How to buy a horse: what to do at a viewing

By Nicola Jane Swinney on |

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How to buy a horse: viewing a horse
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Everyone knows that the best horses and ponies are never advertised — they are passed on through word of mouth. So if you have decided to buy a horse, ask around. Try your local tack shop, riding school, Pony Club branch, hunt and anywhere else you can think of.

Buying a horse is a daunting prospect, because there are so many variables. So when you go to view, take someone with you. A horsey friend, an instructor, or simply someone on the yard that you trust.

Don’t buy the first horse you look at. It may well turn out to be the right one, but for such a large financial outlay, you want to make sure you get as close to what you want as possible. When you first make contact the seller, ask as many questions as you can think of, and if anything sounds alarm bells, thank them for their time and move on.

A common complaint on internet forums is about timewasters — from both the buyer’s and seller’s point of view — so don’t be one of them, and hope you don’t come across one on the other end! By the same token, if after you’ve made an appointment to go to view but cannot make it, do let the vendor know — at the very least because you’ll save the poor horse being pulled in from the field for no reason.

Once there, though, you should insist on seeing the horse being tacked up. First, because you want to be able to see your potential purchase “naked” to check for any conformation faults, which is where a knowledgeable adviser comes in handy, and secondly to observe his ground manners during tacking up. If the horse is already saddled when you arrive, ask the vendor for how long he has been worked.

You should see the seller riding the horse first. If at this stage there is something about the horse that you really don’t like, thank the vendor and leave. There is no point wasting any more of your time or theirs.

When you come to ride the horse, take your time. Walk him round and get a feel for him before you ask him to trot and try him on both reins. When you’re comfortable with trot, ask him to canter. Again, if you don’t like the horse, stop and tell the vendor he’s not for you. If you do like him, you can do more, including jumping if that’s what you want to do with him.
If the advert for the horse describes it as “good to load, clip and shoe” (for example), ask to see him do all of those things. If the advert is genuine, the seller shouldn’t have a problem with this request.

Finally, if you decide to buy the horse, don’t be afraid to ask the seller for a trial period. If the answer is “no”, ask for a valid reason why not. Private owners want their horse to go to a good home, while dealers may agree to a trial period with the proviso that they will find you a different horse if the one you are trying doesn’t suit.

And finally, always have your prospective purchase vetted. Horse buying is a major undertaking and you want to make sure you have covered every eventuality.

Good luck!

How to buy a horse: budgeting time and money
Read the BHS’s advice on buying and owning a horse

Image: horse in the morning mist by photophilde via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

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