Buyers Guide

People of all ages can enjoy horse ownership and often find it a very rewarding experience, being able to participate in a wide variety of activities, including shows, campdrafts, pleasure rides and polocrosse.

With the purchase of your first horse is the commencement of a new experience. Your purchase creates a lifetime of horseback experiences, which requires equal amounts of education and dedication.

Why do I want a horse?
Categorise your riding skills
What maintenance and equipment is needed?
Where to find a horse for purchase
What to look for when inspecting a horse
Questions to ask the vendor
What price should I pay?
When closing the deal

Why do I want a horse?

This section will give you a guide and help you define a goal for your horse experience. Your goal will set the framework for your buying decision. Different activities, rider skills and experience require different types of horses. Your overall goal is the foundation for your buying decision.

What activities would I like to participate in with a horse? Showing, leisure riding, campdrafting, polocrosse?

How much can I afford to spend on the purchase of a horse (including stabling, equipment, feed, training, floating, veterinarian, etc)? Set yourself a budget for each aspect in relation to the horse and its needs.

How much do I know about horses and riding?

Am I a beginner and do I need extra instruction or assistance from knowledgeable horse people?

Will I ride the horse every day?

Can I devote time for riding, feeding and general horse care?

To obtain a perspective on Stock Horse activities, visit an Australian Stock Horse event in your area. After watching the competition, try to determine the type and ability of the horse you desire. Talk to other members of the Society to gain contacts of breeders, trainers, farriers, etc. Be realistic when evaluating your goals.

Categorise your riding skills

Beginner, Intermediate or Experienced

Your skill level will indicate the kind of horse that best suits your needs:

  • Beginner (inexperienced or basic riding skills) or rider under 13 years.
  • A mature aged gentle gelding is usually best suited to an inexperienced or recreational rider.
  • The horse may have mastered a chosen discipline and would suit a rider with basic riding skills.
  • The horse should be relaxed and not show signs of nervousness - anxiety, agitation, jumpy, buck, paw, bite, kick or refuse to comply.
  • A beginner's horse should be at least 10 years old with 3 years' solid experience in the chosen discipline.
  • Intermediate (medium level riding skills with a few years' experience) or rider under 17 years.
  • These equestrians have more freedom of choice, but the rider should feel competent to continue the horse's education.
  • The horse may not necessarily have had years of experience but should be suitable for the desired discipline and show potential. The horse should have the basic skills, ie, walk, trot, canter on both leads, change leads and stop easily.
  • The horse may show some signs of tension when taken to initial outings - anxiety, jumpy, pawing, whinnying, etc. The horse should not buck, bite, kick or refuse to comply.
  • An intermediate's horse should be at least 5 years old with some experience in the chosen discipline.
  • Experienced (advanced riding skills with several years' experience).
  • These equestrians must have many years of experience and have the time to work and train a horse every day.
  • These riders should be competent to control the horse in any circumstances and have the knowledge to educate the horse for a chosen discipline.
  • The horse may show signs of nervousness.
  • The horse may be of any age and may lack the basic skills.

What Maintenance and Equipment is Needed?

  • A place for the horse to be paddocked or stabled and a dry, clean room to keep feed and tack.
  • Regular exercise in a place safe for riding.
  • Helmet, Saddle, Bridle, Rugs, Brushes, Halters, Leads, etc.
  • Farrier - horse shod approximately every 5 weeks.
  • Veterinarian - when needed.
  • Transport of horse to events or activities.
  • Trainer.
  • Horse feed merchant.
  • Membership to appropriate organisations - horse breed or event membership.
  • Friends with similar interests to assist with feed and care of horse.

Where to find a horse for purchase

Always remember that the purchase of any item, including a horse, is usually buyer beware. Always seek assistance from an experienced horse person if not sure.

Breeders

Breeders normally have a large selection of horses on hand and are one of the best sources for purchasing a horse. You will have an opportunity to view a number of horses representing an array of ages, levels of training and dispositions. Additionally, Breeders offer the chance to discuss pedigrees and performance. The Breeders' Directory in the Australian Stock Horse Journal is a great place to locate breeders.

Owners

Most owners will allow prospective buyers to 'try' a horse, giving you the opportunity to see if the horse is suitable for your level of riding and the chosen discipline. Be wary if an owner will not agree to this. The owner can also provide the horse's performance history and some helpful information regarding training and habits.

Sales

Many breeders, owners and trainers can be met at sales and it is an ideal opportunity to gain contacts and information on horses for sale. Sales are geographically widespread and offer horses of different ages, training levels and prices. A variety of horses may be offered, including young horses, mares, geldings and stallions. Sales are an excellent opportunity to compare prices and buy a suitable horse. It is a good idea to arrive prior to the sale to talk to the owner, as there is little time to view a horse being sold at auction. Prices at sales depend on market demand for certain bloodlines and the potential of the horse being offered. Horses are usually available from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines.

Horse Trainers

Prospective buyers can contact professionals like trainers, instructors, coaches and horse breakers to serve as an agent when purchasing a horse, in addition to training a horse and instructing the client. The trainer may help locate a horse that best fits your goals by discussing your needs and your skills. They will evaluate your skills as a rider and give you information on your chosen discipline and help you locate and negotiate a prospective purchase. Professionals may charge a commission for helping you find a horse. You should always check the Professional's references before entering into an agreement and discuss how much you can afford for purchasing a horse, training, feed, agistment, veterinary care, etc.

Other locations

Horses may be advertised in the Classified section of the Australian Stock Horse Journal, the local newspaper or a horse magazine. Horses 'For Sale' advertisements are often found at the local veterinary clinic or saddlery store. By attending your chosen horse sport, you may seek the opportunity to talk to other horse owners - they can often refer you to the owner of a horse for sale that may suit your needs.

What to look for when inspecting a horse

A horse's conformation, or its physical appearance, is one of the most important points in selecting a horse. The reason? Horses with less-than-perfect conformation may encounter health problems as they mature or when stressed through competition. It is often assumed that horses with several years seasoning and past performance have acceptable conformation, but your objective with selection should always be to find the best conformed horse possible, regardless of past performance.

Balance, structural correctness, degree of muscling, and breed/sex characteristics are the four main traits to evaluate with rating conformation. Balance is the single most important factor, influenced almost entirely by skeletal structure.

Balance

A horse that lacks structural correctness and fundamental soundness is often poorly balanced. Slope of the shoulder is the most critical point in relation to balance. When the shoulder becomes more vertically sloping (straighter), other structural angles become straight, resulting in a horse with a straight stifle and pasterns. A horse with a shoulder that slopes too much usually has weak, sloping pasterns that allow the fetlocks to hit the ground as the horse moves.

Temperament

The correct frame of mind is probably the most important evaluation, which allows both you and the horse to realise your true potential. Although most Australian Stock Horses have been selectively bred for generations you must still place temperament on the selection criteria. Most Australian Stock Horses have a good temperament, and more often than not have inherited a gentle nature. Beginners should ride horses that are co-operative so the rider does not lose confidence.

Observe the horse being caught, handled, groomed, saddled, etc. Any signs of nervousness, anxiety, agitation, jumpyness, bucking, pawing, biting, kicking or refusal to comply should be considered as faults on the part of the horse.

Movement

The next step is evaluating the horse's movement. When selecting a horse for performance events, movement is an important evaluation. A horse should follow the rider's commands: walk, trot, canter and accept both leads. The horse should stop easily and back up when pressure is applied to the bit as well as yield to leg aids.

  • The walk must be alert with a stride of reasonable length in keeping with the horse's size.
  • The trot should be square, balanced and with straight, forward movement of the hooves.
  • The canter should be a natural, three-beat stride and appear relaxed and smooth.

You may evaluate the horse while being demonstrated by the owner. The horse's temperament during riding is largely dependent upon the rider's skills. The horse with little or no resistance from the bit should perform all requirements willingly. Once the owner has completed the demonstration to your approval, ask if you may perform these tasks yourself.

If a horse meets your approval through the evaluation process and seems like a good prospect, you may want to arrange a pre-purchase Veterinarian examination or seek a second opinion from a qualified horse person. You are not only buying a horse, but a relationship with the horse. All horses have different personalities, and it is important to find a horse that best complements your personality.

Questions to ask the Vendor

  • How often has the horse been ridden during the past year?
  • What training has the horse received and in what areas?
  • Has the horse been ridden by a beginner, intermediate or experienced rider?
  • When the horse has not been ridden regularly or turned out, how easy is the horse to handle?
  • What kind of tack has been used on the horse?
  • What type of feed and roughage does the horse eat and what is its feeding scedule?
  • When was the horse last wormed and how often has the horse been shod?
  • Is the horse quiet to shoe or clip?
  • Does the horse have any vices or habits? (ie, windsucking, cribbing, biting,flo- t loading)
  • During the past year, has the horse needed any veterinarian treatment?
  • Has the horse ever had colic or lameness?
  • How does the horse behave in different surroundings or in traffic.
  • How often has the horse been taken away from home and what was its behaviour like?
  • Why is the horse for sale?
  • How much experience do you have in the horse industry and in your chosen discipline?

What Price Should I Pay?

The price of a horse depends on bloodlines, age, experience, type and conformation:

  • Australian Stock Horses regularly sell between $1,500 and $50,000. A small percentage of horses have been known to be sold for higher amounts.
  • Approved Sales indicate that the majority of Australian Stock Horses sell between $2,500 and $20,000.
  • Always check the horse's temperament, ability and training before considering a price.

When Closing the Deal

  • Agree on a purchase price with the Vendor.
  • Discuss delivery.
  • Check that the horse's registration papers match the horse in question.
  • Refrain from ongoing agreements with the Vendor, ie first foal, competition rights.
  • Pay by Bank Cheque or Cash.
  • Have the Vendor sign the Transfer Application and return it to the Society with the Certificate of Registration.
  • Contact The Australian Stock Horse Society Limited regarding membership and transfer of ownership to enable you to be eligible to compete in ASH events.