This year we’ve had the most lovely horse shoppers & their trainers who put the horses first and are clear about their expectations, needs & next steps. It makes life so fantastic when people are practical and thoughtful. Be like them.

We’ve also had shoppers who wildly oversold their abilities, treated the horses like machines and one that wasted both buyers’ and sellers’ time because they just wanted extra rides on fancy horses they had no intention of buying. Don’t be like them.

On that note, I present to you,

Things sellers & trainers want you to do when horse shopping:

Know your budget. 

Have to sell a kidney to buy that fancy big eq horse? Know that before you sit on it. You might decide you can live without that kidney to make it happen, but there’s nothing worse than falling in love with a horse you can’t afford. Nothing else you try will compare and you’ll be sucked into a cyclone or horse shopping sadness.

Be honest about your budget. 

This is NOT the same thing as knowing your budget. Once you know your budget, be honest with your trainer/agent/seller about what the budget is. Don’t let a seller waste their time or your trainer/agent tarnish their reputation by looking out of range. “30k with a little wiggle room” or “30k is pushing it” are different scenarios. Help us do our job by being clear about which it is.

Be honest about your abilities.

With both yourself and your agents. There is totally absolutely wholeheartedly no shame in being where you’re at. Where you’re at is super! You’re presumably getting this new horse so you can grow as a rider, and you’re not going to do that if you’re over-horsed.

Be clear about your goals and realistic about your availability.

This one is a little tricky, because not everyone knows what their life plan in the saddle looks like. It’s great to have some idea of what your goals are so you can evaluate if each horse is one that fits into that plan. 

I’m not saying to not buy the best quality horse you can afford, but if you’re currently riding training level dressage and eventually want to ride FEI but currently only have time to get to the barn three times a week – you do not need the I2 schoolmaster right now. In fact, you probably won’t even be able to get around on the I2 schoolmaster. Stepping stones my friends! I am a huge proponent of wanting to keep our horses for their lifetime, but sometimes the horse for where your abilities are now won’t be the horse for three years from now. Having a partner that can help you focus on your own progress will make your rides so much more fun.

If you’re a minor, let your trainer or parent reach out to sellers.

I know horse shopping is exciting. Woooo! And I know you have more time to scroll the internet than your busy trainer. But please send your trainer the options you’re interested in and ask them to reach out to the seller on your behalf. One of my biggest pet peeves is young riders asking a million questions about a sales horse that is in no way suited for them. The trainer would have known that the horse wasn’t for you from the first sentence of the ad. Please keep in mind that while it is fun for you to window shop online, this is our job.

Employ a trainer or agent to help you shop.

Please! Do it! I can’t tell you how many new clients we’ve had over the years who had purchased without the help of a trainer and ended up with a very unsuitable horse. I swear the commission is 100% worth dipping into your budget to have a trusted opinion. They are going to see and feel things that you just won’t. This is one of those times to employ a professional.

Try the horse thoughtfully.

When we try horses, we generally have the seller warm up the horse lightly (to prove it is sound and not insane), our trainer rides the horse lightly and tests more of the upper range of its stated abilities, and then the buyer takes a spin. As a seller, I am TICKLED PINK if someone wants to come back the next day and take the ride from the warmup to get the full feeling. Don’t be afraid to ask if the horse is a true contender. There are many factors to look for when trying horses and I’m going to do a separate post about that, but for now I’ll say it’s important to keep in mind that a brand new horse is never going to feel like home from the first moment in the saddle. Try to analyze the things that matter most to you (he has easy canter transitions, a comfortable trot, paid attention to you in the ring, etc) and then talk about those things with your trainer post-ride while it’s fresh in your mind.

PS: Don’t buy off video unless you are a professional – and even then, proceed with caution.

It’s ok to say no.

If you ask a question and the seller’s honest answer means the horse is a pass for you, go ahead and say so. We might be bummed but we will NOT be offended by someone who is clear and considerate about what they want.

Similarly, if you get to a barn and the seller is warming up the horse and you realize it’s way too hot for your anxiety level, or it’s dragging a toe significantly – tell them it’s not for you and don’t sit on it. Again, we will not be offended if you help us preserve our horses. *Disclaimer: If you’re just being picky because “oh his tail is not as pretty as I thought,” please get on the horse. Because that ugly tail might be the most magical comfortable creature you ever met under saddle.

Vet the horse.

And if a seller is encouraging you not to – run. But for the love of saddle pads, have reasonable expectations about what is acceptable, and know what your deal breakers are. 13yo horse who’s been doing the 1.20 job? Probably going to have some arthritis. 18.2h monster five year old? Probably going to have an ocd. Find a vet you trust who specializes in your discipline and believe them when they tell you something is or isn’t a big deal.

At the end of the day if you are realistic and enthusiastic then sellers and trainers will love working with you, no matter your budget or skill level. Happy shopping!

Have questions about specific scenarios? Shoot us a message!

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