Buying a horse should be well planned and carefully thought out. Don't settle for less than you expect or more than you can handle. There are always other horses and other days.
The safest way to buy a horse is to locate an honest seller and take along an experienced person to help you. Take the horse on a week's trial basis if possible, and buy subject to its passing a veterinarian's examination.
There are many happy horse owners. Satisfaction comes from knowing what you want and searching until you find it. Insist on quality, even at a higher price. Remember that a horse is not essential; therefore, the market favors the buyer. Reject a horse if it isn't what you want or doesn't meet your needs.
Don't let a fancy pedigree hide poor quality. A poor horse usually means extra expense and dissatisfaction.
Horses are expensive, to buy or to keep. Also, a lot of time is required for daily care. Unless you are willing to devote time on a regular, daily basis and to pass up other activities, you probably should not become a horse owner. Horses can become a life-long hobby, and owning a horse may also encourage development of responsibility in young people.
Prices may vary from nothing to many thousands of dollars. The cost of a mature, non-registered horse with some training and reasonable conformation ranges from about $1,000 to $2,000. Registered horses with show potential and some additional training often sell for many times this amount.
A horse is a long-term investment. Buy the best horse possible -- a good one eats no more than a poor one.
Feed and bedding (together called board), shoeing and veterinary expenses range of $5 to $12 per day. The cost of tack and equipment normally ranges from $500 to $3,000, depending largely on the type of saddle.
Upkeep and replacement costs and new equipment may be $100 to $500 a year. Personal items must also be considered.
Consider facilities and services needed
An adequate stable is probably the most important item and may be the most expensive. Zoning laws in some suburban areas may restrict keeping a horse or building a stable.
Check out where a horse may be riddenbridle paths, trails, show rings and training facilities. Exercise areas are essential. If the horse must be hauled to an exercise area, a trailer or other vehicle is needed.
What age horse is best?
A horse's condition and training are more important than its age. Prime age for a horse is about seven to nine years, but this is not necessarily the ideal age. Horses frequently are active into their late 20s if they get proper care.
A buyer can often buy a top-quality older horse at the same price or less than would be paid for a younger horse of lesser quality. Although most older horses can not perform as actively as they did when younger, they may have many years of useful service left.
Be ready to decide whether you prefer a younger horse or if an older one would do as well. This decision can't be made until you evaluate each individual horse.
The age of the horse you buy depends on what you can afford and what horses you find available. Your experience is also important. If you are an inexperienced rider, you should not purchase an untrained young horse unless both you and the horse will receive training from a competent professional.
Learn as much as you can about horses
Prospective horse owners should learn all they can about horses before buying. Keep an open mind while learning. Material is available at libraries, bookstores and county extension centers.
Visit horse shows and breeding farms. Observe different breeds of horses and different styles of riding. Ask questions. Most experienced horse owners will be glad to help a newcomer.
Being sure of a good horse
Faults and problems of a poor horse can be disguised or may not be noticed by an inexperienced buyer. If you don't have the necessary background, seek help from a reputable individual who knows horses. Veterinarians are commonly used as resource persons. Breeders or trainers also can help.
Since you must spend the money and live with the horse afterward, you should become as knowledgeable as possible. Know the type of horse you want, why you want it and what to look for.
Where to get a horse
Before attempting to locate a suitable horse, decide on the specific type of horse and the amount of money to be spent. The horse you want may not be available at the price you can afford. However, don't change your price range until all possible sources have been exhausted.
The most common sources of horses are breeders, private sales, dealers, and auctions. Each has advantages and disadvantages.
As a rule, buying from an owner privately is safer than buying from a dealer or at an auction. The buyer must be experienced or have experienced help. Individuals who own a few horses and sell one or two may be fairly experienced, but they also may be inexperienced and unable to evaluate the horses they are selling.
A good private owner to buy from is a person who has been forced to sell: someone who is moving; a student leaving for college; a family with grown children. Check newspapers, publications and bulletin boards. Go to a stable or horse event and visit horse owners. Remember advertisements are designed to sell, and the advertiser may not be knowledgeable about horses.
Buying from a dealer requires horse knowledge, but it is usually better than most auctions. Although many dealers are honest, some are interested only in making a profit. It may be impossible to tell the difference. To stay in business, a dealer must buy horses cheaply enough to pay for their feed and care and still make a profit.
What sex horse should you buy?
Generally, stallions are unsatisfactory as pleasure mounts and can be dangerous when handled by inexperienced riders. A stallion's handler can never relax and forget about the horse.
A gelding or mare is more suited to the pleasure rider's needs. For steady dependability, a gelding excels. Mares are usually more excitable, especially when in heat. If you wish to raise a foal, of course, you must buy a mare. For breeding to be worthwhile, the mare must be of top quality. Don't expect to make a profit from a mediocre mare.
Check the horse in its stall
As you enter the stable, watch the horse. Does it lay back its ears? A horse that lays back its ears in anger when approached may be bad tempered, spoiled or barn sour. If the horse shows interest and its ears are up, this is a good sign. Horses have very good hearing. They should be interested in all that goes on around them.
What does the horse do as you approach the stall? In a box stall, it should go to the rear, turn, and face you. If it turns away from you, it may kick.
Does the horse stand quietly as the handler enters the stall or does it charge to get out? Does the seller walk right up to the horse's head or does he seem to hesitate? Does the horse turn away, not wanting to be caught? If it has been properly trained, it should be easy to catch, its ears should reflect no fear or mistrust, and the seller should have no reason to be afraid.
Examine the bedding. Is there any indication that the horse has been eating it? Eating bedding is a bad habit. It makes feeding difficult because such horses tend to fill up on bedding that has little nutritional value.
Consider the horse's general health. Has it been treated for parasites in the last three months? Has it been vaccinated within the last year for tetanus and eastern-western encephalomyelitis and equine influenza or other infectious diseases?
Before you make a final decision about the horse, have it worked until it is warm. Notice its breathing. If its wind is broken, you can spot it now. If it doesn't want to leave the stable and strongly resists or tries to bolt for the barn, it is barn sour. Don't buy the horse unless someone in your family is an experienced horse handler.
Ride the horse yourself, but remember that most horses will not perform at their best for a strange handler. However, riding it yourself gives you the chance to discover small details or to prove what you might have suspected. Does it handle easily? Is it responsive, especially to leg pressure? How sensitive is it? Does it accept handling by a stranger or is it unduly upset?
With patience and practice, minor problems can be worked out together and horse and horse owner can become a happy combination.