Helping you in your Quest for the perfect horse...

We teamed up with one of our local vets, to share some words of wisdom when it comes to the all important buying process...


First things first

It can be very tempting to scroll through the adverts, see the flashy paces, handsome faces and start dreaming. But before you do all that, it’s important to have establish a very realistic picture of what you intend to do and achieve with your new horse. What are the deal breakers? And where would you be happy to compromise if you need to?


We can’t tell you the number of times we see a wish list that focuses solely on height, age and location. When it could have been much more productive to prioritise temperament e.g. not strong, well mannered, doesn’t need riding every day. In this instance would it matter if the horse was an inch bigger or a year younger?

Once you’ve established your ‘brief’

Of course it’s brilliant if your trainer or friends can recommend a lovely horse they know from the circuit, but if that’s not the case, it’s time to start your search.


If you’re searching on HorseQuest, we would recommend browsing the categories of your choice first e.g Allrounders, rather than jumping straight to the search facility. Not only will this help you start to establish what you do and don’t like, and where you might want to adjust your brief, but also your perfect horse could be just 10 miles further away… So you could have ruled it out before you’ve even started!


Then, use the search facility when you’re checking in daily to see what’s new, or when you’re on the go and short on time!


Tip: Don’t forget to use the ‘add to my stable’ feature on HorseQuest – so you can save adverts you like the look of all in one place in your account.

Once you’ve found something you like…

Read the advert thoroughly, but equally think about what hasn’t been said. If they haven’t said ‘no vices’ or ‘Good to box, shoe, clip’ etc, you’ll want to ask this when you speak to them.


We would always recommend speaking to the advertiser on the phone. Not only does it give you a very quick indication that there’s a genuine seller at the other end, but it should help you establish a much better feel for the horse and it’s history.


Before you make the phone call it’s worth establishing a list of everything you want to ask.

Aside from experience, record and temperament, some key questions might include:

- Why the horse is being sold

- Whether they know its full history

- How often they’re currently being ridden – do they need exercising every day?

And don’t forget you can always ask the seller to send further info, photos or videos via email or Whatsapp.

When it’s time to go and see the horse…

Ideally, take a trainer or someone you trust with you – they can be impartial, are realistic about your capability and what you need, and can give you their advice there and then.

Alternatively, take someone with you who can video you riding the horse, and share the videos with your trainer when you get home.

Some things to consider:

Is the advertiser private or trade? Buying from a trade advertiser does give you more rights should there be a dispute later down the line, but equally a private advertiser may know the horses full history having owned them from a youngster. There’s benefits to both, but it’s just worth knowing the difference!

Ask to see the horse being tacked up / managed in the stable – or you can even ask to do this yourself. This will quickly establish whether they have the temperament and manners you’re looking for, and whether you feel comfortable and capable to handle them yourself.

Check their passport – it’s illegal for a horse to be sold without one. Make sure all the details match up with the horse you’re expecting to see!

Make sure someone else riders the horse first – even just for 5 minutes to show you the basic movements and jump a few fences. That way you can make sure you’re comfortable that they’re as described, and you’re happy to get on board!

If possible, arrange a second viewing ideally at a venue away from where the horse is kept so you can see what they’re like to travel / away from home.

And don’t forget to video as much as you can… It can be so useful when you get home to watch it back.

Once you’ve found the horse for you, it’s time to arrange a vetting. We’ve asked Sam Cutts, Equine Vet at Hook Norton Veterinary Surgery, to talk you through this stage.

What a vetting is (and is not)

A pre purchase examination (‘vetting’) is usually composed of 5 stages:

  1. Examination in the stable, including examination of the eyes in a darkened environment

  2. Examination at walk and trot in a straight line, including flexion tests and lunging on a hard circle

  3. Examination under saddle

  4. Rest period

  5. Further walk and trot examination

If indicated by the findings at the vetting, by your request, or for insurance requirements the following additional examinations may also be performed:

· Endoscopy of the upper airways

· Ultrasound examination of tendons and ligaments

· Radiography of specific regions


At the end of all this, there is not a specific ‘pass’ or ‘fail’ but rather the following conclusion:

‘In my opinion, on the balance of probabilities, the conditions reported above DO or DO NOT prejudice this horse’s suitability for purchase to be used for…’

Essentially a 5 stage pre-purchase examination is as detailed examination as possible of a horse by a veterinarian in 1-1.5hrs in order for them to make their best assessment of the horse on the day. What it is not, however, is a guarantee of future soundness or a warranty! If this is of concern, taking out an insurance policy against vets fees and loss of use is arguably a good idea.

It is also important to note that a vetting certificate is an opinion – whilst there are obviously many serious findings that all vets would conclude rendered a horse not suitable, there are also plenty (such as cataracts or sarcoids) which some vets would feel were not necessarily unsuitable, but another vet may reach a different opinion.

How can you help your vet do the best job for you?

  • Be realistic about your ability and what you plan to do with the horse so your vet has the appropriate planned use in mind when they examine the horse

  • Tell your vet if there was anything that concerned you when you tried the horse or anything you are worried about (maybe from a previous horse) so they don’t disregard a finding that could be more significant to you

  • You may wish to ask the vendor for the horse’s veterinary history before the vetting, particularly if there are any unexplained gaps in its competition history (it is very helpful to be able to look so many results up online these days!)

  • Be present during the vetting so if there are any concerning findings or lameness you can see them!

  • Make sure there are suitable facilities for the vetting at the venue at which you have booked it – specifically that there is somewhere hard, level and safe to lunge on the hard and a stable that can be made fairly dark in which to examine the eyes (modern American barns are lovely and light and airy but often not very good for this part). Remember – the better facilities your vet has in which to work, the better the examination they can do for you!

  • If you are planning to insure the horse, speak to your insurance company before the vetting so that you are aware of their requirements. For instance, if you are planning to insure a horse for over £10,000, most insurance companies will require a specific set of x-rays (with specific views), the list of which should be supplied to your vet in advance of the vetting. As with the vetting itself, some radiographic findings can be subject to different interpretations so you may want to wait until the insurance company has also had a chance to examine the radiographs and place any exclusion they wish before deciding whether to go ahead with the purchase


Fingers crossed they pass the vet and you’re one step closer to getting them home…

Now it’s time to agree a price, any terms of the sale (e.g. tack included, deposit) and arrange your insurance. We’d recommend having a written agreement in place and a receipt for any deposit made.



Some departing thoughts…

  • Write a list, stick to it, check it again!

  • Trust your gut instinct

  • Temperament over type

  • If it seems to good to be true, it probably is!

  • And most importantly enjoy it – don’t rush the process, it will be worth it when you find the right one!

We hope you've found this helpful and best of luck with your search!


Happy HorseQuest Shopping! Take me to HorseQuest >


“He has a home with us for like as he is one in a MILLION! – we couldn’t imagine life without him! Thank you HorseQuest!”

Established in 2000, HorseQuest is the leading equine sales website. 

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