You’ve always longed to own a horse, and you’ve now saved enough money for the purchase. Excitement is the order of the day—not only for you, but also for the rest of the family.
None of you seems able to keep still as the big day approaches—the day you’ll start looking for a new family member. Try not to get too swept up in the excitement, though, or you might find yourself making a big purchase that leaves you with big regrets. Here are some valuable tips for your consideration as you start shopping for your first equine partner.
1. Go With a Horse Expert
It's always best to go with your own coach. If you don't have a coach, perhaps you have a close friend or family member who has dealt with horses for a long time and knows a lot about them. In any case, bring someone with you who can look at the horse, ride it for a few minutes before you get on and give you an expert evaluation of the suitability of the horse.
That’s the kind of person who should accompany you to the horse seller's. You should be prepared to pay a coach or trainer for their time, but that cost will be well worth it. They’ll help you a lot in avoiding some of the common mistakes that first-time horse buyers make.
2. Get A Pre-Purchase Exam
In the same spirit of consulting experts, you should absolutely hire a professional vet to do a thorough exam before you purchase a horse you’ve spotted. The vet will do their best to highlight any health or soundness concerns. Additionally, they’ll advise you on whether any of the existing conditions are likely to create issues or limitations in the future.
With professional advice, you’ll be able to gauge whether you can bear with the horse's imperfections or whether you should find something better suited for you. Note that no vet can guarantee future soundness. They can only tell you what issues they find and give you a sense of how those issues might impact future soundness. So, if any issue arises down the road, don’t blame them.
3. Compare And Contrast
It’s not uncommon to fall in love with the first horse you see. If that happens, try not to emotionally attach yourself to just one horse. You may end up discouraged if the horse in question doesn't pass the vet check or if the sale falls through.
Instead, keep your mind open. Look for other horses for sale and shortlist about five. Then, move on to comparing and contrasting until you settle on the best. You can also rank them in order of preference. If you fail to get the one you ranked highest, you can move on to number two, and so on.
4. Understand The Sales Contract
First thing first, ask for a sales contract if the seller doesn't have one. Don’t remit funds to the seller’s account before you fully understand the provisions in the contract. It’s human nature to ignore the "terms and conditions" part, especially when the wording is technical and time-consuming to read. But, for your horse, make sure you read every line. Note items like:
The purchase price
Location of transfer of possession
Any listed injuries or noted conditions
Physical description of the horse
Mode of payment
Understanding the entirety of the content avoids the circumstance wherein you enter into a legally binding contract without a full grasp of what you’re doing. Also, the contract acts as proof that you’ve agreed to pay the seller a given amount of money over a given period (usually, but not necessarily, all at once).
If you and the seller agree on payments and then you default, the seller has the right to sue you. And, if the seller fails to meet their legal obligations toward you, or if they've misrepresented the horse, you have the evidence to help you argue the dispute.
5. Enroll In Horse-Handling Courses
In your desire to be a horse owner, there are lots of things you ought to learn. Don’t assume that you know it all. You might make serious mistakes and harm the horse. The best approach, if you're not already in regular lessons, is to enroll in a course to cover all the basics. Make sure it covers things like:
The different levels of care in different seasons
Cleaning and maintaining hooves
Hanging out with your horse
Bridling and unbridling
Jogging your horse
With such an in-depth knowledge of horses, nothing will come as a surprise. You’ll be in a position to handle every arising issue in the right way.
6. Ask Lots Of Questions
Before closing the deal, it’s your right to inquire as much as you can about the horse. The seller shouldn’t feel offended by your curious inquiries. If they’re honest, they should answer all your questions without hesitation. If you feel that they’re hiding some information, forego that horse and look for a better seller.
Additionally, closely observe the behavior of the horse from the moment you arrive at the seller’s premises to the time you leave. Don't just focus on their behaviour under tack. Look at them as the owner brings them out of the stable. Are they cooperative? Stubborn? Nervous? Do they seem to get along well with other horses, dogs and people?
Ask to see the horse do what you plan on doing with them. If you want to jump, have the seller take the horse over a few fences. Watch how easy or difficult they are to manage. If they’re giving the current owner a hard time, there’s no guarantee that you’ll have an easy time with them.
7. Take the Horse on Trial
Be bold enough to ask the seller to allow you to take the horse on trial for at least a few days. If they agree, this is your time to assess the horse for minute details you weren’t able to capture while at the seller’s place.
Some sellers may be skeptical about you taking the horse. That’s normal. It might be difficult for some people to trust a newbie with something so precious. If the seller won't let you take the horse on trial, ask if you can try it out on two different days. It’ll help you make the final decision whether or not to buy it.
That said, remember that when you go to try a horse, you are taking up the seller's time and disrupting the horse's routine. That's simply a part of the sales process, but it does mean you should be mindful of the time you're taking. Only go to see the horse a second time if you're serious. After the second time, you should be ready to make up your mind.
Wrapping it Up
As a first-time horse-buyer, take care not to get caught up in the excitement or you might end up with a problematic horse. Stay objective and follow the purchase tips highlighted herein. You’ll increase the likelihood of getting the horse of your dreams.
Written by Ramon Suarez
Ramon Suarez is an equestrian trainer and business manager. He has been in this business for over two decades. During his spare time, he enjoys surfing, swimming, and scuba diving. He also loves painting and woodworking.
Feature image: Radwan Skeiky; Image 1: Helena Lopes