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Buy A Horse Perfect For You - Part Three

By Jeffrey Rolo

You have paced yourself well so far, first selecting the best breed to suit your needs, then performing a preliminary test over the phone. Finally you have completed a series of checks during your visit to the stable and the horse seemed to pass with flying colors. What next?

Some horsemen would advise multiple visits and riding sessions to try and "smoke out" bad habits you may not have noticed the first time around. Although I agree a second visit and riding session won't hurt to be extra safe, I disagree with going beyond that. It is important to realize that a seller is not running a petting zoo, so each time you ask to ride their horse you are putting them out. If you cannot comfortably decide if a horse is compatible with you after two (or three at most) riding sessions I would say chances are high you fall into one of these categories:

bulletYou are not ready to purchase a horse the idea fascinates you but the reality scares you. You're trying to find an excuse to say no instead of yes.
bulletThe inner voice within you may be shouting this isn't the right horse for you, even though by all appearances he seems perfectly compatible. Remember that a horse may be perfectly behaved yet not compatible with you if you have hesitation, it's probably for good reason!

My advice is don't prolong your appraisal beyond a couple visits if it takes more than two visits to convince you the horse is compatible, move on and look at others. Eventually you will discover one that you "click" with instead of one you can "accept" just because he had no perceivable faults after heavy scrutiny.

The final step necessary before purchase is a pre-sale vet check. Although this will cost you some money, it's not a process you should cut out due to its importance. A veterinarian may see flaws that an inexperienced eye cannot. Common tests that a veterinarian will perform during a vet check are:

bulletA check of the horse's vitals heartbeats, breathing, etc.
bulletA check of the conditions of the hooves does the horse have thrush, weak walls, etc.?
bulletFlexion testing does the horse show a bit of lameness or arthritis when trotting after a joint has been stretched?
bulletA check of the horse's eyes does the horse have cataracts or other potential problems?
bulletA check of the horse's mouth are the teeth wearing evenly? Are there signs of dental issues that can lead to more serious problems down the road?

A veterinarian may also want to perform other tests during the vet check, such as x-rays (to check joints), blood samples (to check for drugs) or an ultrasound (if you are purchasing a mare in foal). Always choose a veterinarian you trust, not one that the seller recommends. You want a veterinarian that is completely neutral and takes pride in his reputation they are the ones that will make darned sure their assessment of a horse is fair and detailed. If the horse vet check brings up a red flag, listen to it! What may seem like a small problem at first can eventually become an expensive or crippling problem later.

Finally you will want to make sure a sales contract and/or invoice exists between you and the seller, noting down special terms of the agreement, the purchase date, the purchase price and the payment status. If the horse has papers make sure the owner signs the ownership over to you. Holding the papers is not enough since without a signature the horse registry will not process the change in ownership.

If you enter into a horse purchase with suitable forethought, appraise a horse methodically and end the investigation with a vet check then you will be almost assured to find yourself with a happy and compatible partner for many years to come.

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