Horses are beautiful. You may have seen one and fell in love. But buying a horse is not a simple thing.

It is a big financial and emotional commitment. Keeping your emotions at bay will help you make a wise buying decision. You need an objective mind to define why you want to buy the horse (for trails or shows), the budget, and your goals.

Once you are clear about these, you can then explore other qualities. These include temperament, documentation, physical characteristics (such as height, breed, and size), and the seller’s background. Here are our top 3 things to look for when buying a horse.

3 things to look for when buying a horse

  • Temperament

This is one of the most essential qualities to look out for when buying a horse, whether a beginner or not.

Temperament refers to the horse’s disposition. It will tell you if a horse is aggressive, calm, high strung, buddy sour, sensible, or unsteady. The ideal temperament for beginners is:

  • Well behaved
  • Quiet
  • Steady
  • Calm disposition
  • Sensible
  • Relaxed
  • Surefooted
  • Bombproof


How to know the temperament:

  1. Watch how the horse is around the owner or seller. How does the horse move and act?
  2. Get on the saddle and feel for yourself. Try different things based on your intended purpose for the horse. Is it good to load (for competitions) or for traffic?
  3. Interact with the horse to see if it has been trained to suit you.
  4. Observe the interaction with other horses.
  5. Bring an expert or friend along who knows horses to help you check the horse’s temperament.

If you do not check for temperament, you may end up with a horse that is too much for you. You may get one that needs more training than you are equipped (skills and financial) to give. It also saves you from choosing a horse with bad habits that you cannot handle.

While observing the temperament, look out for physical abnormalities, scarring, and bumps.


  • Background of the seller

First-time buyers often buy horses based off on what the seller says or how they describe their horse. It is easy to make this mistake when you do not understand the seller’s language. Phrases to avoid are:

  • “in foal” ~ the horse is expectant and you won’t even ride it during and after pregnancy
  • “for advanced riders” ~ this horse is trained for advanced, not novice riders
  • “in training”, “still growing”, “needs finishing” ~ The horse is not well trained for beginners

Ask questions to get clarity about the horse’s descriptions and reasons for selling. Get an expert to help you ask these questions. If the seller is evasive or appears dishonest with his answers, it is best to end it.

Find out the seller’s reputation and trustworthiness. Visit the barn to see how the seller/owner treats horses and if the horses have a human bond.

Remember that sellers exaggerate about their horses so do not take their word as the truth. Their claims should be verifiable.

  • Documentation

Get all the documentation before making the payment. You need to have the following paperwork:


  • Horse breed information or certificate
  • Detailed training history
  • Updated veterinary records
  • Pre-examination checks by your equine vet to confirm the horse’s health. If possible, get the vet to draw blood to confirm the presence of painkillers, performance enhancers, or sedatives. They disguise behavioral problems.
  • Registration papers such as a genuine passport
  • Record of previous owners
  • Insurance history (can reveal useful information such as pre-existing conditions)
  • Show awards and affiliations

The bill of sale should be tied to your receipt of these documents. If you do not receive them or the seller makes excuses for not having them, do not go ahead. Having all the paperwork will save your heartache and money in the long run.


Buying horses is a commitment that requires objectivity and a sound mind devoid of emotions. The 3 things to look for when buying a horse are temperament, documentation, and the seller’s background. Do not sign any sale agreement without confirming these three things. Also, do not be afraid to say No if something does not feel right. Trust your gut instinct and bring an expert along to help you make the right decision for YOU.