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60 Questions to Ask When Buying the Horse of Your Dreams

dream horse
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Written by Annabelle A.

Our checklist for buying a horse keeps you on task, reveals potential issues, and helps you avoid buyer’s remorse.

Buying a horse is a huge financial and emotional commitment, so it’s important to make sure you are making a wise decision. It’s easy to fall head over heels for a good looking horse or after taking a perfect test ride, but it’s important to not get ahead of yourself.

If you inquire about nothing else, be sure that you ask:

  • For a general history of the horse’s training and riding experience
  • What their temperament is like and who can ride them
  • If there are any known health issues or concerns that have not yet been evaluated

There’s a lot more that should go into your decision, and entire books exist on the topic! But, if you’re looking for the essentials, check out our top 60 questions you should ask before buying a horse.

If you aren’t a very experienced rider, you will have the best luck working with a trainer you trust. Whether or not you have someone to advise you, you’ll want to be confident that you are making a safe and financially sound choice.

Buying your first horse? Make sure you understand How Much Horses Cost.

*Photo above provided by Angie Misaghi (@angisaghi)

Top 60 Horse Pre-Purchase Questions

Basics

If you are working with a trainer, they will be a great resource for narrowing down what things are most important (e.g. horse’s specific skills and personality) and what things are just nice-to-haves.

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Knowing the basics beforehand saves you from wasting your time visiting the wrong horses.

These questions will help you narrow down horses to find ones you might be interested in meeting in person.

  • Is it a stallion, gelding, or mare? Breed?
  • How old is he? How tall?
  • What is her general temperament?
  • Who is currently riding the horse and for what discipline?
  • What discipline(s) is she suited for?
  • What level of rider is he suited for?
  • How much are you asking? Is it negotiable?

Before Initial Visit

Before you buy a horse, you should schedule a time to see the horse in person and ideally you and/or your trainer will have a chance to ride him/her.

PPE-horse-buying

Don’t schedule a visit without asking some prerequisite questions.

Here are a few questions you should ask before scheduling an in-person visit.

  • Where is the horse currently located?
  • Are you willing to have me/my trainer ride the horse? If not, are you willing to ride the horse while we observe?
  • Is there an enclosed arena or other safe riding area on the property where we can do a test ride? If not, are you willing to meet somewhere with a safe riding area?
  • Do you have well fitting tack available that we can use?
  • Will someone be able to have her tacked and ready?
  • If I want to purchase this horse, will you hold him until I have a chance to complete a medical exam with my vet and review his vet records?

History

You’ll want to get to know the history of any horse you are considering purchasing, as well as the relationship of the current owner to the horse. Make sure the person answering your questions has enough experience with the horse to give you real answers and watch for any red flags.

  • How long have you owned the horse? Where did you buy her?
  • Do you know his history? Is there any history of abuse or neglect that you are aware of?
  • Who rode the horse while you owned her?
  • Has she ever been leased out or a lesson horse?
  • Why are you selling the horse?
  • Is the horse registered? Can I see his papers?
horse-buying-history

Asking why the horse is for sale is a critical question.

Personality

When trying to determine if a horse is a good fit for you, personality is one of the most important factors.

horse-personality

You need to “click” with your new horse, which means understanding his personality.

You’ll want to know the details of the horse’s health, history, and training to know if it’s a smart purchase for you, but personality is what makes the difference between a horse you fall in love with and one you “just ride.”

  • How would you describe her personality?
  • What does he like? Dislike? Does he have any unusual personality traits?
  • Is she friendly?
  • Is he more submissive or dominant?
  • How is she with other horses?
  • Does he have any vices?
  • How is she with grooming? Clipping, brushing, bathing, picking feet?
  • Has he ever bucked, kicked, or bitten?
online horse courses

Health

While you can never guarantee that a horse will remain healthy, you’ll want to fully understand the current health and medical history of any horse you are considering purchasing.

horse-health-questions

From teeth to feet, you want a complete picture of the horse’s health history.

Asking the right questions will help you avoid purchasing a horse that may have high, unexpected medical expenses or that you are unable to ride.

  • When was he last seen by a vet?
  • Has he ever had any illnesses? Injuries?
  • How often do you deworm? When was the last time? Which dewormer do you use?
  • Is he current on vaccinations? Which ones does he receive?
  • Does she have any known health issues?
  • Do you have any concerns about his health that have not been evaluated yet?
  • Has she ever had colic?
  • Does he have any history of being lame?
  • Who is your vet? Will you allow them to release your horse’s medical records to me for review?
  • Will you allow my vet to perform a pre-purchase exam?
  • Has he received regular dental care? From who? Any known issues?
  • When were her teeth last floated?
  • Does she have any issues with her feet? Is she shod?

Riding/Showing

Make sure that the horse you are considering has the training and experience to meet your needs. Some of these questions may not apply or you may have some more specific questions, depending on the types of riding you intend to do.

show-history

If you’ll be competing, you need to understand the horse’s record and behavior away from home.

  • Does he stand well for grooming? Does he take his bit easily?
  • Does she stand still for a mounting block?
  • What kind of rider would be a good fit for him?
  • How does she respond to corrections?
  • Is there anything she responds poorly to?
  • What tack does he use? Is it available for purchase with the horse?
  • Is she easily spooked or fairly bombproof?
  • Has he been ridden in traffic, on roads, on trails, indoors, etc.?
  • Has she been shown? How did she do? Does her personality change in the arena?
  • How is he to ride after having time off?
  • How does she trailer? Has she been in one often?
  • Are there any areas of training that may need work?
  • Does he respond well on a lunge line?
  • How does she respond to pressure?

Feeding/Care

If you are serious about purchasing a particular horse, you’ll want to understand what it’s current lifestyle, care, and diet is like.

horse-feed

Every horse’s diet is different, so ask a lot of questions about the prospect’s current routine.

This will help you understand if they will be a good fit for the barn or pasture you’ll be housing them in and how much time and money you should expect to spend on their basic care.

  • What is his current routine?
  • Where does she currently live? What type of turnout space does she have? Does she get turned out with other horses?
  • What does she eat? Any supplements?
  • Has he been around any other animals (e.g. livestock, dogs, cats)? How did he respond?
  • Does she have any allergies? Has she ever responded poorly to a food or supplement?
  • Is he easy to catch?
  • How does she respond to new environments?

Frequently Asked Questions

Are there additional questions to ask when buying a dressage horse?
Movement is huge with dressage horses. Be sure you get a chance to watch them canter, the trot is easier to fix than the canter. Temperament is also an important factor.

Look for something showy and who is easy to train. If they have show experience, be sure to ask for details and see what tack they are using.

Are there additional questions to ask when buying a colt?
Unless you are an advanced rider, you should not consider a young, green horse. Beginner and intermediate riders are much better off on older, well trained horses.
Are there additional questions to ask when buying a trail horse?
If your primary use will be trail riding, consider finding a horse that has plenty of experience. You’ll want to ensure the horse has a calm temperament, is sure-footed, and does not spook easily.
What are the most important questions to ask before leasing a horse?
Choosing a horse to lease should be taken just as seriously as purchasing one. Make sure you are still asking all of the important questions in this article first.

Once you feel confident the horse is a good fit, it’s really important to make sure the owner and lease agreement are too. You’ll want to ask a lot of questions about the terms of the lease like who is responsible for paying for the horses care (e.g. board, routine health care, illnesses and injuries, farrier, supplements)?

Who makes medical decisions? Can you choose your own barn, trainer, vet, farrier, etc? Are there any limits on your usage of the horse (travel, showing, riders)? What happens if the horse is seriously injured and is no longer rideable? Are there any other conditions under which you could end the lease early?

Leasing a horse can be anything from a few dedicated riding days per week at a flat rate to full care where the owner is rarely, if ever, involved. Make sure you fully understand what the expectations are and that you get them in writing. It also helps to have a good relationship with the owner.

Finding someone who seems friendly, trustworthy, and respectful can go a long way toward making the experience more positive.

What is a Coggins test?
A Coggins test is simple blood test that checks for a serious disease called Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA), which is caused by infected flies.

Depending on where you live, you may be required to prove a horse is free of EIA in order to sell, trade, or transport it.

Currently, there are no cures or vaccines for EIA and horses that test positive must be put down or quarantined permanently. You should ensure your prospective horse has had a Coggins test prior to purchase.

What is a PPE for horses?
A pre purchase exam (PPE) is a standard health check performed by a vet, typically of the buyer’s choosing, before a purchase is finalized.

This will typically include a physical evaluation, lameness and movement evaluation, and follow up on any suspected issues.

The buyer and seller should both participate and what is included will vary based on the vet, budget, and specific needs.

What is a flexion test for horses?
A flexion test is typically performed during a PPE by your vet. It is a standard part of a lameness evaluation and involves bending the hind legs to determine if there are any joint issues that may not be noticeable otherwise.
How much is a pre purchase exam on a horse?
There is no standard price for pre purchase exams, for several reasons. There is no set standard for what a PPE includes and it often depends on the interests and budget of the buyer. Some people may want to get x-rays and ultrasounds, while others are okay with a basic physical.

It could be as little as $200 or much, much more. When budgeting for this portion of the purchase, ask around locally and remember that you may want to have a PPE on more than one horse before you find your horse.

Where can I find a horse sale contract?
There are many templates available online. You may also consider asking your trainer or barn friends what contract they used. You may have local laws that you’ll need to take into consideration when dealing with legal documents.

Happy Horse Shopping!

The worst thing you can do when looking for a horse is be in a hurry. Making a hasty decision, not thinking through your options, or “going with your gut,” are recipes for disappointment. With proper planning, however, the help of an experienced trainer or friend, and an open mind, your dream horse will certainly find you.

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About the author

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Annabelle A.

My parents owned a boarding facility and ran a lesson program throughout my childhood, so I was quite literally raised in a barn! As an adult, I've owned and shown two horses and now love watching my own children learn to ride. I also loved watching my sisters show on their college equestrian teams.