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Are You Thinking of Buying a Horse?

Whether this will be your first horse, or you haven’t bought one in a while, here are some helpful questions to ask as well as some thoughtful suggestions for you to keep in mind.

Before deciding to buy you need to do some homework, as well as make a realistic budget. Horses are wonderful, but they require a great deal of time and energy, not to mention money. In addition to basics such as good nutrition, safe shelter, hoof care, exercise and grooming you need to take into account normal veterinary care such as inoculations and worming, as well as unexpected bumps and bruises that may occur along the way. If this is your first venture at horse ownership, you could even try leasing a horse for a while to see what’s actually required.

Before starting your search discuss your riding abilities and goals with your trainer or another professional who knows you well. Evaluate your current ability, your personal plans for horse ownership, and what type of horse will suit your needs.

Some things to think about before you buy:

  • Where will you keep your new horse and what will the cost be? Are you familiar with local boarding and are quality services available? And what services are included.

  • If you plan to keep the horse on your property who will be providing the care? If horse care will be your responsibility, do you have the time and knowledge? Or, will you be hiring someone else - what will their fee be, along with feed and bedding costs?

  • Do you know a good blacksmith? What do they typically charge for trims and shoeing?

  • What about a veterinarian - do you have one in mind? You will want to use your own vet for the pre-purchase exam, and you will need a vet when you bring your new horse home. Veterinary care costs vary according to location, so speak with a few you are considering and get some idea of what your yearly costs will be and then budget a little more for any possible unexpected expenses.

  • Are you going to insure the horse? Call a few equine insurance companies and find out potential costs. Also, if you’re keeping the horse on your property, talk with your Home Owners Insurance Company about liability.

Do you already have a horse in mind?

  • Undoubtedly the horse you choose is in your price range, but have you considered travel expenses if your choice is out of your locale and professional fees if your trainer will be accompanying you. What about the cost of the pre-purchase exam, have you included this in you budget?

  • Does the horse you like match your riding ability? For instance, are you an advanced rider who is comfortable with a younger or less experienced horse with potential, or are you a new rider who needs a more experienced horse with a forgiving nature and a calm temperament?

  • Are you comfortable with the horse’s size? And, does your trainer or someone else with experience agree with your choice? Having a more experienced person helping you could be the best choice you make.

  • Does the horse match your goals? Are you looking for a show horse or are you more interested in trail riding? Whatever your goals make sure the horse’s abilities match them.

When you go to try the horse:

  • It can be very helpful to have information about the person selling the horse. It is nice to know you are dealing with a trainer or individual with a good reputation. Ask around. Find out what you can about the horse you are interested in and the owner/broker who is selling the horse.

  • Show up a little early for your appointment. Take a good look at the facility where the horse is kept. A horse’s stabling can tell you a lot. Have the horse tacked up in front of you; a horse needs to be safe both on the ground and under saddle. If you can, arrange to observe the horse in its stall or turnout to get a little more information about the horse’s personality and quirks.

  • Consider if the seller is on time, and if the horse is presented properly. Ask questions; in fact, ask lots of questions. Don’t ever feel uncomfortable asking questions. If you aren’t comfortable with the answers, walk away.

  • Make sure someone else will be riding the horse for you to observe before you ride. Never get on a horse before you have seen someone else ride him. And if you’re uncomfortable after seeing it ridden do not be pressured into riding the horse.

You have decided to buy:

  • Once you have found a horse you like, and feel comfortable with the seller, the next step is to set up a pre-purchase exam with your veterinarian. Make sure blood is taken and ride the horse on the day of the exam. This is a precautionary measure. Some horses with disreputable dealers may be medicated to cover up either lameness or temperament problems.

  • If you’re looking at a horse in another location, you will probably want to use a vet who practices near the horse you are considering. Ask your vet if they know of a vet in that area to recommend. Your regular vet can also review any information such as x-rays, health history, as part of your assessment and can help you with your decision making.

  • Is the horse sound or does he have a few issues? If he does have a few issues, what issues are you willing to accept? An older horse may have some issues, but may be ideal for your level of riding or for your intended use. Discuss the findings with your veterinarian. The question would be - “Are these problems manageable with supplements or veterinary maintenance, i.e. injections, minor surgery? Can you afford the maintenance required to keep the horse sound and working for you and toward your goals?”

  • Do not be pressured into a quick sale. Take your time, this is a big decision. Safe and sound for your intended use is the name of the game, everything else is icing on the cake!

So there you have it. While this list should be helpful, it is not necessarily everything to think about. Each person’s situation might be slightly different. Do ask friends who have bought horses before for their input. They know you and may have valuable insight. So with that . . . Good Luck and happy horse hunting!

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