Adventures in Horse Shopping: Buyer Etiquette

If there are certain things that I expect (or hope to see) when seeing a horse for the first time, then it probably goes without saying that the seller has some assumptions and expectations for me, the buyer, as well. Here are some of my own rules for myself as a buyer.

Be considerate of people’s time.
This means arriving on time (except when I got inexplicably lost in Middleburg, VA, with no GPS, and the seller had his phone in the car and wouldn’t pick up to answer directions… it also would have been helpful to know that there was no street sign for the road he was on.. *ahem* anyways…) or in a timely manner. This also means staying on topic (within reason- but surely you’re not there to talk politics or religion) and being mindful of your surroundings. For example, if you arrive in the evening, and it’s obvious that the horses are nickering and stamping for their food, it’s time to make yourself scarce if you have the information you need. You can always ask for a followup appointment or email/text/call with more questions if they pop up.


Be considerate of the horse.
Just because you are there to judge whether or not the horse is for you, doesn’t mean you are there to openly judge the horse. There’s a fine line between being observant and being downright rude, and there’s never reason to insult a horse in front of their owner/trainer/whatever. If you don’t like something, fine, but there’s no need to announce it to those taking the time out of their day to show you the animal. More than likely, besides the time they are there with you, they also have a considerable investment of their time and money on the creature you are there to see. You can snicker and bitch and say anything you want when you’ve left and are in the privacy of your own car, but while you are acting as the potential buyer, you should be a good human and play nice.


Be candid with the seller.
For me, this means many things. It means that before I even come to see the horse, I have explained my goals for the animal and see if it aligns with what they know of the horse. This gets both buyer and seller on the same page, and also helps flush out horses that wouldn’t be a good fit. For instance, there have been a couple horses that would be good dressage and jumping candidates, but their owners just know that they are too spooky/don’t have the drive/don’t have the quick front end to go cross country. That’s fine, and I very much appreciate their opinion. I let them know that I will share the horse with anybody that I think might be a good fit, and they get to not waste their time showing me the horse.
The other part of this candidness includes the actual buying aspect. Having sold horses in the past, I know that when someone comes to see your delightful pony, you get excited. You hope that they are the one, as how could you not? So if everything goes great and then you get radio silence for a week, it can be disconcerting. In trying to be sympathetic to this, I try and be as up front as possible about my own process. I let them know I am looking at other horses and will be thinking about Mr. Ed/Sparky/Spot/Princess Buttercup and will get back to them. And then if I think about it and decide it’s not the right fit, I reach out to the seller and thank them for their time, and let them know. Everyone likes a bit of closure, even when it comes to horses.


Be humble.
The absolute last thing I want to do when I go meet a horse for the first time is presume anything about that horse. Sure, I know some things from the ad, or a conversation with the seller, but it’s not my job to go in there and assume I’m going to show off the horse to the best of its ability. More likely I’m going to get in the saddle and look like an absolute numpty (my general feelings these days). If I’m struggling with the connection with the horse, I ask- what can I do to make this better? How does he/she normally go? Do they know XYZ, and do you mind if I try it? I’m not there to attempt to undo anyone’s training or frazzle a horse that doesn’t understand a stranger’s (my) cues. It’s not fair to the seller, and it’s not fair to the horse. So if in doubt, ask.


There are so many other little things that I try to do to be an educated and considerate buyer, while still keeping a critical eye on things. But the bottom line in all of this comes down to respect. And if you are a respectful potential buyer, you are more likely to be open to learning what the horse is all about. As they say, you catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

11 thoughts on “Adventures in Horse Shopping: Buyer Etiquette

  1. Definitely a good list. Especially being honest. Nothing worse than showing your horse to someone it is definitely not suitable for because the person exaggerated their abilities or wasn’t honest about their goals.

  2. Excellent post! I was amazed when I was selling horses how many people would be communicating non-stop and then just fall off the face of the map. If the horse isn’t a good fit, no sweat, just communicate with me!

    Fabulous photos too! 😀

  3. Great list- my trainer basically ran through all of these when we started looking at horses to make sure I wasn’t going to embarrass myself (or her). That straightforward communication was really what it came down to- it’s ok to not want the horse, just be up front and polite about it.

  4. Very true! I went to an auction with a friend and she started tearing apart the horses conformation… I cringed so hard. I told her to keep those thoughts in her head and we could talk about it on the drive home.

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