How to Buy a Horse

Buying a horse is a very personal process. Modern technology allows for an influx of advertising. The number of sellers presenting horses for sale across various social media platforms will leave any buyer overwhelmed with options. Courtney Cooper of C Square Farm outlines several steps that you should follow before making a final purchase. Courtney’s thirty years of experience can guide buyers like you to find your next partner with minimal stress.

Step 1: Select the right type of horse

A good place to start is to define clear goals for you and your future horse.

  • What do you plan to accomplish with your horse, both now and in five years’ time?
  • Will you be competing? Do you event? Or show jump? Dressage?
  • Will you ride the horse every day? Or does the horse need to be the same horse daily, even if it is only ridden three days a week?
  • Does the horse excel in foxhunting?
  • What physical qualities describe your ideal horse?

These are some examples of the types of questions you should be able to answer before you start your search of the horses for sale.

Step 2: Determine your budget

Once you have nailed down your goals for your horse, you need to focus on six specific factors that will determine the price. These factors include:

  • Age
  • Height
  • Sex
  • Health
  • Potential for the future
  • Past experience

Remember that there is no perfect horse. Your budget may dictate the need to be flexible on the six factors listed above. For example, you may find a horse that meets all criteria except for the height that you want. You will need to decide if that missing factor is something that you can accept. You are the only person who can make that decision.

Step 3: Select a Buyer’s Agent

After you establish your goals and ideals, the next step is to find a buyer’s agent to help you. A buyer’s agent is a professional who works on your behalf to help you find the perfect match. The agent will help you find horses that meet your criteria, communicate with the various sellers, pre-screen possible horses, and assist with riding trials of the horses that you choose.

The buyer’s agent will also help you during the pre-purchase process, and they will likely help you arrange transportation after purchase. You also have the option to find, look at, and negotiate a purchase on your own. Many people choose to represent themselves throughout the buying process, which is always an option. However, we recommend working with a good buyer’s agent to guide you through a purchase so that you can keep a clear mind, eliminate stress, protect your interests, and save time. A trained professional with many years of experience and expertise is a great asset and will advocate for you to ensure that all your needs are met.

Step 4: Assess and Ride the Horse

The most important step for many buyers is to see and ride the horse(s) that you determine fit your criteria. When you are looking at a horse, do not disclose information about your finances. The price of a horse should reflect the quality of the horse itself and not what the seller believes you are capable of spending. If you like what you see and feel when you ride the horse in its home environment, also try the horse in a different atmosphere. A new environment could include a cross country schooling facility or your home farm.

Step 5: Negotiate a Price or Make an Offer

Once you find your perfect partner, the buyer’s agent will help you to negotiate a price. The seller will have a list price so you will already know which horse(s) are within your budget.
The offer itself is typically made up of three main components:

  • The Offer Amount- This is the price that you will offer for the horse. If you’re on your own without much experience buying or selling horses, determining the right offer amount can be difficult. This is where having a buyer’s agent on your side can be very beneficial.
  • Timeline- The timeline has multiple components. First, you will need to make sure that the seller has a clear understanding of the timeline for your pre-purchase exam. It is important to move forward with a reasonable timeline if you really love a horse. Many sellers will not accept a deposit or hold a horse for a buyer who is taking a long time to set up a plan for pre-purchase exams. You should also discuss the time you will need after the pre-purchase to close the transaction and transfer ownership of the horse.
  • Contingencies- Having the sale be subject to inspecting medical records and a pre-purchase medical exam is standard. If you and the seller agree upon a price, your buyer’s agent will then help you check the past medical records of the horse. Look closely at the records to make sure that they reflect routine vaccinations. A gap in vaccine history could suggest that the records you received are not comprehensive and you should seek additional information.

Step 6: Inspect and Accept the Horse

After you and the buyer’s agent deem that the veterinary history is satisfactory, the pre-purchase exam is the next step which the buyer’s agent may help schedule for you.

You can use any veterinarian; you are not obligated to use a vet suggested by the seller. A good veterinarian is worth their weight in gold and often the most excellent vets can be quite busy. This is where a buyer’s agent relationship can be crucial in getting the right vet to handle the pre-purchase exam.

You should notify the vet that you (or your agent) intend to be present during the exam. This allows the vet to show you findings in person.

Based on your initial research, if there is a potential deficiency that would disqualify the purchase, communicate this upfront to the vet so it can be examined at the beginning. Should the horse be disqualified early in the exam process, it can save time and possibly result in a lower rate for the exam.

While the vet is typically hired by the buyer, it’s not the veterinarian’s role to recommend for or against the purchase of a horse. The vet will provide an objective exam report that details the horse’s overall condition, descriptions of the horse and findings of potential issues with the horse (often ranked by severity).

If the pre-purchase exam results are acceptable, your buyer’s agent will communicate with the seller on plans to move forward.

Step 7: Closing the Deal

The contract is a key component in your purchase. The sale contract should be between you and the seller, and you will sign it. Your buyer’s agent does not need to sign this document for you. A contract should also disclose commissions to all parties involved in the sale. Closing on your horse purchase can be very straightforward if you have an experienced buyer’s agent guiding you through the process. Your agent can ensure all paperwork is prepared and make sure that you have everything taken care of prior to taking possession of the horse.

Step 8: Delivery of the horse

Once you have purchased your wonderful new horse, your buyer’s agent will assist in the final step which is arranging transportation to its new home. Whether you’re keeping the horse at your home or at a boarding facility, make sure that you have a boarding situation settled before taking possession of the horse. In addition, having insurance coverage before taking possession of the horse is a smart choice.

Finding the right horse is dependent on many personal criteria. It is important to surround yourself with honest and educated professionals to guide you throughout the process. As stated previously, the initial process of narrowing your horse selection based on your equestrian goals, your budget and your experience is really where an experienced buyer’s agent can shine and deliver tremendous value to the buying process.