Y You’re in the market for your next trail horse. You know what you want. You’ve spent hours hopping on horsebuying websites, looking for your dream horse. Now, you’re ready to buy, but you’re not sure how to proceed. If you’re new to buying horses online, it’s understandable that you’re a little nervous. But it’s easy to buy your dream horse online, as long as you know what you’re doing. Learn the secrets to success — and avoid potential pitfalls — with this guide from the experts at Equine.com. Start Your Search Here are six tips to follow as you go online to start your search for your next trail horse. • Make a list. List the qualities you’d like in your next horse, including age, gender, temperament, and training. If you plan to evaluate the horse onsite before you buy, add a geographical range. You might think you’ll keep this information in your head, but searching for a horse online can lead to distractions; your list will help you stay focused on your goal. • Create an account. To create an online account, you’ll likely need to enter a user name, your actual name, your e-mail address, a password, the country in which you live, your postal zone, and your riding discipline. Creating an account allows you to use more site functions. These include: – Save Search. This time-saving function allows you to quickly find your favorite prospects the next time you log on. Memories aren’t perfect. For example, you might think that 10-year-old, family-friendly Quarter Horse gelding is in Oregon, when actually he’s in Washington. If you target Oregon to find the gelding again, you might think the horse has been sold, missing out on a potentially perfect mount. – Advanced Search. This function also saves time by allowing you narrow your search. You’ll be able to refine your search based on, for example, breed, discipline, and price. – Contact Seller. This function allows you to communicate with the seller for more information on the horse. • Broaden your search. If your initial search turns up little to nothing, you’ll need to broaden your search results. Try including a wider variety of breeds, or broaden your price range. • Evaluate photos/videos. Photos and videos give you a chance to evaluate the horse’s conformation, overall appearance, and movement. If the seller hasn’t posted any visuals, request them on your initial contact with him or her. • Consider a rescue. Rescue horses can make excellent trail horses and loyal companions. If you’re considering a rescue, search for rescue facilities by location, as the staff will need to meet you in person. (For more information on adopting a rescue horse, see “To the Rescue!” on page 24.) • Consider leasing. Leasing a prospect allows you to spend more time with him before you make a commitment to buy. Educate yourself on lease agreements, so the terms are clear. For a start, go to www.equine.com/help/legal.aspx. Get More Information When you’ve narrowed down your search, send the seller a request for more information. Send a request only if you’re serious about the horse to save both parties time. Response time varies. On Equine.com, you can expect to hear a response from a seller within three to five business days. In your request, ask for more information on the horse’s training, temperament, and location. If you like what you see in your initial correspondence, call the seller, and ask the questions, below. Get detailed answers. If you don’t understand an answer, or need more specific information, ask follow-up questions. Use this list as a starting point. Add your own questions. Keep in mind that the more information you can obtain upfront, the more informed your choice will be, and the happier you’ll be with your new horse. General Background – What is the horse’s general background? – Why are you selling the horse? – How many owners has the horse had? – How long have you owned the horse? – What type of documentation does the horse have? (Ask about registration, sales history, recognition, and awards.) – What type of stall and pasture environment is the horse used to? Health and Hoof-Care Background – Has the horse had any medical problems or major injuries? What’s the horse’s medical history? (Ask for medical records and the veterinarian’s name.) – Does the horse behave well with the veterinarian? If not, what are the issues? – Is the horse shod or barefoot? If shod, what kind of shoes? Any special shoeing or hoof issues? If barefoot, how often are the hooves trimmed? Do you use hoof boots? – Does the horse behave well with a farrier? If not, what are the issues? – What is the contact information of the horse’s veterinarian and farrier? – What do you feed the horse? Any supplements? Why? Behavior, Training, and Under-Saddle Background – Does the horse have any behavioral issues or stall vices? (If so, ask the seller to explain these in detail. Decide which issues/vices are acceptable and which are deal-breakers.) – How does the horse respond to other horses? (Ask how the horse behaves at home, in the trailer, and on the trail.) – Who trained the horse? What type of training method did he or she use? May I contact him or her? – Does the horse have any problems loading into the trailer? If not, what are the issues? – What type of bit, bridle, and saddle do you use? Why? (Ask also about any artificial aids, such as tie-downs.) – What type of riding do you do with the horse? – How often is the horse worked and ridden? – How often is the horse ridden on the trail? – For what riding level would you recommend the horse? – Does this horse have experience doing Buy a Horse Online CONTINUED Beware of Scams Scammers on horse-shopping websites engage in several deceptive practices. They typically offer a horse or product for a very low price, then try to rush the deal through. Reputable websites regularly monitor their advertisements and messages for scammers, and offer users a way to report suspicious activity. Here are four common scams to watch out for. If you spot anything suspicious, report it immediately to the site host. • The Buyer’s Agent Scam. In this scam, the “seller” posts false advertisements online, then poses as an “approved” buyer’s agent, putting you at financial risk. • The Friesian Scam. In this scam, the “seller” often copies a legitimate ad for an expensive, registered horse, then offers the horse for a very low price or even for free. The scammer lures in the victim with such terms as “loving horse for adoption” and “friendly horse for rehoming.” Common breeds in this scam are the Friesian, the Gypsy Vanner, the American Walking Pony, and well-bred warmbloods. • The Transportation Scam. In this scam, the “seller” advertises a free horse, giving a legitimate-sounding reason, such as caring only about the horse’s welfare. Here, the scammer insists you use a particular transportation company, then sends you an invoice with instructions for how to wire money. • The Trailer Scam. In this scam, the “seller” offers a late-model trailer at thousands of dollars below market value. Beware! It’s likely a scam. View the trailer in person, if possible. Scammers rarely have possession of the trailer; they operate by stealing other sellers’ photos. Scammers on horse-shopping websites typically offer a horse for a very low price, then try to rush the deal through. Leasing a prospect allows you to spend more time with him before you make a commitment to buy. Educate yourself on lease agreements, so the terms are clear. HEIDI MELOCCO PHOTO TRAILRIDERMAG.COM 39 the type of work I want him to perform? (Ask about trail riding, rugged trail riding, horse camping, and family use.) Evaluate the Horse If you’re satisfied with the seller’s answers to your questions, it’s time to evaluate the horse. You’ll either evaluate the horse onsite or offsite. Here are guidelines for each approach. If you plan to evaluate the horse onsite, arrange a time to visit the seller’s barn. Ask an experienced trainer, knowledgeable horseperson, or equine veterinarian to help you, especially if you’re new at horse-buying. (For evaluation tips from top trainer/clinician Julie Goodnight, see page 10.) Ask the seller to ride the horse before you do. Be wary of any owner who’s reluctant to ride the horse or who won’t allow you to ride the horse. If you can’t visit the prospect, you can still take steps to ensure he’s the right mount for you. Contact a reputable trainer in the horse’s area, and request that he or she visit the horse on your behalf. Ask for an expert opinion, and ask about any potential problems. If you haven’t already done so, also request a video of the horse walking, trotting/running (or gaiting), and under-saddle to see him in action. If you’re satisfied with the horse’s evaluation, either onsite or offsite, schedule a prepurchase exam from a neutral veterinarian in the area. (For a prepurchase exam checklist, see page 6.) If the horse will be transported across state lines, ask the veterinarian for the necessary traveling papers. These will likely include a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection and a Coggins test showing the horse is negative for equine infectious anemia. In the Western United States, you might also need a Brand-Inspection Certificate. TTR Equine.com is the market leader in connecting equine buyers, sellers, and breeders. The website also has listings for equestrian products, trailers, and real estate. Equine.com is a sister company of The Trail Rider and USRider Equestrian Motor Plan; all are part of the Active Interest Media Equine Network.