Horse Buying Tips

The process of buying a horse is challenging. This article should help you to judge quality and make good choices.

Conformation Tips

The word conformation literally means “how the parts are put together.” In horses, conformation refers to how the skeletal structure and musculature come together to contribute to the overall look of the horse. The keys to good conformation are balance, symmetry and proportion. No single feature appears exaggerated or deficient.

Horses that have good conformation are proportioned correctly and don”t have to compensate for physical limitations. They”re naturally balanced, are able to perform athletically and can safely carry the additional weight of a rider. Because their body parts work in harmony, horses who have good conformation are less likely to become injured or develop chronic conditions.

Ideal conformation is breed-specific. If you”re interested in a specific breed, do some research on what attributes are desirable and unique to your breed of choice.

Health Tips

Having answers to the following questions will help you when buying a horse:

  • How old is the horse?
  • What has he been used for?
  • Has he sustained any injuries?
  • If so, what was the location of the injury? How severe was the injury? Was it treated by a veterinarian? How was it treated?
  • Does the horse have any bad habits? Does it kick, crib (grab onto an object with his teeth and swallow air), or chew on things?
  • Does it get along with other horses? With other animals?
  • What type of activities is the horse accustomed to? Arena work? Trail rides? Shows?
  • How recently were the horse”s teeth floated (filed to remove the sharp points)?
  • Are his vaccinations and de-worming up to date? When are the next ones due?
  • Is the horse easy to load in the trailer and clip with electric clippers?
  • Is the horse registered? (Ask to see the papers.)

Disposition or Temperament

Observe the horse as he reacts to his environment. Does the horse seem easygoing or tense? Is he calm or nervous? Do loud noises or fast movements alarm him?

Handle the horse. Does he seem accepting of human contact and respectful of your space? Can you pick up all four of his feet? Does he allow you to gently rub his belly, nose, ears, poll and eyes? How he reacts to you is important because you”ll need his obedience and cooperation as you learn to care for, saddle and bridle your new horse.

Top Tip: Invest in a Pre-Purchase Veterinary Exam

You”ve found him, you”ve ridden him and you like him. If you think you”ve found the perfect horse, make an appointment with your veterinarian for a pre-purchase exam.

Having a horse examined by a veterinarian before buying is a good investment. A pre-purchase exam usually entails a thorough general exam. During the exam your veterinarian will make note of the horse”s temperature, pulse and respiration at rest and after exercise. The vet will also check the horse”s lungs to make sure the airways are functioning properly.

Your veterinarian should also check the horse”s mouth and teeth, as the horse”s long-term health is dependent on the nutrition he gets from his feed.

Determining soundness is a big part of the pre-purchase exam. Ask your vet to evaluate the quality of the horse”s hooves and whether the size of the hoof is in proportion to the horse”s body mass.