11 Dos and Don’ts of Horse Shopping in the Digital Age

If you’ve ever had to sell a horse, you know the headache that comes with answering ad inquiries. But as a buyer, you may not be aware how much extra time sellers spend dealing with inane questions. Here’s a quick guide on how NOT to be that person.

Pixabay/Rebecca Schönbrodt-Rühl/CC

Over the past few months I have listed several horses for clients and also had several people contact me looking for horses. So, I have been thinking a lot about horse shopping in the current age, and I have comprised a list of 11 things that make horse shopping easier both on the buyer and on the seller. 

1. DO read the entire ad! I know, I know, words are hard, and you just saw that picture of a cute little Paint and you have to have him right now. But take a beat and read the ad, and then read the ad again. And then, if you still feel like you are interested in the horse, contact the seller. 

2. DO NOT contact the seller asking for more information! Very often I will spend a solid hour writing a perfect sale ad that includes all of the details about the horse. And then I will get a message that simply says, “More information.” Well, what more would you like to know? His resting heart rate? His normal body temperature? I would be happy to tell people whatever they would like to know, but more information is not very informative. So, tell me exactly what you want to know, and I will gladly answer. 

3. DO have a clear vision of what you are looking for in a horse! Make sure before you start horse shopping that you know what you are looking for. Do you want a trail horse? A horse for your kids? A horse to jump 2’6” courses? A fox hunter that will be happy to hang back in the third field? Make sure that you know what you expect of your horse before you go looking. And have a practical idea of the body type of horse that will best suit you or the age of horse that you are looking for. So many people lock themselves into one height or one age, when really what they want is an older, smaller horse for their kids, or a rangier, younger horse to do the jumpers. 

4. DO NOT get competitive! When you see a lot of people commenting on a handsome dappled grey, it’s easy to get competitive and think that you really want that horse just because other people are interested in the horse. But take the time to be sure that you really want that horse, and don’t merely want to win. 

5. DO make an informed decision! If it’s important to you that the horse pass a PPE, then make sure that you budget to have a PPE before you bring the horse home. If it’s important to you that the horse be a specific height and age, then make sure to check those things out before you bring the horse home. Know what the horse is used to eating and how much turn out time the horse is accustomed to, so that you are not changing everything when the horse comes home. A little bit of research early on, can save a lot of heartache later.  

6. DO NOT waste the seller’s time! Know what you want before you go looking at a horse. If you know that you are 5’10” and that you don’t like the way you look on a small horse, then don’t make an appointment to see a 15hh horse. Or if you know that your child has to be safe on this horse, don’t come see a green three year old. Take the time to do the research into what you want before you reach out to a seller. 

7. DO have a reasonable budget! So often I see people wanting a perfect kids’ horse, no older than 14, and preferably a grey for $1,000 or less. Having unrealistic expectations helps exactly no one. If the horse is cheap, there is going to be a reason. It could be green, or old, or lame, but it’s not going to be both perfect and inexpensive unless it’s old or requires maintenance. If you don’t have the money for the horse you want now, there is nothing wrong with taking the time to save up so that you can buy the horse you have your heart set on. But if you absolutely have to have that horse now, then think about what things you are willing to give up in order to have the horse you want now. 

8. DO NOT comment on the seller’s post! If you are really serious about a horse, send the seller an actual message or *gasp* call them on the phone! If there are a lot of people interested in the horse, then the seller may have a ton of people to respond to. Show how serious you are by actually reaching out to the seller, and setting up an appointment to come see the horse. 

9. DO be willing to put a deposit on a horse! If you are serious about trying out a horse and you think that horse ticks all of your boxes, but you cannot get to see the horse because he lives a bit outside of your travel radius, then put a nonrefundable deposit down on the horse, so that the seller will hold the horse for you. This will allow the seller to hold the horse for you and to give you time to travel to see the horse. Sometimes buyers act like they are doing the seller a favor by being interested in the horse, but sellers are under no obligation to wait for buyers to make up their minds, so put your money where your mouth is and show that your intentions are serious. 

10. DO NOT let your biases affect your decisions! So often I see ads saying NO Thoroughbreds or NO Arabians, or NO mares. A good horse is a good horse no matter what gender or breed it is. So think more about the job that you want the horse to do, and the temperament of the horse that you want to ride, and less about things that don’t really matter like height, age,  breed, or gender. 

11. DO communicate clearly! Communicating clearly with the seller will allow the seller to know what you are looking for. Often I will have people answer ads for horses that I have listed, and the people are not actually a good fit for the horse they are interested in. I am always very open about that, and I will keep an eye out for a horse that will better suit the buyer. Sometimes people get very offended by my honesty, but more often people respond by telling me exactly what they are looking for and why. And that helps me find them an excellent match. We need to normalize honesty and frankness in the horse industry. I love it when people contact me after they have purchased a horse, and let me know if there are certain things that they are working on. Sometimes I can offer them advice on the things that they are working on or insight into the horse’s past. 

So, follow these e11 dos and don’ts and make your horse buying experience smoother! And for the other sellers out there, what did I miss? Let us know in the Facebook comments!