Tips for Amateurs on Buying Horses

Image by Susan DiFelice -

BY Eliza Sydnor Dressage

Before you go late night perusing on FB groups and surfing sale websites, get really clear with yourself on what you want/need. Schedule a time (and pay for a lesson) to sit with your trainer and talk about your goals and what to look for that is REALISTIC as well as EXCITING.

Write down “THE DREAM HORSE”

Age, sex, color, breed, height, level of training, show experience, temperament, even markings, etc etc. Then think about what things are NON-negotiable and what things you are flexible on. If some of your non-negotiables are things like sex or color or breed, acknowledge that you are going to miss out on a large portion of the horse population.

Get your trainers help

Will your trainer help you to both look for a horse (time consuming) and go try some? How does payment work – commissions? Flat fee? Talk about it all! If you’ve ridden one horse for a long time, see if there’s a way to ride a few different horses in lessons to feel out sensitivity, movement, etc. and to practice riding strange horses. Do your homework and ask for help when you’ve narrowed it down to a top 5 list, if your trainer is not the one actively looking. Please don’t send your trainer 6 videos a day to “check out.”

What to ask for (if you’re far away)

Make a list of questions and call the seller.

  • Unedited training session or watch live through FaceTime, etc?
  • Photos and videos from directly in front, directly behind, walking and trotting toward camera
  • Anything that is non-negotiable to you – a short video of the horse loading? Or trail riding with a buddy? USDF score check
  • Facebook stalking (you can find out a lot of history sometimes )
  • X-rays: many higher dollar horses already have them available, so if one of your non-negotiables is perfect X-rays (you’re deluding yourself) and you can go ahead and get your vet to tell you no.

If you’re close, maybe go ahead and go see the horse!

Day of trying the horse

BRING YOUR TRAINER! Pay them for their time. Get there a little early! Make your intentions clear – I want to see grooming and tacking up, so please don’t have them all tacked up and already be riding when we get there. Or maybe you don’t care about that and want to go ahead and get on asap and not spend 4 hours there. Spend time alone with the horse either before and/or after the ride – grooming, leading, picking up feet, checking legs out clearly.

Watch someone else ride first!

Be open to figuring a new horse out – it’s going to be different. But if you feel unsafe – say so and dismount! Any non-negotiables – ask to see – trailering, catching from field, etc. Chemistry between horse and rider is a real thing, and if you feel none, it’s ok to say that and move along. If possible, ride a second time. If you’re close enough to ride more than 2 times, offer to pay for a lesson. If more people are scheduled to come try the horse, either a deposit is necessary, or you’ll have to take the risk that someone else might beat you to it.


  • Discuss possible negotiations before PPE, acknowledging that major findings might change your offer or cancel it all together. ~10% is pretty standard.
  • Making an offer that is more than 15% below asking price should have a good reason and be thoughtfully explained.
  • After PPE and consulting with your trainer and vet, a lower offer could be made.
  • Try not to take it personally, and treat it as you would any business transaction, even though you probably have a lot of emotions tied up in this future.
  • Recognize that many people can give good homes, and be honest about what you have to offer both in terms of money and future lifestyle.

Good luck!

Image by Susan DiFelice