wikiHow to Buy a Horse

Six Parts:PreparationSearching for Your HorseAssessing a HorseNegotiatingPurchasing the HorseAlternatives to Buying

Buying a horse is a big investment, and owning one takes a lot of time and money. Before you buy a horse you should make sure you have found one that fits your personality and that of other possible riders, and is suitable for what you want to do. There are a lot of pitfalls that may not only be expensive, but heartbreaking. Find the right horse and care for him properly and you can have a long, happy relationship.

Part 1

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    Ask a knowledgeable horse-loving friend to help you find resources and learn what's what, and offer to help out at his barn in exchange. Your friend should be able to offer helpful advice in both the business world and training world of horses.
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    Learn about horse management. This should include basic horse health and equine first aid. See Related wikiHows (below). Also go to your local library and look for all the horse related books.
    • Volunteer to work at a local stable for a few weeks. This will give you a better idea of what owning horses is like, and that there is work involved; even when it's nasty weather for feeding outside horses.
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    Get the word out that you're looking for a horse. Let your horse-loving friends know that you're looking for a horse, and also tell them what you're looking for in a horse. Tell your riding instructor also; often he'll have clients that are selling a horse, and he may be able to help you try out a particular horse.
    • The sooner you let your friends know you're looking for a horse, the better. Oftentimes finding the right horse isn't a timely task, and better to start looking for the right fit sooner rather than later.
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    Learn your local laws. From equine liability to whether there is a local tax on livestock that can reproduce (mares & stallions) to fire code laws for stables, it helps to know all the laws.
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    Build a network of horse people. Find and learn about boarding facilities, tack shops, feed stores, farmers that produce hay, vets, and farriers are in your area, and where the nearest equine hospital and horse ambulance service is.
    • Make sure that you have access to several hay suppliers, as a horse goes through around 2% of his body weight in hay daily[1]. Visit your horse friends' barns and ask them where they buy their hay, also inspecting its quality.
    • Get the contact information of multiple farriers in case your regular one is busy.
    • Find a reputable equine vet. Find one that knows what he's talking about and also is friendly and explains things about keeping your horse healthy.
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    Calculate the cost of your horse’s upkeep for the most expensive part of the year (usually winter). Price the following and consider the sum: Are you ready for a horse financially?
    • Feed (hay, supplements)
    • Halter, lead rope
    • Saddle, saddle blanket, bridle, bit
    • Grooming kit
    • Water buckets
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    Don't forget to budget for:
    • Transport fee (if applicable) and the boarding cost per month
    • Deworming
    • Regular vet visits
    • Regular farrier visits (shoeing or trimming)
    • Emergency treatment
    • Riding lessons
    • Training
    • All appropriate medical check-ups and supplies
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    Find a suitable place to keep your horse. Keeping your horse on your own or rented land should be done only by knowledgeable and experienced horsemen. Livery/boarding yards are better for first-time horse owners. Look for ads in local papers, equestrian magazines and on the Internet. Ask in local tack shops and riding schools. If a yard (stable) has no spaces, ask them to recommend another yard.
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    Visit boarding facilities and ask about hours, cost, feeding schedule, and what you'll be expected to do. If it's rough board you'll have to feed and water your horse and clean his area daily. If it's full board, all you have to do is pay! Choose one that meets your horse's needs (e.g. safe, all-year turnout) and your needs in a comfortable environment.
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    Secure a space at a boarding facility. Spaces are rarely available at good yards and fill fast. Be prepared to pay a weekly/monthly fee to reserve a space until your horse arrives.

Part 2
Searching for Your Horse

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    Write a list of what you want your horse to be. This can include height, gender, age, health, discipline, training, breed, pedigree, and price.
    • Don't sacrifice health in a horse for your favorite horse color.
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    Remind friends that you are looking for a horse. Tell people like instructors, farriers, vets, and tack shop owners. These people have a lot of contact with various horse owners.
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    Search horse ads in local tack shops, vet clinics, magazines, and the Internet.
    • Animals shelters can also provide you with contact information of farm animals, including horses, that need new homes.
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    Ask around for a breeder with a good reputation. Be careful, though; many horse dealers aren't too trustworthy.
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    Find a horse that's rider has a similar riding level to yours. The average family horse will often make great horses for new riders.

Part 3
Assessing a Horse

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    Make a list of things to ask the owner. Don't forget to ask the following.
    • Confirmation of everything in the advert; age, height, color, breed, etc.
    • History and breeding
    • Competition and medical history
    • Reason for sale
    • Any vices or bad habits (biting, kicking, bucking, cribbing)
    • The horse’s current management
    • Any security markings and registrations (microchipping, breed societies)
    • If tack/equipment is included or can be bought cheaply from the current owner
    • How well the horse travels
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    Contact the owner of any horse that meets your needs. Ask many questions to avoid wasted trips to unsuitable horses.
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    Check with competition bodies or hunts to see if the owner's claims of wins are credible. If you feel wary of the 'owner' really owning the horse, see if you can check any security marks to see if the horse was stolen. There are several databases for stolen horses; check them if you feel so inclined.
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    Visit the horse at least twice.
    • First visit: Arrive a little earlier than agreed and try to see the horse caught and handled. Ask to see him in different situations depending on what you want to do with him and what the owner has claimed the horse can do. Inspect tack if that is included in the agreement.
      • When viewing, ask the owner to ride the horse before you try it. If the owner will not ride, regardless of the excuse, do not ride the horse.
    • Second visit: If you think the horse is worth a second visit, take an experienced friend or professional with you for the next visit. Someone that knows your level of riding, like your instructor, is preferred. Be prepared to pay for the time of a professional. See about negotiating the price with the horse's owner.
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    Consider the cost, pros, and cons of each horse.
    • Don’t choose a horse just because it’s cheap. A problem horse is not for a beginner and will cost more in the long run.
    • Less attractive horses, horses with superficial scars or growths, horses of a less popular color and part, cross or unknown breeds, often go cheaper while not being less suitable, unless you intend to show.
    • Think about your horse five years or so from when you buy. Its not about today and tomorrow, its about the many years you will spend time together.
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    Give yourself time to think over the horse and if it really will work for you. Don't merely accept the horse and hand over the money.
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    Ask if you can get the horse on trial. Though many people do not like having their horse on trial it makes the decision a lot easier. It allows you to ride the horse for two weeks, keep him at your house, and also allows you to show him and see how he performs. Discuss this with the owner of the horse; you may be able to come up with a decision.
    • Most trials are a one or two week term, but some can be up to one month or more. In this time you are responsible for the horse in every way.
    • Find or write a proper legal agreement for having the horse on trial. Include stating how the horse should be cared for, where he should be kept, what activities he should be used for, and what will happen if the horse becomes sick or injured, or dies while in your care. Also include lines for your and the owner's signatures.

Part 4

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    Buy at the end of the competition season, in or at the start of winter, as prices will be lower (with the exception of hunters, which are best bought in spring or summer).
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    Ask if the owner will give you the tack with the horse. Even if you are asked to pay for the tack, this will save you time. Many horse owners are more willing to give you tack and equipment or transport the horse for you than lower the price. However, make sure you have a knowledgeable horseman check the tack on the horse first to see if it fits.
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    Prepare to pay the selling price but ask if the seller will take a particular figure (10% - 20%) under the asking price. It may also save you to pay in cash and all at once instead of in payments.
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    Offer to let the owner view where you will be keeping the horse (optional). You can also ask your instructor to act as a reference. Show the owner proof of any equine achievements, such as competition wins or qualifications.

Part 5
Purchasing the Horse

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    Tell the owner if you want to buy. Agree on a price, subject to vetting, and ask to put down a deposit (10%-20% of the price is very fair) to secure the horse from being looked at by other buyers.
    • Tell the owner if you don’t want the horse. It is polite and lets them know what’s happening.
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    Have the vet come and check the horse before you put full money down. This is expensive but most insurance companies demand a health certificate[citation needed], and often you'll need one to cross county or state borders.
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    Pay in full and sign the Bill of Sale and any other paperwork necessary. Keep these papers in a safe place where you won't lose them.
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    Insure the horse before transportation. This is optional but definitely advised.
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    Find out what the horse has been fed, and prepare to slowly adjust the horse's diet over a period of two weeks to what you'll be feeding. Buy feed from the current owner if necessary.
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    Prepare a safe area for the horse. Either a paddock or stall will work as long as the horse is separated from other horses for the first week or two. Get any basic equipment for feeding, grooming, traveling and some rugs if the horse needs them. You may get some of these with the horse.
    • Keeping your horse in a stall or pasture adjacent to other, friendly horses is ideal. This will let your horse meet the other horses will still being kept separate and away from harm.
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    Transport your horse to your horse's new home. Usually a riding instructor or horse friend will allow haul your horse for you for a certain price. You can also haul the horse yourself if you have a trailer. Learn the local law of transporting horses and see if your driving license will work.
    • Many states (and even counties) will require a negative Coggins test and brand inspection before allowing you to cross their border.
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    Give your horse 3-4 days to settle in and don't put him in with other horses for a week or two. Keep to the horse's old routine as closely as possible for the first week.
    • It may take more than a week for the horse to feel his normal self again. Give him/her space but enough attention so the horse doesn't feel abandoned.
    • Remember that you'll need to slowly adjust your horse's diet over a period of 1-2 weeks.
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    Don't keep your horse away from other animals long-term. If you are keeping your new horse at your home, get him or her a buddy - perhaps an old retired horse, a goat, a miniature horse, or another similar creature. Horses are very social and it is near-abusive to deny them socialization.
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    Enjoy your new horse! Train him, give him attention, and care for him. Treat him right and he'll do almost anything for you.

Part 6
Alternatives to Buying

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    Get a horse on loan. Loaning a horse is similar to adopting one, but the owner will be a private owner. Loans can be long or short term.
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    Share a horse. Sharing a horse involves caring and riding a horse for part of the week as well as making a financial contribution to the horses up-keep. The horse is usually owned by one person.
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    Lease a horse. This requires a signed contract, a monthly fee, and also commitment. Usually a leased horse will stay at the leaser's place and be ridden, fed, and done everything else with by the leaser. Some leases are longterm, others are short.
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    Work for riding. This requires a lot less of a commitment but the horse won't be yours. It's similar to sharing a horse but no money passes hands.


  • If the owners don’t want you to view the horse with a professional, or allow you to get the horse vetted, walk away. Chances are there's something very wrong with the horse.
  • Not all dealers have yours, or the horse's best interests in mind. Go to dealers by recommendation, and walk away if you are unhappy with anything. Check that all the horses on the yard are healthy and happy.
  • Well trained horses can cost $1,000 and up. Don't buy a green or untrained horse if you are not experienced in training horses.
  • Make sure you know the difference between a gelding and a stallion. Some crazy people will get rid of an unwanted stallion by trying to convince a less experienced horse person that he is a gelding.
  • Do not let a horse dealer talk you in to buying an unsuitable horse. If you hear him say something like "Well, when he's working, you can't even notice the crooked foot", walk away.
  • Buying from a sale or auction is not recommended for first-time owners without the services of a professional.
  • If you are going to college have a extra person that can take care of your horse by the horse should already know that person.
  • If the owner has a trailer, ask if he can transport the horse for you. If you officially take ownership of the horse at the end of the journey, you avoid laws about accepting money for transporting another person's horse.
  • Keeping a horse on your own land is cheaper but requires a bigger commitment. It makes going on holiday very difficult.
  • If you really want a horse just for a pet, not riding, consider getting a miniature horse. They are great companions, but you must be sure you can provide very good care and exercise.
  • Always make sure you are prepared and sure you want to make the commitment of owning a horse.

Sources and Citations

  • British Horse Society (BHS) UK based charity offering information on UK equine law, an exam system, and a list of approved riding centres and instructors.

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