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  • Writer's pictureHelms Hill Farms

Tips for Buying a Horse

In most equestrian’s lives, we will buy at least one horse. Maybe it’s after years of lessons and leases and maybe it’s right off the bat. Either way, here are some tips for buying a horse!

1. Decide what you want and need in a horse (remember that wants and needs are different): age, gender, size, breed, discipline. If you plan on boarding said horse, make sure you know if it’s good with group turnout, how it does in a herd, if it’s food aggressive/hard to catch/dominant, what kind of fencing it works best in. If you’re keeping it at home, you should ask the same questions but also know if the horse is okay by itself or with a buddy.

2. Read the ad. If the seller is anything like me, most questions can be answered by reading the ad. If not, message/call/text the seller and have your list of questions ready. Nothing drives a seller crazy more than having to answer the same 47 questions over and over again when the answers are stated in the ad.

3. Ask pertinent questions. If you’re looking for a trail horse, you need to know if it will ride out alone or in a group, if it crosses water, if it’s got a bad habit of being barn sour and bolting home etc. If you’re looking for a jumper, you need to know if it has a habit of rushing the jumps or refusing them. You should know about previous injuries or illnesses and any maintenance. Don’t let the answer scare you off. Plenty of horses require shoes or a daily supplement to be at their peak condition, and neither of those are a death sentence or even a limiting factor in most cases.

4. Research the seller and be an informed buyer. In the golden age of technology, there’s a massive amount of information available on the internet. I sell mainly through Facebook. I’m a part of countless groups on Facebook, including the “bad buyer/seller/trainer” groups. Anytime someone wants to buy a horse from me, I look them up. It’s not to be a stalker, it’s to be well-informed of their history with horses. Buyers should always do the same to sellers. If it’s a business, read their reviews, previous posts, and check out their clientele. If they have a website, read it all. Our contracts, buyer’s policies, blog posts, and contact info are all listed on our website and Facebook page.

5. Go out and try the horse. Listen to what the seller says and watch what they do before striking out on your own. Don’t walk in with an expert attitude. Observe and listen. Be there to catch, groom, tack up, and ride the horse. Take note of if it’s sensitive about being touched somewhere, picky about which grooming brushed it prefers, antsy while standing tied, little things like that. Ask about his/her feed and turnout regimen. These are things that once the horse is home with you in a different environment, might affect how that horse behaves.

6. Get a vet check!!! I cannot stress this enough. Even just a basic once over by a qualified veterinarian! Any small blemishes, soreness, anything should be noted. Check their teeth and eyes and feet. Don’t be turned off by something minor. No horse is flawless. You just need to know the limits of what you need that horse to do and if it can hold up to that.

7. Negotiate. Almost every horse listed has a bottom dollar price that the seller will take. That doesn’t mean offer $3000 less before even seeing the horse. It means making an informed decision on what the horse is worth at its present condition, age, and skill level. If you’re a seller like me, you’re willing to knock a few bucks off a horse if it ensures it goes to a fantastic home. It also means you’re willing to stand your ground if the pendulum swings the other way.

8. Enjoy your new horse! Let your new horse settle in for a few days and get used to your barn, your routine, and it’s new environment before asking too much of it. Don’t immediately start pushing it around and expecting it to act exactly the same as it did on the seller’s property. Most of the horses I sell have been with me for a while. They’re used to my routine, my tractors, they recognize the sound of our truck coming down the road. They know when I whistle, it’s dinner time and they all head up to the barn from the pasture. They all know which stall is theirs. They know where they fit in a herd. When you bring a horse into a new place, they have to relearn all of those things and that doesn’t usually come in a day.

9. Maintain a good relationship with the seller! If they’re like me, they’re happy to answer questions down the road and they love updates of the horse happy in its new home.

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