So hopefully by now you think you have found your perfect horse and have fallen head over heels in love with him and know you want him. But what should you do next? In this post I will cover the final stages and considerations of buying your first horse including: pre-purchase examinations, payment terms, equipment, travel and livery arrangements.
Pre Purchase Examinations (vettings)
These days, pre-purchase examinations are very common with many experts advising to have one, no matter the horses worth or use. Pre-purchase examinations, also known as vettings, are examinations performed by a vet to say if the horse is suitable for what you want to do with it. Despite what people commonly say about a horses vetting, it doesn’t pass or fail. What does happen is the vet advises you as to whether they think it is suitable for the intended purpose or not. Before you decide to buy the horse, you need to decide if you want to get it vetted or not. If you decide to have the horse vetted (and the owner is okay with it) you can say you will have the horse, as long as it ‘passes’ it’s vetting.
So why should you get a horse vetted?
Well to start with, the vet will tell you if the horse currently has a problem the buyer hasn’t noticed/told you about which could cause a problem in the future. No one wants to buy a lame horse to do dressage with! But the vet will also look for other traits which might not be causing a problem to the horse now, but might mean it isn’t suitable for what you want to do with the horse. A few good examples are that if the horse has a horrible scar, it might be perfectly suitable as an eventer, but not for the show ring. Or the horse might have a limb weakness caused by previous injury which might limit its jumping or dressage ability but would suit a happy hacker/local level rider very well.
Vettings are also important if you are going to be insuring your horse. Most insurance companies require at least a 2 stage vetting if the horse is valued over £3000(ish) and if a horse is valued over £10,000 it needs a five stage vetting and a collection of x-rays. If your horse is not worth enough to NEED a vetting to be insured, some companies may offer a slightly discounted fee to a horse which has a vetting.
Types of pre-purchase examination
There are 2 types of vetting, 2 stage and 5 stage. As you might be able to guess, the 2 stage is more basic and the 5 stage more complex. The 5 stage is also more expensive, due to requiring more of the vets time.
In a 2 stage vetting, only the horses basic health and lameness will be looked at. The vet will thoroughly examine the horse, listen to its heart etc before seeing it walk and trot on hard level ground.
In a 5 stage vetting the vet will also perform flexion tests, examine the horse during and immediately after exercise and then again a little after exercise. This allows the vet to look for any heart or respiratory conditions the horse has while exercising which he may not have at rest. After exercise the horse will stand still for about 10 mins and then be walked and trotted off again. This will be to detect any stiffness or lameness caused by exercise.
After the examination the vet will make note of anything they have noticed such as; sarcoids, missing teeth, lameness, stiffness, surgery scars. They will also fill in the horses details, check the microchip etc. At the end of this assessment they will decide whether they believe the horse to be suitable for the intended job. They will not comment on any behavioural traits, only physical.
What do you need to do
If you decide you want a vetting, firstly you need to find a vet to do it. Now if the horse is local, you will probably be able to use your own vet. However, if the horse is further away, you will probably want to use a vet local to the horse to save on call out costs. traditionally, people have always said not to use the horses usual vet due to possible corruption. But really, these days you should be able to use any vet.
You do not need to be present for the vetting, the current owner should be able to meet the vet and do everything required. Although there isn’t any reason you can’t go too if you want to. Whether or not you go, you need to make it really clear to the vet what exactly you want the horse for. If you want to compete at BE 100, don’t say a bit of hacking and the odd bit of jumping. If you don’t let the vet know exactly what you are looking for they can’t properly assess if the horse is suitable for that job.
Scottie was the second horse I had vetted after the first horse failed. He was close enough to the first horse for me to use the same vet from the first vetting. This worked well as the vet knew what I was looking for already and I knew the vet wasn’t going to ‘pass’ anything. In fact he was quite a strict vet, which for a buyer is a very good thing! I get the impression that he didn’t like Scottie as much as the first horse, but he said “What you see is what you get” and there was nothing to suggest that he wouldn’t be able to do the job I was going to buy him for. I do wonder if he would have a better opinion of him now he’s filled out!
Agreeing on Price and Equipment
Once you have decided to have the horse (with or without a vetting) you need to agree a price with the owner. Even if a horse is advertised at a price, it is always worth asking if they will take any less, I paid £200 less than Scottie was advertised for. If they say no, they say no. It’s not the end of the world.
You also need to make sure you know exactly what is coming with the horse and see if you can buy anything else separately. Most horses these days will come with their tack and maybe a rug or two. But don’t expect them too. Scottie didn’t come with anything so I had to buy it all myself (which can become costly!)
Some owners might sell the horse’s tack to you separately. This is always worth thinking about, but you should bear in mind that it might not actually fit! If they are asking a lot for their saddle, unless you have seen a saddler fit it to the horse, I would be tempted to turn it down and get a saddler out once you have the horse at home to fit a saddle. But again, that is totally personal preference. I had a saddler out to Scottie with a selection of second hand saddles within a week of me picking him up. If you contact them in advance, most saddlers can fit your horse in not long after he arrives.
Cash, cheque or bank transfer and proof of ownership
Ask how the owner wants payment. Really bank transfer is considered best for buyers as you have ‘proof’ of purchase. However, other methods are also okay as long as you get the owner to write you a receipt. I have a hand written receipt from when I bought Scottie tucked away with all my paperwork. This is important as despite what many people think, a horses passport is not proof of ownership! But at the same time, the owner should also hand over the passport to you when you (or whoever) collects the horse. This is because by Law, a horse should always be travelled with their passport, accept in times of emergency, when you are let off.
Livery and Travel Arrangements
Hopefully you already have an idea of where you want to keep him, if not already a stable saved. If you haven’t yet got somewhere for your horse to go, it is time to get looking! Unfortunately, the majority of yards don’t have websites or are listed anywhere useful, unless they are full livery. So really your best bet is taking to local horsey Facebook groups and asking if anyone knows of any spaces. But hopefully you have already got this sorted!
Finally you need to decide how you are going to get the horse home. If you have a few horsey friends, chances are one of them has transport you can either borrow or they will drive for you. If not then you need to look into hiring or a transport company. There are plenty of these companies around at fairly reasonable prices. Typically, a 3.5T lorry will cost about £100 plus returning it with a full tank of petrol and a trailer can cost around £40 for the day. But they can also get booked up quickly, especially at weekends and during show season.
If you (or your parent/driver) are not comfortable driving or towing, then realistically need to look at hiring someone to drive for you. There are plenty of companies both large and small which do this. Larger companies tend to charge more, but you need to be careful about smaller businesses not having all the correct insurance and approval. When I picked Scottie up, a lovely lady with a small business picked me up from my yard before going to get Scottie and come back again. She was very reasonably priced and I have used her several times since. Despite being a good half hour away from me, it works out about the same to hire her to pick us up and take us to a local show as it does to hire a lorry for the day! So if you’re looking for someone in Herts/Beds/Bucks area to transport for you I can highly recommend Horseshoo Equine Transport!
Again, before you pick the horse up, you need to think about what you need to take with you. If he isn’t coming with anything, you will need:
- a headcollar and lead rope (preferably leather or field safe)
- leg protection (boots or bandages)
- tail protection (bandage or tail guard)
- Water and Bucket (if on a long journey)
- Treats/Feed (in case he doesn’t want to load)
- Horses Passport
- Horse insurance (if insuring)
As I mentioned in the list, if you are going to be insuring the horse, make sure you set the insurance to start on the day you pick the horse up, so you are covered for any accidents which happen on the way home!
Hopefully these last 4 posts should give you everything you need to buy your first horse and get him home safely! I might do a similar post series in the future about what to do once you have your first horse, but I haven’t quite decided yet!