How to Shop for a Horse

When you first contact a seller about a horse they have for sale, you should be prepared with your questions.

Know what to ask a seller when considering buying their horse.

During your first contact with the seller, be sure to ask the right questions. Journal Photo

From America’s Horse

When you first contact a seller about a horse he or she has for sale, you should be prepared with your questions. Here is a list of  questions to get you started:

  • Is he registered and do you have the original registration papers?
  • Gelding, stallion or mare?
  • What condition is the horse in?
  • Does he have any health problems?
  • What is the horse’s personality like? Quiet and well-mannered, high-strung or “spirited” and likes to go?
  • What does the horse look like?
  • How tall is the horse?
  • How old is the horse?

If you have never owned a horse before, AQHA’s Buying and Owning Your First Horse has great tips on purchasing, owning, and keeping a Quarter Horse.

  • What kind of training has he had?
  • Is he road safe?
  • What is the horse’s recent background? What has he been doing? Has he been out to pasture or has he been used in English, western, 4-H, ranch, trail riding, lessons, driving, roping, reining, cutting, racing, etc.?
  • What vices does he have, if any?
  • Does he load into a trailer? Does he stand tied?
  • Has the horse been stalled or is he a pasture horse?
  • Has he lived alone or with other horses?
  • If handled by a trader or trainer, who owned him before? How long did they own him? Why are they selling the horse? May I speak with the previous owner?
  • Does he have a current Coggins test? If not, are you willing to get the horse tested?

Buying and Owning Your First Horsealso has great information about developing a meaningful relationship with your new horse and getting the most out of horse ownership.

  • Do you have someone at your place who will tack up and ride the horse?
  • Do you have an enclosed arena or enclosed pasture where I can try out the horse? If not, are you willing to take the horse to a public arena, demonstrate riding him and allow me to ride him?
  • If I like the horse, will you hold him for a vet check for me?

What other questions do you like to ask before you buy a horse?

Are you ready to purchase a horse? Visit www.quarterhorseinsurance.comto see how to insure your investment.

17 thoughts on “How to Shop for a Horse”

  1. This is very good advice. This is the same things I tell people that are looking to buy a horse. This is one of the reasons people should NOT buy riding horses at auctions unless they have already seen and ridden the horse earlier. The only horses that I buy at auctions are young untrained horses and horses that I know the history on. An untrained horse is easier to work with than one that has bad vices. And by all means make sure the horse is healthy. There are many horses available out there today, don’t make any purchases without checking everything.

  2. If possible, it is very helpful to see how the horse you are interested in purchasing will behave if taken away from home. A horse that is calm and relaxed at home may act quite differently if taken to another farm or show grounds. The simple act of leaving his buddies and going somewhere foreign can make him very nervous and difficult to ride.

  3. I always like to make sure to ask about their feet. Does the horse stand for a farrier? Has the horse had severve cracks or absesses? I also ask about thrush. The one question I nevr forget to ask is if the horse has had any reactions to wormer or any vaccination. And last, but not least always ask if the horse has colliced.

  4. It is “most” important that you be at the owners place when they catch up the horse, initially saddle him, and initially ride him. If you get there and they have already saddled him and have riden him hard, until sweaty, then don’t buy him!

  5. If the horse is a mare, it’s good to find out if she’s ever been bred, and if so, did she carry to term, how was the foaling, was everything alright, and any other details regarding that. Also, how often was she bred, and when was her last foal? With a gelding, I like to know how old he was when he was gelded. I like to know how a horse handles getting injections, as well.

  6. Thanks for an informative article. I also appreciated Cecil’s and Ann’s comments (above) on seeing how a horse behaves away from home if possible before purchasing him/her, as well as being at the barn when the horse is initially caught, saddled and ridden. Lack of attention to this latter point landed me in a lot of trouble with a horse I purchased some years back, who proved to be quite dangerous to catch, ride and handle until he was really sweaty and tired. Not pleasant!

  7. Ask to see the owner ride the horse before you do. Just because they say he/she is broke does not mean the horse is. I should know, I took someones word and ended up in the hospital. When I got to the hospital the ER doctor thought I broke both my back and pelvis. After a lengthy painful cat scan, I didn’t break my back or pelvis, but I had all the injuries like I did and the front and back of my torso swelled up like I was pregnant. I was black from my pubic bone to the middle of my rib cage. I also pulled my Sciatic nerve. When I left the hospital the next morning, I was told by the doctor I was a very lucky woman to be WALKING out of the ER.

  8. Awesome article! These are all good ideas. Some times I like to go see the horse more than once. and the 2nd time, be 2 minutes away when you call. that way the chances of the horse being drugged is minimal. If you are not really educated in looking for the signs/symptoms of sedation. It is easy to end up like Sprite. There is a Disclosure law, (like we all know laws are only good if you can find someone to enforce it), that the seller must disclose all known defects to the buyer.

  9. Agree with Sprite. If you are a greeen rider, and the seller says the young horse they are selling is dead broke – have the vet pull some blood during the pre-purchases exam to check specifically for sedative drugs that would cause the horse to appear calm and ridable. It’s possible the horse is only green broke vs. dead broke. There are many drugs that can stay in a horse’s system for up to 30 days (sometimes longer). These drugs can also cause stomach ulcers and intermittant diarrhea. Forget about what the seller discloses. Observe, observe and observe more. Also, have an experienced trainer come out to see the horse for their evaluation, which is worth it’s weight in gold. If the seller doesn’t allow outside trainers on their property – walk away from the sale. It’s the difference between serious injury and happily riding off into the sunset.

  10. Agree with Sprite and Barrie. If you are a greeen rider, and the seller says the young horse they are selling is dead broke – have the vet pull some blood during the pre-purchases exam to check specifically for sedative drugs that would cause the horse to appear calm and ridable. It’s possible the horse is only green broke vs. dead broke. There are many drugs that can stay in a horse’s system for up to 30 days (sometimes longer). These drugs can also cause stomach ulcers and intermittant diarrhea. Forget about what the seller discloses. Observe, observe and observe more. Also, have an experienced trainer come out to see the horse for their evaluation, which is worth it’s weight in gold. If the seller doesn’t allow outside trainers on their property – walk away from the sale. It’s the difference between serious injury and happily riding off into the sunset.

  11. Agree with Sprite and Barrie. If you are a greeen rider, and the seller says the young horse they are selling is dead broke – have the vet pull some blood during the pre-purchases exam to check specifically for sedative drugs that would cause the horse to appear calm and ridable. It’s possible the horse is only green broke vs. dead broke. There are many drugs that can stay in a horse’s system for up to 30 days (sometimes longer). These drugs can also cause stomach ulcers and intermittant diarrhea. Forget about what the seller discloses. Observe, observe and observe more. Also, have an experienced trainer come out to see the horse for their evaluation, which is worth it’s weight in gold. If the seller doesn’t allow outside trainers on their property – walk away from the sale. It’s the difference between serious injury and happily riding off into the sunset.

  12. Sorry about the redundancy above, but this is such an important apsect for new buyers and for new horse owners that the point needs to be made. Also, if possible, draw a contract up with the seller in cases where the trainer works at a barn/training facility The contract should state that the trainer is, in legal terms, an agent of the barn where they are employed so that you will have recourse if the drug wears off a month or so down the road. If they are not willing to do this – walk.

  13. I purchased a horse who turned out to be not at all the way he was portrayed. I even had my trainer ride him. We are almost certain the horse was drugged. It took almost 5 months, and a loss of several thousand dollars before I was finally able to re-sell the horse to a very experienced person who bought him knowing full well he has a very long road ahead of him trying to rehabilitate this animal. What is so disturbing to me is that the horse supposedly had over three years of training by a person who has won many awards from the AQHA in reining, cutting and showing Quarter Horses, and this person was present when I saw the horse and even rode him for me. What I learned from this incident is to be very careful when purchasing a horse from someone you don’t know.

  14. All very good advice. I may also add, to ask how many owners the horse as had and how long they have owned the horse. I have eliminated many horses from asking those 2 questions right off the bat. One important question to ask is if the horse bucks. I have talked to so many people who have owned a bucker at one time or another. Buy a horse locally, hopefully from someone you know or a referral. NEVER buy an aged horse at an auction. There is a reason that “boom-proof” horse cannot be sold at home.

  15. All the above is such good advice. I learned the hard way buying a horse at an auction. He was absolutely gorgeous!! Kids as well as adults were riding him around the parking lot and he was so good for everyone. I got him home and he was so fun to ride, gave me his whole heart!! He started what I thought was snoring when he would lay down in his stall. I was not very experienced at the time, 20+ years ago. Within a month he started favoring his front feet. I had him vet checked and x-rayed- he had navicular and ringbone in both his front feet, broke my heart!! You have to be sooo careful!!!

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