A horse is a major investment that begins with the purchase. You will still need to house, feed and provide regular medical care after you purchase the horse. So it stands to reason that you want to get a sound, healthy animal.
Many people rush into their first horse purchase. This can end badly for the human and the horse. The horse may have some health issues or a personality that doesn’t mesh well with the rider.
If you are purchasing a horse for a young rider, then personality and training as well as health, are important factors. This is not the time to surprise your daughter with a pony. Take the time to make sure you are getting the right horse (or pony) for your family.
Before The Purchase
So buying the horse is not the first step. The first step is to make sure you can provide adequate care for them. The horse needs to have shelter and an outside area for grazing and exercise.
This may be a barn, a garage you convert or a run in shed in the field. Your horse needs a place they can get out of rain, cold and strong winds.
You may also have arranged to board your horse at a nearby riding facility or local farm.
Before the purchase you should establish an annual horse budget. This would include purchasing grain, hay as well as bedding. Fees for the blacksmith and the veterinarian need to be covered.
Read our blog – Long Live the Horse – to learn more about preventative horse care.
You would need to include any special medical expenses that come with the animal. These you would learn about in your pre-purchase exam.
In addition, if you are going to do shows, rodeos, or 4H events you will need to budget in transportation and the fees involved with entering contests.
Ride the Horse
Before purchasing the horse the person who will be riding it needs to take a ride. Dr. Glaza actually recommends that the rider take two rides at separate times to get an idea of the consistency of the horse.
The horse needs to be a good fit for the rider. If your child is a beginner rider then you don’t want a horse that may be challenging. You want an easy going, laid back animal who will help your rider gain confidence and new skills.
If the rider is moving up from a beginner horse to one that can go with them to competitions then you need a horse that has had some experience on the show circuit.
In addition, when I say take the horse for a ride, I don’t mean JUST a ride. Go into the field, catch the horse, give them a pre-ride grooming, pick out hooves, and tack him up. This will give you a full range of knowledge on their behavior as well as see how you two work together.
This is a tool that you use to help you make a decision on a horse. This involves hiring a veterinarian or another equine specialist to go over the horse and make sure they don’t have any problems.
In some cases, you can have your personal vet do the exam. However, if your vet is the primary vet for the seller, then they may refer you to someone else. This is due to conflict of interest and patient confidentiality laws.
The vet will need a medical history and any insurance requirements before the exam. A medical record shows if the horse has had treatment for worms, a negative coggins test, and regular vaccinations.
All horses sold must have a negative coggins test. This is the law in all states.
What Problems Does The Vet Look For?
There are a number of things that the veterinarian will look for when doing a prepurchase exam. These will combine behavior and physical responses.
Vets typically like to do the pre-purchase exam at their clinic. This gives them easy access to their equipment that may be needed for the exam.
Buyers are advised to attend the exam so they can most effectively communicate with the vet and the seller.
- The vet should do numerous things that check the heart and blood such as listening to the heart and lungs and checking the color of the gums.
- Looking at the mouth the vet will examine the teeth. You can read more about horse dentals on our blog.
- Checking the senses such ears and eyes to look for any abnormalities.
- Legs and hooves are an important part of your horse! The vet will need to complete a thorough exam on the joints, muscles, and hoof to make sure that they are all healthy and strong.
- In addition, the vet will watch the horse walk and trot to check for lameness. If the horse shows lameness the vet may recommend that the buyer discusses with the seller that they do some work to correct the problem.
- There are a number of blood and neurological tests that can check for an organ function, pregnancy, disease, and/or worm load.
What Does The Buyer Need To Look For?
The buyer also has a number of key points they need to pay attention to when they are handling the horse and going for that initial ride. Consider your purpose for the horse.
You may be buying a horse for a child who is learning to ride or because as an adult you are very excited about endurance riding. Or like me, you may be older and after a long history of competitive riding, you just have a rescue horse in the back yard because you love horses.
If you are purchasing a young horse, an elderly horse, or a rescue you may not be doing a ride. In that case, it is doubly important that you hone in on the animal’s personality to make sure it will be a good fit for you and your environment.
Consider yourself, your goals and what you expect from your horse.
How does the horse receive you? Are they nervouse, friendly, looking for a treat?
Walk the horse around on a lead line? Do they walk next to you or do they pull you like a large dog?
Any issue may be a deal-breaker. That decision is up to the buyer and involves what is the purpose of buying a horse. What may be a deal-breaker for you may not bother another person.
This also gets back to having good communication with the seller and the veterinarian. The vet will tell you about any problems they have found and what a course of action may be if you were to purchase the animal.
Don’t rush into the decision. Take the time to get to know the horse, have it examined by your veterinarian, and make an informed decision.
Horses are one of Dr. Glaza’s specialties not only as a vet but as an experienced horse owner. Give the office a call at 859-472-4141. We are always here to help!
Author, Ame Vanorio, is the director of Fox Run Environmental Education Center and a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. She teaches onsite and online classes in organic gardening, solar power, and wildlife rehabilitation. She lives on her farm in Falmouth, Kentucky with too many animals to count!