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32 Questions to Ask When Buying a Horse

When you are considering buying your first horse it is very important to ask a lot of questions, especially if it is your first time buying a horse or you are buying a horse for a beginner, a kid, or a mature rider who is returning to riding as an adult.

Questions you should ask vary from horse to horse and especially by how you plan to enjoy your horse. The 32 questions below are questions I’ve used in my professional work for more than a decade.

While curiosity should drive even more questions, the questions below should be a good starting point for questions you should ask a horse’s seller.

10 questions to ask someone selling a horse

Questions to Ask a Horse Seller:

Divided into 10 categories or meta-questions, here are the 32 questions I think it’s most important to ask before taking the leap and buying a horse.

Question 1: health and status

How old is the horse?
How long have you had him or her?
Do you know the horse’s history before you owned it?
Why have you decided to sell the horse?

These questions are excellent to ask a seller because you can get a better idea of the horse by considering its history and previous owners. If you listen carefully, you may also be able to read between the lines about possible issues the horse has and why the owner might really be selling the horse.

Horse being examined by a veterinarian.
Your vet will check to make sure your horse is healthy before issuing the health certificate you’ll need to travel.

Question 2: papers and registration

Is the horse registered with a breed association? If so, does the owner have the horses registration papers, discussed in advance at what point in the purchasing process papers will be given to the buyer. This is an important question to ask especially if you want to show the horse in breed shows. Often, registration adds a bit to a horses price tag, and occasionally dishonest sellers will misrepresent registration status. This is one reason it is always a good idea to have a sales contract and make sure the contract states what papers will accompany the sale of the horse and at what point they will be handed over.

Can I see the Horse’s Papers? Ask to see the horses registration papers and verify that the person selling the horse is the registered owner. If the registration paper does not match the owner, it may involve paperwork and extra fees to transfer the horse into your name (a requirement for most breed association shows or if the horse later has offspring that you might want to register).

Question 3: appropriateness of horse for your rider

What’s the horse’s personality like?
Describe the kind of rider who would be the best fit for this horse?
(Hint: don’t ask “would this horse work for a beginner?” instead, ask non-leading questions)
Describe the horse’s energy level?
What is this horse like to ride if he hasn’t been ridden for a few weeks?

It’s important to find the right fit when it comes to buying a horse, and these questions can help you determine if a horse might not have the correct temperament or training level to be an enjoyable partner for the kinds of activities you want to  enjoy with your horse.

Veterinarian diagnoses horse teeth and jaw.

Question 4: Height and Color

How tall is the horse? (If you aren’t familiar with horse heights, or the answer doesn’t seem accurate, it’s okay to measure!)
What Color is the horse?

These superficial questions aren’t usually critical to the process of purchasing a horse, but they are good to know. Increasingly, it seems both color and height of horses are misrepresented – when larger or smaller horses are explicitly wanted by a potential buyer is easy for a seller to stretch the truth just a bit to make the horse seem like a better fit. Similarly, in a horse buying climate where rare colors of horses are priced at a premium, a seller might claim a simple gray is actually grulla, etc. While mostly aesthetic, these questions can also be very important if you want to breed your horse or if the equestrian events you want to do demand a larger or shorter mount.

Question 5: training history

What is this horses training background?
Who trained this horse? May I contact them?
Is there any particular bit, tack, or cue/aid this horse responds poorly to?

These questions will give you a good idea of the horse’s background in terms of training. Was the horse handled by an experienced professional who covered all their bases in creating a groundwork for training a horse with the building blocks that make for a horse that is confident and safe? Or was the horse a 30-day do-it-yourself project, which potentially leaves gaps in training or potentially even traumatic experiences associated with certain tack or cues.

Of course, there are a myriad of training types between these extremes, asking the right questions can help you suss out training issues that might arise later if you were to purchase the horse.

Question 6: medical

Who is your vet?
Will you allow your vet to release your horses vet records to me? ( get vet records directly from the vet, not from the seller, this prevents
potential tampering)

Gaining access to look at the horse’s medical history can provide as much or more decision-making data than a vet check, as the history can show injuries, illness, and even whether the horse was regularly vaccinated.

Question 7: hooves

Does this horse need to be shod? Why?
Has this horse ever gone barefoot?
How often does this horse get trimmed or shod?

A horse that is sound and comfortable being ridden without horseshoes can save hundreds of dollars in farrier cost every year. Most horses need to have their hooves trimmed about every six weeks, however, it’s a range from 4 to 8 weeks typically. An inexpensively priced horse with hoof conditions requiring special shoeing can quickly become a very expensive horse.

Question 8: experience

How have you enjoyed this horse?
Has this horse had many different experiences in different environments?

You’ll want to get an idea of whether this horse has never left the farm where it lives or if it has had many experiences where it’s been desensitized to environments like horse shows and even trails. The more a horse has experienced of different worlds the less likely he is to spook when exposed to new things.

Question 9: handling

How are this horse’s ground manners?
What does this horse do one left tied for periods?
How she is when being ground?
When being trimmed by the farrier?
When being loaded in a trailer?

These are basic skills for horse, and a horse bought for enjoyment and pleasure (as opposed to elite levels of equestrian sport) should be enjoyable and pleasant to be around when not being ridden.

A horse that is easy to handle when not being ridden makes life easier for everyone
A horse that is easy to handle when not being ridden makes life easier for everyone

Question 10: Vices

Does this horse have any bad habits?
Does this horse ever irritate you? Why?
How is this horse around other horses? (Both in turnout and under saddle)

If the seller cares about the horse and wanted to find a safe new home? They will be up front about any issues the horse has. Just because the horse has an issue doesn’t mean it won’t be a good buy for you, but being informed can help you make the right decision.

Download A List of Questions to Ask before Buying a Horse

Mockups of the free printable pdf.

How to Buy a Horse as a Gift

Though it can be tempting to purchase a horse as a gift, it’s essential that horse and rider are a good fit for each other, so the rider should always have the opportunity to ride the horse before purchase.

A better way to purchase a horse as a gift is to either 1.  Indicate to your daughter that you “might buy a horse” in the future, allow a trial ride of the potential horse, “refuse” to buy it for a various reason, returning to purchase later; or 2. Shop with an experienced rider and when you find a horse you think might be a good fit, allow your rider to test ride the horse under the impression that they are testing the horse for its suitability as a stable’s lesson horse, riding someone else’s new horse, etc.

Resist the urge to gift blindly and instead give the gift of a compatible mount by allowing your rider to test ride before purchase.
Resist the urge to gift blindly and instead give the gift of a compatible mount by allowing your rider to test ride before purchase.

Key Takeaways:

These 10 categories of questions can help you know what to ask you are thinking about buying a horse. By listening to the answers, and listening for what is left unsaid, you should be able to get an idea of whether a potential horse is a good fit for you.

Try not to let yourself be influenced by things like color or even size. Too often people will pass up on well tempered, affordable horses in order to spend more on a flashy pinto or stunning grey horse that isn’t well-suited to the rider or the desired use. We all get excited when we are looking for a new horse, but try not to let your emotions influence your decision!

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