When shopping for a horse, there are a considerable amount of options to be considered. High on the checklist should be- What are you going to DO with the horse? Breed, show, trail ride? If you are interested in showing, are you heading for the jump course, dressage arena, driving course, roping chute, rodeo arena or cattle pens? What level do you intend to go to? How well do you ride? How much do you know and how much do you have to spend?
For each discipline and sport, there are a number of levels of competition. There are a number of schooling shows for beginners, green horses and as a 'brush up' before hitting the circuits and rated shows, practice events before hauling out to the rodeo grounds to strut your stuff and 'fun days' just to hang out, learn and make new friends. For each level of competition, there are horses in all price ranges and often a handful of different breeds. Stock breeds dominate in certain arenas where lighter breeds take over in others. There are also the occasional 'exception to the rules' to be seen.
Once you have decided what you want to do and where you want to compete, have come to grips with your own abilities and checkbook balance- It's time to go shopping for a horse. But where do you start? Are you working with a trainer? Will you be boarding? Is your property safe for a horse? Do you know of a farrier? Feed stores? Veterinarians? If boarding- what is included or handled by the barn staff? Once you have established a comfortable answer to the numerous 'pre-horse' questions, there are a few other things to be considered.
What are you comfortable with, as far as accepting 'issues' with the horse? There just are no perfect horses. Perfect for you and your abilities- yes. There may be a few who fall into that category actually. But just like people, horses come with 'quirks'. Some can only be handled from one side for certain things, fed certain things and not others, nervous in a particular situation, they may have allergies, skin issues and as they age, just like us, there are health problems to be considered.
Depending on the sport and discipline they have been competing in, there may be joint issues, stress points, muscle tension and even lameness to deal with. Sellers can be honest and truthful or slick and slimy in their dealings. How does a person new to the horse world navigate these waters? Carefully. Just like the rest of us!
If you are not familiar with horses and haven't been around them a long enough to develop and eye for some of these issues, the local auction is not the place to go. Your heart will likely run off with a horse who has issues that will bankrupt you. Either by funding the vet's new house or tropical vacation, or sending you to the emergency room for an extended stay. When considering an auction find as a lucky one, they are. There are plenty of them there to be found. But diamonds in the rough are all around us, just waiting to be discovered by the right person and land in the right situation.
Auctions are more or less, buy on the spot, bid what you can afford and choose from what is available that day. Scouring the online ads, you have a bit more time to consider all things about each horse and choose wisely. Horse shopping in general is like everything else- "caveat emptor" or buyer beware. Learning what to look for, keeping an open mind concerning your intended use for the horse and trusting your gut instincts is the start to making an informed decision about the horse you will soon be bringing home.
Like buying anything else, your best option is to make the most well informed decision whether to buy or keep looking.