Horse Shopping--What Questions Do You Ask?

Hi All!

I’m looking for a horse, and will be seeing one in the coming weeks that I’m super excited about, but requires a weekend trip. So I want to make sure I’m asking good questions before I go.

Please, let me know what I should be asking! =)

A bit I already know:
-Price Point
-Why he’s for sale

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Some of the best advice I’ve seen in COTH is to vet the seller as much as the horse. So research that seller, look up their USEF results, Google map their property, follow them on SM and look at all their old posts.

It’s amazing what you can find.

Presumably you have video going wtc under saddle and doing whatever job he’s meant to do. Make sure that video shows transitions and doesn’t edit them all out. Mute the inspiring annoying music while you watch and try to watch on a big screen not a tiny phone. Look in particular at the hind end where unsoundness often shows not tracking up.

Also if you are asking these kinds of questions it’s good to have a coach in the loop.


I do have a coach in the loop and am not going alone. But ultimately, I want to make sure I’m not wasting a weekend or anyone’s time by not asking something that I should have.

I just know some people have lived through experiences where they think “In retrospect, I wish I had asked X!” So that’s more or less what I’m looking for. I sold my horse recently who had some soreness in her back and who also had white line disease, so I’ve learned to ask about soreness and feet (or general maintenance), for example.

Great advice on looking up the seller–thank you!

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For me, the key ones are whether the horse has ever had any vet work other than routine vaccinations, etc. Also, any buck, bolt, or spook ever. You otherwise have the basics, so then I think it’s worth it to try the horse.


Ooh I love this! Thank you!

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If your coach is going with, I’d assume they will ask anything you might miss.
For me, I’d want a horse already doing what I intend, even if only on a local/schooling level.

Good Luck :+1:

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If the horse’s living situation will be changing (such as 24 hour turnout to 18 hours stalled 6 hour turnout), it is a good idea to ask whether the horse has lived in a similar situation to the new one before and how they reacted. Also, are they buddy sour?

Edit: also some more basic skills. How is the horse for the following:
Trailering (always important to know if this will be something you need to work on)
Cross ties


I’d add to the already listed items questions about the horse’s general routine / management. Like turnout, stalling, feed, hay, etc. Asking about stable vices is important too!


Open ended questions can give you loads more information than ones answered by yes/no or a direct answer. “Tell me how you manage this guy day-to-day,” versus “How much turnout?”


All the above is great advice. I also ask how often joints are injected. I ask “how often” as opposed to “has this horse had injections”, To me, it’s a bit disarming and I think people are caught off guard and answer more honestly.


Ask if the horse has been vetted recently and if they have any x-rays from that vetting.

Last time I was horse shopping, we went to look at a horse that was some distance away. After we decided we liked the horse and wanted to have it vetted, the seller said, oh, he was vetted 3 months ago and we have x-rays, do you want them? We sent them to our vet and he found a couple of things that he felt made the horse not suitable for the intended use.

I don’t think the seller was deliberately trying to hide anything, I think they genuinely didn’t view those things as a concern. But if we had been able to see the x-rays first, we could have saved ourselves a 2 day trip.

Also, really think about what skills you expect this horse to have and ask the seller about them. We drove 5-freakin’-hours (one way) to look at a horse that had me saying, “no, no, no, no, no” after about 15 minutes in the saddle. It made me realize that my view of “things that are so fundamental that you can assume a horse at this level can do them” is not even close to universal. And it wasn’t that the seller had been misleading, it was that I failed to check my assumptions.


I never bother to ask why the horse is for sale. If its for sale because its a straight up crack addled spider monkey of a horse they certainly aren’t going to tell me that. I don’t think it will ever give you true insight into the horse.


Make sure the seller rides the horse before you do, and does everything you want horse to do. Don’t ride if horse scares you or is not as advertised. Don’t ride if you see something that’s going to make you back out of the purchase anyhow.


I don’t ask, either. There’s nothing that can ensure that what someone tells you is the truth.

When I bought my current horse, the seller’s agent volunteered that the reason for selling was the seller’s health. Well, the seller and I struck up a cyber relationship and it turns out the real reason was finances. I completely understood, however, because if someone knows that the owner can’t afford the horse, they will likely make lowball offers. And I didn’t take offense because I felt this was a case of a little white lie, and the horse was 100% as advertised.

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If you decide to vet a horse, have the vet pull blood and keep it for at least 30 days.


This x 1000!!!

If anyone has already passed on the horse after vetting.


Ask…Does the horse / has the horse been out hacking?

If someone has already vetted with xrays and decided not to buy the horse, those xrays belong to that person, not the person who owns/selling the horse.
Current prospective buyer has no legal right to see them.

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In my case, the vetting and x-rays were done by the trainer who was selling the horse, with the owner’s full agreement, because they wanted to know what they were getting into when they took the horse on for training and sale, so no, nothing shady was going on when they shared the x-rays with me.

I don’t know if it’s been mentioned, but I like to ask how long has the seller owned the horse. It may not matter, but if you are looking for the steady eddy/backyard type or in the lower end market, it may hint that the horse isn’t entirely suitable, or as advertised, if it’s a quick turn-around from purchase to re-sell.

I recently went and tried a horse that was advertised as a personal lesson horse and that the seller didn’t do consignments and she was selling because she had too many. When I got there and it turns out she was essentially a flipper who uses the horses she buys from who knows where for a couple months “in lessons” so she can advertise them a certain way when she goes to sell them. The end result was we couldn’t coordinate a PPE over a major holiday, then the “horse sold” right after we left, and then the seller re-listed the horse a few days later after the holiday.