If you’ve been working with a trainer
Let them know that you’re shopping, what you’re shopping for, and what opinions they have on the matter. Trainers usually get a small commission for helping, usually paid for by the seller of the horse but sometimes by the buyer, but they have a lot of contacts that you may not know about. They also have an idea of your riding capabilities and will work to fit you with the right horse to match your abilities and goals.
The horse market is almost all online now. Facebook is a good resource however, they’re cracking down on their “no animal selling” policy so that creates some hassle. Look for horse sale facebook groups in your area and usually you can find a few. This is also a good resource for finding trainers selling horses, as they post on the groups quite a bit.
Next is dreamhorse.com. I really like this site but it can be a little limited on ads available. If you watch it for a month or two, you’re bound to find horses in your budget and goals. It’s usually easy to contact the sellers but sometimes, they don’t update their ads so you may come across a few where the horses are already sold. Another quite annoying thing about dreamhorse.com is that they keep “sold” ads around. You can usually filter these out of your search but it’s still frustrating to click an ad and find out that the horse was sold almost a year before.
For those looking for ranch horses, trail horses, or cow horses, check out ranch world ads. This site is minimal but easy to manage, which is why it appeals to ranchers. Several ads don’t have pictures and the filter ability on the searches isn’t the greatest, I’ve often found ads that should’ve been filtered out but weren’t. This site also keeps old ads and several people forget to put their ads under “sold” so you may come across a seemingly perfect horse already sold to someone else. A good way to keep an eye on this is looking at the posted dates. The older the posted date, the more likely the horse has been sold, is lame, or is listed a little high in price.
I am always skeptical of craigslist ads but it can be a good resource if you’re careful. If the ad seems too good to be true, it probably is. If the person tells you to pay via ebay or another website, cut off communication and move on. With that being said, some trainers do list ads on craigslist. They will most likely have a lot of pictures and information available. They’ll also try and direct you to their website or facebook page. If they’re not trainers, info will be limited but it may be worth getting in contact with them. If the ad or owner doesn’t claim an injury, consider a pre-purchase exam.
If you’re looking for a show horse, google “performance horses near YourCity,State” and several websites should come up. You can also search this on facebook. These will be trainers which almost always have horses for sale. Additionally, boarding facilities with trainers on site usually have horses for sale.
There are several other resources available, it just takes some googling.
Contacting the seller
Contact between a potential buyer and a seller can be a stressful and frustrating exchange for both parties. As a potential buyer, try not to get hung up on height, weight, or color unless there is a good reason why (ex: you’re 6 foot, 6 inches and would prefer your legs not drag). Keep an open mind, the horse’s abilities, health, and disposition should be what you ask about. Be professional and courteous, don’t expect them to answer you right away and if they never answer you, cut your losses and move on. I have a two day rule, where I’ll contact the seller once with “Hi, I’m Hanah G and saw the ad for Horse’s Name on This Website and would love to learn more about him/her. Is he/she still available?”, then if they don’t answer me in two days, I’ll scratch them from my potentials list. If they do answer and the horse is still available, here are some good questions to ask:
- Do you have any/ any more videos?
- If the horse is trained in something specific, ask for that video. (ex: do you have a video of the horse doing a reining pattern?)
- Is the horse registered or grade (grade = unregistered)?
- You’ll have to decide if this is important or not. There are open shows that you can compete in with a grade horse. Also, some owners may have the ability to register, they just haven’t yet. Get this clarified as an FYI at the moment.
- What does this horse do when it spooks?
- Every seller should know the answer to this question. Even if it’s a lesson horse, they all have their moments. Some may run, some buck/crow hop, some just scoot sideways. Know what you’re able to handle.
- Is this horse okay with flags/ things that flap/dogs/kids?
- Even if you’re not planning on carrying a flag, there will be banners at shows that make noise and there will be dogs. It’s good to know if you need to desensitize the horse or not.
- Are there any health concerns that I’ll need to know about to keep the horse happy and healthy?
- This is a good way to phrase this question and not seem hostile. You’re more likely to get an honest answer by stating “to keep the horse happy”.
- Has the horse been shown? If so where and in what?
- Has the horse been exposed to trails and obstacles?
- Some show horses have only been in arenas. I have come across a few who had never taken a 5 year old out of an arena for a ride.
- Does the horse have any vices?
- I’m at this level of riding and wanting to do this discipline. Do you think this horse is a good fit?
- This is an easy question for people to lie about but, a lot of trainers are honest and if it’s too much horse or it won’t fit your goals, they’ll tell you.
- Are you available for me to try this horse?
- They should always be open to this.
- Will I need to bring my own tack?
- Are you open to a pre-purchase exam at my expense?
- Again, the seller should be okay with this if they’re not hiding anything.
If you have more questions, then certainly ask. Be respectful of listed prices. A trainer will blow you off if you offer $10,000 for a horse listed at $20,000. If a horse is just barely out of your budget, then sure, ask if they’d be willing to negotiate down a little but, ask directly and try not to argue. Keep an eye on what horses are selling for too. If a trained horse (horse A), able to do reining stops and spins is listed for $15,000 and you see a horse (horse B), barely able to spin/turn listed for $13,000, then the horse B is probably listed too high (depending on other capabilities). If the owner of the horse B says they’re not willing to negotiate down, don’t argue, just keep an eye on the ad and move on. Chances are, other people will know the horse is listed too high and no one will show interest, then the seller will be forced to come down.
Happy looking and when you’re ready, check out our next topic: Trying the horse and pre-purchase exams.