Horse Buying in the 21st Century, Part 2
Is it possible to find another one-of-a-kind horse?
By Randee Fox | March 13, 2011
The American Quarter Horse Journal
After her special mare, Im Maid Tuff, aka “Tawny,” died due to complications of old age, Randee Fox started the search for a new “one-and-only” equine-partner. Catch up by reading Part 1 of “Horse Buying in the 21st Century.”
With the Internet and convenient websites like Dreamhorse.com, many people these days buy horses long distance or out-of-state. When buying horses from afar, one must make the choice whether to take a trip to see the horse or buy sight-unseen.
AQHA Professional Horsewoman Denise Callahan of Arlington, Washington, sells show horses. Her clients tend to make the trip to meet and ride horses they’re interested in.
“When buying from out of the area, it starts with potential clients finding a horse online,” Denise says. “Then there’s the first inquiry. We chat about the horse and if they like what they hear, I’ll send out a video. If they’re still interested, they plan a visit. Before their visit, we talk a lot about the horse and whether or not to schedule a pre-purchase vet exam. They generally come for two or three days, ride the first day and maybe the second, too. On the third day, we do the pre-purchase vet exam. If the vet comes out, they buy their horse.
“I always look for a good match. If the match is not good, I pull them off the horse and let them know. I don’t sell a horse just to sell a horse. I look to create a successful team.”
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Ann Myers of Myers Horse Ranch in Ashland, Ohio, has been raising and selling Quarter Horses for 25 years. She has 10 broodmares that produce six or seven colts a year. She sells mostly show prospects – weanlings through 2-year-olds. She has sold horses to owners from Montana to Australia.
“When someone calls and asks about a horse to buy, I ask them what they are looking for in a horse – age, sex, discipline, color, size and more. I go over what we have that would fit what they’re looking for,” Ann says. “Most of our horses are sired by Zips Chocolate Chip and Chips Hot Chocolate, which gives them really nice dispositions. For photos, I refer them to our website. They determine which horses appeal to them, and I’ll send a video of the horses that they’re interested in. I ask lots of questions about them, too, to ensure a good match.”
At least half of Ann’s clients buy horses without ever seeing or touching the horse. When they come from afar, they generally come out for a day, spend the night and come back again the second day to purchase.
Ann warns that it is always buyer beware when purchasing horses.
“You want to work with a seller that you can get references on – someone who has a good reputation and comes with high recommendations,” she says. “I always encourage people to ask a lot of questions and have a thorough vet check. I have our vet check the horse, but I encourage the buyers to have their own vet at home either talk to my vet directly or send a list of things they want my vet to check. In different parts of the country, different vets look at different things.”
A few of Ann’s more local clients want to come and spend several days, love on the horses, rub on them and be sure that the horse they pick is right for them. Ann encourages them to spend as much time as they need.
“I’m happy when they come to see the horses in person so that they can see how wonderful their personalities are. I am as honest as I can possibly be by telling them exactly what I know about a horse, even if there’s a blemish. I want the buyer and the horse to get along. I’ve raised these horses. I know their mothers and their fathers. I don’t buy horses to sell; I raise horses to sell.”
Quarter Horse Shows
Horses competing at shows often are advertised through fliers tacked to the horse’s stall or at various trainers’ stalls.
At some shows, announcers might even mention that the competing horse is for sale. Finding a horse at a show might give a potential buyer a chance to observe the horse’s behavior during a few days, watch it compete and perhaps even try it out.
Professional photographer K.C. Montgomery gives tips on setting up your horse, best times of day to photograph, finding the right angle and more to help you get the best photo of your horse.
Sales and Auctions
Research how to buy a horse at auction if you have never done this, but there are hundreds of horse auctions each year with many good horses going through.
As in any horse buying situation, buyer beware and consider bringing along your trainer and veterinarian for a pre-purchase exam.
Here are three websites that advise how to buy a horse at auction:
• Step-by-step: http://www.ehow.com/how_10988_buy-horse-auction.html
• Livestock auctions: http://horsestories.com/auction/index.shtml
• Buying horses at auction from a vet’s perspective: http://www.wiwfarm.com/buyhorse.htm
After researching horses in other states and talking to potential sellers, I sat down and did the math. I figured that if I spent $1,000 per week looking at three or four horses around the country, not to mention the loss of income from not being home and working, I’d have spent a good chunk of my new horse budget by searching in other states. Then there are the shipping fees.
So to save money and energy, I started searching more deeply in the western state of Washington.
To my surprise, an affordable yet seemingly nervous 8-year-old was not a good match for me.
Though she was drop-dead gorgeous, it became apparent that she needed more training and was very green. I wanted a finished, laid-back horse ready to take home and ride.
Then they brought out the second horse, a proven show horse, Miss Boston Chocolat, aka “Jackie-O.”
She had a higher price tag but was still within my range. She was younger than I hoped for, but had been with a trainer since she was 2 years old.
Her owner, Denise, was an 18-year-old girl who worked at the show barn. I watched Denise put Jackie-O through her paces, and then I hopped on for my first ride.
As I rode her, I sensed an immediate rush of calm – the mare felt right, even familiar, sending me vibes of acceptance and friendship. So far, so good! We seemed to be the perfect fit.
I’d learned from past horse purchases that it all works out as it should, and that any decision made out of fear never turns out to be a good decision. So if horse sellers apply sales pressure, I simply run the other way.
Yet I felt no sales pressure from Denise – quite the opposite. As she watched me ride, she saw what I felt, a true connection between horse and rider. She, too, wanted this horse to go to the right home.
“It’s true, I love that horse, and it was hard to let her go,” says Denise. “But because it was such a good connection between them, I felt confident and comfortable.”
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After riding, I wasn’t quite ready to make the big decision, so Denise agreed to hold the horse for me for a week.
I left questioning myself. How could the second horse I tried feel so right? Was I delusional and buying on impulse, or was it just so right?
To be sure, I scheduled two more lessons with the trainer during the next week before I put down my deposit. Each ride proved to be better than the one before, making me certain this was the horse I wanted to buy.
Jackie-O passed her pre-purchase exam, so I bought her and kept her in training for the next two months while I got to know her better.
In April 2007, I brought Jackie-O home.
It had been so many years since I had a new horse that I had forgotten that a horse’s behavior can change temporarily when they come to a new home. The first thing she did when I led her into our barn was rear above me all the way to the knotted end of my lead rope. I immediately took her to the round pen, where she expressed herself freely with bucks, kicks and a flagging tail.
The next few days, she was still a bit of a mess. The connection I enjoyed at the training barn was not present, so I didn’t ride her, but I knew she’d settle soon. Daily sessions of grooming, round pen work and standing tied to a “patience tree” seemed to help her fit into a familiar routine.
On the night of her third day at my ranch, I thought I heard a loud whinny from the barn. It was late, about 11 p.m., and not a typical late-night sound. I went to the barn to find all of the horses asleep. I checked into Jackie-O’s stall, which was Tawny’s old stall.
She quietly approached me, and in that moment, I realized that I never told her why she was here. So we had a chat, and I told her she was Tawny’s successor and is now a new horse partner and will be for many years to come.
Suddenly, I broke down, sobbing in her neck a huge bubble of sadness that hadn’t been released after losing Tawny.
Jackie-O kept her big head low, softly nuzzled against my heart, while I cried. This was our first real bonding, with the old horse’s spirit like a metaphysical link.
The next day, we had our first ride at home, and she has only given me good rides since.
Soon after bringing her home I learned of a coincidence. I found out that Jackie-O was actually handled and imprinted since her day of birth by Quarter Horse trainer Edward Higbee.
Back in the early ’90s, Edward’s aunt owned the ranch near where I boarded Tawny. He was just a 12-year-old boy then, and he used to beg me to let him ride her. He loved her easy lope.
When he found out I bought Jackie-O, he contacted me to let me know he imprinted her and assured me that she’d be the perfect fit.
So I figured that finding this horse was part of some greater plan. We had come full circle in this small horse world through a common thread, a give and take, a death and birth connecting the past to the present through the lives of two horses and two humans. It was all meant to be – ending with a happy beginning.
On-Site ServicesAQHA is on-site March 15-20 at the 2011 Equitana: Equestrian Sports World Fair. Come out to Essen, Germany, and visit AQHA On-Site Services at Hall 7, Booth C32 to catch up on your AQHA business. You can:
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- Transfer a horse, no matter how many owners, for only $15 per horse*
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