Louise Robson, HorseQuest ambassador and founder of Thoroughbred Dressage gives us her top tips when it comes to buying or selling a horse. Thoroughbred Dressage is a stable dedicated to the retraining of ex-racehorses from the race track to the dressage arena.
If you're searching for the perfect equine partner
Before you set off...
I think it’s very important before you go and view a horse whether or not their character/current routine and personality would fit into your life/lifestyle and wants for the future.
When talking to the seller ask;
1. Who currently rides the horse and how much the horse is ridden. If it’s a horse that is currently in work 5 days a week, competing once a week and you know that come the winter you may only ride when it’s not raining, this may not be the horse for you.
2. The horses temperament when at home and at shows is very important. Do they become stressed/different or need thins doing in a certain way or several pairs of hands to help manage them?
3. Reason for sale
4. Any vices/quirks that you need to know about
5. How the horse is currently managed and looked after and whether or not you can provide similar to keep things as normal for the horse as possible.
When you're viewing adverts
You need to consider your home team. Do you have a regular instructor who can help you, or someone very knowledgeable who can help if you have any questions. Not all horses have perfectly clean veterinary histories / x-rays. If you are willing to look after a horse with a preexisting condition, quit or behavioural issue, do you have the correct knowledge and team around you i.e. vets/physios/farrier, to help you and your new equine partner?
When you're going to view a horse...
Ideally it would be great to take someone you trust along with you, along with a phone or iPad to record the riding and the horse on the ground. Ask for the horse to be trotted in hand on the hard and if possible on a circle on the soft and maybe the hard ground too. This, in the long run, may save you money as you can show your vet before carrying on with the pre-purchase exam.
If your horse has a competition record have a look at it, but don’t let it be the determining factor. In the game of Dressage it is all subjective and keeping an open mind is a must.
The two things I tell everyone is that;
1. You must feel safe when you try the horse
2. You must want to want to get on and ride. I ride for too many people that have bought horses that they had the dreams to ride, but in reality the horse is too powerful for them and has slightly scared them, as a result the rider has lost the love and want to ride, which isn’t nice for anyone.
What about if you're selling a horse?
Your advert should be clear, concise and well worded. Good images of the horse moving/jumping will help encourage the sale. Nowadays, everyone has access to some sort of technology, so make sure you take some video of your horse as potential buyers will ask for this. Best to be prepared rather than having to do more once people start asking questions!
Maybe do a ‘photo shoot’ day i.e. plait your horse up, make sure they're sparkling clean, put some white bandages on and make sure you, as the rider, are well turned out too.
The advert needs to be well worded and punctuated, but most of all, it must be honest! You will be wasting your time, the purchasers time and possibly your horses time/patience.
When people get in touch...
Be kind to the person that is on the end of the phone. The likelihood is that they’ve either; lost a horse, been scared, or had some time out of the saddle. Finding your new partner can be scary and daunting and many don’t want to get it wrong, so naturally, they ask a lot of questions.
That being said, it is also fine for you to ask questions i.e. the purchases set up, wants, hopes and dreams to see if they would be a compatible pairing.
When you've got a potential buyer...
When (or if) it comes to the stage of a pre-purchase exam, again, patience is the key. Trying to organise; vets, schedules, and availability of people is very very difficult.
All of my horses leave with a ‘departure form’ which has a list of everything you need to know about the horse and how it is currently being looked after. A cheat sheet if you like.
On it is information such as;
Feed; how much, what of and how often. Anything to avoid, or anything that changes winter to summer
Last wormed, with what and when next due
Last shod and when due
Last Vaccinated and when due
Current Daily Routine
Anything that the horse loves/dislikes
This can then be printed off and put on the fridge etc in the kitchen so all bases are covered.
And finally, here's some departing thoughts from Lou...
DO: Be honest, up front and want the best home possible for your horse
DON'T: Be late, rude, or expect a young/in experienced horse to do something more than what they're currently doing/working at that level.
The phrase ‘oh they've never done that before’ has been heard far too often!
I did once turn up to view a horse for a lovely client of mine, who was an older, amateur lady who wanted a nice prelim/novice level horse. The advert said lovely 16hh, bay mare. I turned up to a chestnut gelding, who was already on the lunge, to be informed that the mare had been sold that morning but the 5 year old ‘safe as houses’ (still cantering around bucking on the lunge) gelding would be just as good, if not better than the mare.
Needless to say, the gelding did not come home with us!