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How to Find Your Dream Horse: A Guide for Horse Shoppers

Are you looking for a new equine partner to share your passion and joy? Buying a horse can be one of the most exciting and rewarding experiences, but it can also be overwhelming and stressful. There are so many factors to consider, such as your budget, goals, skills, and preferences. How do you find the perfect horse for you among the countless options available?

In this blog post, I will share some tips and advice on how to make your horse shopping journey easier and more successful. Whether you are a first-time buyer or a seasoned horse owner, these steps will help you narrow down your choices and find your dream horse.

Step 1: Define Your Needs and Wants

Before you start browsing online ads or visiting barns, you need to have a clear idea of what you are looking for in a horse. Think about your riding level, discipline, and aspirations. What kind of activities do you want to do with your horse? Do you want to compete, trail ride, or just have fun? What are your strengths and weaknesses as a rider? What are the qualities and characteristics that you value in a horse?

Make a list of your needs and wants and prioritize them. Your needs are the non-negotiable criteria that your horse must meet, such as age, height, breed, gender, temperament, training, and health. Your wants are the desirable but not essential features that you would like your horse to have, such as color, markings, movement, or pedigree.

Be realistic and honest with yourself. Don't set your expectations too high or too low. Don't compromise on your needs but be flexible on your wants. Remember that no horse is perfect, and every horse has its pros and cons.

Step 2: Do Your Research

Once you have a clear picture of your ideal horse, it's time to start looking for potential candidates. There are many sources where you can find horses for sale, such as online platforms, magazines, word-of-mouth, trainers, breeders, auctions, or rescue organizations. You can also use QData's Performance Report to look up the show records and earnings of any registered American Quarter Horse.

Do your homework before contacting the seller or visiting the horse. Check the reputation and credibility of the seller. Read the description and watch the videos of the horse carefully. Look for any red flags or inconsistencies that might indicate a scam or a problem. Ask questions about the horse's history, health, behavior, and suitability for your goals.

Don't rely solely on the information provided by the seller. Verify the facts by asking for references, documents, or records. If possible, investigate the horse's pedigree using QData's Dam's Produce Report or Sire Report to see if the horse has any siblings or relatives with notable achievements or issues.

Step 3: Try the Horse

The most important step in buying a horse is trying it in person. This is your chance to see if you and the horse are compatible and comfortable with each other. Don't rush this step or decide based on emotions. Be objective and thorough in your evaluation.

When you go to see the horse, bring along an experienced friend or trainer who can give you an honest opinion and advice. Observe how the horse behaves on the ground and under saddle. Ask the seller to ride the horse first so you can see how it performs. Then ride the horse yourself in different situations and scenarios that match your goals.

Pay attention to how the horse responds to your cues and aids. Does it listen to you and cooperate with you? Does it have good manners and attitude? Does it have any bad habits or vices? How does it react to new things or challenges? How does it feel in terms of gaits, balance, transitions, and movements?

Don't be afraid to ask questions or request specific tests during the trial. For example, if you want a trail horse, ask if you can take the horse outside the arena or on a short trail ride. If you want a jumping horse, ask if you can jump some fences or courses with the horse.

Trust your instincts and feelings. If something doesn't feel right or if you have any doubts or concerns about the horse, don't ignore them. On the other hand, if you feel a connection or a spark with the horse, don't dismiss it either.

Step 4: Do a Pre-Purchase Exam

If you like the horse you tried and want to proceed with the purchase, don't forget to get a veterinarian to do a pre-purchase exam on the horse. This is a crucial step that can save you from future headaches and heartaches.

A pre-purchase exam is an overall health assessment of the horse that includes physical examination, lameness evaluation, blood tests, x-rays, ultrasound, endoscopy, or other diagnostic procedures. The purpose of the exam is to identify any existing or potential health issues or problems that might affect the horse's performance, soundness, or longevity.

The scope and cost of the exam depend on the value and intended use of the horse, as well as your preferences and budget. You can choose how extensive or detailed you want the exam to be, but it's always better to be safe than sorry. You should also use your own veterinarian or an independent one, not the seller's veterinarian, to avoid any conflicts of interest or bias.

The results of the exam will help you make an informed decision about whether to buy the horse or not. The exam might reveal some minor or manageable issues that don't affect your decision, or some major or deal-breaking issues that make you walk away from the deal. The exam might also give you some leverage to negotiate the price or terms of the sale with the seller.

Step 5: Finalize the Deal

If you are happy with the results of the pre-purchase exam and decide to buy the horse, congratulations! You are one step closer to owning your dream horse. The final step is to finalize the deal with the seller and complete the paperwork.

Before you hand over the money and take the horse home, make sure you have a written contract or bill of sale that outlines the details and conditions of the sale. The contract should include:

- The names and contact information of both parties

- The name, description, and registration number of the horse

- The purchase price and payment method

- The date and location of delivery

- The warranties and guarantees if any

- The liabilities and responsibilities of both parties

- The signatures of both parties

You should also obtain copies of any relevant documents or records related to the horse, such as:

- The registration papers and transfer report

- The health certificate and vaccination records

- The Coggins test and other test results

- The pre-purchase exam report and x-rays

- The insurance policy, if applicable

Keep these documents in a safe place and update them as needed. They will serve as proof of ownership and identity of your horse, as well as useful information for your future care and management of your horse.


Buying a horse is a big decision that requires careful planning, research, and evaluation. By following these steps, you can make your horse shopping experience easier and more enjoyable. You can also increase your chances of finding your dream horse that matches your needs, wants, and goals.

Remember that buying a horse is just the beginning of a long-term relationship that will bring you many joys and challenges. Be prepared to invest time, money, and effort into your new horse's training, care, and well-being. Be patient, consistent, and respectful with your new horse. And most importantly, have fun and enjoy every moment with your new equine partner.

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