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Whether you’re purchasing your first horse, moving up a grade, or buying a second mount to back up your veteran, the basic rules of shopping for a new equine partner remain the same.

  • Don’t shop with your heart in place of your head. It’s easy to fall in love at first sight. You need to remain practical and unemotional when looking at prospective purchases. A good equine relationship is based on more than a pretty face.
  • Don’t consider inappropriate horses. Stick to your basic idea of what kind of horse you would like. Don’t look at show horses for sale if you want to buy a dressage horse, because the training is completely different. Yes, if you’re experienced or have access to experienced trainers, it’s possible to retrain a horse, but there are no guarantees, and you may end up having to change your riding goals.
  • Don’t get caught up in the hype. Again, stick to your idea of the right horse for you. It’s easy to get swept away in the excitement of a buying a horse.
  • Don’t buy the first horse you see. It’s important to look at a lot of horses to find out what’s available. Study the type of horse you are interested in and do your research. You may be lucky and find your perfect horse the first time you look, but this is rare. Expect to spend several months searching.
  • Don’t buy a horse fresh off a lay-up. The lay-up may hide a chronic problem. Choose a horse that has been working consistently.
  • Never get on a horse that you haven’t seen ridden by someone else.
  • Do make sure the horse is not on medication. If he is, establish what kind and why.
  • Don’t buy a horse that you can’t sit on, put on the bit, one that scares you or that doesn’t respond to your aids. If you don’t feel comfortable on him, don’t imagine things will change further down the line.
  • Do examine the horse’s stable to make sure he doesn’t have stable vices and hasn’t been denied water. An old trick is to dehydrate a horse to make him quieter and easier to ride.
  • Do think long and hard about buying a horse that has potential. Only buy a horse that has potential if you are the gambling type. That is what equine potential is: a gamble. You may have to fork out a great deal of training money to see that potential realised. Weigh this against the asking price of the horse, your goals and your abilities before you jump in.
  • Don’t buy a horse that is green if you are a novice. A novice with an untrained horse can be a terrible combination. You may end up spending a lot more money on training your young horse than you ever dreamed possible and lose your confidence, too.
  • Do take along a trainer or another knowledgeable person.
  • Do buy a horse trained in your discipline of choice.
  • Don’t let anyone flatter you or pressure you into buying a horse.
  • Don’t be embarrassed to ask seemingly stupid questions.
  • Do try to ride the horse on three separate occasions and at different times of the day to get an overall picture.

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