08-12-2009, 07:27 AM
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I think the most important thing is to find a horse that matches your skills, riding environment/expectations, and to ride it in situations similar to what you would be doing if your were to buy it.
We always advise folks to ride in the ring and on the trail, solo and with other horses to see how the horse acts in all those situations. If you're going to do a lot of trailering, load and unload the horse, also.
Have an instructor or trainer that you work with/trust look with you and ride the horse also. They can be very valuable in getting a good match for you.
You'll also want a pre purchase vet check to rule out any major medical problems and DNA testing, if applicable to the horse/breed, to check for the some of the known genetic defects.
Don't forget the business details.. make sure you get a bill of sale and signed transfer papers (if you buy a registered horse) when you pay. I've known too many people caught up in the emotion of the moment buying a horse that turn over their money with the promise that the seller will get the papers to them only to find out that the horse had no papers or had changed owners multiple times without the transfers being done (which complicates registering in your name).
Finally, take your time and be patient. A lot of folks jump into buying the first horse they fall in love with, but a horse, regardless of the price, is typically a long term investment.