Safety tips for buying your first horse

By Steve Stevens

The process of purchasing a horse has come up quite a bit lately.

I have seen some pretty relentless and unsavory things when it comes to selling horses to people.

I do put a lot of responsibility on the buyers too. As sometimes we think we can handle situations we are not fit to deal with.

I want to put some ideas and beliefs out there for when someone is looking for a new horse.

If you are a novice rider with no experience, I do believe the best situation is to take horseback riding lessons for about a year or have your children do that before you ever purchase a horse.

If you end up purchasing a horse before that is able to be done, here are some useful tips:

For first time owners or for people getting back into it after many years, we should only be talking about gentle, well trained horses. Because stallions, prospects, project horses, colts, young horses and high end performance horses should not even be in the discussion.

We should avoid saying things like, “I want a horse to grow with”: that doesn’t work, I promise.

Definitely don’t say, “I want a horse my child can grow with”: That definitely doesn’t work.

If the horse has a lot of ability don’t say, “I will learn to ride to match his/her ability”: that doesn’t work.

If you are a beginner, it is in your best interest to buy an older, well trained horse that has had a lot of healthy miles.

I will also tell you this, you get what you pay for. So, if you buy a younger, less trained, uncared for horse for less- you will pay for it later. Either in training bills, vet bills, or medical bills. That is a guarantee.

So where do you start when looking for a broke horse? Most people get on-line and look at horse sites, craigslist and other social media outlets.

I believe if you are going this route, it should be pretty easy to start eliminating prospects. To me, pictures don’t cut it. If they have a picture of three kids sitting on a horse standing still and say “kid broke,” that is not enough. If a horse is decent at all, there is no way they wouldn’t have video on the horse. If you had a great horse to sell, wouldn’t you show a video?

If a horse is totally broke they should have video or the owners should be willing to show you a video, which is not a big deal in this modern day of smart phones. If they have excuses for that, I would move on.

In the video – I want to make sure that the horse can walk, trot and canter quietly, go somewhere under control.
Here again- if they have a video of a horse just walking over bridges and tarps on trails, I would need to see them travel at all three gaits quiet and relaxed as well.

I would always want a pre-purchase exam/vet check before I buy. A lot of people don’t want to spend the money, but trust me, it will be pennies on the dollar of what you will spend down the road. It also will scare away some of the more unsavory horse people. If they have excuses, walk away.

You should always have the owners, trainer of the horse ride them for you first. If they won’t, they should find someone that can if the horse is so broke. This is another way to feel out the process and once again I want to see them rode at all three gaits and at least in an arena, not just a round pen.

I say by all three gaits because there are a lot of horses that can be kept under control at the walk and the trot and can fall apart at the lope/canter. We have known so many people that when they have gotten home with their new horse, they loped off and got bucked off. And after further investigation, we find out that they never saw the horse being rode at the canter.

I would also go see the horse two or three times. If the owner pushes you by saying other people are interested, don’t worry, there will be another one around the corner.

If the owner has rode the horse and looks safe, then you should ride the horse too or have someone who you know personally ride the horse. There are a lot of horses out there that a professional can make look dang good and a beginner won’t have a clue how to ride them.

This one could get me in trouble, but I would show up about a half an hour early just to make sure the horse hasn’t been drugged or been worked for an hour and a half before you get there.

I know this sounds like a lot but if you saw and heard of all the wrecks, damage and injuries so many of our clients and people we know have had with their horse, you would understand. Not to mention the money spent.

So, the next time you are in the market or somebody you know is in the market looking for a horse, hopefully this advice will help you down the trail.

Watch out for these kinds of ads: "Very athletic jumping horse prospect, would be a great kids horse, good ground manners, gentle and sweet." (Photo courtesy of Steve Stevens)
Watch out for these kinds of ads:
“Very athletic jumping horse prospect, would be a great kids horse, good ground manners, gentle and sweet.” (Photo courtesy of Steve Stevens)