There is a gigantic markup on imported horses that are trained and sold here, not because they're necessarily worth the eventual price, but because baby needs a new pair of shoes (profit issue).
The trouble is, that the added price doesn't always indicate added value.
Young, average, and I mean really average, quality warmbloods, often in the 'second grade' registry rather than say, KWPN, go for only a couple thousand euros over there, sometimes less. Then tack on 10k for flying the horse over here, then tack on some profit, and the very modestly endowed WB is being sold in the USA for 40 or 50k. If the horse originally sold in the EU for 2000 euros or less, he can sell for 20 times that here.
If it's any consolation, the same thing is happening to US reining horses imported to Europe now. But it's still a problem for US buyers of sport horses, despite that.
I wouldn't ever suggest that you can always buy in the US and get what you want. There are problems with buying a better quality WB for upper level dressage here - the main one, that the United States is a huge place and every single horse is nearly always in a different place.
Here, to look at ONE horse, you pay for air fare, hotel and a car rental - generally at least a thousand dollars per trip. And nearly EVERY trip, you look at ONE horse. If you're focused on what you want, a certain age and level of training, and a level of quality, in the US, you can spend all your horse budget just looking at horses.
If you go to Europe, you can look at 30 horses on one trip. In two days. And they all might be more the size and level of training you want.
In BOTH places, you need someone who has your back and can negotiate, as well as spot all the tricks that are played.
In BOTH places, horses are lame, misrepresented, badly trained.
In BOTH places, both internet advertising and being 'out of town' (and so unknown to you) gives a monstrously huge edge to the SELLER. For example, one website featured what looked like a gorgeous horse farm with statues at the entrance and row upon row of stalls filled with beautiful upper level horses for sale.
Well. When I went there, I found out the person lived in a house, and boarded two horses at a boarding barn. She'd buy a nice horse for herself, and a so-so horse to sell, to help pay for her personal purchase. There was no big farm with a zillian horses. THAT farm on the website, was one she dropped by in Europe and snapped a lot of pics.
Just remember, being out of town, advertising on the internet gives the seller a huge, huge advantage.
In another case, a horse was advertised as 'quiet, gentle, easy for anyone to ride'. I almost bought the horse. At the last minute a judge told me that he often judged in the state where the horse was, and that it was a dangerous and chronic rearer, and had been for years. When you aren't from the area, you don't know the story.
And the story is ALWAYS going to be beautiful gaits, 10 mover, easy to ride and get on the bit, trained to - oh, whatever level you want.
BEEEEE CAREFUL. Take someone along with a very, very bad temper and a whole lot of knowledge, hopefully someone who everyone knows and will raise holy he** and tell the whole world if the seller pulls something on you. If you have to pay him/her, do it.
In BOTH places, horses are sedated, worked down, deprived of feed and sold with clear intention to sell a bad horse, a harmful horse, a downright dangerous horse.
I had the most horrific trick played on me once. The agent wasn't familiar with the horse; it wasn't his fault. This was in N. AMerica, mind, not Europe, but it can happen anywhere. It just so happened that the seller was delayed so that I wound up standing by the horse's stall, watching him. And I could see there was something very, very wrong with this animal, something very neurological. There was a 'scrubby' area on the inside of each leg, covering a small bump. When he walked around in his stall, he didn't walk normally, he LURCHED and hit those two spots with his feet. Then he fell on his face - WHAM. And this was the worst part, picked himself up without the least nervousness. In other words, this was happening all the time.
Now, when the owner arrived they first took the horse out into the arena and longed him. He fell AGAIN. The agent walked up and I whispered, 'let's go'. He got one good look at the horse and we scooted out of there.
This was a gorgeous facility, a young horse of top bloodlines, gorgeous, beautifully groomed....this is exactly the kind of thing that happens.
You have to be very careful where ever you go. Sure, a vet would have found out THAT horse, but I've been listening to tales of woe for years and years, mostly, that the person is overmounted. Sometimes this is mutual deception, of course, the person gets flattered by the seller and they swallow it, 'sure you can handle this horse, you're a super fantastic rider'.