There are a handful of common mistakes that become the stories you will hear over and over as you hang around in horsy circles. Common sense and a little education will help you to not become one of the taken.
The Green Horse
A common mistake first time horse buyers make is to think they are saving money by buying a green horse as opposed to one that is trained and perhaps more expensive. In these circumstances, the owner often ends up “overmounted,” which is no fun and often dangerous.
Any savings, and then some, are usually spent having the horse professionally trained. A good rule is that you don’t want your horse to know less than you. He will almost surely take advantage of this situation and both of you will be the worse for the experience. Let the professionals do the training.
Another common mistake is to buy a horse without taking it on an adequate trial basis. A trial should last from a week to one month; the length of the trial period will probably be determined by how much money is involved.
During this period, you can get an idea of the horse’s true personality, level of training, soundness, and vices. Most of all, this trial period will give you the opportunity to see if he is a horse that you want to invest your time, energy, and money in.
What You Want versus What You Need
Although you will likely have a certain look or color in mind for the horse you wish to own, these preferences should not limit you in your decision. Such superficial qualities of a horse tell you nothing about him. What you want might not be what you need.
The best horse for you might not look like what you imagine you want. That said, with the right combination of time, money, and sense of purpose, you will find a horse that is exactly what you want and what you need. In terms of looking out for the specific look or color you have in mind, it might be best to keep it to yourself. Such information in the hands of a horse dealer might end up weighing too heavily in what he will try to sell you and ultimately in your purchase decision.
It is best to buy your horse as directly as possible from the seller. Often, when buying a horse indirectly, such as through a show barn, so many people have been involved in some way in the sale, and each takes a commission, that a $5,000 horse ends up being sold for $10,000. If you are spending $10,000, make sure the horse is worth $10,000 once you take it out of the place where you bought it.
A disease known as “strangles” is sometimes carried by dealer or sale barn horses because of the high turnover rate at such establishments. Strangles, a serious upper respiratory infection, has a dormancy period in the horse, and it can remain active for up to eight months in an area where an infected horse has been.
So, infected horses are passed on to other barns before they are symptomatic. Strangles is highly contagious through touch and sharing of water or food.
This will often infect many of the horses in a barn before you can do anything about it and can require time-consuming quarantines of all the horses that occupy a barn with an infected one, as well as very expensive medicines. Beware of this very serious disease: Strangles can be lethal.