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How to buy a horse

By Helen Cheeseworth
How to buy a horse

Buying a horse is frequently acknowledged as one of the most difficult and stressful things it is possible to do! There are many pitfalls to be avoided, and things may not always be as they seem.

It is always advisable to take at least one experienced person who knows you well with you to look at potential horses, maybe your riding instructor, and always have the horse vetted, by an independent vet if possible.

Ask about the horse’s history, his veterinary records and to see his passport. Ask if he is easy to catch, to handle, to bath and to clip. Ask about specific vices – it is always best to ask "does he buck, does he weave?" etc rather than just "does he have any vices?" Don’t accept the statement "no vices". A vendor may later say that they don’t regard, for example, bucking, as a vice.

Ask to see the horse caught and brought in, brushed off and tacked up. If the horse is already in ask for him to be turned out and caught up again.

Ask to see the horse doing what you will use him for – there is no use in seeing him doing piaffe if you only want to use him to hack out alone!

After he is ridden ask to see him untacked, left in his stable for a while, rugged up and then turned back out.

Even reading and deciphering an advert can be very confusing and misleading! Abbreviations tend to be used so the vendor can get as much information as possible into a small advert. Some of the common abbreviations and phrases seen are as follows:

Forward going: should mean responsive to the leg aids and has a good attitude to work. Could mean that the horse rushes and has a tendency to get strong!

Easy to do: should mean that the horse is easy to handle in every way, but questions still need to be asked. Is he good to clip, shoe, load, travel etc?

Green: should mean that the horse is young and inexperienced. Could mean that the horse is just badly mannered and ill trained!

Has Competed: should mean that the horse has experience in a show environment. Could mean that he was injured and retired from competition, or proved unable to cope well in that environment.

Placed every time out: should mean the horse has a good competition record. Could mean he has only competed once, was the only horse in the class and therefore won!

Snaffle mouthed: should mean the horse is well mannered and easy to control. Could mean that the horse does indeed have a snaffle bit, but also needs a very strong noseband, or perhaps should need a stronger bit!

Never rush to make a decision over buying a horse. Always go back at least twice, and try the horse in as many situations as possible.

Many people are wary of buying from dealers, but sometimes this can mean that you get more security in your purchase than buying privately. It is always worth asking around in the area and perhaps on forums to get opinions on local dealers.

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