Once you’ve weighed up all the pros and cons, done all the research you can, and decided, yes, you really do want to take the plunge, where exactly do you go to find your horse? Well, there are lots of ways of buying a horse.
Where to look
Local ads in tack shops and equestrian centers.
Local ads in newspapers and magazines.
Ads in national horse magazines.
Horses for sale at your local yard.
Buying the horse you have previously shared.
What to look for
Buying a horse is itself a risky business, especially if you are inexperienced or too enthusiastic, and can easily turn out to be a hugely expensive mistake with the wrong horse matched to the wrong rider. It’s a big decision, that you’ve thought about for a long while, and charged with emotion, expectation, and excitement. If you’re not sure, take a look at can you afford a horse?
Try to work out before you view a horse just what you’re looking for. Is the horse suited to what you want to do? If you want to jump, can the horse jump? Don’t just assume that all horses can. If you will be doing lots of road work, is the horse used to roads, is it bombproof? Does the horse have the right temperament to match you – is it too spooky, too laid back, too big, too small? Don’t buy a spooky horse if all you want to do is quiet hacks out-look for a calm horse instead. Be as sure as you can that you will be able to bond with your horse.
Enlist help – don’t go alone!
If you are new to horses or haven’t been around them for a long while, is there someone around you who can help out or give advice when you get stuck, and will they come with you to look at your potential purchase? Other people at your livery yard will always give advice, but this can be confusing as opinions differ. Try to find one knowledgeable person whom you trust to be your guide.
Ask around – check reputations
Unless you want to go in for competitions at a fairly high level, it makes a lot of sense to buy a horse locally from someone you already know, or from personal recommendation. Dodgy horses are unlikely to be sold locally, as there’s more likely to be some sort of comeback, and people generally want to preserve their reputations locally. For this reason, be very wary of horses advertised in national magazines or newspapers. Of course, this doesn’t mean they will all have problems, just make sure you have someone with you who really knows their stuff, and have the horse vetted. Paying a vet to check out a horse may seem expensive, but is always money well spent in the end.
Horse dealers are generally not a good idea for the inexperienced. Horses for sale with a horse dealer may be difficult horses to handle and are often unloaded on a horse dealer as a last resort. But of course, this is a generalization, and if a horse dealer local to you has a good reputation, it can be a way to view a range of horses. A really good horse dealer may even look for a horse for your specific requirements – just be wary!
When you go to look at a horse you might consider buying, if you can watch how the owner tacks it up. Of course, this might already be done, in which case, ask the owner to ride the horse first. Never get on a horse you don’t know unless you have seen the owner have a go – unless of course, you are a very experienced rider. Make sure you ride horses in a safe area – in a school or enclosed field, not open countryside or on the road. There’s no telling what a horse you don’t know will do, nor on the experience and integrity of the seller. Take along a video camera and make recordings – useful to look back on later, or get a second opinion.
Taking your time
Always go away and think about it – never make a decision on the spot. And don’t buy a horse because it’s pretty, it’s the right color, or you feel sorry for it! Always use your head and not your heart, difficult sometimes I know, but if you don’t you might regret it later.
Buy what you know – pros and cons
People quite often buy a horse they have previously shared – a good way to get to know a horse and exactly what’s involved, but beware of the owner who wants you to buy the horse you share. It might not be the right horse for you in long term – good for getting experience, but really what you want as your own. Don’t feel obliged to buy because of an emotional attachment to the horse, or because you feel sorry for it, or you feel sorry for the owner. It’s a big decision and a huge commitment – don’t be pushed into it unless you are sure!