When you're viewing a horse for buying ask to see it running freely
Buying a horse

What to think about when you go see a horse that you’d like to buy6 min read

After you’ve enquired about the horse that you’re interested in and reviewed the answers you got from the seller, it’s time to decide if you want to see the horse.

If so far, the horse seems like it could be the right one for you, make an appointment with the seller to come and see the horse.

Set a time when both you and the seller will have plenty of time to do the viewing so that you’re not rushing through it.

Get the address and detailed directions on how to get there. Start early and get to the location on time (which means a little early when we’re being polite).

It’s way too easy to fall in love with a pair of brown eyes and a soft muzzle, so take someone with you who can be more objective if this is your first horse or if you think you’re gonna fall in love at first sight.

If you’re buying a young horse consider if you want to ask the seller to show you how easily the horse can be caught, led, handled, loose schooled and even lunged if the horse has gotten that far in his training.

When you’re buying a riding horse ask to see the horse caught, brushed, tacked up, mounted and ridden in an arena or hacking out at the viewing.

If the seller can’t ride the horse, ask that they arrange a rider to be available to show the horse. You should ask to ride the horse yourself as well and arrive prepared.

What to keep an eye out for

If the horse is already stabled (especially if you had agreed that it wouldn’t be) or if the seller refuses to let the horse loose in an arena to demonstrate how easily caught it is, you should bear in mind that it may be hard to catch.

As an extension of that, it may also mean that it is difficult to load onto a trailer.

Check the stable the horses is kept in for any indication of stable vices, such as an anti-weave bar, chewed down wooden parts and the state of the bedding for signs of box walking.

Check that the horse has had water available because dehydrating a horse can dull it down and hide the fact that it’s a very spirited horse.

Check for any signs that the horse has been worked prior to your arrival to tire it out, such as sweat marks.

During the viewing

Watch as the seller catches the horse and ties him up. This is the time for you to inspect the horse.

Look at the horse from the front, sides and back. Check for scars, lumps and scrapes and ask if the seller has recently found any.

Check the condition of the teeth and to check the age of the horse.

Run your hand down each leg to check for hot spots that may indicate inflammation.

Check the hooves to see the condition of the hoof and frog as well as to see how easily you can pick the feet up.

Ask to see registration papers or the passport to verify that they are, in fact, for this horse. Check that the passport includes the horse’s microchip number.

Ask the seller to walk and trot up the horse in-hand in a straight line. Watch the horse as it moves away from you and towards you and see if it moves straight in the legs, and that the pelvis swings equally on both sides when viewing him from behind.

Ask to see the horse in the arena

If it’s a youngster and is unbacked (hasn’t yet been introduced to bridle, saddle and rider) ask to see the horse loose in walk, trot and canter as well as jumping (if appropriate) to assess the movement and ability of the horse.

When you’re viewing a riding horse, watch as the horse is prepared for riding and tacked up and look for signs that may indicate it’s unwilling to be tacked up.

Keep an eye on the condition of the tack, especially when the tack comes as part of the bargain or when you may want to buy it separately.

Ask to see the horse ridden in an arena in walk, trot and canter to see it put through the paces in both directions. Evaluate the balance, fitness and temperament of the horse under saddle.

See if the horse seems eager to work and open to instructions from the rider, or if he spends more time arguing with the rider and resisting the rider’s aids.

Ask to see the horse jumped if you want to do show jumping with your horse.

Also ask to see a ridden horse on grass, such as in a field, to note if there is any difference in behaviour. Some horses can get more excited when ridden outside the confined space of the arena.

Ask the horse to be ridden out on the road and trails and observe how it handles passing traffic and passing inanimate objects on the roadside.

When do you ask to ride the horse?

If everything seems so far, so good, ask to ride the horse yourself. Start by riding the horse in the arena and if you’re happy with that ask to take it outside the arena.

If at any time during the viewing there’s something you don’t like, or determine that the horse is unsuitable for you, tell the seller right away.

To continue the viewing when you’ve already decided to decline the horse is just wasting everybody’s time.

Don’t cave to pressure

No matter how much the seller tries to push for you to make a decision on the spot, don’t be bullied into making a rash decision.

It’s always best to think about it carefully, discuss with any advisors you wish to consult and to sleep on it before making your final decision.

If the seller is in a rush to get the horse sold or has another buyer waiting, let the horse go if you’re not ready to commit.

If you need to call back to ask more questions or ask for another trial ride you should agree with the seller how you can do so.

Once you’ve decided to buy the horse, it’s time to make an appointment for the vetting.

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