Equine Etiquette: The P’s and Q’s of Buying a Horse


By Ragan Morehouse-Labuschagne

for sale

At some point in time, most riders think about acquiring, upgrading, or replacing a horse.  Many references exist to help buyers negotiate the complicated process of finding a suitable mount.  However, the etiquette of the process is often left undiscussed. Buying a horse can be a difficult experience. Here are a few guidelines that may make the process easier for both buyer and seller.

1. Tell the truth. The most important and most mannerly thing one can do is to represent oneself and one’s horse as accurately as possible. Buyers need to honestly assess their ability, how often they ride, and their budget  Sellers need to honestly describe the horse as the horse is at the time of the sale, not as they hope the horse will be .

2. Talk before you ride.  To save time and trouble, buyers should ask the sellers as many questions as possible before seeing the horse. If the horse ‘passes’ the question phase, buyers should let the sellers know what will need to happen prior to making a decision to purchase the horse.   If a trial period is required before purchase, make sure the seller knows this up front.  Any ‘deal breaker’ issues should be discussed at this point.

3. Keep your appointment. Next, buyers should make an appointment to see the horse. Good manners require that they keep their appointment. If they will be late or need to cancel, it is crucial that they let the sellers know as soon as possible. Consider that the sellers will probably wash, lunge, etc. the horse for your visit. Sellers should prepare for the appointment by tidying the horse and the barn, making sure that appropriate tack and a safe place to ride is available, and that a rider to show the horse under saddle is lined up.

4. Don’t ride if you don’t like the horse. When a buyer arrives at their appointment, they should take a good look at the horse. If they see anything they don’t like, buyers should either let the sellers know that they are no longer interested (“thanks so much for your time but he is not what I am looking for”) or ask questions addressing their concerns.  Same goes for any issues they notice when the seller is riding the horse or when the buyer rides the horse.  It is much more mannerly to avoid wasting time than it is to engender false hope with empty compliments.

5. Talk about the visit.  If buyers are not interested in the horse at the end of the appointment, it is kinder to let the seller know than to have the seller wonder.  Even if takes a few days for the buyer to realize that the horse was not what they are looking for, it is the right thing to do to let the seller know.  If buyers do like the horse they should tell  (or reiterate – see #2) the seller what will need to happen prior to making a decision (trainers need to ride, vetting, etc.). Sellers should thank the buyers for their visit – regardless of how well or badly the ride went – and ask them if they need anything else.

These simple guidelines, although mostly common sense, can really help smooth the process for buyer and seller.  Do you have any good stories about the buying or selling process? Post them on The Aiken Horse Facebook page.

Did you ever feel like you bought the wrong horse? Here’s an example of what can happen when you don’t ask the right questions: