Sunday, August 23, 2009

How To Purchase A Horse Wisely (Post for Sunday August 23, 2009)

Here is the second part, today's post!! :)

Buying a new horse is probably the most exciting experience in the entire world for someone who loves horses, It can be the most frustrating experience as well. Like a journey into uncharted waters, the decision to purchase or not purchase any given animal can be trying on even the most patient of souls. This time I wish to dispense some advice for making this journey a little more tolerable -- perhaps even fun!

First things first, you really need to decide well in advance of beginning your search what you want the horse to be or do. You must decide what area most holds your interest, and if applicable, what breed of horse you are most interested in. If you want a jumper to show in open competition, you should look at breeds which excel in that field -- Thoroughbreds and any of the Warmblood breeds are good choices here. On the other hand, if you love Arabians and also want to jump, you most certainly can find an Arabian with superior jumping ability. This is the area you need to put the most thought into before you actually go shopping, since such a decision can narrow down the list of prospective horses to look at, and you won’t be spending a lot of time running around to see horses you really aren’t going to be interested in.

At this time you can even get more selective in what you want. Whether you prefer a mare, gelding or stallion, what color you prefer most and a size range you would be interested in. You may not find exactly what you are searching for in your price range, but having a list of what you really want is most helpful, especially if you enlist the assistance of an agent to look for you.

Hiring an agent to find a horse is generally thought to be reserved for the more wealthy horseman (or woman), but if you don't have a lot of contacts and even less time, this might be the way to go. The fee for these services can be anywhere from 5% to 20% of the cost of the horse you eventually purchase (and sometimes more -- depending on what kind of horse you’re buying), but to the person who has the money, I would certainly encourage you to hire your own agent.

One thing I must stress, however, is never, EVER be in too much of a hurry to make a purchase. Definitely don’t buy the first horse you look at immediately, even if you eventually do decide he’s better than any other you’ve seen, and never buy on impulse or just because you “felt something” about a specific horse, until after you’ve had the opportunity to weigh the pros and cons of many horses. Take your time and see as many horses as you can. I tell my clients who are seriously in the market for a horse to try at least 20 different horses before committing to that all important purchase.

Another very significant point to ponder is make certain that you are absolutely ready to make the commitment of buying a horse before you embark on your search and before you waste the time of any sellers who are trying to market their horses. Be sure you always keep any appointments you make to go see any horse. The consequences to the seller (or whoever you’ve made the appointment with) when you stand them up are significant. Besides, if or when you decide to sell a horse, I seriously doubt you would want any “lookie-loos” just calling on your ad for the heck of it and wasting your time.

The final criteria for horse hunting is your price range and determining your budget. You need to be very specific on how much you want (and can afford) to spend on your dream horse, keeping in mind that your investment will be greatly increased by the simple monthly upkeep of said horse you intend to purchase, not to mention any training, show or breeding costs you will incur in the future with your new steed.

Be realistic in your demands and expectations, but also don’t buy any horse you really might not want just because someone tried to talk you into it, or because it was a really great bargain. The prevailing thought when purchasing horseflesh should be, “This is a horse I truly want and I’ll always cherish.” Don’t ever approach the subject of buying a horse as strictly an investment you can resell, no matter how attractive that idea might seem. That’s exactly how thousands of horses every year end up being sold to slaughter. Be a responsible horse owner, and be ready to take on a lifelong commitment. Sure, someday you may want to sell any horse, but buying and selling them like commodities on the stock market as was common practice in the early 1980’s nearly destroyed the horse industry, and certainly changed the business as we knew it.

Once you find a horse (or horses) that you are seriously interested in, you need to have an intensive pre-purchase examination done by your own veterinarian, including complete and thorough musculoskeletal, cardiovascular and respiratory exams, plus, for breeding stock you’ll want exams of the reproductive organs of the horse. In addition, x-rays, blood work and flexion tests are always in order. The costs are not cheap, but keep in mind you are making an investment, not buying a pair of socks to stick in your dresser drawer. I have an in-depth report on what I recommend for a pre-purchase exam, and you can get a copy of these guidelines at no charge by contacting Sunlit Farm Training Services.

Now, armed with this new found wisdom, you can get to the task of creating the image of your dream horse, then go out and find him or her! Whatever you do, be specific about what you want and don’t budge very far from your ideal.



  1. I am not currently in the market to buy a new horse, but I hope to be seriously shopping in a year to a year and a half. That's why I went to be big name (very nice people by the by.)breeders barn to look at the 2 1/2 year olds. To see how I would react to beautiful horse after beautiful horse being trotted out for my inspection. I figured out one thing, I can't be trusted with a cheque book near horses for sale. I want them all.

  2. LOL! I hear you. When I was looking at stallions a couple of years ago, it was all I could do to remind myself I really did not need one for myself. I was also searching for an older, been there, done that flat saddle horse for my daughter back in 2007. The gelding I found and liked was way overpriced for what he was, though I liked the horse. I ended up this year with a gorgeous black 15.2 hand 3rd level dressage horse instead. That's okay, she needed a new horse and he really is the horse of my dreams, too!!

    It's why I cannot go to horse auctions anymore. They just kill me! At the low end auctions I want to rescue every horse that's run through the ring, and at the high dollar sales I just shake my head at what people will pay for horseflesh, especially when plied with booze. ;)

  3. My mother bought a hunter that way back in 1970, At the Oatlands Fall Hunter Sale. She wasn't drunk, she just HAD to bid on something, then she won a lovely TB field hunter. Who promptly sailed over our 5 foot fence and ran for 10 miles. Turned out no fence could contain her. Which was why she was at the fall hunter sale.

  4. My mother was (is) like that. Stepdad does NOT let her attend horse auctions. They go to antique auctions and such, and she always brings something home. They would have dozens of horses if she was going to horse sales. Thank goodness there are no Addis auctions in Colorado!! LOL


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