People can say all they want in their ads so it really comes down to knowing how to read a horse quickly and thoroughly in the time you have to try them out to make sure they have all the things on your list. I would definitely take someone knowledgeable with you. Have the owner ride, then your trainer/friend ride, then you ride. I will video all of the rides if I can to review when I get home. I never commit to buying the first day as many people will and then the next time they see the horse is at the PPE. It is never fun to fall in love with a horse on site despite any shortcomings that you see and that you find yourself shrugging off or make yourself willing to compromise. Don't do it. Bring someone with you who you know will be honest with you and that you will listen to so they can talk you out of buying a horse you really won't be happy with even though they are cosmetically what you really want or that you simply "see the potential".
The biggest mistake I made was not INSISTING the owner to ride first which I normally always do but my confidence got the best of me and I ended being dumped into a fence. Watch the horse ride first even if you have a good feeling about it.
I like to look for horses that have been on trails at least. Nobody generally wants to take a hard to ride or disobedient horse out into the open. I usually just look for a good training foundation. Can they lunge and take direction from you or are they stubborn and going to put up a fight when asked to move off? If they insist on resisting you then they probably have holes somewhere in training. Easy walk, trot, canter, and stop under saddle. If they go when asked, stay relaxed in each gait, and woah when asked then they had a pretty good foundation. I look for a "yes m'aam" attitude and from there I can tailor that horse to whatever I want.
I had a very good experience while looking at my current mount. I rode him twice on 2 very different days: one cool and windy, one warmer and sunny. One was on a very busy day with lots of people out riding around and one was on a day where nobody else was there but us. The owner even demonstrated him being ridden around bareback in a halter on both days. The first day she got on him bareback with a halter to take him back down to his pasture and the second day she was riding him like that when we got there around all the other horses and people.
Be sure to witness EVERYTHING. Don't allow the owner to have the horse tacked up and ready when you get there. I like to see everything from the time the horse is being caught in the pasture.
The most I have spent on a horse that all had a good foundation is $2100.
Good luck! Lots of great advice here.
Last edited by PineMountDakota; 07-10-2014 at 06:59 PM.