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What to ask/look for when buying a horse? Lease to own anyone?

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  • What to ask/look for when buying a horse? Lease to own anyone?

    Please remove and redirect if a repeat post, I did a forum search and had less than great results.

    I am tentatively starting my search after losing my boy in September and have no clue what I am doing. He came to me through a friend and was purchased the second I laid eyes on him so I never shopped. Now I am actually shopping and have no clue what key questions to ask and what to read between the lines on ads.

    My goals:

    1. Trail Ride English
    2. Some basic dressage work

    I am an intermediate rider and am currently in lessons for dressage and basic principles. My previous horse was western trained and green when I got him. When he passed he was learning to bend and do some basics, all of which I thought him with the help of a barn mate not a trainer. I certainly don't mind a challenge but I don't want one that is crazy. I also don't want one that needs a lot of maintenance for the two activities I plan to do with him (boarding situation only allows for a gelding). My budget is very low 4 figures but I am also patient and willing to take the time to find the right fit. Personality is my biggest requirement, soundness is an extremely close second.

    Thank you all in advance!

    P.S. I will do a PPE on any horse I am going to buy
    Last edited by Bugs's Mom; Jan. 7, 2020, 03:10 PM.
    Brain Surgeon "Milo" 2013 -
    Lovebug "Bugs" 2006-2019

  • #2
    Avoid any ads that includes the word "sensitive" which is code for nut job. Also "quirky" which could mean anything from unwilling to go forward to backing up unexpectedly. I always ask whether the horse loses its mind when in a new environment or does he settle in easily. A good eye is key too. I got this from Denny Emerson, if you don't look forward to seeing his head over the stall door, don't buy him.
    Last edited by 16 Hands; Dec. 30, 2019, 02:49 PM.

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    • #3
      Ask for a video of W/T/C in both directions. That will help you weed out unsuitable horses. Try the horse if it seems suitable. You can only have one horse, so no point in making a mistake. The horse should be able to do what you want it to do; if you can't find a horse that does, then reconsider your price range. I am not sure how what "low 4 figures" means to you exactly.

      Do not buy special issues, like shoeing or meds. The maintenance cost of a horse quickly exceeds its purchase price. Don't buy crazy or quirky. Buy a horse that you can ride now and do what you want to do now. You aren't asking for much really.

      Since I don't care if my horses are my best buddy, but rather pleasant to handle and ride, personality is not a big deal. I can get along with a wide variety of personality types. Mares tend to have more personality than geldings, but I understand that mares are not an option.

      Mostly enjoy shopping. Take a friend with you to video your ride and keep track of all the details regarding the horse. Take your time.
      Last edited by IronwoodFarm; Dec. 30, 2019, 07:34 PM. Reason: type
      Where Norwegian Fjords Rule
      http://www.ironwood-farm.com

      Comment


      • #4
        Sane, quiet, No spook. Goes out alone or the company, good manners.

        Comment

        • Original Poster

          #5
          Thanks guys!

          Low 4 figures means $2500 including shipping (I am only looking in a 4 hour radius). I do understand shoeing adds up quickly, my last horse had a full set and that was NOT cheap every 5 weeks. He didn't need any specialty shoes but still it adds up.

          I do want one that genuinely wants to be around me and is lovey dovey, that's just me. I also expect these horses to be pleasant and easy to handle.

          16 Hands thanks for the code words, that is what I really need to know!

          IronwoodFarm Thanks for the tips, I do want one that can hit the trail shortly after arriving at the new barn.
          Brain Surgeon "Milo" 2013 -
          Lovebug "Bugs" 2006-2019

          Comment


          • #6
            ALL of the above is good advice. Especially Ironwood Farm's : buy a horse that's doing what you want it to do NOW.

            Look among your horse friends for someone with experience and a good eye for a horse. This doesn't have to be a "trainer", but should be someone who really understands what you want in a horse and can go with you when you try one.

            S/he can help you evaluate each prospect without emotional involvement. Bonus points if they have made a few horses that do what you want to do with your new guy.

            Can the person you take lessons from help you? That's where I'd start. Have fun and good luck!
            Last edited by Hej; Dec. 30, 2019, 02:28 PM. Reason: Inexplicable white space at top of post. 🤔

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            • Original Poster

              #7
              Hej I can certainly talk to the lady I am taking lessons from! I do have two very experienced rider friends that could help. One is more knowledgeable than the other, the less knowledgeable one of course has more free time. Both are far more experienced than I am so that helps. Both also helped me shape my previous horse into the amazing horse he became. I do plan to take one of them with me when looking at horses and will likely revisit horses if I find more than one that checks the boxes.
              Brain Surgeon "Milo" 2013 -
              Lovebug "Bugs" 2006-2019

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Bugs's Mom View Post
                Please remove and redirect if a repeat post, I did a forum search and had less than great results.

                I am tentatively starting my search after losing my boy in September and have no clue what I am doing. He came to me through a friend and was purchased the second I laid eyes on him so I never shopped. Now I am actually shopping and have no clue what key questions to ask and what to read between the lines on ads.

                My goals:

                1. Trail Ride English
                2. Some basic dressage work

                I am an intermediate rider and am currently in lessons for dressage and basic principles. My previous horse was western trained and green when I got him. When he passed he was learning to bend and do some basics, all of which I thought him with the help of a barn mate not a trainer. I certainly don't mind a challenge but I don't want one that is crazy. I also don't want one that needs a lot of maintenance for the two activities I plan to do with him (boarding situation only allows for a gelding). My budget is very low 4 figures but I am also patient and willing to take the time to find the right fit. Personality is my biggest requirement, soundness is an extremely close second.

                Thank you all in advance!

                P.S. I will do a PPE on any horse I am going to buy
                Have your trainer plus some experienced horse friends in the loop. The friends can be good for bouncing ideas off but the trainer should generally be your real authority. You may need to pay the trainer a fee to spend time on your search. Hence friends that are thrilled to go for a Sunday drive in the country to see horses!!! are really helpful.

                Buy a horse that is doing the job you want now. With English horses the risk is that they have never been ridden outside of the arena. With Western trail horses the risk is that they have no arena basics or bend and can just go w t c in a straight line.

                That said, you are way better off teaching an otherwise healthy sound decently conformed trail horse to bend, than you are trying to get an agoraphobic dressage horse to be a safe trail horse!

                Where I live, good quality QH ranch and trail horses from reputable ranches and trainers run about $4000 to $5000. They could all be capable of learning dressage basics but will usually have no talent at the dressage trot. They may know some useful western stuff like roping or herding cows.

                Buy mind. Buy a horse that is confident in his own skin and friendly and curious towards the world. And get one that likes to hop in horse trailers!

                Buy health. An easy keeper is a wonderful thing. Buy good hooves and no existing maintenance issues.

                In your situation you don't necessarily want a very young horse. Ten or older is fine. If he is doing the job you want, healthy, confident, he will keep going for another 15 years no problem.

                Consider a free lease or care lease. Some times people will let you walk away with their beloved horse that they no longer have time or money for. They'd rather you kept him forever than sell him on down the road.

                At some point you will have dilemmas. For $xxxx you can get a green but fancier horse, or a well trained but plainer horse. At that point you will need to do some soul searching

                Comment

                • Original Poster

                  #9
                  Scribbler I do know I will have to compromise some to stay within my budget. I don't need a very fancy horse, but also don't mind a green one either. I have thought about lease to own to expand my budget if needed. I do want to own the horse outright as I am a forever home type of owner and don't want the horse called back because they suddenly have time for him again. Not to say I would never sell a horse because you cannot make a promise like that, but I do not intend to sell a horse of mine. I would however, happily sign a buyback contract for any horse I purchase.

                  I will enlist friends and will talk to the trainer but I am going to eventually end lessons with her as I have no desire to show. I am mainly taking the lessons to fix some bad habits and learn skills beyond what my friends can teach (and to get saddle time while I am horseless). Once I get the new horse and am in a good place myself lessons will end.

                  Again thank you so much for your insights!
                  Brain Surgeon "Milo" 2013 -
                  Lovebug "Bugs" 2006-2019

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Look for a horse already doing what you want to do now - get video then verify by visiting. If you want to trail ride, make sure you take horse on a trail ride before you buy. Does horse need to be able to go out alone, or will you always be riding with others on the trail?

                    Will the horse thrive in your boarding situation - stall/turnout/pasture? What about feeding - easy/hard keeper, food sensitivities, picky eater? What is the horse currently eating? Stabling may be a deal breaker if too incompatible, feeding could be a deal breaker or a non-issue depending on the scope and potential ability to accommodate. If horse will be pastured with others, find out if they do ok in that situation - some horses just haven't been well socialized and don't do well in groups.

                    Ask if the horse has had any significant health issues - colic, laminitis, ulcers, allergies etc. Again, this might not be a deal breaker, but something I would want to know. Get a PPE no.matter.what.

                    How does the horse behave on the trailer, for farrier/vet, at new locations?
                    "So relax! Let's have some fun out here! This game's fun, OK? Fun goddamnit." Crash Davis; Bull Durham

                    Comment

                    • Original Poster

                      #11
                      MissAriel I have not thought of some of these! I provide my own feed so that is something to consider but not a total deal breaker. Being able to have a pasture kept horse is a must and some do not work in that environment.

                      Thanks!
                      Brain Surgeon "Milo" 2013 -
                      Lovebug "Bugs" 2006-2019

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Bugs's Mom View Post
                        Scribbler I do know I will have to compromise some to stay within my budget. I don't need a very fancy horse, but also don't mind a green one either. I have thought about lease to own to expand my budget if needed. I do want to own the horse outright as I am a forever home type of owner and don't want the horse called back because they suddenly have time for him again. Not to say I would never sell a horse because you cannot make a promise like that, but I do not intend to sell a horse of mine. I would however, happily sign a buyback contract for any horse I purchase.

                        I will enlist friends and will talk to the trainer but I am going to eventually end lessons with her as I have no desire to show. I am mainly taking the lessons to fix some bad habits and learn skills beyond what my friends can teach (and to get saddle time while I am horseless). Once I get the new horse and am in a good place myself lessons will end.

                        Again thank you so much for your insights!
                        You may well need the trainer for a year or two with the new horse. The reason to enlist a trainer is that they have the best idea about your riding and should have professional level skills at evaluating horses.

                        The catch is if they want you to buy a potential competitive horse. So be clear about what you want. Also don't tell them you are going to jump ship because honestly you might need them for a while yet.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Buy a horse you like. There are a lot of them for sale and if you have any doubts then don't buy. There are some people you meet whom you like instantly and get on with immediately. Same with a horse.

                          When I look at a horse to buy, after an overall first impression, I always start my closer examination at their feet. No foot, no horse as the old adage goes. Poor feet are often an indication of other problems further up the legs. I don't especially care about height, sex, colour, being pretty. I do care a lot about personality, sanity and good manners. Another old horse adage: handsome is as handsome does.

                          It really doesn't make sense to buy something that needs a lot of expensive maintenance: horses cost enough without purchasing large vet bills. However, do carefully consider how you will be managing this horse because a change in their job can radically reduce certain health and well being issues. Plenty of turn out can transform a stressy nutter into a good citizen or vice versa. Trail riding rather than going round and round a jumping arena puts different pressures on their body and mind. Horses have opinions about what they like to do and can make it very clear very quickly.

                          Don't be swayed by fancy barns and high prices. Look around at some less fashionable breeds and types because for what you propose to do you don't need a fancy imported warmblood. Any horse can do dressage.
                          "Good young horses are bred, but good advanced horses are trained" Sam Griffiths

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Agree with others, buy the horse in front of you, not what the seller says the horse "could" be in 6 months with more work. In a sales video, I like to see a brief, unedited w/t/c in each direction, including both upwards and downwards transitions so you can see how responsive/willing the horse is.

                            If you are looking for a trail horse, definitely ask how horse does going out alone and in company. If you get a vague "oh we haven't tried that.." sort of response, pass. When you are actually trying out horses, ask to take it on a quick trail. You don't need to do a 1hr or even 30min ride, often just hacking around the property, maybe down the driveway (if long) or shortly into the woods will tell you what you need to know re: the horse's willingness to leave the herd/barn, and how it comes back (rushing/jigging, or as quiet as it went out?).

                            As orhers said, definitely take a knowledgeable, unbiased person with you to help you shop with your head and not your heart. Trust your gut- if something doesn't feel right, no matter how many "right" answers the seller gives, pass.

                            Also, many horses are sold via word of mouth- so don't be shy/quiet about your entering the market- tell every horse person you know- esp trainer, vet, farrier- they may know of a horse for sale or not quite for sale yet that would be a great match! Good luck!!

                            Comment

                            • Original Poster

                              #15
                              Thank you! My last horse wasn't for sale when I bought him! I will be very vocal about looking when I start as many horses are suddenly for sale when the right buyer comes along
                              Brain Surgeon "Milo" 2013 -
                              Lovebug "Bugs" 2006-2019

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Ask "open probe" questions. ie "What's the worst thing this horse has ever done? Why are you selling him? People don't always think before they speak and if you can get them talking, they might just let a few things slip. He may be difficult to catch, he may kick the farrier etc. Good luck and be patient!

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Don't fet on a horse rhat a seller won't get on because they are pregnant, injured, etc etc etc.
                                  It is better to ride 5 minutes a day than it is to ride 35 minutes on a Sunday.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    If price is an issue, don't be afraid t try an older horse.
                                    Janet

                                    chief feeder and mucker for Music, Belle and Tiara. Someone else is now feeding and mucking for Chief and Brain (both foxhunting now). Spy is gone. April 15, 1982 to Jan 10, 2019.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      You might want to look into adopting from a rescue. I think it could be hard to find a sane, sound horse already doing a trail and arena job well at that price point. I think that price point tends to aggregate project horses, distress sales (herd dispersals, owner died and family needs to get rid or horse, etc) or straight up scams to pass along unsound or crazy horses. Most reputable rescues will have vetted the horse thoroughly and put it through some training and maybe even used for kids and lessons in a foster or evaluation situation. The horses might be older and not super fancy but plenty will have the skills and physical ability for your needs. I often see horses listed with Forever Morgans and Morgan Safenet that would tick your boxes, although not sure how local those would be to you. If it's a decent rescue they will want the placement to work out and are just trying to recoup their cost and find the right fit.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        I just went through this recently buying a horse for myself and for our son. I took about 18 months to find the right horses.

                                        I put a lot of miles on my truck checking out different horses. I scoured rescues with no luck at all. Most of those horses were unstarted greenies, or untested, unpapered QHs, or pasture pets only. The only sound ones I found were minis, lol!

                                        You'll get savvy to the tricks in your area pretty quickly. The horses will tell you if it's right when you handle and ride them. I always asked to start with them unsaddled (and in their pasture/stall, if possible). I like to groom a horse to first get to know him or her. One of the horses was bad with his feet, but I worked with him for a few minutes at that first meeting and found that it was easily fixed. Put your hands all over them during grooming, especially the legs. Look at angles and builds, head set and shoulder angle. All things that will make the horse comfy to ride or possible issues down the road, like DSLD (can be in any, but more common in gaited horses). try to ride them on two different visits, but be willing to put down a holding fee while waiting for the second ride and the PPE. Check for barnsourness and willingness to go out alone. These are the big things I found.

                                        I personally avoided stock type horses because there are so many hereditary issues right now that it was out of my budget to get one that was registered and properly tested. I didn't rule out any breeds, except draft horses and really tall horses because I'm just too little for all that horse. If you like them, Appys and Arabs were the least expensive horses (with the exception of endurance Arabians). If you look at Appys, might want to check papers for testing, if they have a stocky build. Ask yourself the important questions that might come up such as, would you consider a mule; would you consider leasing a horse, stuff like that.

                                        Even with all that and trial rides, I still came home with a horse that was supposed to be a beginner for our kid and turned out to be a solid intermediate English type. Everything stopped while I worked with him to see if I could make it work. In the end, we found him a great home with a rider that rode him in the discipline he was trained for. SInce a good home was most important, we took a loss on his price, even though he was better trained when he left us (why I'm not a horse trainer, lol). After that, it took awhile to recover funds and start looking again.

                                        I made a list of what were deal breakers for me. Things like age, experience, certain breeds, and size, and that helped narrow the search. In your price range, (which was the same as mine), down here in the South, I would say you could get a nice, sound, unregistered horse in his or her teens. That's what I found for each of us and we love them.

                                        I hope my recent experience can be put to good use.

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