Once you have identified horses that appeal to you and match your criteria, you may have lots of questions to ask the seller before arranging a visit. Make a list of questions to determine whether this horse may be potentially suitable; this could save you a wasted journey, time and money. The following questions may be useful to ask depending upon the type of horse you are looking to buy/loan:
- Why is the horse for sale?
- Would you class the horse as a novice/ experienced ride?
- What is the horse’s temperament like?
- What work is the horse currently doing?
- Has the horse ever had any injuries/illness?
- What is the horse’s normal routine during summer and winter?
- How does the horse behave with other horses, both when ridden and turned out?
- Is the horse good to hack out alone and in company?
- Is the horse registered with a breed society or eligible for registration?
- Does the horse have a passport?
- Are tack and rugs included in the price or available for sale?
- What is the horse like to load, catch and clip?
- How does the horse behave with the farrier and the vet?
- How long have you owned the horse? Where did you get the horse from?
- Has the horse ever suffered with laminitis, sweet itch or colic?
- Is the horse shod?
- How does the horse behave at shows?
- Is the horse vaccinated and are these up to date?
The majority of reputable vendors will want the prospective purchaser to know as much as possible about the horse and will not want to waste their time arranging viewings when the horse and purchaser are simply not suited – therefore do not feel embarrassed about asking a lot of questions!
If the horse sounds ideal, arrange a viewing of the horse with the seller. If you have any uncertainties do not make a decision immediately. Inform the seller that you will call them back to arrange a visit once you have considered their answers. When arranging a viewing ensure you make it clear what you would like to see the horse doing; for instance, being caught and brought in from the field, ridden in the school, lunged, jumped, ridden out on the road or out in an open field.
The BHS strongly advises that you take an experienced person who knows your ability and requirements with you to the viewing of the horse. Many BHS Registered Instructors will be willing to provide this service.
At the viewing, observe the horse being handled; check the general health of the horse including body condition, hooves and legs, look for any old injuries or any abnormalities. Do not be worried to ask what things are; it is better to ask extra questions than too few. You may want to see the horse trotted up before it is tacked up so you can see how straight and correctly it moves. Watch the horse being tacked up, is it happy having the saddle put on or does the horse fidget, kick out or try to bite? This could be a sign of a potential problem. Does the horse accept having the bridle on or is he resistant or showing any signs of being head shy?
Never get on any horse first – once the horse is tacked up, the vendor or their representative should ride the horse while you watch. They should be willing to show you the horse in walk, trot, canter and over a jump. Always put your safety first, if you have any concerns about riding the horse then it is unlikely that this horse is suitable for you.
While the horse is being ridden you will be able to observe its paces and behaviour under saddle. If you are confident that it is safe, ask whether you can ride the horse. Do not be over ambitious to start with, remember this is a new horse for you and you are a new rider for the horse. However, putting it through his paces of walk, trot, canter and over a jump should be acceptable for a horse in regular work.
Having tried the horse and asked all the questions you feel appropriate do not make an instant decision, go away and discuss the viewing with your advisor. Do not be afraid to contact the seller and ask more questions or to arrange a second viewing. If you are not interested do not waste any more of the seller’s time and advise them accordingly.
It can take many viewings to find the right horse. Even though this can be disheartening, don’t be put off. It is worth waiting to make sure you buy the right horse.