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How to Buy a Horse

The Do's And Don'ts Of Buying A Horse

Horses grazing in a pastureYou've saved up your money and done some homework, and now you're ready to begin your hunt to find a fine new steed. You hope that the first horse you try will be "the one," and you'll be a pair fit for a fairy tale. Unfortunately, that is often not the case, says horse trainer, Jim Isley. Knowing how to best conduct yourself when dealing with horse owners, trainers, and traders will make the process much easier and more comfortable for you, the horse, and the seller.

Do Know What You're Looking For

"You'd be surprised with how many people come in and don't really have a clue what they want," Isley says. "The three most important things you need to make clear to the seller are your price range, your goals for the horse you're looking for, and your abilities as a rider."

Don't Fib

"It's important to be completely up front and honest about your riding abilities when looking for a new horse. I sometimes have people looking for horses that come in and tell me about how experienced they are. When they get on the horse I chose for them according to that level of experience, I find out that they weren't being completely honest. It is extremely important that I know just where a person is in their riding career so I can best help put them on a horse that makes sense. Otherwise, we're both wasting our time," says Isley.

If you're new to the horse industry and unsure about what to expect, it's always helpful to do a little homework before meeting with a trainer or trader. A tip - talk to some more experienced people in the type of riding or competition you're interested in to find out general going prices for different levels of horses. Ask for advice on where to start and who to go to. Then go to a trainer and they'll help you choose your type of horse, and they'll also help you stay within your price range.

Do Show Up On Time

Besides the obvious reasons, not arriving to an appointment on time can also affect the quality of your experience when shopping for a horse. The seller has to prepare the horse for you, so by showing up late, you have cut into your time spent with the horse. The horse will have been saddled and ready for some time, and this may affect his attitude during your first ride. Plus, you want to give yourself plenty of time to view the horse properly. Being tardy can negatively effect your impression of the horse, which is unfair to both of you.

Don't Be a Know-It-All

You may be an experienced rider, but you are still the buyer; and it always helps to show some humility when meeting with a seller. After all, he does know more about that specific horse than you do because they have spent more time together. Riders of any level can take advantage of the seller's experience with the animal and gather as much information as possible. You may not agree with all of the seller's recommendations or practices, but it is still very helpful to listen and learn about the animal you're interested in buying.

Do Respect the Seller and the Horse He Is Selling

"It's uncommon for a seller to actually turn down a buyer, but it has been done," Isley explains. "If I know that a horse and rider are not going to get along, I'll tell them that it isn't going to work out and I can't sell them the horse." As a buyer, this might get you a little steamed, but trust that the seller has both you and the horse's interests in mind. Isley says, "It'd save us both the hassle and grief and save the horse the pain and confusion."

In addition, when test driving the horse, do not attempt to perform difficult maneuvers if he is not trained to do them. For example, if a horse is not trained to do a 360 degree turn on the haunches, do not expect him to be able to whip one out for you. Get a feel for the horse, and let him get comfortable with you. Isley adds, "It is never smart to demand a horse do a maneuver that requires specific training that he has not yet had. Not only is it unfair to the horse, but it's also unfair to the seller. You'll startle and upset the horse."

Don't Be Afraid To Say, "No Thanks"

"I'd rather you go ahead and tell me that he's just not the horse for you, if you see something that rules him out, rather than draw out the process," Isley says. It will not offend a seller if you say "no thanks" at any point. If anything, a seller will appreciate that you're not wasting his time and the horse's energy.

Buying a horse is a big investment, literally. Remember, you're entitled to try out the horse and to examine him closely. Choose wisely. Communication is key, and respect is required for a healthy relationship. Keep in mind; the equine industry is a small one. The person from whom you buy a horse today may be beside you in the show arena tomorrow. Stay polite, positive, and informed, and you'll enjoy the horse buying experience and the long relationships that follow.

Jim Isley operates the Jim Isley Training Center in Reidsville, NC, which specializes in training, sales and showing. He is the President of the Pinto Horse Association of America and serves as the Director of Equine Studies at Rockingham Community College in North Carolina.

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