Don’t miss Part 2: What are you Looking for?
When you and your mentor find a horse that sounds perfect, it’s time to get up close and personal. You know what the seller is asking for the horse. Assume that’s the price you are going to pay.
Have your mentor make an appointment with the seller. She’ll know the highly refined language of horse dealing and the nuances of seemingly simple words.
When you arrive for your appointment, take a few moments to check out the stable and farm. That will tell you something about how the horse has been handled and treated. If other people are there, ask about the horse. This is especially true if there are kids. They are often more honest than adults. If they like the horse, chances are you will, too.
If the horse is already tacked up, ask if you can take it off and tack him yourself. Watch how he behaves while being groomed and handled.
Trying the Horse
The owner will probably want to ride the horse first. That’s to be expected since she wants to show him off. Your mentor should also hop off, especially if she is your instructor and you are a novice rider. She’ll notice things that you might miss.
It’s natural to feel uncomfortable and a little nervous when you ride the horse. But how do you feel after a few minutes? Are you able to relax, and are the two of you falling into a rhythm? Is he listening to you, responsive to your aids? Is he comfortable to ride? Smooth or choppy? Do the two of you fit together size-wise? If the owner is making suggestions, are those simply pointing out little quirks, or are those hints that there may be some bigger issues she’s explaining away? Take a video of your ride so you and your mentor can compare impressions.
No matter the price, no matter how much fun he is to ride, no matter how beautiful he is – do not buy the horse without a pre-purchase exam. A veterinarian gives the horse a thorough physical examination, which lets you know his current condition and gives you a heads-up of potential future issues. It’s a smart idea to get x-rays. The veterinarian will also draw blood. She’ll hold that for 30 days. If your horse was drugged to make it docile or to cover up a painful condition, she’ll test the blood for drugs. The veterinarian should not be the horse’s regular vet or someone the seller chooses. There’s too much chance of a conflict of interest. Find someone who is independent, and you pay for the exam. It’s tempting to get a quick-and-dirty, superficial checkup, but pay for a thorough exam, even if you know the horse. It’s better to pay a few hundred dollars now than to find out that your horse has a condition that would have been discovered before the purchase. All vet bills are expensive, even worse if the condition means your horse can’t be ridden.
Next Up: Money and Manure – Budgeting