What To Watch For When Buying a Horse At Auction


Buying a horse at auction will always involve some element of risk. There’s usually a reason why the owner is selling at auction instead of directly to a buyer- but if you’re not careful, you’ll only discover those reasons after you’ve handed your money over.

Most of the time, unless you are a professional horse trainer or vet yourself, a full pre-purchase examination will be out of the question. If that’s the case, then you need to look carefully for any potential issues- but be warned, these are usually very subtle (or else the owner wouldn’t risk letting you see the horse), and they may sometimes be covered up by either drugging the horse, or only bringing it out for a short amount of time.

You should begin looking at the horse by checking it over thoroughly from head to tail, looking out for any warm spots or swellings that you might see. The horse should then let you run your hands down each leg- if not, then this is a definite sign that something is up. Try to flex the joints if possible- if the horse is suffering from arthritis or a damaged tendon, then they won’t flex very well.

Next, it’s time to look at the general condition of the horse. How does its body look? Is its hair sleek and shiny, or dull and damaged? What about the hooves- are they well trimmed, or cracked? The ideal horse should also have strong muscles, and a positive personality- there’s no bigger warning sign than a horse that seems overly shy or depressed. These factors will give you an indication of how well the horse has been looked after, as well as its level of training and exercise.

Make sure you get a chance to see the horse actually moving about, and at all speeds from walk to canter. A few telltale signs to watch out for are: moving with ears pinned back and tail moving erratically, head bobbing up and down (an indication of lameness), and heavy breathing. You should also take this opportunity to assess the horse based on your own needs and riding ability- be careful not to overestimate in this regard.

When you are sizing up a horse at auction, and seriously thinking about buying it, be sure to take your time- all you’ll do if you rush is miss out on something potentially important. No one is going to spot every potential issue, but by inspecting plenty of horses, you’ll soon learn to sniff out a problem without much difficulty.

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