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20 Questions to Ask Before You Buy a Horse: Efficiently Evaluate Prospects Before a Test Ride

Save time, energy and gas money by asking the right questions before you even think about getting into the truck to go look at a prospective horse.

If at all possible, engage the help of a knowledgeable friend or equine professional in your search for a prospect, show partner, or new best friend.

The following questions will help you decide which horses may be a good match for you, and increase the chance that you will bring home the right horse. Even if you have a pro to work with, get the answers to most of these questions first.


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Describe What You Want in a Horse

Take the time to write down what you want your new horse to do. What should it look like? How do you plan on using it? What are your absolutes, and what are you willing to negotiate on? Only travel out to see horses that match most of your criteria.

There is a lot of emotion involved in must horse-buying decisions. You can eliminate most of the temptation to buy a horse that just won’t meet your needs, no matter how pretty it is, by doing your homework first.

Once you have seen photos or a video of the horse, checked its pedigree, and like what you see, move on to these questions. Many horses will be eliminated from your list before you even get to the last question.

Qualifying Questions

  1. How long have you had this horse, and why is it for sale?
  2. Are the registration papers current, showing the seller as the registered owner?
  3. How would you describe the horse’s disposition?
  4. Does the horse have any soundness issues?
  5. Has the horse been seen by a veterinarian in the past two years? Why?
  6. Does the horse have a full mane and tail?
  7. How long has it been since the horse was ridden regularly?
  8. Who usually rides the horse?
  9. Has the horse been hauled to shows, trail rides, or parades?
  10. How does the horse ride away from home?
  11. Does the horse have any behavioral issues: cribbing, nipping, kicking, aggression?
  12. Is the horse used to being stalled?
  13. How does the horse interact with other horses?
  14. Has this horse been ridden by a trainer? Would you give permission for me to contact them?
  15. Has the horse been shown? What are the details: where was the horse show, and how many horses did it show against? Winning futurity where only two horses competed is far different than winning against fifty horses. Horses can be World Qualified and not be competitive. Know the specifics before paying for a show record. This is one area where it pays to work with a pro.
  16. Does the horse clip easily without restraint or drugs?
  17. Does the horse stand quietly for the farrier? Has the horse been shod? What kind of shoes does the horse usually wear?
  18. Has the horse ever been X-rayed?
  19. Is there any reason why this horse shouldn’t pass a pre-purchase exam?
  20. How firm is your asking price?
image - Twenty Questions to Ask Before You Buy a Horse
Twenty Questions to Ask Before You Buy a Horse

Great Detective Skills Save Money

Use the answers to these questions as clues. Never assume anything. If a horse has not been seen by a vet it may not be well cared for. Having shoes on a pasture horse can be a red flag; find out why. Specialty shoes of any kind are there for a reason – what is it?

The horse markets favor buyers right now. There are more horses for sale than ever. Asking the right questions will help you save money, time, and put far fewer miles on your truck or car as you search out just the right horse to bring home.

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