Cut To The Chase When Horse Shopping

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If the horse absolutely must be dead quiet due to dogs and/or children, tell the seller exactly that.

If the horse absolutely must be dead quiet due to dogs and/or children, tell the seller exactly that.

The thrill of searching for a new horse is largely a myth, because the truth is that horse shopping isn?t as much fun as people like to think. it's full of uncertainty and can last weeks, months or even years. It can be exhausting, frustrating, even demoralizing at times.

If you're determined to find a new horse, you need to know that it will take preparation, an honest evaluation of your goals and your ability, and much perseverance.

Advertisements, which nowadays you can find on many websites, such as www.equine.com, make horse shopping seem easy. Most of these sites have options to help you streamline your search, such as ?TB gelding, jumping, less than $10,000, California.?

These search options can save you time, but they could also cause you to miss a diamond in the rough. Still, if you're looking for a Thoroughbred, you can confidently skip reading through the ads for Haflingers and Shetlands.

The other common way to find your new steed is to buy him from someone you know or from someone your trainer knows. Buying a horse you know or have seen perform can remove a lot of the pain from the process.

We recommend these suggestions to help you prepare for your job as horse shopper:

1) Know yourself and your goals.

Be honest, be brutally honest. Is competition really your goal' In what discipline, and to what level' Are you looking for an athlete and plan to keep him with a trainer to direct your progression' Or will mainly trail riding once or twice a week thrill you' Either way, limit your search to horses with the experience and the temperament to truly suit your plans and needs.

2) Be truthful about your budget.

Don?t waste time looking at $20,000 horses when you can only afford half that. The seller will just be angry with you. Similarly, You'll be frustrated sifting through horses in the $2,500 to $3,000 range if you're used to horses in the $10,000 range and can spend that much.

3) Be clear about what kind of horse you're looking for.

Understand the effect of your budget and your own riding ability. Don?t look at and then buy a horse with too much octane because He's beautiful and because He's the type of horse you could ride 20 years ago.

4) Rank age, temperament, appearance and experience in order of importance before you start to look.

Can you accept an attractive, willing and kind four-year-old with little or no experience, in order to meet your budget' Or can you accept an older, more homely horse who?s safe and willing' If the horse must have experience in your sport, don't go to try a horse whose owner can say only, ?I think he should be good at that.?

Know your own strengths and weaknesses. Be honest with yourself about what you can and cannot live with (spooking, bucking, rearing, refusing, kicking). If you're jumping, the horse's safety over fences must outrank any other considerations. Be sure that you know just as well what you don't want!

5) Remain flexible.

Look for a type of suitable horse and his attributes, but don't get locked into ?bay gelding, between six and eight years old, taller than 16.2 hands and with a certain level of experience.?

To fit within your budget, be prepared to forego experience if what's most important to you is size or temperament. Or if experience is most important, be prepared to buy an older horse or smaller horse than you thought you wanted.

Photos can be deceiving. This horse is sweet.

Photos can be deceiving. This horse is sweet.

And be prepared to find a horse that isn?t at all what you expected ? especially a horse that doesn't look like the beautiful steed you imagined.

6) Don?t compare every horse to your previous saintly horse.

They won?t measure up, at least at first, and You'll just be frustrated. Your former horse probably wasn?t the gem you remember when you found him. So get him or her out of your mind before you go looking.

7) Be realistic about blemishes and working soundness, initially and in the pre-purchase exam.

Fully explain your goals and needs to the veterinarian to help him evaluate the horse, and remember that it's truly rare to have a perfect pre-purchase exam. An experienced, realistic veterinarian won?t examine a potential international horse the same way he evaluates an older novice-level eventer or a trail horse. He or she should give you a range for most potential unsoundness they find, especially in the joints and feet.

Accept that a lower-level horse doesn't need to be as superbly sound as an international horse, and that a horse with an extensive record and work history will have wear and tear.

Ask the vet about managing these issues. And if you don't consider the veterinarian?s findings pertinent, you need to make a decision.

Ask Before You Try
Now that you?ve prepared, ask the seller these five questions, which we?ve found can help you decide whether it's worth getting in the car to go look. But, like everything with horses, there is no guarantee:

1. Ask about the horse's competition record, and look it up if you can

. Some organizations, including the U.S. Eventing Association, have searchable records for members? horses on their websites.

Look for patterns, like gaps that could suggest injury. If the horse has no record, or only a brief one, ask why, exactly. Listen for suggestions that there is a serious physical or temperamental problem. If a horse is 9 or 10 and has only competed once or twice, be wary if the seller says, ?We just didn't think he was ready.? Why not'

2. Ask about the horse's current and recent level of work.

If the seller says, ?He hasn?t been ridden in awhile,? ask how long it's been and why, exactly. If the answer is vague, be sure you see something you like in the photos or video.

3. Ask about injuries or illnesses.

After you?ve tried the horse and like him, ask if you can see the veterinarian?s treatment record and state that you may want to do bloodwork. If the seller has nothing to hide, he or she should agree.

4. Ask if the horse wears special shoes.

Be especially wary if you get there and find the horse is wearing egg-bar shoes and pads. If you like the horse, have his feet x-rayed.

5. Ask about the horse's temperament.

Get details about his behavior with pasture mates, while being groomed, loading and shipping, and being mounted.

Bottom line

Look at horses with an honest sense of yourself and with a jaundiced eye toward the horses ? ?expect the worst but hope for the best.? But be willing to be surprised or impressed by what you find. Be open-minded and be willing to change your mind about the horse going around the ring in front of you. But also be willing to say ?thank you? and drive away.