Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: New South Wales, Australia
Ask lots of questions. That's usually the only way to find out what they are like.
Don't give too much of a spiel about what you want (ie. "I want someone who will rug my horse, have her hooves done every six weeks and not over jump her, do you think that sounds like you?") because then they may very well give you the answers you want to hear.
This is easier if they have other horses, as you can ask about them, you can just start casually and go into more detail. Like, oh does your horse need much feed, what do you feed him? Oh you do heaps of trails on him, does he need his feet done often? Ask about previous horses they've had, where they keep them, if they compete etc. If they're local buyers chances are if you talk enough you'll find a mutual friend, a trainer you both know etc. I'm always a little suspect of people who don't know anyone I know in a horsey area.
Watch them ride, encourage them to come more than once and really think over it.
I had an OTTB I was selling and I had someone come out and we agreed to a price. No money was exchanged as they were coming to next day. But I thought about it after they left, about their situation, their abilities and the help they had and I decided that they weren't the right home. I called them and I told them that I had thought about it, and their agistment situation (kept alone) really didn't sound like the type that would suit this horse. I told them how she needed more training, and as they hadn't ridden in a long time simply a friend couldn't help, but she would probably need to be sent away for training. After I shared my concerns we agreed that she wasn't the right horse for them.
So don't rush into things. Don't let people pressure you.