Regardless of where you get a horse, you should take an experienced person with you (if you are not one), since private sellers and dealers are also fully capable of passing on dodgy horses. You could buy a horse privately and it might not be what the seller told you it was. But at least with an adult horse, you can see what you have. You say conformation doesn't really matter, but if you want to jump it or barrel race (have to say.... I have yet to see a draft or draft cross who will make a passable barrel racer... even lighter ones who do well at dressage or jumping aren't quick enough for barrels), you need something put together well enough to withstand that type of work.
The Amish get a lot of flack for mistreatment and abuse and somehow that gets tied into their identity as Amish. Many, of course, don't abuse their horses. Plenty of non-Amish also mistreat their animals, but it never becomes connected to their cultural identity. You get the same kind of discourse about Travellers here in the UK. It's a way of "othering" people who don't live like "us." And it's as silly as saying that we are worried about white guys from the South -- as a group -- abusing horses because the people who do the big lick Tennessee Walker stuff are generally white guys from the South.
Last edited by thesilverspear; 06-25-2013 at 08:00 AM.