It is really useful to have a list of questions you might want to ask the seller before you arrange a viewing. It is a good idea to write the name of the horse and seller at the top of the page and then jot your answers down as you go, so you have something to refer back to. This will save you time and money going forward and hopefully reduce those wasted journeys.
Before picking the phone up, make sure the horse/pony is within your budget (failed vettings can start to chip into this) and in a location you’re happy to travel to. We think it is important that buyers keep in mind the following, and it doesn’t matter if you are buying from a private seller, dealing yard/sales livery or a competition rider….
- Don’t use viewing horses/ponies for sale or loan as a day out and a free ride.
- It takes time to bath the horse, clean the tack and prepare it for a viewing.
- Often a lot of work has gone into the horse/pony to get it at its peek and ready for sale.
- If you are absolutely not getting a vibe from the horse/pony or seller then you can stop the viewing. This might seem a bit ruthless, but you are saving the sellers time and your own and we all know, time costs money!
Questions to ask the vendor on the phone.
- Why is the horse for sale?
- How long has the vendor owned the horse for?
- Is there any tack or rugs included in the price?
- Would the vendor classify the horse suitable for a novice/experienced rider?
- What is the horse’s temperament like?
- Does the horse/pony’s ability match your own?
- Has the horse had any injuries that might affect its performance?
- Does the horse/pony have any routine maintenance work, such as medicated areas of the body?
- What level of work is the horse currently in and what is its general way of going?
- What is the horse like to hack on his/her own and in company, with traffice and will they go first/last if in company?
- Is the horse/pony good to lunge?
- What is the horse/pony like to clip/catch/lead/load/groom?
- What is the horse’s normal routine in the summer and winter?
- Is the horse happy in a herd environment or does he/she prefer a paddock on their own?
- What you offer in stabling/keep facilities, will the horse/pony settle into your routine and set up?
- What are the horse’s feet like and is the horse shod/unshod?
- Is the horse good for the farrier?
- Does the horse/pony behave for the vet?
- Has the horse/pony ever had laminitis or sweet itch?
- Does the horse/pony have any dust allergies and what is it bedded on?
- Is the horse/pony passported and up to date with vaccinations?
- What is the horse/pony’s passported name so you can look it up with any relevant affiliations.
- How does the horse/pony behave at shows and away from home?
- Does the horse or pony crib bite/weave/wind suck?
The main reason to ask so many questions on the phone, is to get a real understanding if the horse or pony is going to fit your requirements. Really importantly, don’t over estimate your riding ability. We recommend sending the vendor a recent video of you riding as the vendor will know fairly quickly if their horse is not the right fit for you.
If your phone call goes well and you’ve viewed photos and videos of the horse/pony and it is ticking the boxes, the next step is to arrange a viewing! When you speak to the seller to arrange the viewing, be clear on what you would like to see and what you expect to be able to do.
We recommend you take an experienced horsey person with you. If your instructor cannot make it, a good friend or yard manager is hugely beneficial. Even if you are experienced, an extra pair of eyes is invaluable and might pick up on something you missed. Do take your riding hat, body protector, boots etc. some yards will have XC jumps and it would be frustrating to get there, love the horse/pony and then not be able to make use of all the trial facilities.
If the horse at any point doesn’t appear to be what you are looking for, the horse is probably unsuitable for your needs. Again, you can let the seller know, that you would like to stop the viewing and that you don’t want to ride; as you do not feel the horse/pony is suitable. Remember, no one will be offended!
- Ask to see the horse/pony being caught and groomed. Watch how the horse behaves and that you are comfortable with its demeanour both in the stable, tied up and being led.
- Ask to see the horse being led towards, past and away from you both in walk and trot. You can see how the horse moves, how it places its feet in each gait, if its movement works for you, if there’s any lameness, its general limb conformation. Ask for the horse to be stood up and step back and look at it to get a really good idea of its overall conformation.
- Ask the vendor if you can touch the horse. Use this to feel it all over its body and notice any reactions, it is amazing what your hands can pick up. Run your hands down the legs to check for any bumps or heat. Pick up the hooves and look at the shoe/hoof wear depending if its shod or not. This is a good opportunity to get an initial feel for the horse. If the horse jumps away from you or isn’t keen on being touched, it might not be the one for you.
- Watch the horse/pony being tacked up. Would you be confident doing it yourself, does it put its head high for the bridle to be put on or lift a hind leg when being girthed? You need to be sure you will be confident if any of these things are out of your usual remit.
- Watch the horse being led to the mounting block or arena and make sure that the seller or someone from the yard rides it first. You can use this to see if the horse looks reluctant to go into the arena and how it stands at the block and behaves to be mounted.
- Depending on the horse/pony’s training, we would recommend you watch the horse walk, trot, canter, halt on both reins. If facilities allow, walk, trot and canter over poles and a couple of individual jumps, then link the jumps together to create a short course. You will be able to gather a huge amount of information watching the horse/pony being ridden. How it is off the leg, how it responds to the aids, is it forward going or lazy, how it carries itself, the shape it makes over a jump.
- If you’re happy with all of the above, then hop on, adjust your stirrups and away you go! Definitely spend a couple of minutes walking around to get a feel of the horse, and do this before picking up the contact and asking for a bit more. Remember you will feel as strange to the horse, as the horse will to you! Have a walk, trot and canter on each rein and pop over a couple of jumps and a short course. This shouldn’t be a problem for a horse/pony in regular work. Do not push yourself or the horse out of each other’s comfort zone.
- Often once you’ve finished your ride, you can ask if there is a lane or paddock laneways you can walk the horse up and back to cool off. This will give you an idea of how the horse is going away from the yard and what he/she might be like with traffic.
- Take the horse back to the yard and use this opportunity to untack the horse yourself and to have a good feel of the horse all over. You will get a fair assessment of the horse’s character and temperament and how you might fit together. If the weather is warm, ask if you can wash the horse/pony down or give it a good groom.
- If time allows and the seller is happy to, you might be able to ask to see the horse/pony lunged and loaded. If you’re not overly confident on the ground and these are influencing factors, you can certainly ask.
When you get home, do rack your brains for any other questions you can think of to ask the seller. If you have another friend or instructor who can go with you, you can book a second viewing. Often a good horse or pony will get snapped up with one viewing but it is always worth asking if you’re not 100% convinced it will be the one for you. The most important takeaway is it is very rare to find your dream horse on the first or even second viewing!
We are going to come back to vetting and purchasing on our next blog! We hope you have found this one helpful and remember, this is just a guide and isn’t set in stone! If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.