How To Be a Good Horse Buyer

We’ve all heard horror stories about “horse traders” … but as former buyer/seller Maria Wachter points out, “it takes two to tango.” Here are a few tips for being a shrewd and responsible buyer.

Capt. Thomas Cieslak/Wikimedia Commons

Capt. Thomas Cieslak/Wikimedia Commons

Don’t want to be screwed by a horse trader? Well, the horse trader doesn’t want to be screwed by you either!

Horse traders are a dime a dozen. Listen up — if you’ve sold more than a handful of horses yourself, you, too are considered a horse trader. It stings a little, doesn’t it? So many people have horror stories about the “Horse Trader” — lots of Facebook groups are dedicated just to shaming these people, who make a living by selling horses.

In this article, we will go over what to look out for so you don’t get burnt. We’ll also go over what it is to be a good buyer: remember, it takes two to tango.

Let’s go over the basics when horse shopping:

  • First off, don’t buy a horse for color. If you want a certain color, buy a car. As for a horse, color should be the last thing you’re looking at.
  • Beware of key words like” bombproof” and “safe.” News flash: horses aren’t safe. No matter how good your horse can be, you can ALWAYS get hurt. Most accidents happen on the quietest horse because we let our guard down.
  • A lot of health issues and lameness problems can be hidden with a dose of bute. A vet check (at the buyer’s expense) with x-rays is the only way to rule out things like ringbone, navicular, arthritis, and other issues going on under the skin. Sometimes, the best horse you will find may have some sort of health issues. You will need to decide what kind of care you can afford and handle, and that may depend on your discipline: a leisurely trail rider might have different requirements from a show rider. Sure, you can get a 100% healthy, sound horse … that will buck you off once you climb in the saddle.
  • Let the seller ride the horse before you climb aboard. If the horse is going to explode, let him explode on the owner. No need for a broken neck if it can be avoided.
  • Don’t buy a horse that’s outside of your ability level.
  • Ask if there is a return policy. If you’re unhappy with the horse, some sellers will take the horse back. If there is no return policy, remember that it’s buyer beware. Once you buy the horse, it’s yours.
  • Most horses have “holes” : they’re not perfect, but neither are you. It takes a long time to bond with a horse and get it trained the way you want.
  • Do not expect a horse to be your best friend the first time you meet it. It takes a long time to build that trust.
  • A lot of horses are sold as well-broke. These horses are used to being ridden at least a couple of times a week, and ridden hard. If you buy a horse and just ride him once or twice a month and he turns into a monster, it’s not because the seller lied to you — it’s because the horse needs more exercise than you’re giving him. If you’re only going to ride once or twice a month, you should really just go buy a car instead.
  • The cheapest horse in the long run normally ends up costing the most.
  • If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. A well-broke registered buckskin colored sound horse isn’t going to be cheap. You get what you pay for.

Some pointers to be a good buyer:

  • Don’t buy for color! If you want color, buy a car!
  • Don’t waste the seller’s time. That means that if you don’t have the money to buy the horse, you’re wasting the seller’s time. If you know the horse is more than you can handle, you’re wasting the seller’s time. The horse is not your babysitter.
  • Show up on time and leave your screaming babies and dogs at home. This is not a family reunion. This is a very important decision.
  • Don’t expect to buy a horse sight-unseen over the internet and be happy with it. Try buying a piece of clothing first and see how much different it looks in person.
  • Make sure you have a place to keep the horse if you do decide to buy him. Also, make sure you have a way to get the horse home. Some sellers will offer to trailer the horse for you, for a fee.
  • If you ride with a helmet, bring your helmet. Not every seller has a helmet lying around.
  • Don’t buy based on emotion. Bring a friend with you for a second opinion.
  • Don’t spend all day whining to the seller about all your problems. The seller is not your therapist.
  • If you’re unhappy with the horse and you’re not going to buy it, tell the seller. No reason to tell the seller “let me go home and think it over for a couple of days, and I’ll get back to you.” Every seller that has heard that line knows that is just bull.
  • If there is no return policy on your horse, then all sales are final. If you buy you’re horse and you’re unhappy with it, it’s now your horse. It’s no longer the seller’s horse. That means that there is no reason for you to drag the seller across the coals or bash the seller. The seller didn’t point a gun to your head and make you buy the horse.

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