Horse shopping is no easy task. As much fun as buying a horse sounds, it can quickly become a stressful journey trying to navigate thousands of sale ads, gaze over hundreds of photos and videos and try to make a judgement call about which of the dozens and dozens of horses available may suit your specific needs.
But as much as buyers have the difficult task of trying to find just the right horse for their goals, sellers also have the arduous chore of filtering through inquiry after inquiry and trying to find the right person for their horse. Good sellers take this job very seriously, as it is equally important to find a quality home with just the right partner for their mount so that everyone is happy, healthy and benefits from the transaction.
Serious buyers should be clear and concise about their needs and wants in a potential new mount. Buyers who have a list of “must haves” and a list of “wants” will have an easier time navigating the large market of horses available. It is important to understand that in order to find a horse that meets all of their needs, a buyer may have to compromise on their wish list.
Buyers should be courteous and know how to ask the right questions when inquiring about a horse. Experienced sellers can quickly tell if their horse will suit a potential buyer’s needs and very early in a conversation will know whether to continue to engage with a buyer or to discount them.
Before opening the lines of communication with a seller, buyers should be prepared with several well-thought-out questions that can quickly and efficiently determine the horse’s suitability for their goals.
To help narrow down a list of prospective questions for a seller, here are my top 5 questions NOT to ask.
Any question with an answer clearly stated in the ad.
Most sellers put a lot of energy into writing a good sales ad. These ads usually state the horse’s characteristics such as: Name, Breed, Gender, Age, Height and Price. Most ads will also contain details about a horse’s personality, their level of training or showing, suitability for different disciplines and possibly what type of rider they are best suited for. Be sure to read ads carefully and do not ask questions that are clearly stated in the ad. It shows sellers that you have not taken the time to learn about their horse before inquiring.
- “How old is Fuzzy?” when ad clearly states Fuzzy: 16 year old, 17 hand Thoroughbred Gelding.
- “Hughey is so cute! What breed is he again?” after reading an ad that says For Sale: Hughey, 14 hand Welsh Pony Gelding.
Will she pass a vetting?
Questions about whether a horse will pass a pre-purchase exam are loaded questions that can put sellers in murky water. First, there is no standard “Pass-Fail” in a vet check. A horse “passing” a vetting simply means that there are no glaring health issues that may prevent that horse from performing at the desired level of that rider at that time. It is the responsibility of the BUYER, not the seller, to vet the horse to their desired extent and then make an educated decision based on the finding of that vetting.
Furthermore, the statement of “Yes, this horse is sound and will pass a vetting” can be legal trouble for a seller. If the buyer decides to forego a pre-purchase exam and buy the horse based on this statement and the horse is later found to have a condition or flaw that will cause it to not be able to perform to the buyer’s desires, the seller may be found to have unintentionally made a fraudulent statement that resulted in the sale of a horse.
- For example, a small amount of arthritis in a fetlock may make no difference to a buyer who aspires to jump no more than 2’6″, but may cause one to pass on a horse if the buyer has serious upper-level eventing aspirations. What may work for one buyer will not work for another.
Would you accept $___________?
Buyers that present questions of money before inquiring about the horse’s characteristics, training or vices often tell buyers that they are driven by one thing: money. While it is important to have a conversation about money, buyers should show interest in the individual horse and ensure they are serious about pursuing a purchase prior to talking about their budget.
It is especially insulting to sellers when this question is followed by an offer of significantly less than their asking price. Sellers generally build in some negotiating room to their asking price as most serious buyers will want to make an offer, rather than pay full asking. You can reasonably expect a seller to be willing to negotiate within 5-25% of their asking price, with many determining factors including the horse’s show career, any limitations or vices, and how motivated a seller is to find their horse a new home.
Why are you selling him?
This question is one that gets tossed around quite a bit. And in the right context it can be a valid question. However in most circumstances, the reason behind a seller’s decision to find their horse a new home will not affect whether the horse will work for a buyer. In most cases, the decision to list a horse for sale is purely a financial decision for the seller. This ends up being an awkward question for sellers who should not need to explain themselves (and their financial situation) to potential buyers. You can easily determine a horse’s suitability for your needs and goals without questioning a reason for sale.
- The exception to this rule is if an ad makes you believe the reason for sale would adversely affect the horse’s suitability for what you are looking for.
I’m not in a position to buy now, will you hold him?
Buyers requesting that sellers “hold” a horse, or refrain from selling them for an extended period of time can have adverse consequences for both parties. Situations can quickly change for both buyers and sellers and holding a horse for an interested party may mean that a seller ends up bypassing a buyer who is actively pursuing a purchase and can offer their horse a quality home. Additionally, a buyer may find that their circumstances change over time and they may find themselves no longer able to take on a new mount, but with an expressed intent to purchase the horse still standing.
Buyers should refrain from shopping for horses until they are fully in a position to purchase, so as not to put either party in a bad situation and to allow each horse the best possible chance of finding a perfect new home.
Horse shopping, while daunting, does not have to be a difficult experience for either party involved. With sellers who are honest and reliable, and buyers who are respectful and educated, the process can be a pleasant one!
Happy horse hunting!