5 Questions to Ask When Internet Horse Shopping

As much as we at Horse Nation cherish our “Best of Craigslist” collections, there are plenty of diamonds in the rough if you know where to look and what to ask. Maria Wachter shares her tips based on plenty of experience.

Screen shot via Craigslist

I love Craigslist. I have bought a lot of horses and mules there, most of my trucks, trailers, saddles and pretty much everything else. I also have sold tons of stuff on Craigslist. The great thing about Craigslist: it’s free! No listing fees, no selling fees, no headache. You put it on there, and people call you (or mostly, text).

Now that being said, there are a lot of scammers and people with nothing better to do than waste your time. This article is not about that those — this is how to NOT get scammed yourself on your next potential Craigslist buy.

Sure, you can get scammed on any horse sales page or Facebook group too — but a lot of the sales sites are set up to sell horses specifically, and include spaces for things like height, age and temperament. Craigslist doesn’t, so it’s up to the buyer to know what to ask if it’s not included in the ad.

Last month I looked at a mule on Craigslist. I had been looking for about a year for a BIG, sound mule that was already broke for trail riding and safe enough to put family and friends on.

This mule that I found was relatively close by (264 miles away). She was supposedly 10 years old, 16 hands, had no health or vision issues, no vices, well broke, gentle and calm.

When we arrived, in the distance I saw a mule weaving in a stall to greet us (one vice there). I walk into the stall and she’s about 14.2 hands, before her much needed hoof trim to knock off another good inch of overgrown hoof (definitely not 16 hands).

She looked super old, had a hunter bump on her back, her head was full of gray hairs and her lips were all puckered up like something you’d find in a very aged animal. First thing I noticed was that her right eye was totally white and and had an ulcer that covered the whole eye (definitely a vision problem there, since she couldn’t see at all out of it!).

Then I opened her mouth. She looked to be mid twenties, pushing 30. (Not 10 years old as she was advertised.)

I told the seller “I will not waste any more of your time, she is not what we are looking for, not 10 years old and definitely not 16 hands tall.”

The seller assured us that she was 10, since that’s what they guy told them that they bought her from. Yes, she was 10… about 20 years ago.

So, we left. I felt bad for her, but not bad enough to buy her. Hopefully she’ll find another sucker, but it won’t be us.

Here’s the link to the mule; she’s still for sale. (They did drop her price by $1000 and lowered her height over a hand in the ad.)

Even with all the questions asked, sometimes people just don’t know what they have or just don’t care and will lie to you. Based on experience, however, I do believe these five questions will help save you time and heartache.

1. Does the horse bite, buck, bolt, rear, or kick? Would you feel safe putting your child or mother on it? Has it ever hurt anyone?

Now this question is good if you’re looking for a safe animal to ride, that being said, even the safest one can hurt you, but this will weed out some of the yahoos. If you’re looking for a project horse, modify this question based on what you want.

2. How old is the horse? Is it registered? If it’s not registered, how do you know that horse is that particular age?

Most people will say the horse or mule is 14 years old if they don’t know, even though it might be pushing 20. 14 seems like the magical number of every animal listed on Craigslist and the feedlots.

If you’re really interested in the horse, ask the seller for a photo of the horse’s teeth. Most people will oblige, but some might tell you to get lost.

3. Is the horse sound? Does it have any vision problems, hearing problems, does it have its teeth still and a tongue? Does it have any health problems?

Trust me on this one, I accidentally bought a pony was missing half of its tongue. I looked at a mare eight hours away that had a tumor the size of a baseball growing over her eye and I picked up two draft mules for a friend who bought them from a feedlot without it being disclosed by the seller that one was blind in both eyes.

4. Does this horse have any vices? Cribbing, weaving, pawing, pulling back, etc?

Some vices are worth overlooking if you really like the animal. I have a mule currently that likes to weave at feeding time, but besides that he’s a great mule and rides great. I’ve also owned a couple of good horses that were cribbers, but it depends on what you really want to deal with.

5. Are you negotiable or set on your price?

If you can’t afford the horse, there’s no point in wasting another person’s time. Some people are extremely negotiable and some people will say “price is FIRM.”

Good luck shopping! Any other good questions to ask? Put them in the comments!

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