Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Preparing to Buy a Horse

Now that I own my horse, I can talk about how I prepared myself to buy her without jinxing myself.
No jinxing now!
When people talk about buying a horse there are several steps that are deemed essential. Those steps are typically the research component, the trial, the pre-purchase vet check, and the paperwork. These are not really the steps that I followed simply because I was in a very unique situation. These are the steps that I followed, and they might be helpful for you, but they also might not be because everyone’s situation is different. Here is how I did it:
Step 1: Get a job. I first started seriously thinking about buying a horse once I signed my contract for my job. It is a good job with a year-long contract and good benefits and so I knew that I finally had the stability that I needed in order to be able to get a horse.
Step 2: Basic horse research. Once I knew that I could get a horse I started doing some loose research into my options. I looked into horse conformation (and what to look for), breed traits (which I did know a lot of this information before, but wanted more specifics about certain breeds), and options for getting a horse. I spent a lot of time looking into my options for getting a horse. I looked at Craigslist ads, checked out posts on EquineNow, considered Oregon horse adoption programs, and was seriously impressed by CANTER. One of the most fun things I did was going to a horse auction. There is a horse auction that occurs monthly in my area. There are usually about a hundred horses at the auction who have varied ages and experience. I’d never gone to a horse auction before and it was a tad overwhelming, but it was also kind of fun. It’s amazing to me how quickly the auctioneers can speak. The sad thing about the auction was that there were kill buyers there, but it seemed that most of the horses ended up at homes. By the end of this research stage, I had decided that I did not want to buy a horse from auction (because you don’t get a lot of information about the horse before you buy it), but that I was seriously considering buying a horse from CANTER. Where I live in Oregon it seemed that the breeds that were available were: Arabians, American Paints, Quarter Horses, or Thoroughbreds. I ride hunter-jumper and so I wanted something that had athleticism and scope, a Warmblood of some kind would be the best but those aren’t readily available here, so out of my choices, I decided that I wanted a Thoroughbred. They are naturally athletic and talented, often are good jumpers, and are reasonably priced.
CANTER USA logo bar
Step 3: Budgeting. After I had done a little bit of research, I knew enough to be able to create a loose budget to see if financially I could afford a horse. I work at my barn so I already knew how much board cost ($400-450 for full board with food included) and I make money from my job which I could put towards my horse, so I determined that with some financial stretching and working off board I could probably own a horse on about $500 per month. I then decided that I wanted to spend no more than $2000 for a horse and figured that I could save that money by December (my plan was to get a horse for my birthday).
Step 4: Get advice from trainer. Once I had all of this information figured out I went to my trainer to see what she thought about everything I had decided on. This was a vital step in this process because she verified that my budget could work and cautioned me about getting a Thoroughbred – pointing out that typically their hooves do not do well in wet Oregon and so they have soundness issues. She also told me that she would let me know if she heard of any good horses for sale.
Step 5: Patiently wait & save money. At this point, I just had to wait. I continued working at my barn and saving up “barn credit” so that when I got a horse I would be able to board it for a few months without having to worry about paying for board. I continued to look at online ads to keep track of what my options were. The waiting was really not fun, but I didn’t want to make an impulsive decision. I was also finishing up my Masters program at this time and so that kept me busy for these few months.
Step 6: Get really lucky. So this is where this plan will not work for everyone. I work at my barn (assistant instructor) and part of my job is helping to school and train horses. I asked my trainer if I could have a project horse to work on my training skills and also to see if I could make the time for a horse in my life. She said that I should work with Casey and told me that she’d been thinking that we would be a good match. I had been working with Casey for about a week when I asked my trainer what the end goal was for Casey (since I knew that my trainer had been planning to sell her). I was shocked and excited when my trainer told me that she either wanted to try to sell her or if I liked her, I could just have her. It really was unexpected. I had been thinking privately to myself that I could just buy Casey (because we got along so well and she ticked many of the boxes that I wanted in a horse), but my trainer’s generosity is amazing. I really can’t say enough good things about my trainer, she is amazing.
Getting to know Casey
Step 7: Do serious research. Once I knew that I could get Casey, I had to figure my stuff out in a relatively short amount of time. Since my trainer really just wanted to get Casey off of her plate (because she owns so many horses) I knew that if I really did want this horse that I would have to get her soon, but there was so much information that I felt I didn’t know. Nobody in my immediate family owns or even really likes horses, and although I have been working with horses for years there is so much information that I really didn’t need to know and so as a result just don’t know. I looked into what legal paperwork I would have to fill out, what equine medical insurance was like, and what things I would need to buy for my horse. I also came up with a whole list of questions to ask my trainer, including things about Casey’s medical history, boarding information, and just general advice about horse ownership. I read online about horse ownership and I bought myself a book written by an equine veterinarian about causes, symptoms, and treatments for basic horse diseases & medical issues (The Horse Doctor Is In by Brent Kelley, DVM).
I had many benefits to my situation. I already knew which barn I would board my future horse at and she was already there so I didn’t have to deal with shipping or isolating my horse once she got moved. Another benefit is that I could keep Casey with the same veterinarian. That means that none of her medical files had to be transferred and the vet already is familiar with her medical history. Because of this, and because my trainer was her prior owner, I made the decision to skip the pre-purchase vet exam. Now this could hypothetically bite me in the butt. She could have medical issues that none of us are aware of, but I was going to essentially get her for free and she has had no medical issues so far in her life. If I was going to pay money for a horse, or if I was buying a horse from someone I didn’t know or didn’t trust than I would 100% get a pre-purchase vet exam. The last benefit that I had is that I could theoretically keep Casey with the same farrier. I think that I might go with a different farrier (who still does work with horses at my current barn), but I don’t have to if I don’t want to.
Step 8: Buy supplies/tack. I did not really have to buy anything for Casey because I could have borrowed all of the things that my trainer was using with her, but there is something really nice about having your own things. I didn’t buy all of the things that I will eventually want to have, I just bought some basics. I got a halter and lead rope, my own brushes and hoofpick, a bridle, jumping boots, a saddle pad, and a girth. Once the weather gets colder I will also be buying her a blanket and probably a fleece cooler. Eventually I would also like to own my own saddle, but for now, I can borrow saddles (this also works out, because Casey’s body will change as she gets more in shape).
Casey modeling her new things
Step 9: Jump into the deep end. In the end, I could have researched for years in order to prepare for horse ownership, but I have a feeling that it is something where you have to learn as you go. I signed the purchase agreement yesterday and now am a horse owner! As I continue to learn, I will share my progress and adventures with my new awesome horsie :)
Papers are signed and horsie is mine!
Do you have different experiences in buying a horse? Do you think I left out any major steps? Let me know in the comments below!

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