After my last post about the cost of getting a horse to the age of four, I thought it would be a good idea to do a follow up about the fun and pitfalls of purchasing horses.
Buying horses has always been a difficult matchmaking process. With the added complications of Brexit and Covid in the mix, some would say it has become near impossible to cover all your bases as a purchaser. So what do I do when looking and purchasing?
- Read the advert very carefully. What has the owner left out? E.g., Good to shoe, box, clip. What about catch? That is an obvious omission (yes I know someone that got tripped up by this), it could be that the horse is perfectly fine to catch and it is a genuine omission or they were running out of words in the advert. However it could also mean that the horse is a nightmare!
- Make sure you keep a copy of the advert as you saw it originally and save it!
- Ask for videos if not provided. Unless I am buying from someone I know and trust completely, I would always need to see a couple of videos before getting into the car to see the horse.
- By all means phone and talk to the person that owns/is selling the horse. However if you have some specific needs then make sure you have an email/whatsapp/text trail. So for example if you are a para rider with particular disabilities or problems getting on and off then check that the owner thinks the horse is suitable. I will explain later in the second part of the blog.
- When you arrange the viewing ask about who else is booked to see the horse and if it is on the same day. You do not want to be riding a horse that someone else has ridden that morning. Message or phone the owner to confirm you are on your way. There is nothing worse than turning up to find the horse has been sold and they forgot to tell you, or its lame. Also there is nothing worse as a seller than people who book appointments and don’t turn up!
- Take a trusted friend. They can video, calm your nerves and also provide an objective view. They may notice things that you don’t. Please don’t turn up with the entire family though! Thankfully Covid has generally put a stop to the habit of people viewing horses with entire entourages and treating it as a day out!
- Look at the horse without tack on. Personally I am always a bit suspicious of horses that are already tacked up and ready to go. The only time it is quite ‘normal’ is on the continent when you have lots to see, but then if there is a horse I am keen on, I would see it untacked and even have a sit on it the next day.
- You are not a vet, however, you can feel for lumps and bumps, check for heat, look at the horse’s general demeanour and health. I like to see them walked and trotted in hand on a hard surface wherever possible. Check the feet, ask about shoeing. Ask about current feeding regime and turnout. There is no point buying a horse that needs turnout every day for a few hours to keep it sane if you don’t have winter turnout!
- See the horse ridden first before you get on. There have been many instances where people do not want to get on a horse and ride it for the prospective purchaser. Ask yourself why? If they have recently broken their leg, had a baby etc., then surely someone else could ride the horse first? You need to see the horse move and also what it is like when it first steps in the arena. Please pay close attention and try not to get distracted. Is it stiff? Does it seem to curl up or hump, or be a bit cold backed? Is it spooky or fresh? You need to know what type of horse you are dealing with and whether you are happy with any of the potential quirks.
- If you only feel comfortable riding in certain stirrups or with particular reins, then take them with you, don’t feel embarrassed.
- The first few minutes normally tell you whether you like the horse or not. The caveat is that when I bought Denver he rode very heavy and not light on the hand and my aids. I persevered for ten minutes, felt like a lifetime, and suddenly he switched on to me and I loved him!!
- If you are buying a hacking horse make sure you try out on the road and in the fields. Sounds obvious? If you are buying an allrounder make sure you jump, hack and essentially find the buttons for everything you want to do. You may want to go back for a second trial ride but check everything out as much as possible in the first go.
- Be kind to the owner. If the horse is not for you, let them know in a kind way. It’s like houses, some horses will suit you and others won’t. There isn’t anything wrong with them you just don’t ‘click’. Also it is very annoying as an owner if you get no feedback and are left hanging as to whether a horse is potentially sold or not.
- Discuss with your trusted friend on the way home. If you are seeing more than one horse in a day I take notes or record some voice notes. This can be really handy for later to weigh up the pros and cons of each horse. Make sure your trusted friend is objective and not just agreeing with you for the sake of it, they must have your best interests at heart. At the end of the day you are buying for yourself so you need to be clear on what suits you best.
The second part of the Buyer Beware blog will be published in a week. In that one I will be covering the next steps to buying your dream horse as well as vetting and deposits.