You found a horse online who looks like a promising prospect. The training level, temperment, breeding and price fall under your criteria. You read and reread the ad and finally decide to call for more information. But what do you ask the seller and how do you know if you will get an honest answer?
Ads usually contain the basics, which can be considered the horses strengths- the horse leads, loads, clips, ties, stands for the farrier and vet. Easy to catch in a stall or turnout, gets along well with others, height, color, breeding and price. So what do you ask the seller about the horse? If the horse has been shown- the seller will more likely include all of this as a way to promote the horse as something great and justify their price.
Some sellers will include information which makes the buyers question the suitability though. One ad I found a short time ago stated the horse "needs a stronger rider". Stronger how? Do I have to really pull on the reins hard to get the horse to stop? Sometimes the strength needed, is in fact, the inner strength of trusting the horse and letting them go. Dropping the reins, closing your eyes sitting still and asking for a stop, instead of yanking and pulling on the horse while screaming repeatedly- HO!
Traders often get a bad rap because they are in it to win it. Flip and ship is the name of their game. A quick turnaround means less spent on feed, farrier and vet work, just get the horse sold and move on to the next one. I know of a few locals who are no more than horse traders. But they do get lucky and find a nice horse here and there. If you know what you are looking for and what you are looking at, you can score a great deal on a nice horse for a low price, simply because the trader doesn't know what they have. In their quick assessment and 'easy flip' they don't often have or take the time to get to know the horse.
A lot of times they pick up horses at the low end auctions. They give the horse a chance to find a new home, make a few hundred dollars and go back for a few more. If a horse is on their lot too long, they may take them back to the auction to dump them off and bring home another in their place. If the horse has serious issues, they go back to the auction the next chance they get.
When looking at ads online- check all adds for this seller. Quite a few of the ad websites offer this feature. I suggest you use it. A couple of horses, may not be so much of a trader. A long list of assorted breeds, temperments, accomplishments and each ad sounds the same? You are likely dealing with a trader. But even some breeders take on a shady character when it comes to selling horses. Some also prey on newby horse owners. They too can take in horses of other breeds as a 'payment' for something else and expect to flip & ship the horse for a profit.
As a buyer, keep in mind that every horse is for sale for a reason. Sometimes the reasons are good ones- job loss, sudden illness, death in the family, expensive car repairs... Sometimes the sellers are just thinning out or culling their herd, trimming the fat, downsizing, cutting costs or even getting out of horses altogether.
While everyone wants to have a nice horse, breeders and trainers fall under a little different category. We want to keep our best horses, but don't want to be known for selling a bunch of horses who are unsound, mindless, hard to handle or downright dangerous to be around. The way to build our reputation is for every buyer to be happy with their horse, feel safe while riding them and understand that they are horses and we cannot control every single thing they do. Some people get it. Others don't and some never will.