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Welcome to the Equestrian Outreach Guidelines For Purchasing a Horse PageGirl and Her Horse

Guidelines for Purchasing a Horse

Note: Unless you are highly qualified to inspect and purchase horses, do not try any of the following without the assistance of qualified trained professionals!

Pre-Purchase Overview

You should start your search for the perfect horse by spending time building your knowledge and understanding of horses by reading and researching; riding disciplines, Breeds, Vets in your area and most importantly trainers and riding instructors. Attend horse shows. Talk to people with horses. Surf the internet. Look for a trainer with a good reputation. Remember that people who sold horses were the first used car sales people and just like used car sales people, some can be trusted and unfortunately many can not. At this point it must be repeated; do not attempt to purchase your first horse without the help of trusted professionals, including an equine vet. (The following are related links)

(Common First Time Horse Purchase Mistakes)  (Finding A Horse For First Time Buyers)  (Florida Trainers, Riding Instructors & Vets Contact Lists)

(Horse Purchasing Information) (Breed Information) (Horse Breed Associations) (Guidelines For Purchasing A Horse)

Try Out The Horse!

Trusted and Trained Professionals: When going to look at an animal, the first-time buyer should be accompanied by a knowledgeable horseperson /trainer. There is so much to observe and so much to ask that the inexperienced buyer may have trouble remembering it all. Observe the horse in the stall and pasture, and how it behaves when someone is loading, hauling, and catching the horse.
Temperament should be most important to you: - leave health to the experts. Look at the stall the horse is kept in. Look for broken boards or boards that are chewed (Possible signs of a horse that kicks and or cribs). Look for knots on the lead rope (A possible sign that the horse rears on the lead). Look at the horse's eyes and ears and general manner when it is brought out. Does it look alert? Be sure that you look at the animal in a well-lit place, preferably outdoors in the sunlight. Watch the owner saddle up the horse. Does it stand quietly? Does it kick or bite? Do not buy a horse with bad stable & ground manners.
Do not ride the horse first. Ask the owner to ride the horse first. Ask the owner to lunge the horse to observe it’s ground manners and it’s gaits while in hand. Ask the owner to ride the horse first. Watch how the animal acts when saddled and mounted - does it stand still or does it dance around? With your trainer watching from the inside you can watch from the outside as the owner rides. Often unacceptable aids and corrections are used on the off side away from observation. Ask the owner to take the horse through its gaits, the walk, trot, and canter. Does it look smooth? Does it toss its head or fight the bit? If you are buying a hunter or jumper or other specially trained horse, ask the owner to demonstrate. Do not accept behavior excuses. If a horse is truly having an off day you can always come back.
If you and your adviser are satisfied that the horse is safe for you to ride, it is your turn to mount. Once again, observe how it reacts when you or mount, and how it reacts to your aids. Try out any special skills that the horse has. This is a major investment and you should be allowed to test the animal thoroughly. You could make observations on a second visit that you did not see the first time. Surprise visits are recommended when you have narrowed
Many times a brief trial period (7-10 days) can be arranged for the prospective buyer. This allows the buyer to have the horse and see if the two are really compatible.
Even if you fall in love with the horse, do not buy it before the animal has been thoroughly examined by a veterinarian with experience in performing a pre-purchase examinations (often called vetting). Long-time horse owners almost always have a veterinarian examine any animal before purchase and first-time owners should certainly do so.
Consider leasing. Many times horse sellers will allow you to lease a horse. Although it may cost a little more leasing can be good alternative

What to Look For in a Horse

1. Looks: Although a big factor; a horses looks should be the least important consideration.
2. Disposition and Attitude: A good disposition is your first requirement. Without it, even the most beautiful and talented horse is useless. Whatever you’re riding ambitions, you want a horse that is: honest, willing, and stable. When you find a horse that you like you should consider making an unannounced visit to make sure that the horse is not being sedated. Make sure that you hire a qualified trainer that your trust and then follow their advice.
3. Conformation: Look for a horse with an acceptable conformation, suitable for your riding discipline and ambitions. Make sure that you hire a qualified trainer that your trust and then follow their advice.
4. Movement and Ability: If you want to compete; depending on the discipline, movement will be important. But if you find a sound horse with a good disposition and good conformation, the quality of his movement can probably be improved through correct training. Make sure that you hire a qualified trainer that your trust and then follow their advice.
5. Soundness:  Look for a sound horse with conformation that will help him stay sound and that is suitable for your riding style and ambitions. Since there are far too many potential problems for an amateur to be aware of, unless you buy horses for a living; you should rely on a qualified veterinary inspection. The veterinarian will check the horse for: age, general condition, alertness, health of the eyes, ears, heart, lungs, digestive system, health of skin and coat, soundness of musculoskeletal system, limbs evaluated, conformation abnormalities noted, and the condition of the feet and type of shoeing observed internal and external parasites (worms, ticks etc.).
Discuss exactly what the pre-purchase examination will include so that the necessity of additional tests such as x-rays, drug tests, or endoscope can be determined.
6. Price: The price for the same horse may vary from month to month, or from season to season, depending on how badly the owner wishes or needs to sell. If the owner has no indoor arena or doesn't ride in winter, the horse may cost less in November than he did in May.  No sensible person will keep a horse through the winter just to sell him in the spring, if there is any chance of selling him immediately. The appearance of a horse - height, color, and markings -- can also affect the price.  There is a saying that "a good horse is never a bad color," but tall horses, trendy colors, and symmetrical markings generally cost more.  If you fall madly in love with a horse of particularly splendid color -- a gleaming palomino or an obsidian black -- stand back, squint, and try to imaging him covered in mud from nose to tail.  If his silhouette and way of going still leave you breathless, he may be the horse for you.  But if he seems much less interesting without the color and shine, keep looking.  Nowhere is the old adage "You get what you pay for" less true than with horses.  Anyone shopping for a horse should remember that price and value are not the same.
7. Breeds and Suitability:  You want a horse that can do what you want to do.  The ex-jumper may never become a docile trail horse; neither may the old fourth-level dressage horse, that interprets each shift and nudge as a signal.  Unless you have experience, time, and patience, it is a bad idea to buy something that has been bred and trained for one particular purpose and try to turn it to another.  The most likely result is that both you and your horse will end up confused and upset. Bloodlines matter if you intend to show in breed classes, or if you are purchasing a mare and plan to breed from her.  Otherwise, your gelding's bloodlines are much less important than his conformation, movement, and general demeanor.  If you have a passion for a particular breed, do some research. Read books about the breed, watch videos, and talk to your trainer.  Set yourself up for success, not for failure: reconcile your breed preferences with the sort of riding you want to do.If you love Quarter Horses and are interested in pleasure or trail riding, or if you adore Arabians and want to do endurance riding, you will have many horses to choose from and will probably find exactly what you want.  But if you want the exceptional Quarter Horse or Arabian that can go to the top in dressage competition, the odds are against you. Don't begin with a dream of what you want to do and then buy something that isn't physically or temperamentally suited to the task.  You'll make yourself miserable, and you'll make the horse miserable, too. If you acquire the horse first, take his physical and mental traits into consideration when you are deciding what to do with him.  Most training success (a happy, competent horse knowing what his job is and doing it well) are the result of someone looking at a specific horse, determining what he will probably do well, and training him accordingly. Match the task to the horse; don't arbitrarily decide that your horse must and will do something specific.  If you want a magnificent 17.3-hand, 1,800-pound Hanoverian, you and your horse will be better off if you want to do dressage or show jumping, which he will probably do well, rather than endurance riding, which he might not survive.
What qualities do you most want in your horse?  Are you looking for a spirited ride, a spectacular mover, or does your list begin with words like "sensible" and "good brakes"?  If you are not competition-driven, you will have more options.  There is any number of affordable horses whose fundamental soundness and pleasant attitude would suit you well.  Any sane and sound horse should, with correct training, be able to do dressage up to Third Level (perform, that is, not necessarily win in competition) and jump fences up to 3' comfortably and safely.  This is basic training for a good riding horse, just as the ability to ride a horse at Third Level dressage and jump fences to 3' means basic competence on the part of an educated rider.  This is the starting point for professional specialization, but it is also a level to which we can all aspire.  A single, independently wealthy rider might reach that level in just a couple of years.  Someone with two children, a 9-to-5 job, and three riding days each week can expect to take a good bit longer to get to that point, but they can get there too if they are motivated and determined.

How to Look at a Horse