#11 Buy a horse you already know
Many riders go on to become horse owners after sharing or loaning a horse. However I am not talking about loaning with a view to buy here, as that is something very different. But a rider that has been financially contributing to the upkeep of someone else’s horse for some time, without the sole intention of ever buying it. Usually however, it is common that when such an opportunity arises, the sharer advances into horse ownership. This would actually be the most recommended path to horse ownership in my humble opinion. The rider would already be aware of the horse’s personality and level of training, experience and confidence. They should also (hopefully) understand the work and cost involved in the upkeep of the animal. Experience would have been gained in dealing with the farrier, dentist and vet, and of course the animals dietary and exercise needs.
Finding the right horse is generally time consuming in terms of trawling through adverts, approaching private sellers or dealers, making appointments and driving to various locations. All of this could be avoided with the added benefit of the horse being already located close by, and with liveries the sharer (and horse) have already befriended. Furthermore, unless the owner is a greedy, selfish sociopath, they will often consider reducing the selling price so that the horse remains with it’s very caring sharer. It’s also not uncommon for an owner to pass ownership on for as little as a pound, just for the peace of mind knowing the horse will be taken very good care of by someone they already know and trust.
As a rule I wouldn’t recommend a riding school horse/pony unless it regularly competes at other establishments, and consistently hacks in new places. Quite often these horses become switched off to being in the arena, and using the same trails, so may appear safe. These animals could potentially rapidly evolve into true horse when taken away from the same familiar well trodden hacking tracks. Many never leave the yard, and haven’t loaded into a trailer or lorry for many years. So while you may fall in love with Doris The Safe Hack, she may just turn into Doris The Deranged Delinquent when one day you turn left on that trail, instead of turning right. That said, if Doris stayed at the same yard, treading the same tracks, then no problem. But this could never be considered true riding, and it’s unlikely you will ever develop essential horsemanship skills (see Part 3 #10 – being honest with a dealer in regards to experience) but hey, if that’s all you want, then who am I to argue?
#12 Stick to the amount you want to spend
Anyone that sells a horse would of course, like to be paid a million pounds. While some do go for that price, not every horse has platinum coursing through its veins and poops out diamonds. But in my experience it is entirely possible to find two very similar horses in terms of training, experience, breed, age and size but be on opposite ends of the pricing scale. So, for example, you find your dream horse but the seller wants 8 thousand pounds for it, I can absolutely guarantee with 100% certainty, you will find a similar type, temperament, training level etc for 6 thousand pounds less, with tack, rugs and equipment included. Most people want a horse that has already had a great deal of training, and a proven record of at least adequate success within one or several disciplines. However, most horses usually have done a great deal by the age of six anyway! Personally I put more value on the personality and temperament or a horse because very dominant personalities need a lot more training maintenance.
So bearing in mind that there are many horses out there that are very similar, and the (sad) fact the market is saturated, then take the opportunity to haggle! I have personally looked more than one person in the eye and offered £100 for their 2 grand pony. My offer was always immediately refused (with a look of shock and horror) but my phone usually rang the next day with acceptance. Now I’m not suggesting you haggle this low, but it’s an example in how much people are willing to move on the selling price. I recently advised a livery to offer £3000 less than the asking price, which was accepted, and the horse was superb. Everyone thinks, which is correct, that their horse is special and worth its weight in gold. Yet private sellers also put a lot of stock in who may purchase the horse, and where it will live, therefore sell yourself also! Even novices can usually say they have great facilities at their yard, is run by knowledgeable staff and they have regular lessons. People generally place more value on peace of mind, than accepting £500 more than the asking price. So be patient when looking to purchase your horse. Decide the absolute maximum amount of money you are willing to spend, and stick to it.
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