Springtime is now upon us. The snow had melted and every horse and rider is eagerly headed outdoors to begin enjoying the sun and warming temperatures. This is definitely the time when people begin to buy and sell horses. Equine shopping can be a wonderful and rewarding experience, but to the novice or uneducated horse enthusiast the process can be devastating.
Recently, I had two clients come to my facilities to try out a horse that was for sale. Their story is one that I would like to share with you as I feel we can all relate to it in some way or another. This couple had previously purchased an 11 year old gelding from a horse broker who was referred to them by a friend. After acquiring the horse they discovered that this horse refused to load in the trailer. However, the horse seemed nice so they eventually brought him home. Once home, they turned their new gelding out with their other horse. The gelding flipped his behavior like a switch, established dominance and was acting in a manner that was most unusual. The gelding’s actions on their other horse was detrimental, and the gelding ended up driving the horse to a point where her whole demeanor changed. The horse behavior specialist they contacted determined that the behavior was not normal. Ultimately stuck with the horse, the couple underwent a high level of stress which compromised their daily life.
This story is one example of countless others, and as you are reading you may be aligning some similar experiences of your own. When you are shopping for a new equine partner, keep in mind that there are people out there waiting to burn you. These people are not looking into your safety or the animal’s welfare, but rather for their own financial gain. It’s unfortunate but it’s a grave reality we must all face. Just because someone has grey hair or 40 years of experience with horses does not mean that they have been educated properly.
As you begin searching for a horse, I suggest that you have a plan of action when you go to try the horse for the first time. Make a list of questions and know what you specifically want to see when you arrive at the location. Keep in mind that the seller may not be able to answer every question in a definitive manner. For example, one question could relate to how well the horse will get along with other horses. The seller may not know, especially if the horse has always been stalled and kept in an individual paddock. If the horse has been turned out with others the answer will still be unclear. There are no guarantees when it comes to certain horse behavior, and just because the horse gets along with his current pasture mates does not outline the way he may behave with new ones.
When clients visit my facility to try out a horse that is for sale, I tend to take a step back versus sticking with them the entire time. I will ask the client what their wishes are – do they want to see me do ground work, have me ride the horse or do they want to ride the horse right away. I have found that this creates a no pressure environment. Once the dust settles if the purchase is meant to be it will happen. I want my clients to connect with the horse and I allow this to happen at its own individual pace. When I walk away, I know the horse will sell itself rather than me having to justify what the horse is capable of.
When you’re out on your equine shopping trip, don’t bypass the older horse. If you are lacking in experience, older horses can do you a world of good. They will give you the confidence you need and can teach you valuable lessons. Of course, there will always be an exception to the rule. There are few younger horses out there that I would match with novice riders, and in my entire career I have only worked with a handful of horses that fit under this category.
In conclusion, if you want to find the right horse for you simply do your homework. Make sure you know who you are dealing with. From the story I shared earlier, the horse broker this couple dealt with was referred to by a friend. However, it’s still important to research the seller and find more than one opinion. Ultimately, and I cannot stress this enough, stick with you gut. If it just doesn’t feel right then listen to that instinct. You should never feel rushed or pressured to purchase a horse. Remember to prepare a list of questions and have a plan. Good luck and happy shopping!
Do YOU have an idea for an article? If you have a topic you wish to read about or any question you want answered, please e-mail Addie O’Neil at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Dennis Auslam: Dennis has been a trainer for over 30 years, working with many different breeds and disciplines. He grew up with horses and has worked with some of the best trainers in the industry. His passion is horses and people and he loves helping people learn how to work with their horses, progress in their riding abilities and make that connection with their horse. You will find Dennis at various horse related events in 2013. He also does numerous clinics and demos, both at his stable Redwood Stables in Morton, MN and at other venues. His main focus is on confidence building for the horse and the rider.