Red flags when buying a horse

“Your recent article, ‘Buying a Horse? Do Not Make These Six Mistakes’ has no doubt helped to keep readers shopping for a horse out of very hot water, as the points raised by Houston equestrian attorney Rebecca Pennington were so accurate,” commented Southern California-based real estate attorney Fawn Dessy.

Having ridden horses from the age of 2, with an impish smile, Fawn describes herself as “An old Oakie horse rider.”

“I just love horses and bought my first horse when I was 35. Over my entire life, I’ve helped equestrians buy and sell, and this has given me a unique insight into the red flags of a horse transaction that should not be ignored.”

She offered these tips that can save the novice horse buyer thousands of dollars:

1. Fail to know your seller.

Consequences: Most likely you do not know a thing about this horse, its temperament and are relying on the representation of someone who claims they do.

You may be dealing with a Horse Trader, who travels the country, visiting ranches, and at the request of horse owners, helps to “get rid of” troublesome horses.

The biggest problem with horse traders is that they don’t know much about the horses they sell, but convincingly sound like they do, and will sell you a bill of goods. They buy horses for next to nothing, and usually know nothing about the horse’s bloodline, disposition, or background.

Novice buyers seldom know how to evaluate a horse’s temperament, what it may really be like.

You need to reduce the chances of being lied to! This means research: the seller’s name, phone number, address, and don’t be surprised when you discover disturbing things about them, such as, “It appears their business is to unload troublesome horses on unsuspecting buyers who have fallen in love with the idea of owning a horse.”

Research Yelp and BBB reviews, your state court’s plaintiff/defendant lawsuit index.  Ask for referrals. Obtain the name of their vet. If they do not have one, that is a huge red flag.

2. Fail to recognize your own limitations in knowing what to look for.

Consequences: Your buying decision might focus on the wrong attributes.

Many novice buyers have in their minds a vision of their ideal horse, such as a Palomino, instead of one suitable to their level of riding.

Do not dwell on the color of the horse’s coat, eye color, or a particular breed. Color is no indication of temperament.

3. Fail to insist on observing how the horse reacts when it is saddled.

Consequences: The animal’s temperament reveals itself when mounted and ridden by the seller, but don’t you do this! If you hear excuses such as, “Oh, my back is out and I can’t do that,” then you can’t buy the horse!

Observe how it responds to leg pressure. Is it an inexperienced horse that has to be plow-reined as opposed to leg pressure on the side of the horse?

Have the seller pick up the horse’s feet to check for hoof injury. This is why it is so critical to have your own vet examine the horse.

4. Fail to arrive early at the sales venue unseen so that you can observe if they are giving the horse an injection or “exercising it” in order to make it tired so that it appears calm.

Consequences: When you get it home it acts totally different than when it was at the seller’s house!  It won’t acknowledge you as the leader!

It won’t stop, it won’t lick its lips, and it will not follow you! If you try to ride it, you could be thrown off!

The signs that you have bought an unsuitable horse generally become obvious shortly after you bring it home. At this point, if you have dealt with a reputable horse dealer, they will likely exchange it or help you “re-home” it to a buyer who wants a challenge and training experience. But most contracts are as is — and you can’t take the horse back.

You want to start with a horse that gives you confidence — not one you are dreading to ride because you are afraid of being hurt!


“When Ashley, my daughter, was about 8 years old, we purchased an Appaloosa — a small horse that we thought would be ideal for a kid. We were out riding in an agricultural area with lots of irrigation canals and ditches. Suddenly the horse took off like a bat out of hell — there was no way she or anyone could have controlled her.

“I was yelling ‘Bail, Ashley, BAIL!’ Fortunately, she did before the horse could jump into a canal.

And the horse’s name? Misery!

Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and welcomes comments and questions from readers, which may be faxed to 661-323-7993, or emailed to [email protected]. Also, visit

H. Dennis Beaver | Attorney at Law

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What to look out for when buying a horse?

Questions you should ask when buying a horse..
How long have you owned this horse?.
Does the horse have any history of abuse or neglect?.
Does the horse have any conditions that need treatment?.
Does the horse have any documents of registration?.
Why are you selling the horse?.
Is the horse trained?.

What to ask before you buy a horse?

101 Questions to Ask When Buying a Horse.
How long have you owned this horse?.
What is the reason for selling?.
Do they have any vices or bad habits?.
Are they submissive or dominant?.
Are they registered?.
What are their personality quirks?.
Are they friendly or shy?.
Do you know their history?.

How do you know a good horse?

Ask about their temperament to help you determine if they are generally calm and easy to control, or are they more high-energy and free-spirited. Depending on your riding goals, it might be worth getting a high-energy horse because once trained, they'll do well competing in strenuous activities.

When purchasing a horse what factor is the most important?

Experience of the Horse (Level of training) The level of training, or the experience of the horse, must be given high priority when looking for a horse to purchase. Generally, the inexperienced rider should select a broke, or well-trained horse, but not one that is exceptionally far above the rider's ability.