Navicular: Not a death knell
Horse-lovers' wines: Gabbiano Chianti

Buying a horse: 14 questions you should ask

The ever-helpful economy never seems to know what it's going to do these days, but if your life is relatively stable, this is a great time for your latest adventure -- buying a horse. Prices have never been better. (Parents, if you're thinking of buying a horse for your child, beware: There are some things you need to ask first.)

I've had some memorable moments shopping for horses. I once declared a prospect “toed out”, only to have my big mouth hit the grapevine. The horse’s irate owner called to say “that horse does NOT toe out”.

My personal favorite is the owner who whipped out a pistol and pulled the trigger as we stared, dumbfounded, at a possible mount for my daughter. The owner grinned and said, “See, bullet proof!” (The gun was loaded with blanks.) Seriously though, if you’re buying a horse, always take an expert, get a vet check, and phone ahead with these questions (Click the "questions" link for a printable page.)When I picked up my first horse, she flipped over backward as we novices tried to force her into the trailer with ropes and a whip. Then there was the lady who sank her spurs into my prospect. As he leaped away, she noted this horse’s great side-passing skills.

  1. Why is the horse for sale?
  2. Does the horse have any vices? (i.e., cribbing, biting, trailer shyness)
  3. How much has the horse been ridden during the past year?
  4. Who has ridden the horse the most — trainer, amateur, youth?
  5. How easy is the horse to handle after being turned out for a while and not ridden?
  6. What kind of equipment has been used?
  7. How much training has the horse received and in what areas?
  8. Where has the horse been stalled?
  9. What type of concentrates and roughage does the horse eat and what is its feeding schedule?
  10. What kind of health has the horse had during the past year?
  11. Has the horse ever had any colic episodes? Lameness?
  12. How often is the horse de-wormed and shod?
  13. How often has the horse been away from home and what is his behavior in different surroundings?
  14. How does the horse react when being shod, clipped or de-wormed?

(Karin Livingston is a career 4-H leader specializing in horses, and the author of the young-adult horse novel, Winning Bet, available in hard copy and on the Amazon Kindle.)