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First Time
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Be prepared to spend a lot of time on your search, unless your instructor finds you a horse.   Several years ago one of my student’s horses died.  The student looked at 65 horses over a two year period until she found a suitable replacement.

Once you determine the requirements for the horse you want to purchase (see Determining What Horse Is Best For You for details), then decide on the distance you are willing to travel to look at the horse. After you decide all of this, you are ready to begin a very important journey in your life!


Where to Look:

Local newspaper classified
Local feed stores bulletin board
Local tack shops bulletin board
Regional horse publications
The Internet

Who to Ask:

Your instructor
Local Pony Club leader
Local 4-H leader
Local adult group i.e., dressage club, trail riders club, PHA group

What to ask:

1. Age of horse
2. Size of horse
3. How long have you owned horse?
4. What have you done with horse?
5. What has horse done before you purchased him/her?
6. Who is your instructor?
7. Has horse been shown, if so, what are results?
8. Has horse been ill or unsound while you have owned him/her?
9. Why are you selling?
10. Any bad habits, cribbing, weaving, biting, kicking, stall walking?
11. Any major conformation faults?
12. Do you have a video of the horse?

If all answers to the above questions sound good, arrange a time to visit the horse and owner that is mutually convenient.  Don’t be talked into hurrying.  It is important to see how a regular rider rides the horse in normal environment.  This will show you the horse at his/ her best.



What to avoid:

Horse Dealers:  Unless you can involve your instructor, this a good situation for a novice to avoid.    When I was young, I learned a lesson from a dealer.  He told me that he was obligated to honestly answer any questions he was asked.  However, he did not need to offer any information that was not directly asked to him. An important point to remember.  When you are new to the horse industry, can you be certain you have all the correct questions to ask?  Can you be certain you are getting an appropriate answer?

Sales Auctions: Most [public/private] sales auctions in the USA are places to be very careful when purchasing.  While most auctions in Europe are high caliber sales opportunities, where horses go in advance for inspection and training, most auctions in the USA are not like that -- anyone can sell any horse.  Currently there are a few exclusive auctions in the USA that are on a par with those in Europe, such as Glenwood Farm in California.   In general, a first time buyer should avoid public auctions and can consider private auctions when accompanied by a trusted professional. 

Buying from Friends:   My first disillusionment happened when I was 19 and a friend of mine told me he had the perfect horse for one of my students.  Excitedly I took my student to see the horse, only to discover that I had seen this horse two weeks earlier at a local sales barn auction.  The horse had a distinctive blemish.  My friend thought that I never went to the sales barn.  However, as luck turned out, I had been at the local tack shop and I stopped this particular time at the sales barn and saw this impressive Grey horse with a dented head.  When we saw the horse in my friend’s barn he cost five times the average sales barn auction price and had gained an impressive past history.   Needless to say, this was a valuable lesson, the horse was not purchased and a friendship was lost.

This does not mean that you cannot trust your friends. Your instructor should be your friend, but a professional friendship that has another level over a personal friendship.  However, personal friends do not always look kindly on your decision to have their horse evaluated, vetted and perhaps turned down.  Is a friendship worth losing over a horse purchase or sale?

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