Questions to ask when buying a horse

Questions to ask when buying a horse

There are two main ways to buy a horse, either from a private home or from a dealer. Most people find a horse to look at via a number of routes including on line, social media and via word of mouth. The process remains largely the same whether you are buying from a private individual or a dealer but crucially, your rights at law differ if something goes wrong.

Finding the right horse or pony to buy can be a time consuming and frustrating process for both buyers and sellers but if you prepare well and do your research, you can minimise the number of wasted trips. Here are some handy tips.

  • Decide on what you want. Many people have no clear idea what they are really looking for when they go out to buy a horse and can end up travelling long distances for something unsuitable because they haven’t really thought it through
  • Set a geographical distance. Unless you are looking for something very specific, set a travel radius from your home. Time spent travelling and fuel costs can soon mount up if you are going far afield
  • Compile a list of questions to ask so that you can have the maximum amount of information before you get in the car
  • Ask for videos and photos
  • Inform the seller that you would like to bring an instructor - another good reason to try and stay local as you will have to pay them for their time - and that you will have the horse vetted if you proceed with the purchase. Vetting a horse is a crucial part of your own protection and this will put off sellers who are trying to pass off something that has problems
  • When you have made an appointment to view, always phone the seller just before you get in the car to confirm they haven’t sold the horse to someone else or simply changed their minds

Good research on the internet and pre visit questions with the seller will help reduce the amount of false starts and can save you viewing a horse that is unsuitable. Here is a list of questions that you can easily ask on the phone or by email:-

  1. How old is the horse? Is the age confirmed on the passport?
  2. Who are the PIO (Passport Issuing Authority)? This can be important if you want to compete and need the horse to be registered with its breed society
  3. How long have you owned the horse?
  4. What have you done with the horse since you bought it?
  5. Why are you selling?
  6. Does the horse have any vices such as bucking, kicking, rearing or bolting?
  7. Have you ever seen the horse crib bite, wind suck or weave?
  8. Does the horse hack alone and in company?
  9. How does it behave on the road in traffic?
  10. Does the horse load and travel well?
  11. Are there are any vehicles it will not load onto? Some horses won’t travel on trailers, some won’t travel on side unload smaller lorries. Describe your transport arrangements so the seller knows the type of vehicle you have
  12. Has the horse ever been lame?
  13. Has the horse suffered from any illness or condition since they have owned it?
  14. Is the horse currently insured? Are there any exclusions on the current policy?
  15. Are they happy for you to view the horse more than once?
  16. Are they happy for you to bring an instructor to view with them?
  17. Are they happy for the horse to be vetted?
  18. What trial facilities do they have?
  19. Will they ride the horse first before you do or arrange for someone else to do this?

There is no such thing as a set of right answer to these questions; it all depends on what you are looking for and what your particular circumstances are. A horse that dislikes large vehicles on the road may not be a problem based on your location. A horse that won’t travel on a trailer may not be a worry as you own a lorry. Equally, these questions may throw up some absolute deal breakers. Better to know before you get in the car to go and view and certainly before you part with your hard earned money. It can be helpful asking these questions by email as then you have a written record if you later need to either refer to or rely on it.

You will have more protection at law if you buy from a dealer as it is a commercial sale and governed by consumer regulations but if you are buying privately then the age old saying, ‘caveat emptor’, which means, ‘buyer beware’, holds true. Buying the wrong horse is a horrible experience and can be a difficult situation to manage and sometimes impossible to reverse. Many horses that are unwanted begin a difficult and often unhappy journey through no fault of their own so it is important that you take your responsibilities very seriously. If this is your first horse, speak to a knowledgeable instructor about the real time and cost involved in owning a horse. And always take someone with you who is experienced and whose advice you trust when you go and look at a horse. Buying the wrong horse is an expensive mistake and at the centre of it is the welfare of the animal. Trying to resolve health or behavioural issues and re-sell an unsuitable horse is both time consuming and expensive.



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