Buying sight unseen

Just curious if anyone has purchased a horse sight unseen and what sort of process they went through? How did you verify that you weren’t getting scammed, set up a vetting, shipping, etc. without physically flying out and seeing the horse? I’m just having a hard time finding what I’m looking for in my budget and I’m starting to consider expanding my search to the entire US and while I would prefer to fly out and see the horse in person, it’s not always that simple. I’m in SoCal and there are just so many more options on the east coast/Florida. Just looking for some general advice!

And don’t worry, I would never buy a horse sight unseen without professional input from people I trust, I’ve just never had to shop outside of driving distance and I’m wondering what to look out for, what is considered normal, etc.

Also, if anyone here has traveled to other parts of the country to horse shop, where did you go? How did you go about finding horses to try, setting up appointments, etc.? I never thought finding a decent low level hunter prospect without having to sell a kidney could be so hard lol

I’ve never done it. I might consider it if I truly trusted the seller or agent. The best advice I’ve heard on COTH is to vet the sellers as much as the horse.


I’ve bought sight-unseen twice.

One was from a farm my sister was familiar with and she was very confident that the horse would be as described. He was.

One was just soooo very inexpensive it didn’t seem like much of a risk. Traveling half way across the country mid-COVID seemed like a bigger risk. I saw 6 different videos and the owner probably felt like she had been interrogated by the FBI by the time we were done. :slight_smile: There were a few surprises when he arrived that would have been readily observable if I had tried him in person and I’m not 100% sure I would have bought him if I had tried him. That said, he really is a kind old soul and I’m not sorry that I bought him now that I’ve got him.

Edited to add that there are a few horses that I’ve bought over the years that I really regretted buying and turned out to be big mistakes. I tried all of them before I bought them and two of them I even visited and rode twice. So, for me, buying sight unseen doesn’t seem to work out appreciably worse than buying after trying them out. :laughing:


Purchased sight unseen from Europe (live on west coast of US).

Some things we did to prepare:

  • vetted sellers via FB, YouTube, and Instagram (yep, TONS of sales references & horses I had seen go in person came from them)
  • I asked a professional in SoCal that I kinda/sorta “know” her experience with the sellers (I had seen she wrote a review for them on FB)
  • we used a highly recommended vet for the PPE
  • they sent us several videos from jumping, flatting, lead changes, and just being around the horse

How it turned out:

  • horse was not the “AA friendly hunter” as described
  • horse IS very kind, forgiving, jumps anything from anywhere, and clearly loves her job
  • horse is NOT a hunter. Never will be. Derby prospect and potentially bigger jumpers

So basically, we probably would not have purchased this horse had I tried it. Do we regret it? Not one bit. She was as described other than being too fast to ever be a hunter and the fact that you cannot train it out of her (I’ve had the horse for 3 years). Jumps a 10, lovely mover, kind horse. Possibly only amateur friendly because she really will jump through fire if you ask her.

Otherwise she is a bit complicated (I was a pro, but nothing I’d brag about. Mostly an assistant for a big barn that rode the 2’6” sales hunters and 1m kids jumpers at shows).

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I’ve bought two sight unseen in the past six months—one very cheap (low four figures), one not so cheap (upwards of mid-five figures). Both are excellent and exactly what I wanted.

First horse was bought off Facebook, off a 10-second jog video. No vetting, paid for on Venmo (seriously!), seller and I agreed on a shipping price, to which gave the seller my barn’s address, received a rudimentary bill of sale via email, and voila, the mare showed up a few days later, exactly as described.

Second horse came through a trusted agent (my trainer’s business partner in Europe). Saw a 3-minute video of him, had my vet here review existing X-rays, and then we moved forward. The vet in Europe was great—WhatsApped me videos of the flexions, called me right after the exam, etc. Paid for the horse via a wire to the agent and then just continued to paid the bills for import as they came in. He sat in Europe a week longer than I’d have liked, but I always knew where he was and what he was doing. He is hands down way nicer than what I paid and has far exceeded my expectations so far. (If anyone does need a connection to an excellent agent in Europe with an excellent knowledge of the American market and more specifically, what American amateurs can and like to ride, DM me.)

So yeah, I’ve been lucky and have no qualms buying sight unseen. BUT I’m also a pretty independent amateur who is comfortable evaluating a cheapie horse for myself and has a good support system to advise on the bigger purchases.


My completely anecdotal, non-scientific theory is that rider personalities fall roughly into two catagories: 1) Specialists that are brilliant at getting the most out of a particular (usually difficult) equine personality, and 2) Generalists that get along with a broader cross-section of equine personalities. Of course, buying sight unseen can be a disaster from the standpoint of the horse’s health & abilities not being as described. Barring those circumstances, I think a successful experience buying this way depends somewhat on which rider personality category you belong to.


I’ve bought more sight unseen than horses I’ve tried. Only my current gelding did I try, and even then only for 5 minutes.

I am not shopping in a price range that usually gets me something with any sort of training. My most recent purchase was a fire sale and I had to jump on him, so I didn’t vet him either (seller shared a previous vetting on the basis of which a buyer rejected). He was the most I’ve ever spent on a horse and he is what they said he was, possibly slightly more green than he came across in videos. It’s taken a month or so to figure him out, but it was worth it.

There’s a price break where it would be too big an investment for me to risk. None of these horses were more than low 5 figures.


I’ve bought several horses sight-unseen and become wiser with each one. For my most recent purchase, I hired a fairly well known but smaller-name trainer to pick up the horse from its home barn and bring it to her barn, then ride it right off the trailer so we could get a sense of it’s true personality in a new environment. The event was videotaped and after, the trainer called my trainer and gave the plus/minus report.

I studied those videos along with the sellers videos, asked the seller millions of questions, researched show records and talked to two people who had seen the horse go at shows. Vetted him and bought him. There have been no surprises and we adore him.

My best advice is to wait until you feel you’ve found the horse that’s right, not the one you want to be right. I’ve fallen for the 10 mover who stops on Wednesdays and when the humidity makes her mane curl, the handsome but bucks if you add too much leg, the famous-sired with an attitude, the gorgeous import who arrived grass green. I’ve learned to look for a kind eye, kind sellers and no whiff of over-eagerness to sell.

Good luck!

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Many, many times. Mostly word of mouth from people I know, like and trust. Some from people I have never met. I do make sure I know people that know them then ask those friends about the reputations of the sellers. I only go with familiar bloodlines.

A big part of the equation is how much risk you are willing to take. Need to consider your skill level and that of the trainer you will be working with. I can pretty much bring along any level of baby and turn around a naughty one. I try not to set a time frame on them. Hard to gauge how long it will take to train them until you are a few months into riding.

I will admit I have made a few misses…more blood than I was told, lack of work ethic, one didn’t jump well, another I flat didn’t like the way it rode. Easy to buy, harder to sell.

I ask friends in those areas for vet references. Lots of nationwide haulers to choose from (Brookledge, Johnson, American, Equine Express, etc). Sellers have always met the vet for the PPE. If something pops up then send x-rays to your local vet for a second set of eyes.

If I were an amateur, I would not buy sight unseen without someone that knows my riding style sitting on it first. Even then, that’s risky. Too many variables.


I don’t ride well enough to buy sight unseen. I remember back in the dark ages, seeing a horse I liked at several shows and when it came up for sale, I tried it. I have never ridden a more uncomfortable horse in my life. He felt so downhill, I wondered if he was on his knees. Horrible one sided, and I felt like I was holding him up on that side. He was obviously used to it, because his mouth was like iron on that side. If I had purchased him without trying him, I would have been bitterly disappointed.

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I bought off video last year. I could not find a horse relatively local that I liked. For the quality I wanted and my budget, I got a very green youngster from Canada. My trainer worked her network to vet the sellers, and they had a great reputation. She’s also a bit freaky in reading a horse (even from video) and matching it to her riders. I had to trust her. It was a risk, but I figured if it truly didn’t work out, I’d pay for the training and sell him if needed as he was nice enough to easily flip.

Not gonna lie, there were times I thought I’d made a huge mistake. Not because he was misrepresented, but because I wasn’t sure he was “my ride”. He’s VERY different from my previous horse. However, we’ve been making great progress, and I’m quite enjoying him now.


I bought my mare from a facebook video. I did know the people and they always have nice horses and they represent them honestly. I mailed a check and picked her up a couple of weeks later at a show that was about half way between us.

She is a nice mare other than her permeant resting bitch face. If I rode her more than a few times a month she would be great.

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I bought my gelding sight unseen as an unstarted 3 year old. My trainer knew the breeder so I knew I wasn’t being scammed She had a shipper booked and he showed up a few days later, it was easy and painless.

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Once about two decades ago off Dream Horse. Limited budget in mid four figures. Young green broke horse. Vet check included height measurement and xrays which were not perfect. Horse worked out well. **Was surprised to learn the breeders/sellers dyed the tail.

Second within the last decade. Sort of an accidental purchase off one of those Sporthorse Auction Sites. Kind of like the Buy It Now on eBay. Yup; that’s me. Young unstarted well bred Warmblood. Lower 5 figure initial investment. Now grown to mid fives with professional training ect. Nice horse.

Would I do it again? Yes.

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I’m in SoCal also. There is nothing around here in my price range. It’s depressing. I’ve been looking since November.

Sounds like you have a talented, very forward, very brave jumper who has the potential to go on and realize everything she is capable of. Present her to the pros we KNOW who will do right by her, and will take her forward. She is a treasure. And I have a feeling that, when you work with our top people, that they will have the perfect Ammy gelding or mare for you, full of style and presence. Sometimes in this life, we have the chance to do something wonderful, and so you have a unique opportunity to make this happen! (Just an ancient breeder here, trying to help whenever I can).


My most recent horse purchase was sight unseen. I absolutely do not regret it one bit. That being said, she was a young (2, coming 3) OTTB, under $5K, and if she didn’t work out for what I was looking it wouldn’t have been a huge loss. Thankfully she has exceeded my expectations in every possible way! I did buy from an established business on Facebook that seems to have a good reputation for representing nice quality horses but other than that had no prior knowledge of the seller.

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I have absolutely the best trainers. They have helped me move mountains with this horse and finally be able to ride her the way she wants to be ridden, while improving her (& my riding, of course) every single ride. I am thrilled. We (along with my mom who purchased her) have always loved this horse, even when we couldn’t quite figure her out. Now, we are beginning to see just how far we can go.

sorry to go off topic

I’ve purchased a horse sight unseen twice. Once was a nearly 2yo - I saw videos and the seller (breeder) had an excellent reputation for ethical business practices and honestly representing their horses. I didn’t vet because she wasn’t that expensive and hadn’t done anything other than hopped through a jump chute a few times and otherwise lived on pasture in a herd. That one was everything I wanted talent-wise, but we ultimately were not a good personality fit under saddle, but I think that was far more of an issue with buying a baby rather than buying sight unseen. However, I sold her for considerably more than I paid for her, so I guess that’s a plus.

I’m also in SoCal and was horse shopping last summer. I couldn’t find anything local that even remotely matched what I wanted that wasn’t outrageously priced for what it was. I ended up buying sight unseen from Canada. I think trusting/vetting the seller is key. I’m active in my breed organization so knew the breeder through that connection. I got multiple videos of the horse being ridden over a fairly long period of time, by different riders and shared those with my trainer, who saw things I wouldn’t have noticed (mostly positive, with one caution about which she was also correct). I spoke to a trainer who had worked with him, but was not receiving commission on the sale. The vet was well regarding in that community and was not his “normal” vet (but there were limited choices in the area, so she had seen him previously, but that was actually helpful rather than a conflict, in my opinion). The vet was great - calling me at each step, sending me images, etc. He has turned out to be exactly what I was looking for in both talent and personality. That said, I can adapt to most horses within reason as long as they have a decent work ethic and the comment made by everyone I talked to that had met this horse was how good his work ethic was!

I almost bought a horse sight unseen. I decided to fly the 2,000 miles to look at her. I am so glad I did. She was terribly misrepresented and lame. Some poor person bought her sight unseen.

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