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What to Expect When You're Horse Shopping

Shopping! I don't know many ladies who truly hate shopping...


And shopping for a new horse?! Does it get any better?!


But for a much fun as horse shopping can be, it can also be intimidating and frustrating.


As someone has looked at many, many sales horses and someone who has also sold quite a few horses, this is what is reasonable to expect when you go to try a sales horse:



Arrival

When you arrive at the facility, the horse may or not be tacked and ready to go. Some people (bigger programs, especially) like to have the horse out, in the cross-ties, and mostly ready to go. Some people wait until you arrive to pull the horse out of the stall and then groom and tack in front of you.


Most sellers will have sign a release form. This is normal. Also be sure you brought your riding boots and your helmet. Different barns have different policies regarding safety gear, so be sure to ask ahead of time and come prepared.


The seller may or may not invite you to help groom the horse. During this grooming/pre-ride time, this is a great time to ask questions and talk to the seller about the horse. How does he like to be brushed? Is he good with picking up his feet? What kind of boots or wraps does the horse go in? What kind of tack do they ride him in and why? Tell me about the bit you choose to ride him in. You get the idea! Ask away! You're not "too much"!


Good sellers will NEVER:

  • Expect you to catch the horse from it's stall, pen, or field. The seller may invite you to do this but it will never be expected.

  • Expect you to groom and tack the horse 100% on your own. Again, a seller may invite you to help prepare the horse, but a good seller will never just say, "Here's the stuff. Go."

  • Expect you to bring your own saddle to ride the horse. Good sellers will always have equipment for you to ride the horse in. The equipment will be safe and be what the horse normally works in. If this is not the case, run the other way. If you have a favorite saddle you'd like to try on the horse, the seller may allow that, but ask about that before you arrive.


Riding

Once the horse is tacked and ready, it's time to ride! Right? Hold your horses...


Always, always watch someone ride the horse first. Always.


Here's why:


This is your time to watch the horse move with a rider. Yes, you probably saw video of the horse before you came to visit, but most sales videos are crafted in a way to show the horse at their very, very best. Often the horse will move a little different in person.


Watch not only how he moves but also how he responds to the rider's aids and to the environment around him. Is he calm and quiet? Is he fussy? Looky? Is he a "kick ride" and a little laid back? Is he on the hotter side? Etc... This will give you clues for what to expect when it's your turn to get on him!


And then there's the horror stories of sellers promising the horse is quiet and amazing... the prospective buyer takes the seller's word for it and swings a leg over the horse without watching it go... and the horse launches and bucks the prospective buyer off. Yes, this happens!


Good sellers will NEVER object to you wanting to see someone else ride the horse first.



When it's your turn to hop on:


Test all the "gears" you reasonably expect your future horse to be able to do, but be respectful of the horse's well being and the sellers time.


For example, if you're looking for a low level jumping horse, it is very reasonable to ride the horse at the walk, trot, canter, and jump a few low jumps. This should probably take 20-30 minutes. It is NOT appropriate to ride the horse for over an hour and push the horse to it's limits.


As you finish your test ride, ask the seller any other questions you thought of and thank them for their time and for allowing them to try their horse.


If you loved the horse and want to move forward with purchasing him, this is a good time to discuss the next steps (Vetting, etc... We'll talk about that more in the next post! Stay tuned!)


If he's not "the ONE", simply thank the seller for their time and head home. That's it. Less is more. You never owe anyone an explanation.



Horse shopping can be intimidating and overwhelming but it doesn't have to be. Have a plan and try to be as prepared as you can. Bring a trainer or a friend with you, if you can. Having a second set of eyes is ALWAYS helpful!


If you need a second set of eyes and some extra guidance to help you in your horse shopping journey, I'm happy to help!


I've "been there, done that" many, many times. I've already made every mistake in the book and learned a ton from them... so you don't have to!


If you'd like to talk more about the horse shopping experience, shoot me a message HERE. I'd love to chat with you and see if I can help make the process easier!


Happy shopping!

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