Young horse purchase - Lots of questions!

So, long story short, there is a warmblood filly for sale in Florida who has really caught my eye. I like the sire and l love the dam. The filly is conformationally very nice and harmonious, with lovely straight legs, a good neck set, and a body that fits the thirds rule. Currently she’s about 1.5 months old; I’ve seen pictures (including decent side and front conformation shots) and I am awaiting a video of her moving w/t/c.

So, my questions:

First, I am not comfortable handing over her entire purchase price before she is weaned and about to start her journey to me. Is it reasonable to give a deposit, with the remainder to be paid once she is weaned and vetted, and before she is shipped? What would a reasonable deposit be? She is for sale in the low 5 figures. I would, of course, ask for a written contract before I sent any money.

Second, what is the best way to ship a weanling? I’m in western Canada, and she’s in Florida. I’m guessing her own box stall on a professional transport would be best? What would the ballpark cost be for that? If anyone has a glowing recommendation for a transport company that I could contact, I would really appreciate it! The only person I know whose horse has recently made the trip from Florida to where I am had her horse arrive over a week late, with a massive gash that had been left untreated :scream: so I’m a bit nervous about unknown transport companies.

Third, what do people recommend for vetting weanlings? I’d have a vet out to at least do a basic eye/lung/heart check, but are there other things people would recommend? I’ve considered stifle, hock, and fetlock X-rays, but in a filly that young I’m not sure there would be much to find?

Fourth, is there anything else I should ask about/for? I know I’d like to ask about a million questions, but the filly has garnered some interest and the owner isn’t dead set on selling her, so I don’t want to tick her off with endless or unreasonable requests.

I’ve never bought (or considered buying!!) a horse sight unseen, and I’ve never bought a horse this young before, so I am very nervous, but also excited, at the prospect (though I’m trying to keep my enthusiasm in check!).

Thank you in advance!

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No. This is why the price increases with age. You pay a low amount now because you shoulder some of that risk. Wait, and then you pay more.

I’d haul her loose in a box stall.

I Xrayed feet on a young horse, but not a weanling. Not sure on that.

  1. I have paid half up front and the other half after weaning/before transport before but it depends on the breeder. Some will do that and some will not.
  2. I only ship up and down the east coast so no recommendations to Western Canada but I have imported weanlings from Europe and they handled the weeklong trip fine. I always use a box stall for ground shipping.
  3. I do a basic health check but I’ve never done x-rays or anything more invasive (definitely no flexions, lunging, etc!!) on a baby. Not worth the money to X-ray still developing joints for me.
  4. My only request when purchasing a weanling is that they be halter broke, comfortable leading and practice loading on the trailer. It really makes the journey much less stressful if the babies already know how to do this. The breeders I have worked with (stateside and abroad) have been wonderful with doing this.

not a warmblood but a sport horse prospect was purchased as a pre-weanling …inserted a clause in the contract that foal was to pass vet check prior to shipment many months down the road (bought him home at eight months).

Paid in full at time of acquisition, paid board on the baby until shipped, insured the dude at time of purchase, was owner of record at time of purchase.

Yes to the box stall for shipping. We picked up the foal, had a camera in the trailer to watch him … get a mouth full of hay, turn walk back to look out the window … had no problems bring him in the 1200 miles …did break the haul into two days with an overnight stop at horse motel for him (and us) to sleep.

Was it a wise purchase? Oh my there are so many things that could have happened, but he was undoubtedly the buy of the century … he has just turned three… already a world championship in his record book as 2 year old shown inhand… started under saddle three months ago, won his introductory dressage class this weekend (and was high point is his grouping)… afterwards the judge talk some and nearly fainted to find out he had just turned three a few weeks ago,

So he is on his way but still a long way to go.


Definitely ship in a box stall with a reputable commercial shipper. Brook Ledge has tons of experience shipping TB weanlings all over.

Get some X-rays. Foals this young can already have bad sesamoid issues, feet issues, extra pieces that will be better off coming out early, etc. Also, as you said, heart, lungs, eyes.


We’ve never bought one that young. But have purchased two weanlings and a yearling. We paid everything upon purchase, one of the weanlings we didn’t bring home until a few months later (we paid board for that time).

Definitely ship loose in a box. I’ve used IHT twice to ship Ontario to Alberta and back again. No complaints.

We didn’t bother vetting any of the young ones that we bought, but we were able to see them all in person. One of them we did have to euthanize about a year after purchase, but it wasn’t something that would have been found on a vetting. The other ones are sound and undersaddle.

Do you know if the dam has any other off spring? If she does I would ask for some info and pictures of them as well.
All of the babies that we have purchased have had multiple full siblings on the ground. It was comforting being able to see that they too were sound, similar in temperament, movement, and conformation.


I haven’t used IHT but I have had horrible experiences with EHT.

Make sure the shipper you select is good at crossing the boarder because I have had issues with a few well known shippers that weren’t able to cross the boarder and dumped horses at layover barns before the boarder and left it up to me and/or buyers to get their horses across.

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Pay up front; it’s the reason you get the horse at the foal price instead of the weanling price.

Have the vet give her a once over, but it’s all kind of a crapshoot with babies.

Box stall, halter broke, I shipped from north Ohio to DFW with Equine Express in 11/2019 and I want to say it ran a couple grand?

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I’ve never bought one that young, so can’t comment on most of your questions. I did purchase a 18mo youngster sight unseen and didn’t do any vetting other than a basic health check.

Regarding transportation, check out Foothills Transport. They are based near Calgary and routinely cross the border. They brought my horse from Alberta to southern California and they made the border crossing go very smoothly and my horse arrived happy and healthy. The person I bought my horse from have used them multiple times and have never had a bad experience and I couldn’t find a bad review of them. I don’t know if they run from Florida to western Canada, but it would be worth asking them.

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X-ray the neck, to check for C6-C7 congenital malformation. No joke, this is a serious thing. Google it or search COTH for threads. Sharon May-Davis has brought this issue to the fore. There is a protocol for taking the X-rays to ensure a good view of the area of interest.


I will never buy another young horse without taking cervical rads first. General health exam, flexions and neck rads for anything 2 years+ (and neck rads regardless of age). You could amount it to crappy luck but I had to give up my young horse as a surrogate broodmare due to cervical bone cysts. It was a timely, expensive process to diagnose and even more expensive to treat. Unfortunately nothing worked and we couldn’t keep her sound. Doing x-rays of the neck prior to purchasing may have saved me the heartache and $$!


What type of contract has the seller presented you? When I sell my warmblood foals I frequently offer a payment plan until the foal is 6 months old (as that is the soonest I like to wean), with a signed contract to purchase and 10% deposit. Buyer may vet the foal at the onset of the contract, to whatever degree their heart desires and pocketbook allows. I always recommend a complete physical exam (possibly cbc & chem ), as the information is for the buyer to be able to make an informed decision to purchase what they see in said baby TODAY. Vets don’t carry a crystal ball, and in young horses everything is changing, all of the time. (btw, xrays on a 1.5 month old are not something most people do, and certainly not back and neck films that is over the top!)
Once my buyer has signed the contract and sent deposit, the foal is theirs, buyer assumes all liability for the foal at this time. I do require insurance with me named as a loss payee until paid in full. Failure to pay is not a release from the contract, nor is buyer remorse. If the buyer defaults, my contract does address that as well. I have never had anyone default, btw.
I do recommend to ship in a box, with companions on the rig, and ulcer medication on board at least the day before travel. For a trip that far, maybe get quotes to fly and truck her. Thats a really really long trip for a baby.
Ask all the questions you need to feel comfortable with the purchase, your seller should be more than happy to hold your hand to ensure their foal is finding the right home for the future.
Good luck!


@WannabeDQ Thank you for the points! They’re very helpful. Don’t worry, I wouldn’t dream of putting a baby through flexions or lunging! I’d want a vet to assess soundness, not create soundness issues :smile: Would it be unreasonable to request the foal be at least somewhat foot broke as well as halter broke? I’d think a 6+ month old foal should have already seen a farrier, but of course I’ve found conflicting opinions on that…

@clanter Just to clarify, the clause about passing the vet check - did you pay the full purchase price, with a stipulation that it be returned and the sale nullified if he failed the vet check when he was ~8 months old? I’m glad to hear he’s been such a success!

@GoodTimes How was the experience keeping the weanling boarded? Was it sight unseen or were you able to check on them in person? I’ve been trying to think this potential purchase through, and I’ve realized that taking a ~7 month old foal from balmy Florida to freezing Canada seems a touch unwise, since they’re so small and don’t have good fat reserves (and I’d rather not stall a baby over the winter!!); so I’m considering boarding down there until the spring thaws things out. The dam has had one other foal. He still lives in Europe. He jumped 1.30 with a pro and is now steadily moving up the levels with his ammy owner; he looks quite nice from the videos I’ve found.

@iJump Thank you! I never thought of the boarder crossing issue but I will definitely keep that top of mind!

@leheath Thank you for the recommendation! They seem to do trips to Florida every month, so they might be a good option!

@cardinale and @kwpn_01 thank you so much for bringing this up! I had no idea it was a problem - how concerning! If we get to vetting I’ll ask about C6 rads.

@sixpoundfarm I’m nowhere near a contract yet! Thank you for mentioning the ulcer meds, that’s a really good idea if we get that far.

I’ve been trying to think this potential purchase through, and I’ve realized that taking a ~7 month old filly from Florida to Canada in the middle of winter may be a bit unwise and unfair. She’d be pretty small and wouldn’t have a good layer of insulating fat to stay warm, and I’d really rather not keep a baby in a stall. The local weanlings turn into little yaks their first winter, but I’m guessing a Florida baby wouldn’t be nearly so fluffy? Anyone have experience with this?

The other option would be leaving her in FL for 6 months until the weather warms up… although I’m guessing that could be prohibitively expensive, given the location. To be clear, if the former isn’t fair, and the latter isn’t feasible, I’ll be walking away from the purchase. If anyone has experience buying a foal sight unseen and leaving it to grow up before shipping, whether in North America or importing from Europe, I’d love to hear!

I do want to make it clear that this is a horse I’m considering buying; I’m trying to do my research so everyone has the best possible outcome; please understand I’m trying to learn and decide what’s reasonable and fair to do.


We know the breeder as my daughter had purchased a horse that they breed from another source. Daughter took that horse to several national championships which the breed took notice of, they established a relationship

We did not expect any surprises on this purchase, We paid what they wanted, then boarded him until we could pick him up later that spring.

This breeder is a long term operation that as many do really cares about its reputation in the industry. If for some reason this baby failed a passing vet check they would have refunded the purchase price but it had been prior agreed that the boarding fee would not be refunded.

As many breeders they are finding they are selling most all their new crop fast.

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This is the only way I can do it… I only want to buy one at a time, and I want them to grow up in a herd with friends the same age preferably with a big field to run around in, cared for by knowledgeable breeders.

A couple of years ago I bought a yearling sight unseen and boarded him with a friend until he turned three, which was a couple of months ago. I just brought him home at the end of April.

I wouldn’t do it in another country though, or with people I did not know, without being able to visit at least occasionally. While this plague threw a wrench in the ‘visiting’ idea this past year, I would do it again.

My advice is to pick a breed and get to know people. Follow the breeders online, get an idea of what they are producing. Once it is possible, go to the breed shows and meet people. Go visit, talk to them about what you’re looking for.

I bought a yearling this time. Next time perhaps a weanling, then I might work my way back to a colt option in utero or a custom foal if there is a stallion or cross I am particularly interested in.

I will say that the whole process felt like I was flinging vast sums of money in various directions, without actually having anything to show for it. On paper I owned a horse (and insurance policies) but only now two years later am I able to get to know him.

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Ha! If you don’t mind me asking, did the yearling purchase price plus two years of board and insurance still add up to less than buying a comparable 3-year-old?

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We were familiar with the breeder, they’re about a 3-4 hr drive, and we’ve seen them at shows, etc.
Saying that, we saw her late September when we looked at the group of weanlings. Saw her in October after purchasing. I drove up once in January to make sure she was still alive. And then they shipped her down to us in March.

If you’re serious you could consider asking if they could take a couple videos of a walk through of the barn and paddock, so you can decide if you’re comfortable with the condition of the fencing, etc. And sort out who the vet is, what they do if they can’t reach you, leave a credit card on file, etc.

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Quick update - the owner apparently sold the foal the day after I enquired, and didn’t bother telling me until I sent her a message asking if she’d taken videos yet :roll_eyes: Thank you for everyone’s responses though!

Sometimes you have to be quick if you see something you like. :slight_smile: