What to believe in a horse sale ad

How To Tell If A Horse Sale Ad Is Actually Full Of Horse Shit

I like looking at horses for sale, I like to see what’s out there and I like to see the differences in prices and breeds by the different regions. After a while of looking at so many ads, I have to tell you, I feel like someone should write a Horse Buying For Dummies book, because you almost need an advanced degree in wading through horse shit to correctly interpret the advertisements. This is not to say that everyone lies when selling a horse, or that every ad is a misrepresentation. However, people with a horse for sale have a singular goal: selling the horse*. For that reason, the horses are represented in the shiniest and most perfect light possible, no matter that the photo may be 2 years old. Allow me to put a little more realistic spin on some of the things you might see in horse ads, saving you some time, and saving you some heartache from falling for the “perfect” horse, only to discover in person he’s a total train wreck.

Horse Sale Ad Lies Not Drugged
(He was heavily drugged this day, it was teeth and sheath day!)

First off, every horse, in practically every single ad is a bomb proof/kid safe/husband horse. How dead-broke a horse is lies on a spectrum and relies heavily on a person’s experience and perception. Some hell-bent-for-leather cow hand may consider a horse bomb-proof and husband safe because the horse will go all day and only gives the occasional crow-up to let you know he’s tired of working. But unless your husband has the same level of grit and laissez-faire attitude, a horse with an occasional crow hop during every ride is not going to work for him. And that kid safe horse? Take a long hard look at the photos, is the kid just sitting there? Is an adult leading the horse around? Is the child a passive passenger as the adult commands the horse? If the answer is yes to any of the above questions, that’s not really a kids horse. That’s a horse that doesn’t mind kids. A horse that packs around a 40 pound passenger without complaint while an adult leads, does not a kids horse make. You need to see photos and videos of an actual tiny human directing the horse’s actions, walking, trotting, turning, with zero assistance from a regular sized human. That’s a kids horse.

Horse Sale Ad Lies Witchy

Oh yes, and there is the occasional ad in which the owner admits that the horse does have a little spook, a little trouble with running (but of course he can be stopped really quickly and comes right back to you). Please interpret those admissions as a downplaying of the full-on one mile bolt the that rivaled Exaggerator’s win at the Preakness. I hope if you’re exploring such a horse you have your jockey skills polished up and have a big saddle horn to hold on to. And wear a helmet. And an eventing vest. And have good health insurance. Or just keep looking.

Some ads boast about how the horse bathes/Loads/Clips and has no bite/buck/bolt. Unless they are talking about a green horse, or an un-broke horse, these things should be a given on a broke horse. And if the ad really only lists those things and not much else, just. Keep. Scrolling. It likely means the horse doesn’t have much else going for it. Okay, let me say that with a caveat. If you are looking for a project horse, a horse to train yourself, a horse that hasn’t had the miles and time put into it, then definitely look for the well-priced sweet horse that has these basic tenants of respect down. But if you actually are looking for the bomb proof/kid safe/husband horse, this is not that horse. It’s just not. The ad would be telling you all about the rodeos the horse has been to, the mountains they’ve camped, and a moose the horse fended off. Not just that it can be bathed and clipped and won’t immediately toss your ass off.

Horse Sale Ad Lies Play Dead

If there are all kinds of stipulations on the ad, if it says just putting feelers out there, not sure… steer clear. Buying a horse can be a long drawn out exercise in patience. Don’t make it harder on yourself by engaging with sellers who may not be ready to sell. These people can be identified by their high priced but average horse. They can also be sussed out by the stipulations they put on getting to see the horse, how to manage its care, what you can do with it.  If I sold my horse tomorrow, I sure as heck wouldn’t want him to be barrel raced on, I think it would fry his little anxious mind. But the fact is, I would have zero control over what the would-be next owners, or the owners after that, choose to do with him after the check has cleared.

But owners who request the first option to buy back should be regarded with respect. This is a sign that the owners know the horse has value and want to make sure he or she has a safe retirement and doesn’t make a mysterious descent into the auction world and head south on a meat truck for a Mexican slaughterhouse. Sorry, that got dark quick. But it is a real possibility.

Like I said, the horses in the ads always sound like a dream but are a little less sparkly in person. If you’re new to horses, I highly suggest you work with someone who isn’t. Work with someone who doesn’t benefit by you purchasing a horse. The same way a saleswoman is going to tell you every single piece of clothing you put on in the store looks “Amazing, brilliant, simply ravishing” because she wants to make a sale, anyone who is benefitting from you buying a horse can’t be trusted. This includes any horse-crazy children you may have who might tug on your sleeve while looking at said dream-horse and whisper sweet nothings in your ear about how he or she will clean the stall and groom the horse and make sure it’s always cared for. Every. Single. Day. Let me give you a spoiler alert that you probably should have seen coming, at some point you’re going to clean that stall, have to call the vet, or arrange other types of care.

Horse Sale Ad Lies Self Aware

If you really are looking for a non-fancy, unflappable trail friend, a good horse for your kids to play on and build their confidence, I think you should look for an ugly old plug that’s been with its people for a while. People will keep a pretty looking palomino that’s a jerk to ride whereas they won’t hold onto a jug-headed long-back that’s ugly as sin and is hell to ride. Well how the hell do you know if you’re getting the sweet jug-head or the jerk? That’s where you find out how long the owners have had the horse. If they’ve had it for several years (longer than three) that’s a good sign. Look for people who are selling because of a change in lifestyle (divorce, selling property, kid went off to college) instead of just because they need to focus on their other horses. If they’re focusing on their other horses, it means the one they have up for sale is the least talented and shows the least potential of the pack. That’s not a good sign for you. Again, unless you’re looking for a project horse, otherwise, keep moving.

Horse Sale Ad Lies Non Mareish

Oh, and one last thing, a mare is a mare is a mare. At some point, she’s going to have an off day. Maybe several off-days in a row. She’s a mare. She’s going to act mare-ish at some point. It’s statistically improbable that the number of ads that claim a horse is non-mare-ish are actually accurate. They’re biologically engineered to have an attitude. It’s just gives them personality!

*Except for those people I mentioned who aren’t ready to sell yet and have all sorts of requirements for the sale of their horse and ongoing care.

Good luck horse hunting! Please share your horror stories, and follow me on Facebook so you never miss a mediocre post or the occasional gem!

How to decipher horse sale ads

Published by

Theresa Rice

Writing a modern day western and telling my daily stories of humor, sadness or inspiration. Depending on the day, it might be all three.

8 thoughts on “How To Tell If A Horse Sale Ad Is Actually Full Of Horse Shit”

  1. Great blog for sure. I just get my girls from the BLM. They all cost the same, if you chose for pretty and not attitude you can trade them within the first year. And the price is always $125.00
    But I love all horses. I’d make a terrible horse person to go with you to look at horses unless, you have a very large trailer. Lol

  2. I am that person that people come to for advice when purchasing a horse. Whether it’s their first horse a horse to work cattle on a horse to run barrels on or that horse for grandma and grandpa and the grandkids . The problem is nine times out of 10 they ask your advice but do not take it.
    They are not the least bit interested in old Dobbin who would carry them through thick and thin and be a quite patient horse to learn on. Instead they rather purchase a horse named Rhowdy who has no ground manners hasn’t been hauled in six years and needs rescuing……. But he is pretty ….. And they know with enough love and carrots he will become meek as a lamb because they rescued him. The same people want to be mad when you say I don’t think that’s the horse for you.
    Next words out of their mouth will be we can learn together. How many horses have you trained I ask. They will snarkely reply you know I’ve read lots of books and I’ve watched lots of videos. So apparently I am wrong videos and books replace experience and feel any day . I guess my point is it’s not always about bad sellers it is also about inexperienced and unwilling to listen buyers. I wouldn’t take a used car to the mechanic and have him tell me that it was three days away from having a blown engine and tell him that if I rescue it and love it everything will be fine.
    Just another perspective . Ride On

    1. You are absolutely 100% correct! I totally agree! I definitely do not thing all (or even most) sellers set out to be dishonest. Sometimes buyers are not honest with themselves about their abilities and let the beauty or their emotions get the best of them! Thanks for sharing your perspective, I think it is a valid one!

    2. I totally agree! I call it “Black Stallion Syndrome” though. What’s that old saying? “You can lead a horse(buyer) to water(suitable horse), but you can’t make them drink(buy the right one for them).” A couple finally figured it out after they bought the “Black Stallion” and ended up having to get rid of him/her and get an appropriate horse after all.

      1. Ha! That is the perfect name for it! They get distracted by the beauty and forget they have to be able to ride it too! So funny.

  3. Here is something that happened to me that is kind of a reverse BS when trying to sell a horse. Back in the 70s (I have over 50 years with my horses, working every day), a friend of mine was going into the Army, and wanted to find her sweet little Quarter Horse a good home. She put in the ad, with my phone number. I had a few calls, but after I screened them with pertinent questions, and meeting with them at the barn to see Laddie, they were unsuitable (one of them wanted to keep him in an empty lot with no barn). Then I get the call where the “gentleman” did not ask any other questions about him, only “How much does he weigh?” A switch went off in my head, and I knew that this was a killer buyer. At the time in Ohio (thank goodness I am here on my ranch in NM), horse slaughter was legal. I told him in the most colorful language I could call up that he was not going to touch Laddie and hung up on him. A few days later, I went to the barn (it was a boarding establishment before I bought my own place), and Laddie was gone. When I called her mother, she said she sold Laddie to “a lovely gentleman who wanted him for his kids.” I asked her why she didn’t call me first, and she said he needed to get the horse moved within a few hours. I know in my heart that Laddie was another innocent victim. We MUST fight to keep horse slaughter illegal. Horses have done so much for humans, and they deserve to be loved and respected. So if you are selling a horse, you might want to keep this in mind. If the caller asks about his weight first thing, something is fishy!

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