Buying a horse from a private seller
Buying a Horse

How to enquire about a horse that is for sale (and what to say when you get nervous talking on the phone)

So, you’ve seen an advert for a horse that you’re interested in. What do you do next?

Before picking up your phone or hovering your fingers over your keyboard to write an email to the vendor, put together a list of questions that will help you get the information you need.

The advertisement itself should include details about the horse’s height, age, breed, gender, colour, use, training/experience and price.

However, sometimes a seller just isn’t that good at writing an ad or doesn’t have a lot of time to do it and prefers to deal over the phone or only with interested people.

If the horse has caught your eye, don’t hesitate to ask more! Sometimes you may find a really wonderful horse hiding behind a stub of an ad.

In other cases you may find a really extensive description in the ad already and may want to confirm that what’s written in the ad is true. This is an opportunity for you to ask good follow-up questions.

Asking good questions

When you’re chatting up a vendor about the horse, I recommend you start with the easy questions and progress to the bigger ones to create an atmosphere of friendliness and to prevent it from feeling like an interrogation.

You want to encourage them to talk and make sure that you’re being a good listener. This is the best way to get the full story about the horse.

If find that when I’m on the phone it’s a good idea to smile – it will carry through in your voice and make you seem friendly and approachable.

When I’m writing an email, I’ll read it aloud to see how it reads and adjust it if it sounds too dry and add some emojis or exclamation points to build up the energy a bit.

Start with ‘no’

After you’ve introduced yourself and told the person what you’re calling about, you should ask a question that allows the person on the other end to say ‘no’.

I know this sounds counter-intuitive, but I absolutely love the book Never Split The Difference* by former FBI hostage negotiator Chris Voss and according to him getting the other person to first say ‘no’ lets them get comfortable in the conversation.

So, I’d start the conversation by saying something like, “Has the horse already been sold?” – if the answer to this is ‘yes’ then you can just thank the other person for their time and end the call because there’s nothing in it for you anymore.

First, ask the easy questions

After that I’d move on to ask about something that was mentioned in the ad, such as: “You mentioned in your ad that the horse has been ridden by a child, can you tell me how old the child was?” or “For how many years did the child ride the horse?”.

Expanding on something in the ad is an easy thing to answer for the seller.

Other questions you may consider asking in the beginning:

  • How long have you had the horse?
  • Where did you get the horse from?
  • What made you decide to sell the horse? (Asking ‘why’ questions can often come off as accusatory and set the other person on edge.)
  • How much training does the horse have (in whatever discipline is mentioned in the ad)?

Asking about the horse’s temperament

  • What is the horse’s temperament like generally?
  • Does the horse ever get excitable and if so, in what circumstances?
  • Is the horse easy to catch?
  • Is the horse easy to load in a lorry and trailer?
  • Is the horse good to clip?
  • Is the horse good with the farrier?
  • Is the horse good with the dentist?
  • Is the horse good to worm?
  • Does the horse get on well with other horses when turned out and when being ridden in company?

Asking about how the horse is under saddle (riding)

  • At what age was the horse backed? (Meaning: when was it taught to wear saddle and bridle and carry someone on their back.)
  • What tack and bit has the horse been ridden in?
  • How experienced is the horse?
  • What is the horse like to ride? (Is it forward going, excitable, strong or quiet, calm or placid?
  • Has the horse been known to buck, bolt or rear?
  • Would you say the horse is suitable for a beginner rider or does it need an experienced rider?
  • Is the horse known to nap? (Meaning that he stops even when the rider is asking him to go forward.)

Asking about the horse’s health

  • Has the horse ever suffered any injuries or illnesses?
  • Are the horse’s vaccinations up-to-date?
  • Has the horse been wormed regularly? When was the last time?
  • When was the last time the horse had its teeth checked by a vet or dentist?
  • When was the last time the horse was seen by the farrier?
  • Has the horse ever been checked by an equine osteopath, chiropractor and/or physiotherapist?
  • Has the horse been known to exhibit any vices (e.g, weaving, crib-biting, windsucking or box walking)?

Asking about the horse’s routine care

  • Is the horse normally kept at grass or stabled?
  • Is the horse turned out alone or with other horses?
  • Is the horse clipped or has it ever been clipped before?
  • Is the horse rugged?
  • Is the horse shod?
  • What does the horse eat and how much?
  • Does the horse tend to lose weight or put on weight easily?
  • Does the horse have any special care or feeding requirements?

Asking about hacking (trail riding)

  • Is the horse calm when hacking out?
  • Does the horse hack out happily alone as well as in the company of other horses?
  • Is the horse good in traffic?
  • Is the horse easily spooked?
  • How often is the horse hacked out at present and is this alone or in company?
  • Is there something specific that scares the horse? (E.g. if the horse is scared of big green rubbish bins you’ll know to train the horse if you have a lot of those in your area.)

Asking about the schooling & competition record

  • How much schooling has the horse had?
  • How often is the horse schooled at present?
  • What disciplines has the horse competed in and at what level?
  • How many times has the horse competed?
  • When was the last time the horse competed?
  • How has the horse placed?

Asking about the price

  • Does the price include any tack?
  • If not, is the tack available to buy separately?
  • Does the price include any rugs and other equipment?
  • If not, is this available to buy separately?
  • Is the price negotiable or can you pay in instalments?

Other questions

  • Does the horse have a microchip and is the passport up to date? (It’s illegal in the UK and EU to sell a horse without these.)
  • Does the horse have any other identifying tags such as a tattoo, freeze mark or brand?
  • Do you have registration papers?/What is the horse’s breeding?
  • Are you open to offering the horse on a trial period?

If you find any of these questions already answered in the ad, jot them down before getting on the phone – this way you can just confirm that the information hasn’t changed since the ad was made.

Once you’ve talked to the seller and gotten the information you want, thank them for their time and ask if there are any other prospective buyers for the horse.

If yes, and you feel that this horse is very interesting to you, you can make an appointment to view the horse. If you aren’t sure, you can say that you’ll take a day or two to think about it and then ring back if you’re still interested in arranging a viewing.


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