If you are really lucky, your dream horse is right in your neighborhood. If you are taking lessons, it may be that your lesson horse is your perfect partner or that another horse in the stable is suitable. But good lesson horses are to find, and the owner probably doesn’t want to part with a star in her stable.
However, she’s undoubtedly tied into the local horse community and knows who has horses for sale. And if her contacts don’t have anything available, they probably know others who do. The search field keeps expanding. The local tack and feed stores are always great sources for leads. Regional horse clubs post ads in their newsletter and on their websites.
Websites to Find Horses
Websites like dreamhorse.com are wonderful places to waste hours browsing. Some sites let you filter by geographic area, by discipline, or by price. Show the URLs to your mentor to decide if any of them are worth a follow-up.
Buying Horses from Sale Barns or Auctions
Sale barns and auctions let you see the horse in the flesh, as opposed to videos and photos on websites. There’s some overlap between sale barns and auctions. Some sale barns act as consignment stores. They take in and board the horses for a private seller who doesn’t want to deal with the details of selling a horse. The barn usually knows a lot about the horse and its history and makes it easy to get a veterinary (pre-purchase) exam. There is usually some allowance to return the horse if it doesn’t work out. In the fall, some operations sell horses that were used in summer camps or trail ride operations. Those are almost always reliable horses at a good price.
Some barns operate as auctions as well as straight sales. Whether they know the horses up for auction is iffy, as is whether the pre-purchase is available and if there is any return policy. Straight-out sales from dedicated auction houses present a lot of questions. Some mass auctions are conducted as a way for private owners to show their horses to a large group of potential buyers at one time and in one location. Other auction houses pay sellers a small amount and expect to make a profit from the auction price at resale. In those cases, history, behavior, and physical issues are usually foggy, and there will be no chance of return and usually no pre-purchase vet exam. Carefully consider the possibilities of one of these purchases, no matter how much you’ve fallen in love. You could go home with your heart horse, or you could be buying a package of physical and behavioral challenges.
Next up: Evaluate before you buy!