What Do You Need To Ask When Buying A Horse?
So you’re looking to buy a horse and you’ve spotted one you like the look of. Buying a horse is a huge decision that comes with some risk. The key to reducing that risk is to find out as much information as you possibly can about said horse. If the seller hasn’t laid out everything you want to know in the advert you’re going to want to ask questions. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of things you should ask when buying a horse to make sure there are no nasty surprises.
You may not need to ask all of the questions below (the list is very long) so pick out the questions suitable to your needs. Be sure to get as much information as possible before viewing. A genuine seller should be happy to answer as many questions as possible before arranging a viewing as it not only saves you a wasted journey if the horse isn’t suitable, but it will save them time too. If you decide to arrange a viewing don’t be afraid to ask them to repeat some details they have already told you. A good place to start is to ask them to tell you about the horse generally. Then work your way down your list of questions (take them along with you physically to tick off or make notes) simply skipping over questions they have already covered.
What To Ask:
- The basics – Age, height, gender. It may sound obvious but these are the essentials to know. Some sellers have a tendency to exaggerate the heights of horses so it may be worth checking whether they have measured or estimated the height.
- How long have they had the horse? – It’s good to know your horse’s background. Were they bred by the current owner? Do they know anything about where the horse came from? If they have had the horse for a very short period of time it could have you questioning why, so…
- Reasons for selling? – Can they give you a genuine reason for deciding to sell this horse. If they won’t answer this question clearly they may have reasons they want to hide.
- Vices – Has the horse ever bucked, reared, napped or had any stable vices. These may be things you’re willing to look past or try to resolve yourself but you’ll want to know about bad tendencies so you can be prepared. Also bear in mind that vices could be indications of health problems.
- Family History – do they know the breeding history. This may be recorded in their passport but if not find out if they know anything about the sire and dam. This will also give you an indication of the make up of your horse if they are a cross breed.
- Are they registered? – This is important if you are looking to show in particular classes. If this is key for you, always check the paperwork before paying and also make sure you’re buying from the listed owner.
- What are they currently fed? – are they currently fed hay or haylage? If you have no personal preference you may want to stick with the one they are used to. What additional food do they receive and do they have any supplements added? Do they have any special dietary requirements that you need to know about?
- Has the horse been vetted? Have they had a certified vet inspection and if so to what level. If not are they open to the horse being vetted? This is worth asking even if you don’t particularly intend on doing a vet check. If they say no then there may be a reason why.
- Is the horse vaccinated? – Are they up to date with vaccinations and if so which ones? This should all be logged in the horse’s passport.
- Who is their current vet? – Are they willing to let you see the horses medical records? If you are planning on keeping the horse in the same area you may consider staying with the same veterinary practice.
- Worming – Are they up to date with worming? Does the owner have a record of when they have been wormed?
- How are their teeth? – Have they had regular dentists checks? When was the last time the dentist saw them? Are there any dental problems you should know about?
- How are their feet? – Are they hard or soft? Are they prone to cracking, thrush, abscesses or any other issues. Do they have any special requirements?
- Are they shod? – If the horse is shod what is the reason behind it. Do they struggle without shoes? Do they need corrective shoes? Are they simply for the level of competition or road work the horse does? It’s handy to know if your horse can go without shoes as this can save a lot of money in the long run.
- Have they ever had laminitis? – This doesn’t have to mean you shouldn’t buy the horse however it is important to know. Once a horse has had laminitis they are more prone to getting it in the future and may need extra care to monitor it. It could also be linked to other medical conditions.
- Are they prone to being lame? – Some horses are simply experts at being lame, they always find a way. It’s nice to know this trait before investing in a horse but also to know about any other niggles or past injuries they have had that can flair up.
- What is their temperament like? – What are they like to interact with? This can be very important when it comes to bonding with a horse. Are they shy and quiet or are they friendly and eager for attention? Are they very laid back or highly strung? If you have children it is worth asking if the horse is used to having them around.
- How are they with other horses? – This is important if you have other horses of your own, if they will be on a yard with other horses or you plan on riding with other people. You may also want to ask if they are used to other animals such as dogs.
- Are they normally turned out in a herd or alone? – This is useful to know so that you know how they feel comfortable when turned out. If they are happy in a herd, do the get on with a mix of genders? Do they prefer to stay in smaller groups or alone or are they likely to get stressed in those situations.
- What is there current routine? – Are they currently living out during the day and in the stable at night? Are they on restricted turnout? Or do they live out permanently? It can help a horse to settle into a new home if they have can stay as close to a normal routine as possible.
- Are they easy to catch? – When they are turned out, will they come running over to you or turn and run the other way? Does the owner have any tricks on how to catch them if they are awkward.
- Are they good to clip? – Are they a seasoned pro who has been clipped hundreds of times in their life? Maybe they have never even seen clippers or are simply terrified of them. You may also want to know if they are happy to stand and have their mane and tail pulled and if they are patient for plaiting.
- Are they in work now? – You will definitely want to know what level they are currently working at and how fit they are. Ask how often they get worked at the moment.
- Do they get fizzy if out of work? – If you know there may be periods when you cannot ride the horse, you’ll want to know how they’ll will behave when you then get back on. Will they act the same as usual or will they become a handful.
- Are they good on the lunge? – You could try riding the horse and find it great then get it home and try to lunge it only to find he goes crazy or refuses to move. This may be something you can work on but it’s useful to know in advance. You may ask to see the current owner lunge them at the viewing.
- What level of rider do they need? – This is very important! You don’t want to buy a horse that is too much for you or even that holds you back. Find out if they are suited to a novice rider or if they need a confident advanced rider.
- Who rides them now? – Have they been ridden by a young rider or an experienced adult? Are they used to only a male or female rider? Have they been professionally broken or schooled? Have they been working in a riding school?
- Are they forward going or plod along? – You want to know before you get on the horse how it is to ride. You don’t want to jump on and give it a kick only to find you’re going round in circles at top speed unable to stop.
- What tack do they use? – Are they ridden in a particular bit or bridle and if so what is the reason for it? Is it purely for aesthetics or is it there to help the rider have control?
- Is tack included or can you buy it? – If the tack they have at the viewing appears to be a good fit and in good condition you may want to see if it is available to purchase. Some sellers may even throw this in for free. You could even get some rugs, headcollars, boots etc. if they’ll no longer be needed by the current owner.
- Are they suited to your discipline? – What do you intend to do with the horse. If you only want to do one discipline then they will need to be suited to that. If you want a jumper ask how high they have jumped at competitions/at home. If you’re after a dressage horse ask what level they are competing/schooling at and which lateral movements they have established. If you’re after an all-rounder you will want to know their experiences in various disciplines and maybe even ask what they are strongest/weakest at.
- Showing/competition history? – It is good to know if they have any winnings in affiliated competitions and any other results they have achieved. Also ask how they behave at shows. Do they get jumpy or nervous or take it all in their stride.
- Do they load easily? – You don’t want to turn up to collect your newly purchased horse only to find you can’t get it into the horse box! You at least want to know to expect it. It may be handy to know if they’re used to travelling in a trailer or a box or if they have been in both.
- Good to hack alone & in company? – A great question if you plan on hacking your horse even if only occasionally. You’ll want to know how they are around cars, bikes, lorries, farm machinery and any other sights they may pass when out on the roads. Do they need another horse with them for reassurance?
- Are they good in open spaces? – are they level headed with well oiled breaks or do they like to take control. Are they ridden in open spaces in the same bit and tack?
Once you are happy that the current owner has answered as many questions as you’d like and you’re still happy with the horse it is time to try them out (if you are buying them as a broken riding horse). This is the fun bit! Generally you will watch someone else ride the horse first so you can see from the ground how they move and behave. Then if you feel comfortable it is your turn to get on board. Remember that a genuine seller should be okay with you requesting to try the horse on more than one occasion. You should also never feel pressurised into making a purchase straight away on the day. Try to at least have a night’s sleep before you jump into a decision.