Step #1 Developing a successful buying
This sounds like it would be easy but
you might be surprised. Typically when asked what people are looking
for they will describe things like the age, sex, level of training, and temperament
of the desired horse. While some of these factors are legitimate,
our observation is that successful buyers have a different focus.
It is more important to identify what you want to do with the horse,
than what you want the horse's statistics to be.
Try to identify what your goals are for this next horse. You
will be well served by identifying this right from the beginning and
then building on that.
Try to be completely honest with yourself. If what you really want
is a 1500 pound teddy bear that eats carrots (and riding is just the excuse
to spend half a day at the barn) admit that to yourself. If you
are basically a timid rider that is buying a horse for your trainer, or if you want to ride 3rd level and get
your USDF bronze medal in 6 months (and nothing short of that will please
you), put that on the table. Buyers that have these primary issues
out front are much less frustrated when they go out shopping.
Beside knowing what you really want out of owning your next horse, you
need to make it your ambition to find that "right partner" for
you. Many riders set out to find the best horse in their price range
and don't consider the compatibility issue. Successful buyers take
the attitude that they are searching for the best horse for them, not just
the best horse they can get for the money. Assuming that you buy a
horse suited to meet your goals, the three most important issues that will
determine your happiness are compatibility, compatibility, and
compatibility. Like a good friendship or marriage, a natural
chemistry has to be there.
Buying a compatible partner is both limiting and freeing. For
example, some buyers might say they need a small horse because they are
only 5' 4" and weigh 120 lbs. They won't try a 17 hand
horse. In reality, the 17 hand horse might be tall through the legs,
refined and a light/ handy ride. On the other hand, the 16 hand
horse might be a cement truck
to move around and be very long and wide.
The right attitude involves keeping
an open mind while staying focused on what is going to work for you.
Step #2 Determining what you
will have to spend
It is amazing how many dressage horse shoppers believe that the entire
world is wrong about what they are selling horses for, and they are right
about how much they should have to spend. Unless you want to waste a
lot of time, it is important that you become educated as to what you can
reasonably expect to buy inside of your budget, or what your budget needs
to be for your goals.
Since this is often difficult for buyers to determine, Graemont Farm
has developed a virtual appraiser to determine
how much you should have to pay for your next horse. Click here
to see what types of horses we typically find
for our buyers.
Step #3 Using a
successful buying strategy
Video cameras have completely changed the way
buyers shop for dressage horses. Popular today is the buyer who goes
all out on a video gathering campaign. After seeing many, many
videos, the buyer then buys a plane ticket or drives the distant to try
out the horse that wins "the video contest." These trips
are usually futile.
While videos can be a very valid selling tool,
don't be overwhelmed by the results of video shopping. Here's
1. Videos tend to make poor quality look
better, and great quality look less great. Videos usually don't
accurately portray quality. What's more, big horses can look small,
small horses can look big.
2. Videos don't help you with the most
important question. Is there chemistry with me and this horse?"
3. Videos can be edited to make things look
a lot different than they really are. After 10 attempts at a flying
change, the one change that is good gets put on the video.
Videos can be used to evaluate some things:
1. A horse's technique of his gaits can be
evaluated by a qualified professional from a video.
2. The silhouette of a horse's conformation can
3. Some aspects of a horse's training can be
Based on our many conversations with
buyers each week, there are a lot of frustrated shoppers out there playing
the classified ad/ video game and not getting anywhere! Also,
many good horses have been rejected based on a video that failed to show
the horse's qualities to the buyer.
At Graemont Farm, we are more than willing to send videos to serious
qualified buyers. We understand that the United States is a big
country and that a buyer will not usually be willing to travel to see a
horse based on a 40 word classified ad.
On the other hand when we have our students/ clients shopping for
horses, we don't usually play the video "run around" in quite the
same way. Instead, we try to use another buying strategy for our
"family" of buyers. We prefer to shop through a trusted
network of professionals by:
1. Contacting our network of reliable professionals and
2. Determining where we will be most likely to be able to see
several horses that might be interesting and suitable. Sometimes
this involves checking out videos. (For overseas shopping, that is
much less likely.)
3. Riding horses for sale and finding the right one. (And this
is where you should have a video camera!)
Your trainer is the first person to involve in accessing a
"trusted network" of horse people with horses for sale. If
you trainer doesn't do that sort of thing, you might be well served to
find a professional that you can trust to help you. Your trainer
might have some suggestions. Many people have trusted Graemont Farm
with their dressage horse search and been very satisfied. Much of
our business comes from referrals and return
Since many dressage professionals are so busy with competitions,
clinics, training and lesson schedules, they often are too busy to find
horses for clients. Some trainers haven't developed a network
of sellers, while others simply don't like to be involved in sales.
At Graemont we frequently come along side riders and trainers in these
situations and work to find solutions tailored to the clients needs and
the trainers level of involvement. Contact us
to discuss what we can do for you.
Step #4 Trying out horses
There aren't enough adjectives to describe the
experiences you may run into when horse shopping. It can be fun,
infuriating, hilarious, confusing, exciting or embarrassing.
Generally horse people are a rare breed, and when selling their horses,
you see the best and the worst sides of them!
First of all, be on time. Twenty minutes late is acceptable but
it is always best to call when you're within an hour or a half hour from
arrival. Whenever possible, it is best to see the horse when they
are first mounted rather than the horse after it has already been warmed
The most important thing to remember when looking at horses it to look
at them from a distance first. Evaluate the big picture. There
is a lot you can learn from standing back (and squinting) when you
evaluate a prospect. These are some of the most important questions
1. Is there a proportionate amount of horse in front of the rider
as behind the rider?
2. Does the horse move in a harmonious way, or is your eye drawn
to a particular part?
3. Does the hind end of the horse push the front end of the horse
upward, level or downward? Does he do it with an active hind leg
movement or one that stays on the ground a bit longer?
4. How much of this horse's way of going is being influenced by
the rider? (good or bad) And, what other circumstances could be
affecting the impression. (footing, your mood, horse that you looked
If you are an experienced trainer, you can probably pick up some clues
about the horse's physical condition by watching the first 2 minutes of
the ride. It also may be interesting to observe the horse when
mounted to see if it is cold backed.
1. Don't pretend that you are interested in a horse if you know
you definitely are not. Politely tell the seller that it is not what
you are looking for.
2. Don't ask to ride a horse you aren't interested in. This
is a misrepresentation of your intentions to the seller. It is rude.
3. Don't explain what it is that you don't like about a horse to
an owner. You don't need to say anything. Simply say that it's
not what you're looking for. If you are traveling with an agent you
can discuss everything in great detail after you leave. In the worst
and most awkward of situations, you can escape by saying, "He has a
nice <whatever>. I'll keep him in mind in case I run across
someone who is looking for a horse like this.
4. Don't ride the horse forever when trying it. You need to
get on and find out what you need to find out. If you like what you
ride, come back the next day and try it again if possible. Riding
for more than 30 minutes is normally not necessary. An experienced
buyer can tell in 5 to 10 minutes of riding.
5. Don't video the entire time someone else is showing you the
horse. At least 50 % of the time you should have your eyes glued to
the horse. If possible have someone else video things for you.
6. Don't pick apart all the little faults of the horse. Separate
what is a big deal and what isn't with regard to details and faults.
Focus more on what any given detail might be contributing to the big
picture. If it doesn't affect the big picture, then forget it.
Keep in mind what you want to do with the horse and try to be
1. Observe the horse from all angles in walk, trot and
canter. See if your eye is drawn to any asymmetry or irregularity.
2. Assume that every behavioral problem the horse demonstrates
will continue. Don't be a hero and believe you can fix a
problem. There are lots of horses in the world. Let the horse
with a problem for the next buyer and move on. Pride makes for bad
buying decisions. Even in the best case scenario where you buy a difficult
horse that you fix, you will probably have to keep that horse for the rest
of your life.
3. Ask about the horse's showing history. If the horse has
"been there, done that, got the ribbon," that tells you a lot
already. If the horse has good scores as well, there is a better
probability that the horse trailers, goes by the dressage judge, is
sound, and and and.
4. Ask to see the horse's papers if you are interested. It
is not uncommon that the horse turns out to be a year older or younger
that the owner thinks it is.
5. If you are interested in the horse check out its legs and back
without tack after the ride. Make any mental notes about bumps,
swellings around joints, scars, etc. These are areas that you may
wish to investigate more closely in a pre-purchase exam.
Whenever possible, try a horse twice. Two days in a row is
best. Depending on the circumstances, you may wish to be the rider
to warm up the horse the second day. Most sellers will become
irritated if you want to ride the horse more than three times. If
you come third time, you better bring your wallet.
If you are searching for the perfect horse, you're going to be busy for
a while; maybe forever. Try to remain practical and positive.
Keep in mind that it takes a lifetime to truly recognize quality in a
horse. Professionals who buy horses all the time are still
learning. A novice can be come a fault finder after reading one
Step #5 Negotiating and closing
If you've done some comparative shopping and you've come upon the right
horse for you - it's time to "close the deal." Don't
assume that the horse is just going to remain on the market. When
you find the right horse it is not the time to become philosophical and
say "if it's meant to be it will just work out." You must
determine if its meant to be using the resources available to you and then
have the courage to move forward with your convictions. Here is some
advice that might keep you from disappointment:
1. If you are interested in a horse, ask if there is other sales
activity on the horse at that time. If so, consider putting a down
payment on the horse.
2. If you find a horse that you really like but you want to do a
little bit more shopping, ask the seller if they would give you an
exclusive option to buy for a few days. In other words, they would
promise that no one else could buy the horse until an agreed date.
(Doesn't hurt to ask!)
3. Contrary to the advice you hear over the back yard fence,
don't assume that every price is negotiable. Some are, some are
not. Usually a seller will negotiate at least a little bit.
Sometimes negotiating can include more than the price. For instance,
the seller may consider throwing in a month of training and board in the
sales price. If it is a private seller, they might consider
including some blankets or a bridle that fits the horse.
4. The saying that "it doesn't hurt to ask" is not
always true in these negotiations. Private sellers are sometimes
offended by low offers. You don't want to poison the
well with an insulting offer.
5. Negotiations are best handled through experienced
mediators. This is another reason that working through professionals
can be helpful.
At Graemont Farm we try to make this aspect of buying as turn-key as
possible for our clients. We understand that our clients want to
know that they got a good deal. It is a well established fact in the
business world that negotiations are usually best handled through third
parties. We try hard to get our clients the right horse for the best
price the seller is willing to provide.
Step #6 Navigating pre-purchase
Choosing a veterinarian can be an important issue. Buyers
sometimes have concerns about the veterinarian's integrity and competence.
Buying domestically can be tricky because of a lack of standardization in
a pre-purchase veterinary exam in the United States. Again, using an
experienced professional that you can trust to advise you in these
situations can make all the difference.
The unique litigious environment of the US has trained veterinarians to
be very careful to protect themselves from legal recourse. Sadly,
this has created a situation where American veterinarians are slow to
advise and quick to detail every problem or abnormality. This is
exasperating to sellers and confusing to buyers. Buyers are also
left "holding the bag" in deciding which pre-purchase tests to
have performed and which to decline. What is a standard pre-purchase
veterinary exam for one veterinarian may be quite different from another's
exam. Again, this is where a knowledgeable professional can help you
wade through these difficult decisions.
Buying the wrong horse is an expensive mistake. You can't afford
to let this happen to you. Wise buyers use professionals to make
buying opportunities possible and to provide important counsel on
important issues throughout the sale process.
If you would like some help with any part of your next dressage horse
purchase please contact us or email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We can be reached at 717 664 4988.