Horses for Sale - Choosing the right horse for you

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Looking at horses for sale is always exciting for any horse lover. Perhaps the time is right to buy your first horse; you're moving up to a second mount, or looking for the competition horse of your dreams.

Thanks to the internet, iPads and smartphones, you have a wealth of information literally at your fingertips. Gone are the days when searching for horses for sale was limited to a few brief lines in newspaper classifieds. Now potential buyers can view colour photos and even video footage.

Sites like Top Horse offer thousands of quality horses for sale, and you can even narrow your search to state, discipline, breed, price range and preferred colour!


Be honest about your riding ability and buy a horse that will help you enjoy riding as well as be suitable for whatever future plans you have.

All too often novice riders buy unsuitable mounts...usually the belief they can grow and learn together. The combination of a young horse and novice rider rarely works due to inexperience on the part of both.

The rider might lose his or her enjoyment of riding or even their nerve and give up riding altogether, while the horse could develop dangerous habits which will not only affect his future usefulness, but require expert re-training.

If you don't have a lot of horse experience, the most important rule when looking at horses for sale is to ask an experienced horse person to go with you.

Many years ago I did a magazine article on the subject of horses for sale, selecting horses from adverts to view under the guise of purchasing them. Out of eight horses viewed, only one was represented honestly in the advertisement.

The rest were not accurately described, being smaller, older, or not as experienced as advertised. In one case, the only area offered to try the horse in was a tiny, rubbish-filled yard.

An inexperienced rider on their own might have been tempted to purchase any of these horses but a more knowledgeable person would spot the pitfalls immediately.

I have also accompanied riders who were viewing horses for sale. Thankfully most listened to my advice (especially one instance when the 'experienced under saddle' horse turned out to be a newly broken, recently gelded two year old!) Sadly though, one rider who was classed as being legally blind chose to ignore my advice, purchasing an off the track thoroughbred. Sadly, she suffered a nasty fall and gave up riding altogether a few months later.

Ride the horse in an enclosed area, ideally an arena...NOT a paddock containing loose horses! Ride the horse in an enclosed area, ideally an arena...NOT a paddock containing loose horses!

Always ask to have any horse you're considering to purchase on trial. That way you can get a better idea of his temperament without the previous owner around. If the horse shows any undesirable traits the owner wasn't honest about, at least you can return him and save yourself money and heartache.

Ask the seller questions like whether the horse has any vices, is easy to float, shoe and catch. Beware of a horse waiting already saddled when you could mean they are hard to catch, or have been 'worked down' (so they will be calmer during your trial ride). If the horse is loose in the paddock, ask if you and your advisor can go catch him prior to saddling, and check for any dried sweat marks, another indication the horse has been previously worked that day. Trot the horse on level ground both towards and away from your advisor so they can check for lameness. Pick up the horse's legs, and run your hands firmly along his back either of the withers and spine to check for soreness. If the horse has registration papers, ask to see them and make sure the markings match.

Watch the owner handling the horse and observe how the horse reacts to being saddled and bridled, eg. is he cold backed or head shy? If the horse is being ridden in a martingale or curb bit, ask why he needs to wear these. It's a good sign if the horse's owner is interested in your circumstances and wants to know how you will look after the horse. It indicates they care about the kind of home their horse will be going to.

If something about the seller makes you feel uncomfortable, go with your gut instinct and don't buy the horse.

When it comes to riding the horse, request that the owner ride first, followed by your advisor. If the owner seems reluctant, then leave...there is probably a good reason! As horses feel comfortable in their own environment, ask if you can see the horse ridden off the property if possible.

If you are an inexperienced rider, ride the horse in an enclosed area, ideally an arena...NOT a paddock containing loose horses!

Put the horse through its paces; do you feel comfortable on him? Is he responsive?

If you decide you like him, request at least a one week trial. The horse's owner might ask for a deposit and proof of temporary insurance, so you will need to come to some kind of agreement. Insurance is very important, you will need to organise coverage from the moment the horse leaves his owner's property.

If your advisor doesn't feel the horse is right for you, listen to them! They may have spotted telltale signs the horse was affected by tranquilizers (unfortunately this does happen occasionally).

When it comes to looking at horses for sale, don't let your heart rule your head. You need to make sure the horse you buy is the right size and temperament for you. We all have our favourite coat colours but when it comes to buying a horse, remember the saying 'a good horse is never a bad colour'!

Age is another consideration. Older horses in their teens make great mounts for novice riders. Younger horses are best left to experienced riders who have the knowledge to school and handle them properly.

Once you have the horse on trial, get him examined by an equine vet. Once you have the horse on trial, get him examined by an equine vet.

Once you have the horse on trial, get him examined by an equine vet. Don't be tempted to skimp on this expense...a horse with extensive health problems could end up being a very costly investment. Painkillers and anti inflammatory drugs can mask unsoundness; the horse could be prone to founder which will need careful management, or he could even turn out to be a windsucker. If you want the horse for Pony Club or trail riding, then cosmetic blemishes like scars and established splints aren't going to make any difference to his soundness so don't let these put you off. Avoid buying a horse sight unseen! You might have viewed lots of video footage and studied countless photos, but these are no substitute for seeing the horse in person and riding it. Some purchasers will travel interstate to look at the horse, or you can ask someone you trust check the horse for you.

When it comes to horses for sale, you might have to look at several, or even dozens of horses for sale before you find one that suits your needs and budget.

Always remember...if in doubt, ask for advice!

Vicki Sach

TOPHORSE–browse horses for sale or place an ad to sell horses.
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