Buying a horse is actually the simple procedure of exchanging dollars and cents for an animal of your choice. But buying an animal suited to your abilities is a difficult task. Before looking for a horse decide what use and purpose the horse will serve, for pleasure, for breeding, or for showing. Each of these is in a different category and requires a different kind of animal. However, you may be fortunate enough to find a combination of all three attributes. It is true the “outside of a horse is good for the inside of a man.” This, however, will not be true if you buy the first horse you see. Also, don’t fall so much in love with a horse that you can’t sell it to buy a better one. This sounds like a heartless piece of advice, and it is in a way. It is not the money involved in buying a horse that might prove unsound, but in the attachment you form so quickly. To be forced to destroy an unsound animal is like losing part of your family. It doesn’t take long for an animal to entwine himself around your heart. Also, every horse becomes old far sooner than the rider. This is why it is so important to buy the right one. Shop around and look at many before you decide. There are two ways to buy a horse—from a private owner and from an auction.
There are many different types of horse auctions. And, like buying from an individual, some are more reputable than others. Perhaps the main drawback in going to the auction is that you don’t have the opportunity to inspect the stock thoroughly, or you seldom try it before you buy. If you know the reputation of the auction or the selling individual you stand a better chance of getting a fair deal.
Most reputable sales now publish catalogs giving pictures, pedigrees, and information about the consigned horses. A breeder may have a complete dispersal sale, which means, as the name implies, that he will sell all of his stock. He may be going into another business, retiring, or working on another breed. Sometimes a ranch will have a dispersal sale to dispose of young stock and to place an oversupply of certain bloodlines in different parts of the country. Sometimes older stock, of fine bloodlines, will be sold to make room for younger stock, of equally fine pedigrees. There are invitational sales where top quality stock is offered to a few selected breeders. There are specific breed auctions where only registered stock is sold. These are quality sales where every consigned animal is inspected by a veterinarian and sifting committee. This protects the buyer from unsound animals. Sometimes a two-day auction may be held to sell grades one day and purebreds the next. Sometimes breed associations will sponsor an auction such as the Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse to sell yearlings and two-year-olds. Auctions sponsored by a registry association will set up certain standards. If it is a production sale it is used to present the best of a breeder’s or association’s breeding program or to cull out the bad ones. However, at this type of sale, attention is called to blemishes and unsound horses are usually eliminated.
Then there are the weekly or monthly auctions held locally by a sale barn where everything and anything is sold. Here, whether you pick up a bargain or get stung, depending upon the reputation of the sale yard or your own knowledge of horseflesh, is where the usual pleasure horse is sought.
If you go to an auction of this type be sure to take a horseman with you. Remember, you buy the animal “as is” and there are no refunds. Most stockmen selling horses will do so in the fall of the year so as not to feed them through the Winter. The prices are lowest in December and January, starting to rise in February. Horses are taken to this type of auction either for a quick sale or if there is unsoundness in the animal. The average price of good horses—by that I mean breeding, training, and beauty of form—does not change, but the market for what we call “trading horses” varies with the seasons. Mainly, these consist of mediocre stock of no particular breeding, aged animals, has-beens, and stock that someone must sell quickly for some reason or other. Yet, some good horses are sold at the horse auctions run by sales companies.
An experienced horseman may be able to detect unsound-ness better than you can. Don’t be afraid to buy a thin animal, however. A horse can be put in good shape in thirty days with good feed. It will be thin for three reasons. First: because of lack of proper feed. Second: because of worms. Third: bad teeth. For any other reason there would be a definite sigh of illness and the animal would not be allowed in the sale yard.
In dealing with the private owner there should be a guarantee as to the health of the horse. If you are in doubt it is advisable to have a veterinarian examine the animal. No reputable dealer will ever refuse to permit such an examination. Blemishes do not always mean a horse is unsound. A horse is judged by appearance, and while blemishes do not interfere with the performance of the animal they do reflect the owner’s care of the horse. Cuts and abrasions do leave a blemish sometimes; however, such injuries can be taken care of so as not to leave scars. Unsoundness is anything that causes a malfunction of the part of anatomy of the horse such as ringbone, heavy scarring, faulty conformation, or a pulled muscle. An experienced horseman will be able to find faults that you would never see. He will look first for soundness in sight, wind, and limb. He will understand personality traits and degrees of being spoiled.
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