Over the decades I’ve bought many horses and while most have been really good I have made some big mistakes that I know I could have avoided if I’d only done a little bit of research and asked the right questions. This is why I thought I’d write this guide to hopefully help you avoid the same mistakes I’ve made.
Do your research
This might sound like the most obvious of things, of course, you’re not going to wander into a livery yard and buy the first horse you see. There are however a few things you should consider, for example, what do you want a horse for? There’s no point buying a racing Standardbred if you’re after a horse for Pony Club events.
Once you’ve decided on the sort of horse you’re after you then need to find that horse. If you’re looking for a pedigree horse then most breeds will have a registry that would be only too happy to help. If you’re not worried about a pedigree then local tack shops and vets may know of horses for sale and are always a good place to start. Failing that there are plenty of publications and websites that offer horses and ponies for sale.
When you have a shortlist of horses you like contact the owners and arrange a visit. When you make your first visit make sure you’re dressed accordingly so if necessary you’re able to ride the horse. If you want to take a vet or riding instructor with you you can but at this stage, it’s not essential. Make sure you ask the owner lots of questions, why are they selling the horse, how long have they had it for, what’s it like in traffic, with people, strange places, etc? Any decent owner will want their horse to go to a good home so will be happy for you to ask lots of questions.
Make a second/third visit
When you find a horse you like ask if you can see it again, but this time take a vet or instructor with you. They will be able to assess the horse and will look out for any issues that might not be immediately noticeable. It’s also a good idea to make an unannounced visit too on a different day and at a different time. This might sound like a strange thing to say but believe me, it could save you an awful lot of hassle and stress in the long run. I once knew of somebody how bought a horse that seemed absolutely perfect in every way, the owner insisted on prearranged visits only. After buying the horse and getting him home they started to notice something wasn’t right and this wasn’t the placid good-natured horse they’d seen before. The owner could no longer be contacted and after the vet was called it transpired that the horse had been drugged before each visit to keep it calm. Once the drugs had worn off the horse was anything but calm and certainly wasn’t rideable. I’m not saying this to put you off but just to emphasize how important an unannounced visit is – after all, if the seller has the horse’s best interests at heart they’ll be more than happy for you to do that.
Speak to the current vet
Speaking to the current vet will help you get an insight into the horse’s overall health and anything you may need to look out for. Although this isn’t essential I’ve found it useful in the past. That said, like a doctor, vets are bound by patient confidentiality so you’ll need to get the owner’s consent for this. Asking to speak to the vet is also a good way of gauging the owner’s intention, after all, if the owner is being open about the horse and its history then they won’t mind this.
It’s also a good idea to…
Other things that are worth taking into account are how will the horse fit in with you and your current yard? For example, are they used to a quiet yard but you’re intending to stable them by a busy highway that could make them nervous. It’s maybe sad to admit that what you think is your perfect horse won’t be happy at your yard but if that’s the case then don’t worry the right horse will be out there for you. And then you’ll both be happy.
Should I buy a horse from an auction?
Buying a horse from an auction is certainly an option and although it’s seen a rise in popularity in recent years it’s not really advisable unless you’re either experienced yourself or have somebody with experience that can go along with you. Yes, you can sometimes get a bargain at an auction but like all auctions, things are bought as-is and even in the case of serious health problems there can often be very little you can do about it. If you do want to buy a horse at an auction then I would suggest going to a few first of all before considering bidding on one. Auctions are fast-paced and it’s easy to get caught up in the event. If you’ve already experienced them then you have an idea of how they work.
Other things to consider
Okay so now you’ve bought your dream horse what next? There’s a lot more to owning a horse than just buying one and before your new horse arrives you need to have thought about tack, vet & farrier, feed, transportation, insurance, and possibly toys.
If you’re lucky your new horse will come with tack but if not then you’ll need to buy some before. Speak to the current owner as they’ll be able to help you with what bit works as well as bridle and saddle sizes. Depending on what the climate’s like where you’re living you may need to consider a few rugs too, especially if you’re moving a horse from a warm or hot climate to a colder one.
Finding a vet & farrier
If you live close to where you bought your new horse from and don’t already have a vet and farrier it might be worth considering using the same vet and farrier. If not then ask friends for recommendations and then speak to them yourself to find ones that you feel comfortable with.
Feed and water
Your new horse will be a little stressed by the move so changing its diet straightaway will only add to that. For the first few months at least try and stick to the same or similar diet. After this time you can slowly start to change it depending on what the two of you are planning on doing. Also worth considering is water. If you’re moving the horse a long way then the water may taste different and be unfamiliar. To avoid this happening you can use water tablets before and after the move to slowly transition your horse to the new water taste. They work by purifying the water so, therefore, removing any additional tastes.
Getting your horse to its new yard
If you’re lucky enough to have your own trailer or have access to one then you’ve got this covered but if not then this is the last thing you’ll need to consider. There are plenty of options out there for you, the most obvious of which would be to buy a trailer. If you’re not in a position to buy a trailer you could ask friends if you could borrow theirs. Another option is to hire a trailer and driver, there are plenty of companies that, for a few, will collect your new horse and delivery it anywhere in the world. If you’re buying a horse from another country this might be the best option as they’ll have a lot of experience of local laws and requirements, saving you a lot of stress and enabling you to just look forward to the big day.
Although not it’s not necessarily essential insurance, in my mind at least, is very important. If you’re wanting to ride on public roads or to complete at public events some states may require you to have some level of public liability insurance at the very least. Having insurance would also help with unexpected vet bills as most policies offer cover for things a straightforward as cuts too much more serious things like colic. There’s something else that you should consider with regards to insurance and that is, heaven forbid if your horse is stolen what would you do? Hopefully, this is something you never have to deal with but sadly these days it’s something that does need to be thought about and of course, insurance wouldn’t help bring your horseback but it could help with some of the costs associated with advertising to help find it.
Possible horse toys
If your horse is going to spend large periods of time either stabled or in a field on its own then you might want to think about some sort of toy to help keep it occupied. There are plenty of toys that you can get such as a Jolly Ball which is strong and durable and is made to withstand being bitten or punctured or a treat feeder which encourages horses to play with in order to get treats. Both are excellent boredom busters and keep your horse stimulated which in turn will help prevent them from getting stressed due to being bored. In the long run, this will also help to prevent boredom vices such as cribbing. Giant balls designed for horses can also be great fun for horses to play with together.
As with all animals buying a horse is a big step and something you shouldn’t do without giving serious consideration to the horse’s long-term well-being. If this is the right thing to do then I wish both you and your new horse every happiness for the future and hope that you create many happy memories as you go.
I hope you found this article helpful. If you did I’d be grateful if you could share it please as it would really help me.
Over the years I have tried hundreds of different horsey products, from various blankets and halters to different treats. Some I’ve loved, others I’ve hated but I thought I’d share with you my top all-time favorite products, the ones I never leave the yard without. I’ve included links to the products (which are in no particular order) that I really think are great.
- Horse Knots by Reference Ready – If you’re like me and enjoy pocket reference guides then you’ll love this knot tying guide. These handy cards can easily fit in your pocket or attach to the saddle for quick reference. They’re waterproof, durable and are color coded to make them easy to follow.
- Mane ’n Tail Detangler – Even if you never show your horse you’ll need to detangle his tail from time to time (and possibly his mane too) which is always a challenging chore! I’ve found that if I run a little bit of detangler through my horse’s tails every few days it stops them from getting matted up and makes combing them easy, even if they’re coated in mud. I don’t know if I should admit to this or not but it also works wonders on my hair.
- TAKEKIT Pro clippers – Over the years I’ve tried a lot of different clippers and while some were obviously better than others I found these to be by far the best. They are heavier than a lot of other clippers but for me, that’s a good thing, it makes them feel more sturdy and hardwearing. On top of that they have a range of speeds so are just as good for clipping your horse’s back as they are his face. I also like the fact that they come in a handy carry case but that’s not for everybody. The company that makes them is super good and incredibly helpful too, a real bonus these days. The only thing I wasn’t keen on was the fact that it doesn’t come with any oil, but that’s not a major problem as it’s not difficult to buy lubricant.
- Shire’s ball feeder – There are so many boredom buster toys out there but I like to use these every day, regardless of whether or not my horses are bored. I find that it helps to encourage my horses to problem solve by rewarding them with treats (or pieces of fruit) but it also mimics their natural grazing behavior which helps to keep them calm and de-stressed.
- Horse safe mirror – This is a strange one that many people are surprised about but I like to put horse safe mirrors in the trailers as well as in the quarantine stalls. It helps to prevent the feeling of isolation by giving the impression of other horses being around. Being herd animals horses can get extremely stressed when they feel that they’re on their own but with these stick-on mirrors, they believe that at least one other horse is with them.
- Rectal thermometer – I know this isn’t glamourous at all but it’s vital for your horse’s well-being to be able to check their temperature and a rectal thermometer is the easiest way of doing this which is why I’ve added it to the list.
I’ve also put together a few shopping lists of essential items that I’ve found helpful over the years. I’ve broken the lists down into different categories rather than put everything in one massive list 😉