, the arena, the goat, the dogs, and then went, “Oh look! Grass!”

    From the start he was a pure joy. Seriously, in 90 days he was winning ribbons in baby green hunter classes.

    Unfortunately, not everyone who is bold enough to buy a horse online realizes such a happy ending. One of my former neighbors bought what was supposed to be a fantastic dressage prospect: a warmblood (of sorts) that was destined to reach well over 16-hands (supposedly). Instead, what arrived on the van was a very small, short-strided youngster that looked like a miniature mascot for the Budweiser Clydesdale hitch. Though she was clearly dismayed, she never pursued any recourse, fearing it’d cost her even more grief and more money in legal fees. Besides, she kind of liked the little guy, after all, even if he was going to end up being a trail horse rather than her next FEI contender.

    There have been other cases of online horse sales gone wrong, but none have been as alarming as the recent case of Trina Kenney, who lives not that far from my neck of the woods, at the foot of my local mountain range. Here’s an abbreviated excerpt from the Victorville Daily Press:

    Trina Lee Kenney, 32, of Wrightwood… agreed to plead guilty to mail fraud for defrauding at least 61 people in 23 states and Canada…Kenney reportedly advertised horses on various Internet sites, but the ads made false claims about the horses’ breeds, pedigrees and organizational affiliations. She also made false claims about physical characteristics, abilities, temperaments and health of horses, a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s office stated… Kenney admitted that she lied by claiming horses she sold were safe for children and beginners. Kenney said she drugged a horse to make it appear docile during a victim’s examination of the horse, and that she had painted at least two horses to make them appear black rather than brown. Kenney further acknowledged that various horses she delivered were starved or sick, the news release stated.

    Kenney’s scam might’ve continued even longer except she made the mistake of selling a horse that didn’t exist for $5,000 to an undercover FBI agent. Oops.

    Now, I freely admit that I’ve ventured onto online horse sale sites. I’ve even broadened my search criteria to include shopping for horses outside my state. But when it comes to actually paying for a horse that I can’t actually ride, I get cold feet. There’s something special about picking up the reins and actually communicating with the horse I’m considering buying. I want to know its gaits. I want to see if it responds to my cues. I want to know that I have a connection to it, that I can achieve that almost ethereal bond that’s so important between horse and human.

    I guess my point is that if you’re going to shop online, do it wisely. Things could turn out wonderfully or you could be horribly disappointed. And that goes for both horses and men that you find on the Internet.

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    10 COMMENTS

    1. I have 3 horses that were online purchases. 2 I went and looked at first so I knew what I was getting. The third was a weanling that I saw 2 pictures of,and liked her breeding. I mentioned it to my husband and the next thing I new we were making a trip across 3 states because he got her as a suprise gift for me. Once he admitted what was going on I asked him if he already paid. Yes he did. So then I paniced and told him this isnt how you buy a horse. Long story short once we got there and I saw her in person she was great and has turned into one of the most quiet horses we have. So for us what could have been a loss of a few thousand dollars and a lemon turned into a gem and was well worth it….and a great gift from my hubby!

    2. I would never buy a horse online. Pictures can hide so much. And even when you go and see the horse you never know if they have been drugged or worked heavily before you get them. Horse buying and selling is a tricky business.

    3. I bought a horse online but she was close enough that I went out and rode her with know problems. She even passed the vet check. To make a really a really long story some what short, I was told she had no bad habits or any issues and was safe to lead my then 4 year old son around on her. LIES LIES LIES!!! She buck off my son for no reason and I came off her not to long after that, hard I might add-the hardest I have ever come off a horse. Any who found out in the long run that the girl knew that this girl had major issues. I too wanted to take her and her lying mother to court but, my husband was afraid we would spend more money and end up losing. I did report her to the DA’s office since she was helping a “trainer” to sell other horses.
      This all happened a year ago and according to CA law I have a limit of 3yrs to take her to court. So, I am still researching things.
      Also, the horse went to Monty Roberts farm for help and had one of out of the blue bucking episodes so severe that she smacked the top of her poll on the round pen wall and became ataxic. She got better but has since re injured her self and is still having some issues.
      Any who…When/if I ever buy another horse (this was my first but, we have always had horses) I will make sure to have blood work done along with x rays, MRI or whatever else I deem necessary to make sure the horse has not been drugged or has any hidden problems.
      PS. believed the horse was drugged when I rode her and picked her up.
      Learned miss lesson the hard way
      Simi Valley, CA

    4. I bought a Paint gelding online, after viewing a video and lots of emails back and forth with the sellers, who were in another state. I had him vetted, and that vet talked to my vet and they conferred on the x-rays and findings. Long story short, he was exactly as advertised and I couldn’t be happier. Maybe I just got lucky, but it worked for me.

    5. I found my horse from an online ad but she was close enough that I was able to check her out in person. Also, the owner gave me a two week trial period during which I had the prepurchase exam done and was able to keep her at my farm to ride at my discretion. Turned out great…she is just as advertised and a joy in my life! However, I would never purchase without the opportunity to see and ride in person!

    6. AS ALWAYS, I TOTALLY ENJOY READING ALL OF THE COMMENTS POSTED HERE. 🙂
      SINCE MY SISTER FOUND SUCH GREAT SUCCESS WITH THE OFF-THE-TRACK TB SHE BOUGHT ONLINE, I REALIZE THAT SOMETIMES YOU CAN FIND THE HORSE OF YOUR DREAMS FAR, FAR AWAY. AND THEN YOU MAKE SOME PHONE CALLS, EXCHANGE SOME EMAILS, DO A LITTLE RESEARCH, SEND THE MONEY, AND THEN ARRANGE FOR TRANSPORT. THEN YOU SIT AND WAIT AND HOPE THAT THE HORSE THAT STEPS OFF THE VAN IS THE HORSE THAT YOU ENVISIONED. I DON’T THINK SUCH A RISK IS FOR ME.
      LIKE YOU GUYS HAVE SAID, MORE OR LESS, THE ABILITY TO SEE A HORSE IN PERSON AND INTERACT WITH IT ALLOWS YOU TO PICK UP ON BAD HABITS, PISSY ATTITUDES, SOUNDNESS ISSUES OR QUIRKY BEHAVIORS THAT CAN BE MISSED ON A YOU TUBE VIDEO.

    7. I’ve never bought a horse on-line, but it’s still important to get a vet check first as we learned the hard way. We’ve spent a lot of money on my daughter’s horse that had been injured some time before we got her and didn’t show up till later. My horse was given to me because the woman who previously owned her couldn’t feed her and she was extremely thin & full of parasites. She turned out to be a “Gem”. The sweetest horse with the best disposition ever, and very intelligent! I would have paid a lot of money to have a horse like her and she was free, with the exception of the vet bill (which wasn’t too expensive). I guess the moral is it depends on the person who’s selling the horse. Perhaps we should be looking more at the seller than the horse to find out how they treat their animals.

    8. I was lucky enough to find my Arabian mare online, but she was close and at a reputable rescue. So was able to visit with her and she has turned out to be fabulous. But, not so sure I would have taken a chance if it was across the country. Like buying a car, I have to touch and feel it before putting out the money.

    9. I WAS ACTUALLY SURPRISED WHEN MY VET– WHO ALSO HAPPENS TO BE ONE OF MY RIDING PALS– TOLD ME THAT SHE DOES QUITE A FEW PRE-PURCHASE EXAMS IN OUR AREA FOR PEOPLE WHO HAVE NEVER SEEN THE HORSE FIRSTHAND. THEY’RE BUYING THE HORSE STRICTLY OFF THE INTERNET. YET SHE ALSO SAID SHE’S OFTEN AMAZED AT HOW MANY ONLINE HORSE SHOPPERS DON’T WANT HER TO CONDUCT ANY KIND OF PRE-PURCHASE EXAM. ALL THEY WANT IS FOR HER TO PULL BLOOD FOR A COGGINS TEST AND FILL OUT A HEALTH CERTIFICATE SO THE HORSE CAN HOP ON A VAN AND BE SHIPPED ACROSS STATE LINES.

    10. I bought my gelding online but I was lucky and he lived only about an hour away, I saw him, rode, him and fell in love with him I’ve had him for three wonderful years now! I wouldn’t want to buy a horse that I’ve never seen before! What if they sell me a donkey insted of a champion hunter? Scary! But I’m glad your sister found Topper!

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