Buyer Beware: Horses for Sale
Fall is a time for many horse sales, auctions and horses being sold privately. Prices are usually lower than the previous six to nine months. Many people want to lower the number they care for through the winter.
It's very exciting to be getting a new horse, making plans and setting goals for the two of you. It can be also very disappointing if you find that the new horse you own is not all that you expected, or that major problems arise as you start to work with it.
There are some good common-sense rules that everyone can follow whether you are a beginner buying your first horse or an experienced horseperson.
- Try to visit/see the horse at its home. Look around at the general care and facilities. Look at what is fed, what other horses look like, any bad habits (cribbing). Find out how it has been used in the past.
- Watch the horse move. Look for symmetry between legs and muscles on the body, lameness, and reluctance to pick up leads.
- Ride the horse if you can. Even at any auction you're often able to get on a horse for a few minutes before the sale. If you're a beginner, bring a friend or trainer along.
- Look for large scars or joints that are larger than the opposite leg's joints.
- Have a prepurchase exam (PPE) done by one of us before you commit to buying the horse. This is a valuable exam that may stop your purchase of a problem animal or at least prepare you for possible management concerns. We can sometimes give you an idea of what kind of work a horse might be able to handle and whether this matches your needs. We can't predict the future, of course, but we'll be as accurate as possible based on our exam and the conformation of the horse.A prepurchase exam (PPE) includes a complete physical exam and a complete soundness exam. We may recommend x-rays for performace horses or a reproductive ultrasound if it is a potential breeding animal.If your horse comes from an auction there will be no guarantees and no time for a PPE. Often clients will have an exam done after their purchase to identify any areas for concern.Occasionally facts or problems maybe covered up or changed at an auction when you only get to see the horse for a few minutes before it is sold.
- Age-Old horses (20 or more) often are sold as 12-14 year olds. If they are in good condition they can often be passed off as younger, especially if you aren't able to look at their teeth or are unfamiliar with aging by teeth.
- Bad/dangerous behaviors Occasionally, horses are tranquilized or sedated when sold. Things to look for include a lowered head, droopy lips, or dragging feet.
- Lameness-This is one of the most common problems to appear after a sale. Sometimes an extended rest in the pasture will make a horse appear sound until it starts exercising regularly again. Phenylbutazone (Bute), a pain-killing anti-inflammatory drug, can be used quite effectively to hide mild lameness or greatly lessen severe problems.
- A thorough dental exam is extremely important since dental history and type of diet may not be fully known or disclosed.
On the more positive side is the fact tht the majority of horses that are bought are healthy and make their new owners very happy. Being critical, taking your time deciding on a purchase, and working with your veterinarian during a PPE will all save you money and grief in the long run.