There is an old truism: It’s just as hard to buy a horse as it is to sell one. Unfortunately, in my experience that often holds true. I don’t buy horses all that often but when I have been in the market it seems like I’ve had to kiss a lot of frogs before finding that prince.
Based on my own experiences, here are some sure signs that you probably don’t want the horse.
- Horse is tacked up and ready to go when you arrive = this horse is a witch on the ground and needed two handlers and a twitch to get the saddle on. I once bought a mare that I’d seen taken out of the field and tacked up. She was fine. It didn’t occur to me that they had not groomed her until I took her home and discovered her aversion to being touched. Eventually she got over this, but she had a wicked cow kick that they neglected to mention.
- Horse was lunged before I arrived and is still breathing hard and is damp = this horse is a maniac if it’s not ridden seven days a week or the owner is scared of the horse and needs to take the edge off. I went to look at a horse like this was stupid enough to ride it. Even after being lunged this horse had a gigantic spook in him that was no fun to sit. After this experience I decided that I wasn’t giving away any more free training rides.
- Owner won’t ride the horse = this horse is a complete maniac who has already put me in the hospital. I’m too old and the ground is too hard. I want horses that basically want to play the game.
- Horse is slightly off and owner has too many excuses = owner knows there’s a big problem and wants you to do a PPE so she can find out what it is. I have a good eye for lameness. I once looked at a horse that I just knew was NQR. The owner swore it was caused by a mild case of thrush. I really liked the horse but before I could make a deal we bought a house and it turned out I didn’t have as much money in my horse budget as I originally thought. Someone I knew later vetted the horse and it turned out that 1) the mare had a problem with her sesamoid and 2) the owner knew about it.
- Owner tries to get you to buy the horse without a PPE or puts pressure on you that someone else is interested = they don’t want you to look under the hood. I try hard to avoid a competitive buying situation. I’m not ever in the market for something so specific that I have to have “that” horse.
- Horse is terrible for owner/rider = horse has not training or has no sense of humor. I’ve seen a few “demo” rides that scared the crap out of me. I don’t need to ride those horses even if I think I could do a better job.
When I go to see a horse I expect to see it taken from its stall (or pasture), groomed, tacked up, lunged and ridden. By that point I have a pretty good sense of it’s attitude, it’s aptitude and its suitablility for me.