Horse people know buying a horse can be riddled with perils. Horse sellers are sometimes not straightforward about assorted conditions the horse might be suffering from… anything from chronic lameness to emotional issues may be avoided. There are all kinds of ways for the seller to hide these issues from a potential buyer.
Often, to avoid these pitfalls, buyers are advised by well-meaning friends to stop by to see the horse for sale without an appointment. This advice is given on the assumption that the buyer will see the horse without the horse being prepped in any way. The horse won’t be drugged, worked into exhaustion, or otherwise tampered with.
The downside of this theory is that the horse, if he’s there at all, might not be groomed, clipped, or otherwise looking perfect either. The horse might be covered with mud from a romp in the pasture; he might be sleeping in his stall, bedding in his tail. It could be the horse has already had his daily work and is hot and sweaty.
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Another peril of no appointment is that the seller might not be there. Contrary to what seems to be a popular belief, horse sellers are not always with their horses. Sellers might be at work off the farm. They might be at the grocery store or maybe they are competing at a horse show. If a buyer goes to a farm unexpectedly, and the seller is not there, then he/she may be considered nothing more than an ordinary trespasser, especially if they enter the barn or pasture without acknowledgment or permission.
Or, the seller might just be busy with other customers when you arrive. These other customers were probably scheduled in advance, and they are most likely paying for lessons or training time. An unexpected arrival is a rude interruption to both seller and his paying customers.
If a buyer insists on visiting without notice, then he needs to be aware the seller could very well be busy and simply not have time to show the horse. The unexpected buyer needs to put him/herself in the place of the paying customer: “How would I feel if the lesson I had paid for was interrupted by unexpected visitors?”. “How would I feel if someone ‘just looking’ insisted upon the seller’s time when that time was already scheduled and paid for by me?” Also, don’t act insulted if the seller politely asks you to return at a more convenient time. He may not necessarily have anything to hide, he’s just busy with someone else.
For everyone concerned it’s best to call the seller ahead of time and schedule an appointment. That way everyone involved knows what to expect … and the seller and the horse will be ready to receive visitors when you arrive. If the buyer feels, after the initial contact, that the seller is not trustworthy, then it is very simple: walk away, find a horse to buy elsewhere. Or if the buyer feels he’s being given the bum’s rush: “This horse is perfect for you, buy him today!”, walk away. After all, you don’t buy clothing or shoes that don’t fit or that you don’t feel comfortable in just because the salesperson says they are nice, do you?
After the initial appointment, it may be acceptable to stop by and take a quick second look at the horse. But ask first. And if when you return, the horse looks or acts like a totally different animal, walk away. If you have doubts about the honesty of the seller, ask around the community. There are always rumors (good and bad) about horse sellers. If several people say that seller makes a habit of selling bad horses, walk away. You are under no obligation to buy an unsuitable animal simply because it was advertised. You surely don’t go buy a new car just because car dealers advertise, do you?
But mind your manners and have the courtesy to make the initial contact by phone. An honest seller will talk with you and perhaps tell you before you travel anywhere, that the advertised horse is not suitable for your needs. If you are looking for a 3-D barrel horse, the honest seller can tell you upfront, “This little western pleasure winner is not what you want.” If you want a finished horse, that will dependably carry an amateur rider round the show pen, and perhaps a child in the walk-trot, an honest seller will tell you, “This two-year-old reining prospect is not the horse for you.” He may even direct you to another horse in his barn, or perhaps to another seller entirely who does have what you are looking for.
If, as a potential buyer, you find the seller is trying to sell you a horse that you don’t feel comfortable with, simply walk away. But do make an appointment before “dropping by” and nipping what might have been a good, working relationship in the bud with your bad manners.