Dangers in Horse Shopping

by Cowgirl on May 22, 2010 · 3 comments

Black Horse RunawayIf you’ve been involved with horses for any length of time, you will find that the horse industry is much like the used car industry. There are a lot of scoundrels out to get your money and will do anything to make a buck. The term “horse dealer” does not carry a good connotation, since so many well-meaning buyers have been duped into buying a horse that didn’t work out for them. If a seller is not collectively seeking the good of all parties involved, the horse business would be better off without them.

Take, for instance, the woman who sold my brother Kevin a beautiful black gelding on the pretense that he was green broke and had potential as a trail horse. The woman claimed she was a “ranch gal” and had trained this horse in showmanship and had a trainer friend of hers put 60 days’ training on him. She said she had “rescued” the black horse and put a lot of money into his rehab and training, and she was asking a pretty hefty price because she wanted something to show for her efforts.

The red flags started waving when she wouldn’t ride the horse to show him to us. She longed him, saddled him, and showed us his impressive showmanship skills, but wouldn’t step foot in the saddle. Another factor was the headgear she had on him–it was a ring snaffle, but it was a mite thin for my taste, and she had a training fork cranking his head down to his chest. I was pregnant at the time and abstaining from any dangers, so I watched helplessly as my ranch-raised brother climbed aboard this horse.

The woman actually led the gelding around the indoor arena with my brother on his back. That’s when I about uncorked the indignant protests I was holding in. I politely waited for my brother to finish his pony ride, and while she was hunting up the APHA papers to show us, I urged him in frantic whispers to take his money and RUN!

My reasoning was that while my brother does have lifelong horse experience, he does not enjoy training a horse, and I knew he wouldn’t want to put the work into it that this one was going to require. I told him that, based on the horse’s perfect showcoat, ground manners, and glossy black color, he should offer a third of the asking price, and if she accepted, hire a trainer right away with the remainder of the money. In no way should that horse have been sold as a broke horse, if the owner would not ride him herself or release the reins to a prospective buyer!

The story unfolds in that my brother did pay full price for the bugger, and he spent a week with a trainer who cut up his mouth and sent him back labeled “untrainable”, and now spends his days in a pasture with a whole lot of untapped potential. It grated on me for awhile that my advice was ignored, but the bottom line was that the shiny color of the horse outshone the warning signs, and once again a well-meaning buyer was taken.

I have long wanted to contact the seller and let her know how I feel about it. She did the horse a disservice, took my brother’s money for a product that was falsely advertised, and should not be trusted in any further horse negotiations. If I could paint her black to protect future mistakes like this, I would. The upside of it is that my brother has not been hurt, the horse is most likely very happy, and no long-lasting hurt feelings have injured our relationship for him not taking my advice.

But my advice to all buyers is this: Know the value of what you are buying. Do not get caught up in the eye-appeal or flashy color of a horse that might be dangerous or too much for you to handle. Do not pay more for a horse than it is actually worth, and that can be evaluated by estimating how much you could ask for the horse if you had to turn around and sell it tomorrow. If it is unregistered (or in this case, a breeding stock paint that is a gelding!) then that detracts from its value. If it is not fully trained, or will require more money invested before it is trained, that detracts considerably from what you could re-sell it for. You should look at the prospective purchase and think, “Barring injury or accident, that horse will never be worth less than X.” And that amount is what you should offer. Because if the horse’s personality does not mesh with yours, if unforseen financial problems make it imperative to re-sell, or if you get home and discover you were duped, you will take a loss on it. And you can only hope and pray that your loss is only financial, and not physical injury. Be careful–it’s a crazy world out there in the horse business.

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