I love horses. I was such a horse crazy girl that my parents actually sold our subdivision house, bought 3 acres and moved so I could have a horse. They would take me to horse shows and promptly lose me because I would find someone to let me ride a horse. Anyone. There were no strangers to me if they owned a horse.
I decided I wanted to become a veterinarian in 4th grade when my horse experienced an episode of colic (belly pain). I was so thankful to my veterinarian who came to my house and saved my horse. I knew I could do nothing else in life.
I’ve owned a lot of horses through the years. Some good, some bad, some mediocre, a few unforgettable. If you’ve ever looked for a horse, you know what a trial it can be to find that perfect horse for you.
You can’t just go to the horse lot and buy one. You need to be aware of so many things. And unfortunately, many people selling horses are more interested in making a few bucks than finding a good horse for the person looking. So I’d like to go through a few things you need to know while looking for a horse.
1. Have someone who knows horses look with you. Even if you know horses. I always take Owen with me. It’s easier to be objective when you have 2 sets of eyes. You both can ride and watch the other person ride. It’s easier to be critical and objective when you have someone to bounce questions off of
2. Check the teeth. I went to look at a horse just last week. The people swore it was 8 yrs old. I opened his mouth. I’m certain he wasn’t a day under 15. That’s quite a difference. I’ll write a special post on aging by teeth in the near future.
3. Look at the legs. Have the horse trot on hard ground. Look for swollen knees, hocks, ankles, etc. Some horses have blemishes, but don’t buy a horse with known leg problems unless you are looking for an old horse to baby sit and only needs to walk around he backyard.
4. Check hooves. They should be trimmed well with no cracks. Pick up the foot. The sole should not be dropped, and the heels should be heathy.
5. Look at the eyes. They should both be clear and bright. Horse irises are different. Those brown, finger-like projections are normal.
6. Never impulse buy. Don’t be in a rush. Go visit several times before making a decision. If someone else buys that horse before you, it wasn’t meant for you. Horses are a BIG commitment both financially and time-wise. The most expensive horse in the world is the one that doesn’t fit your needs.
7. Set a budget and stick to it. Good horses are expensive, but there are good ones in all price ranges. Don’t overspend. Buy what you can afford. If you spend a lot, be sure to get insurance. Horses can be insured for a few hundred dollars per year. Nice to have that money if you need to replace a horse.
8. Be sure it is a safe horse. I don’t consider anything under 7 years old well-broke. I want a horse that has been ridden, hauled, shod, stalled, seen people and places. Young horses are just not predictable. They are only for horse trainers in my opinion. Ask about history of bucking, kicking, biting, bullying other horses, and being pushy. A disrespectful horse is a dangerous horse.
9. Don’t trust the person selling the horse. Not because they are dishonest, but because their view of this horse is different than yours. The horse my daughter rides is now 22 years old. I bought her from a client and friend when she was 9 years old and trained as a barrel horse. I love her. But she does not stand to tie. And she dances around when you saddle her. For some people, that’s unacceptable. For me, I’m ok because I love everything else about her. Now that she’s an old girl and been with me so long, she babysits Landry. She even qualified for the State 4-H Horse show in both barrels and poles this week. But she would be a nightmare for anyone who doesn’t understand her ways. Again, your perfect horse is not another person’s perfect horse. Don’t trust what you are being told. Look for things that are important to you.
10. After you’ve looked at all those things, get a prepurchase exam. You can spend anywhere from $100 to thousands of $ on one. If it’s just a backyard companion, then you just want the vet to do an exam to be sure nothing is obviously wrong. If you are buying a pricey show horse, you will want x-rays, lameness exams, etc. The most important thing to remember is that a horse that doesn’t fit you won’t be worth any price you pay for it.
We all love our horses, but having one that really does fit your needs is priceless.
Happy Horse Shopping!!