Buying a horse is an exciting time for anyone, but it’s important decision that requires careful thought and planning. It’s all-too easy to be led by your heart and not your head when it comes to choosing your new mount but, with a bit of common sense, a smooth sale and a happy future for both of you can be achieved. Follow Horse&Rider’s top 10 tips and get that horse you’ve always wanted!
1. Before you jump in and scan the horses for sale ads, make a list of the things you want from your new horse in light of your budget, needs and abilities, and select possibles based on these. A flashy Thoroughbred might sound great, for example, but if you’ll be on grass livery and only looking to hack and do the occasional fun ride, a native type may be more suitable.
2. Before viewing any prospective new mounts, write a check-list of questions you want to ask the seller. It can be easy to get caught up in the moment and forget the important issues, so make sure you have the answers you need before making a decision.
3. It’s a good idea to take an experienced person with you when you see a prospective purchase, just make sure they know exactly what you’re looking for.
4. When viewing a horse, watch how he behaves in the stable, when tied up, and being groomed, rugged and turned out. Ask the seller if you can have a go too, so you know exactly what you’ll be dealing with. Don’t be afraid to query any signs of stable vices (look out for cribbing, box walking, weaving) and see how he behaves around other horses, too.
5. Always ask the seller to ride the horse before you get on-board. If they seem reluctant to do so, it could indicate a problem. When it comes to your turn, don’t take any chances and wear a body protector.
6. The advert may have said ‘good to load, clip, shoe and in traffic’, but don’t assume this is true! Ask to see the horse loaded (even better, have a go yourself) and see his reaction to clippers. Make sure you find a road and ride the horse in traffic, even if it means going out of your way. And it’s not unreasonable to ask to come back on a day when the horse is being shod, to see how he behaves with the farrier.
7. Ride the horse in the school and on the roads/in the countryside, with and without other horses. It may mean more than one trip to the yard when trying a prospective horse, but a good seller will not mind you coming back as many times as you feel is necessary, to make sure the horse is right for you.
8. Sadly, it’s not uncommon for a seller to subdue a horse with a flighty temperament, to make it appear more placid. Sweat marks, signs of dehydration (check it has access to fresh water) and poor fitness can mask a highly strung horse’s normal behaviour. If you’re in any doubt, question the seller – if they cannot offer a reasonable explanation, it could indicate a problem.
9. It goes without saying that a vetting is required – act with caution if a seller tries to deter you from this! A full five-stage vetting is recommended – it may seem like an added expense on top of everything else, but it’s worth its weight in gold if it saves you years of vet’s bills because of an underlying health problem.
10. Insurance is a must, but the timing of this is also paramount. Make sure your new horse is insured from the moment it leaves the seller’s yard – anything can happen before it reaches its new home, so don’t take any chances. Consider this if taking the horse for a trial period,too. Remember, the seller will expect the horse to be given proper and have it returned in the same condition, otherwise you could be facing a compensation pay-out.
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