What Would You Ask?

One of the AboveLevel.com participants emailed me with a good discussion topic. Earlier this week the question of ethics and selling a horse at an auction was posed. Many people responded and some commented that there are always core questions the buyer should ask the seller prior to bidding on a horse.

My question to you is “What questions do you think are important to ask a seller if you are interested in a horse going up on the auction block?” All of your answers would be very helpful to many first time auction buyers in making their purchasing decisions. Comment on this post if you have questions you always ask or consider very important to ask.

7 Responses to What Would You Ask?

  1. JC says:

    For “finished” show horse searches, I will always consult my trainers. It’s worth every penny.

    This list of potential questions is specifically geared for search of a kid’s horse to be kept safely at home in the off-season. Our “at home” barn is filled with novice kids.

    Potential Questions:

    If a gelding, was it gelded as a youngster or later in life?

    Can it be turned out with others? How does it act in the herd?

    How would the horse react to a novice or unbalanced rider at the canter and trot? Is it rock solid or does it feed off a rider’s insecurity?

    Can the horse be handled safely at home by a child? Is it novice calm/safe on the ground/under saddle/in harness?

    Has the horse ever kicked, bucked, bolted, reared under saddle/in harness?

    How does the horse react in the herd towards other horses?

    Does the horse paw, kick, chew in stall?

    How does the horse act if someone is in the stall cleaning or doing other work while he/she is in there?

    Does the horse always load/unload the trailer without balking? What kind of problems has he/she had in this regard?

    Will horse allow clipping with small and big clippers without twitching? (Entire body, including inside ears).

    Is the horse calm with the vet, dentist and blacksmith?

    Does the horse crib?

    Describe all health issues, any colic and sicknesses since you have owned it.

    What types of lameness issues has the horse had in the past and how were they handled?

    Ask about seller’s worming program. How often is the horse wormed?

    What supplements/medicine does the horse take?

    Has the horse had any surgeries or medical interventions? It’s good to know what you may need to maintain.

    How does the horse handle changes in environment, like show grounds or trail rides?

    If you are given verbal guarantees such as “If you don’t like the horse, we’ll take it back.”, getting it in writing makes good business sense.

    How often is the horse shown and by whom? (Check show record). If I’m looking for a seasoned horse, I won’t choose one that has been shown lightly.

    A personal note: When you try out the horse, take it outside of its comfort zone. I had a Morgan (decades ago) who was calm in the arena, but spooky outside. We changed his discipline to dressage from English pleasure. The increased connection to the rider gave him all the confidence he needed.

    For foals or prospects:
    The Morgan breeders I have purchased from been very forthcoming with excellent advice. I like to know about the training/personality of sire, dam and siblings. Knowing what training methods worked or failed on older siblings made a HUGE difference in one case.
    For foals, my choices are based on conformation, disposition, and bloodlines (in that order).

    I believe in the Golden Rule and enter every horse purchase in good faith.

    That said, in cases where you do not know the seller well, “Trust but verify.”

    I have been very fortunate with my Morgan purchases, but not so lucky with my foray into Friesians. For anyone interested, I have another set of questions for Friesian purchases.

    Sorry for the length of this “list.” Lack of brevity is a writer’s curse.


  2. StacyGRS says:

    Questions to ask depend greatly on what is a priority to you. For instance,
    if a horse is good or bad in a herd is not a priority to me as we don’t turn any out together, barring a rare occasion or situation. That said, if you asked me that question about most of our horses I could nt answer it. Theya re all together asbabies, but once seperated they rarely go back intoa goup situation.
    Personally, if I am shipping for an ama or Jr exb rider, which is generally the case for me, my questions vary a bit. I base my questuons on my rider…
    is the horse strong, can it be “backed out of the bridle”? (often when buying a horse and dult has shown that they don’t consider string you have to change the horse to carry a 75 lb rider with no strenght:)
    Does this horse get soundnesswork done?If so, what? I don’t mind buying one that does, I just want to know. Sometimes I have a situation, for instance a client that really is opposed to soundness work…so I’ll stay away from one that needs it for them.
    What is his training schedule? If I am buying a horse that needs to work 7 days a week and twice a day at the shows, I want to know!
    Would you buy him for the purpose I am buying him for?
    Generally, observing the horse either working, getting ready, or in the show ring will help me some as well. It surprises me that the cribber that was talked about didn’t crib in the stall at the sale…that is a nervous environment and usually brings it out in them. If a neckwrap was enough to stop it then a cribbing collar would so that seems like a bit of bad luck that they never saw it crib.
    If I am looking at a hors thru a sale I call ahead and get my info and make an appt to try it out.
    Shopping at an auction is a tricky deal…every horse is there for a reason…it’s just a question if you can live with that reason or not.

  3. StacyGRS says:

    sorry…I’ve become a very sloppy writer as I’ve learned to rely on spell check…since I can’t use it here I have to pay more attention:)

  4. Scottfield03 says:

    I agree 100% with Stacy’s comments here. The set of questions I would ask depend entirely on what I am purchasing the horse to do. For me, I find that in addition to asking questions, I like to try a horse a certain way. I am a big fan of purchasing a horse at a show. I rarely have a problem with a horse at home that affects it in the show ring. If I can try a horse at a show, I already know a lot more about it. I always try a horse in a full bridle if it wears one. I have only broken that rule twice, and once was bitten badly by it. I always ask the horse to change lead in the center, even if I am not looking at it as an Eq horse. I find horses who want to think too much will generally let you see that in them in the middle where they might not on the rail. I will also ride the horse through all three gears both ways, then pull into the middle, park out, and ask any questions I might have at that moment. When I think the horse is convinced he is done working, I will put him back on the rail. I don’t look to pass or fail a horse on any one thing, but the more I can learn about the horse before we sign the check, the more confident I am that the buyer will be happy with the purchase down the road. I also try to have my trial rides videoed. Sometimes it is helpful to see how the horse looks different with me on it versus the trainer selling the horse. Oh! And I only look at horses that are represented by another professional, with the rare exception of an occasional yearling, who we may purchase from a breeder.

    There are about a million other things I do as well, but these are the most major tests that are consistent for me regardless of who I am buying for.

  5. jessica says:

    “And I only look at horses that are represented by another professional”

    May I ask why? And what constitutes represented by – actually in training with a professional? Or if an amateur lets a professional know that a horse is for sale, and that pro markets the horse for the amateur, does that satisfy the requirement?

  6. Scottfield03 says:

    Hi Jessica!

    For me, what I like to shop for is a horse that is in training with a professional trainer, and is being represented by that trainer in the sale process. How the client and that trainer are connected doesn’t matter much to me.

    I have a couple of reasons for this, with the first and foremost being professional courtesy. I don’t make much profit, if any some months, on the straight-up training/board payments. I earn money by going to horse shows and buying and selling horses (commissions). I think it is that way for most of my fellow professionals. I would want them to come to me when they are looking for a show horse, so I in turn go to them when I am shopping. I feel like it is us looking out for one another in a tough business. Secondly, I have a short list of trainers I really trust; the ones that tell me the good, the bad and the ugly about the horses I am trying. I am big on repeat business. Trainers who have sold me good horses honestly are always the first ones I call when I am looking again. So, some of it is comfort level. Finally, its easier. Buying and Selling can be a stressful process. A horse at a training barn is usually quicker to get the vet check, (from a vet I can get a hold of), quicker to get on the van, and generally shows up clipped, clean and ready to greet the new owners looking his best. I like that. Also, I hope that a professional with his name on the line is going to help me if I have trouble with the horse down the road, and will be able to answer questions from a trainers standpoint. But again, the biggest factor for me is supporting my fellow trainers.

    That is not to say that there aren’t plenty of fabulous Amateur Owned Trained and Shown horses, or that I might not make an exception down the road. This is my opinion on this, and I am sure there are about 1,000 different ways you can approach buying a horse. This is just the one that works best for me.

  7. jessica says:

    Thanks for the explanation!

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