Sunday, January 29, 2012

Horse Buying

Is this a good time to buy a horse?  Lots of people are really excited about the prices they have seen in the horse classified websites, and at their neighborhood barns.  Horses that have been for sale for a while are getting their prices reduced, and you truly can find some bargains, but does this reflect a change in the market, or has it always been this way?  And more to the point, is it right for you?

I have always been able to find a bargain for my students and clients, but my version (and theirs) may be a bit different than those who are not experienced with buying horses (this is true for trainers/instructors as well as for students/clients).

So I believe the true price of horses has not changed in relation to the dollar:value ratio.  Good, healthy, well-trained horses still bring the same price they always have (that doesn't mean that I can't negotiate a much better price than you can), and unhealthy, ill-trained, untalented horses (even if they are all shiny on the outside) are still the cheap ones.

I believe that the truest bargain is the horse that is well-trained and well-maintained, healthy, honestly presented and reasonably priced.   It seems like that should be a given, but nothing could be further from the truth.

There is very little regulation in the sale of horses, and even less ability to recover loss.  Sellers vary from from crooked horse dealers to honest horse dealers, to knowledgeable trainers/instructors to bad instructors/trainers, to backyard owners to people who have no business having a horse or an animal of any kind.  And you cannot pick out which are which even in a lineup.  It doesn't matter whether the seller is dishonest intentionally, or out of ignorance or being barn-blind---a lie is a lie.  Can you tell when someone is lying to you, or withholding truth?  Even if they think it is the truth?  Are you willing to pay for it?

That is where your trainer/instructor comes in.  They know your level of experience, proficiency in handling/riding, your knowledge of costs, and where/how the prospective horse will reside.

If your instructor is very experienced, and with a good and well-known reputation in the horse industry, they can find real bargains for you in every reasonable price range.  But the definition of a bargain changes with each client, and with each horse.  Good instructors/trainers know this, too.

A good instructor/trainer will guide you in the horse-buying experience.  They will NOT pressure you into buying a horse.  They may suggest that you are ready for one based on their regular work with you on their own school horses, but a red flag should go up if they start with the pressure tactics.  When you are ready to buy is ultimately up to you and no one else!

In fact, a good instructor will probably counsel you to proceed cautiously if you bring up the subject of horse-purchase.  A good instructor will sit down with you and discuss your current level of proficiency in riding (and especially your proficiency in horsemanship, stable management, etc.), your cost commitment, and your time commitment, as well as other indirect aspects of horse ownership.  There is a lot to cover!  If they don't discuss this with you, more red flags should go up for you!  Horses live into their twenties, and many times beyond that, and you need to know what you are in for!  Don't expect your trainer to pussyfoot around!  If they don't scare you, they haven't told you the truth!  You have to really want this, even after discussing all the ins and outs.

If you are fully aware of what you are getting yourself into (and it coincides with your personal goals), you should put yourself into your trainer's hands.  Allow him/her to represent you fully in the transaction, and pay him/her accordingly!  It is cheaper in the long run (and many times, even in the short run).

What you should pay your trainer varies widely.  An industry standard is 10% of the purchase price of the horse, plus any expenses incurred in the search (phone bills, gas, meals while travelling, airfare if applicable, advertising if applicable, etc.).  This is in addition to the purchase price of the horse!  But again, this is absolutely worth the price.  You should never, ever go horse shopping without your professional!

There are other formulas for compensation, but make sure that the terms are clear and in writing before any work is done on your behalf!

If you don't have a trainer/instructor whom you are currently working with and trust, do not even look for a horse right now!  Find yourself a professional, experienced, qualified instructor and start taking lessons first.  Give it some time, make sure YOU have the skills necessary to own a horse (you must acquire these skills even if the horse will be boarded), and then when you have a good working relationship with the instructor, let him/her find the horse of your dreams.

That way, it has the best chance of succeeding, and not becoming your worst nightmare.

If you would like to contact me about this or any other horse-related issue, please email me at  or visit my website at

Next up---reasonable expectations when purchasing a horse.......

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