Buying a horse: viewing prospective horses

Welcome to part three of H&H’s ultimate guide to buying a horse, which is packed with useful advice for both first-timers and experienced horse owners

  • Part two: tips for choosing horses for view

    You’ve trawled the horses for sale adverts, found a horse that sounds like it might be suitable, spoken to the seller and seen videos of the horse in action, so now it’s time to go and try it. Although this is an exciting experience, it can be really nerve-wracking too. To make sure you get the most out of your viewing and don’t waste anyone’s time, go with a clear plan and expectations in your head.

    Try to take your trainer or someone with good equestrian knowledge who you trust with you and a video camera with you (film everything from the trot-up to both the owner and yourself riding him). Getting an expert’s opinion on whether the horse is suitable for you can save an expensive mistake. If you can’t organise someone to go with you on the visit, going home and showing them the video of the horse can be almost as helpful. And, don’t forget to refer back to your original checklist!

    Here are a few points to help you out when you get there:

    • Remember that first impressions count, so trust yours (that counts for your first impression of the seller, as well as the horse).
    • When you arrive on the yard, take a look around the horse’s stable for any signs of stable vices, for example a chewed door or a weave grill.
    • Ask to see the horse trotted up so that you can assess his conformation and soundness. It is also worth taking a good look at his feet to see how he is shod and whether he has good, strong feet.
    • Ask to prepare him for the ride yourself, as it’ll give you some time to assess his manners and get a general impression from him. In most cases, the horse will be turned out beautifully in anticipation for your arrival, but do everything as you would normally; pick out his feet and tack him up.
    • Look for clues that he has been worked prior to your arrival, such as sweat marks. A lack of water in his box should ring alarm bells.
    • Remember simple things like good manners and a willing temperament will really matter if you were to buy him.
    • Make sure someone else rides the horse first — usually a brief five to 10 minutes showing walk, trot, canter and a few jumps will suffice before you have a go. If they don’t have anyone available think carefully before getting on board!
    • Remember to video — it’ll allow you to look back a bit more objectively when you get home. Plus, if you’re trying out a few horses close together this will help you recall each one better.
    • Remember that temperament is often more important than type. There’s every possibility that you’ll end up buying a horse that isn’t the one you dreamed of — but ultimately, that doesn’t matter. If you have a connection and he has the right temperament and skills that suit your needs, then that’s more important than what he looks like.
    • Be aware that the owner should be asking you lots of questions too. If the seller is genuine then they will want to make sure that you are the perfect new owner for their horse, so take a disinterested seller as a warning sign.

    If possible we would recommend you view the horse more than once. If you do return for a second or third viewing:

    • Vary the environments you ride him in to match the circumstances you are likely to find yourself in. For example if you would like to go eventing, ask if you can take him cross-country schooling.
    • View him at different times of the day so that you can get a fuller picture of his behaviour.
    • Ask to turn him out and catch him to see how he behaves.
    • Load him onto a trailer or horsebox, depending on what you have. A horse that is difficult to load can be a real bore.

    Next step: Things to do when buying a horse

    Ultimate guide to buying a horse

    Make sure you set aside plenty of time enjoy the journey of finding your perfect equine partner, as it could easily last a few months, but it will be worth it in the end.

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