Horses, like people come in all shapes and sizes and have aptitudes for different things. Thoroughbred racehorses are bred to run very fast, a quarter horse for his short bursts of speed and stopping and turning abilities, a Clydesdale as a real work-horse to pull large loads and also often used as a riding horse. The list could go on for pages. So when we’ve saved all our hard earned cash and are ready to look for our new equine partner how do we choose the best possible match?
Firstly there are exceptions to the rule with every breed! There are thoroughbreds right off the track that you could put your child on and turn your back, there are clydies who’ll buck and take off like a rodeo horse, there are even warmbloods with shocking movement! The best way to start looking at horses is with a VERY open mind. It’s even better if you can go into the process with no ‘set’ idea of what you’re looking for in terms of breed, type, colour etc. That one’s a bit harder to go into as we do tend to carry the past with us and maybe the memory of the grey ottb who dumped and hurt you has made you prefer a different colour or type of horse!
We need to think very carefully about our own abilities prior to beginning the search. Sure, you may be happy to jump on a tricky horse and make it go a bit better now and then but do you actually want to be dealing with a challenging ride day in and day out? What seems a bit forward when you try it out may be a whole lot more forward in another environment, what may seem just a little glitch when you try a horse out could end up being a big glitch when you get him home. The search for what type of animal you want really needs to start well before you open the pages of Horse Deals!
What sort of rider are you? Do you want to be out training every day rain, hail or shine with a full season of competition goals set? Do you prefer to spend time feeding, grooming and caring for an animal combined with a wandering trail ride now and then with friends? You may, of course, be somewhere in-between. Are the goals you’re setting yourself realistic and achievable? The main point here is that it’s important to look at animals who are going to match your aims as much as possible. It’s worth taking some time to have a think about, discuss it with friends, family, instructors also. If you have a regular instructor now is the time to have a very frank discussion about your current capabilities along with aims you may have in the future. Remember, there are no ‘right’ and no ‘wrong’ answers to these questions, just what is right for YOU.
The most important point to remember is that you’re buying an animal which will take up a considerable amount of your time and money. The majority of adult riders do this as a hobby, even if you’re competitive, not as a job. You want this experience to be a pleasurable one, not something you spend all day at work dreading if your purchase turns out to be unsuitable!
So the time rolls around, you’re ready to start making calls! Always remember the role of an honest seller is never easy! They may well have made a heart-breaking decision to part with an animal for a variety of reasons. On the other hand there are those who are out to make a fast buck and may not have the animal’s best interests at heart. This is where as a buyer things get tricky for you!
As a buyer make sure you’ve taken into consideration what we’ve already discussed and have a list of questions you’d like answered about the animal. This way you can make a decision over the phone or email whether you’d like to take your enquiry further. Make sure your queries are succinct and specific so the seller doesn’t feel like they’ve been on the phone for half an hour for nothing. It’s easy to see how a seller can get frustrated with what could be many enquiries in one day! If during your questions you realise the horse may not be what you’re looking for, politely thank them for their time and let them know it doesn’t seem right for your needs and you’ll not waste any more of their time.
If everything’s sounding good it’s now time to go and ride your future prospect! Again, we’re going to refer to your riding capabilities as mentioned earlier in this article. If you’re an experienced rider you’re probably quite capable of sorting the ‘wheat from the chaff’. If this is a first horse or you’re not a confident rider it’s worthwhile to bring your coach or an experienced friend along as an extra set of eyes and an extra bum in the saddle! At this point it’s worth mentioning that tales abound of buyers and sellers doing the wrong thing according to each other. As a member of either party all you can do is conduct yourself professionally. You don’t always purchase the first pair of jeans you put on do you? Both parties need to allow for some time to be perceived as ‘wasted’. It may work out to everyone’s benefit in the long run!
The ‘rule’ of taking someone experienced along with you applies doubly for parents purchasing animals for their children to ride. Please ensure if you’re a not particularly knowledgeable parent you take someone with you who is. You cannot put a price on the safety of your child and it’s very easy to be suckered in by a cute pony face! If you’re a non-horsey parent of a horse mad child it’s also probably worth educating yourself on some basic handling skills. At some point you will be the one doing the feeding and rugging, I assure you!
If the animal you’re interested in is interstate or a goodly distance away it brings up another issue. Purchasing sight unseen. Now I’ve seen purchasing animals unseen work, and I’ve seen it go spectacularly wrong. My rule of thumb is that you don’t spend what you can’t afford to lose if the animal that gets off the truck is not what you expected. You’re the guide of what that dollar figure is. If the animal which walks off the truck is not what you expected, act immediately and contact the seller. You may have recourse against them through the appropriate channels if they are not willing to accept the animal back. You may lose transport fees if you return the animal but you won’t be left with something completely unsuitable for you in your paddock either! If you’re not feeling 100% sure about an animal sight unseen, either find a way to go see it, or move on to another prospect closer to home. If you’re considering a high dollar item purchase, remember to factor travel money into the purchase budget to go and see the horses. You can’t guarantee the perfect one will be in your immediate area!
If you’ve decided this is the horse for you it’s time for a vet check! A vet check can cover everything from a very basic examination through to fitness tests, xrays, and blood tests. It is up to you as the purchaser how thorough the vet check is. If the animal is to be insured it’s worth checking any requirements your insurer may have also. If purchasing sight unseen I would very much encourage you to have at least a basic vet check, ensuring brands and other identifying features are listed and correct. Again, you need to bear in mind the type of work you have planned for the horse. A 3* eventer is going to have to pass a much more rigorous vet check than a trail riding or low level competition for enjoyment companion. There may be results that on a vets advice you choose to overlook. There may be things that are deal breakers for you also which could save a lot of time, money and heartache down the track.
Remember, if you’re the purchaser you’re absolutely entitled to take your time considering your purchase. Of course, if a seller has other interested purchasers it’s unreasonable to expect them to hold the animal for you to consider your decision for weeks on end. Buying a horse can be a long and hard road and sometimes you’ll have to kiss a few frogs along the way to find a prince but if you’re prepared to do that, you are bound to find the horse of your dreams!