Checklist for Buying a Horse

Checklist for Buying a Horse

Know what questions to ask a seller when considering buying their horse.

generic chestnut horse owner leather halter (Credit: AQHA)

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Shopping for a new horse can be one of the most exciting and frustrating experiences. The possibilities seem limitless when you set out on your search, but buyers often burn out after searching through what feels like hundreds of potential prospects.

Need a checklist for the buying process? Skip ahead to our buying a horse checklist

Essential Steps Shopping for a Horse

1. Define your budget and goals.

Before you start shopping, be realistic about what you want and need in your next horse. Are you looking to start showing, try a new discipline or will this be your first horse to help you build your skills and confidence? Do you need a flashy young prospect or an older mount to show you the ropes?

2. Do your research.

With social media and the internet, you can look at hundreds of horses with the touch of a button. Research the seller and use the QData, formerly Robin Glenn Pedigrees’, Performance Report to look up the horse’s earnings and show record. Here's an example of what the report could look like, depending on the horse's performance career, and here's where to order a report.  

3. Try the horse before you purchase it. 

If you're purchasing the horse for a riding career, this might seem like common sense. But make sure you give yourself the chance to really evaluate the horse before buying and ensure it’s a “fit” for you. Bring along an experienced second set of eyes to give you an outside perspective while you ride or work with the horse.

4. Study the horse's pedigree. 

QData's Dam's Produce Report (which looks like this) and Sire Report (here's an example) provide insight into bloodlines. These reports will tell you if your horse has siblings who have earned money, points or notable achievements. This can help you get a good idea if the horse will be a good fit to help you meet your goals.

5. Always do a pre-purchase exam.

If you like the horse you tried, don’t forget to get your veterinarian to do a pre-purchase exam. The vet will do an overall health examination of the horse so you will have a better idea of what care your future horse will need.

Considerations When Horse Shopping

If you're considering buying a horse, your options are unlimited. In the age of information overload, it's easy to become overwhelmed and let your emotions take control, instead of making a sound purchasing decision on the right horse for your needs and wants.

Horse enthusiast Randee Fox provides the following tips to help you break through the clutter and find your "one and only" American Quarter horse.

When looking for the right horse, consider the following sources:

  • Consult an AQHA Professional Horseman.
  • Ask the seller many questions, including whether he or she has the horse's original registration certificate.
  • Visit the horse and make sure he is in good health and suits the purpose you have in mind. Be sure to note his personality. Does it complement your own?
  • Assess his performance, handling and ground manners. Have the handler or seller work with the horse first. If you're buying him for a special purpose, be sure to have the handler or seller show you the horse's abilities.
  • Take a test ride. Determine if the horse performs for you as well as for the original handler.
  • Ask to see the registration certificate, and verify that the horse and description match.
  • Get a pre-purchase examination. Be sure the horse has current Coggins papers, and find out when the horse was last vaccinated and dewormed.
  • Negotiate the price somewhere within 5 to 15 percent of the asking price.
  • Bring along a more experienced horse person if you can. Find an AQHA Professional Horseman in your area.

Note: If the horse performs much better for the handler than you, he might require a more advanced rider. If you buy him, you might need more training to ride him successfully. Decide how much of a challenge you want.

Buying a Horse Checklist

When you first contact a seller about a horse he or she has for sale, you should be prepared with your questions. Here is a list of  questions to get you started:

___ Is he registered and do you have the original registration certificate?

___ Is this a gelding, stallion or mare?

___ What condition is the horse in?

___ Does he have any health problems?

___ What is the horse’s personality like? Quiet and well-mannered, high-strung or “spirited” and likes to go?

___ What does the horse look like?

___ How tall is the horse?

___ How old is the horse?

___ What kind of training has he had?

___ Is he road safe?

___ What is the horse’s recent background? What has he been doing? Has he been out to pasture or has he been used in English, western, 4-H, ranch, trail riding, lessons, driving, roping, reining, cutting, racing, etc.?

___ What vices does he have, if any?

___ Does he load into a trailer? Does he stand tied?

___ Has the horse been stalled or is he a pasture horse?

___ Has he lived alone or with other horses?

___ If handled by a trader or trainer, who owned him before? How long did they own him? Why are they selling the horse? May I speak with the previous owner?

___ Does he have a current Coggins test? If not, are you willing to get the horse tested?

___ Do you have someone at your place who will tack up and ride the horse?

___ Do you have an enclosed arena or enclosed pasture where I can try out the horse? If not, are you willing to take the horse to a public arena, demonstrate riding him and allow me to ride him?

___ If I like the horse, will you hold him for a vet check for me?

___ What is the horse's vaccination and deworming history? 

Buyers Guide to an American Quarter Horse

Want to learn more? The Buyers Guide to an American Quarter Horse is here to help. The free downloadable e-book covers:

  • Understanding your needs.
  • Find a horse for purchase.
  • Things to consider when you visit a breeder or owner.
  • How to evaluate a horse's conformation.
  • Evaluating the horse's disposition.
  • Health considerations.
  • Price.
  • AQHA transfer procedures.
  • Caring for your horse.

Go here to download the Buyers Guide to an American Quarter Horse.

Protecting Your New Horse: Markel

When you're ready to add a new horse to your herd, you want protection and peace of mind. Be sure to connect with AQHA partner Markel, the official equine insurance sponsor since 1999.

As a member of AQHA, you’re among horse enthusiasts who want only the best for you and your horse. At Markel, we focus on protecting your equestrian lifestyle, including your horses, home, barn, tack, and equipment. Whether you have one horse or an entire stable, keep horses for pleasure or business, Markel can fully protect you. Click here to start an online insurance quote today!

Additionally, AQHA members are eligible for a 10% association credit applicable to a commercial equine liability policy, or towards the liability premium of a farm package policy.