So you decided what you want to do with your horse, chosen a breed, set a budget and started looking... and looking... and looking...
You have learned how to refine your search, and yet the list on the monitor is still long. Now what? You refine it a bit more and try again.
Your criteria may include the breed, the age, the price, discipline and even the color. But within each of these you will still find quite the assortment of horses who vary from one end of the spectrum to the other.
Breeds- Pick a breed. Any breed. You will find horses of just about every shape to choose from. Narrow based - built like a tank, short - tall, long - short coupled, great feet - lousy feet. Sometimes you find a registered horse, big names on the papers, but built like Frankenhorse. Then there are grade horses who are about as perfectly built as it gets.
Age- you will find young horses who are as calm and quiet as the day is long and others in the same age group, who think everything is out to get them. Young horses who act much wiser than their years and older horses who are full of spirit and life.
Price- You can set a limit and yet still find a freebie. We have taken in a few freebies over the years, passed on others and know of three more at the moment. Some of our horses have come with price tags of everywhere from $250 to several thousand dollars. Whatever you feel the horse is worth, are comfortable paying and can afford- Congratulations on your new horse!
When looking through horse ads though, what are the warning signs that stand out to some and get no reaction from others? Seeing these things, what do they tell you? In the lower end of the price range you will be more likely to find horses who fall under the 'rescue' status. They are in rough shape and their eyes just scream "HELP ME!" when you look into them.
One thing that stands out to a lot of people is the hay belly. But then you also notice their ribs are showing. Most likely this is worms. Curable? In a lot of cases, yes. Cost? You can go the route of buying a few tubes at the feed store or online, or you can have the vet out to tube worm them and have an evaluation done on the level of infestation and type of worms you are dealing with.
Once this is dealt with and ruled out, the horse may begin to flourish again and pack the weight on with ease. Or not. Then what? Look at their teeth. Are there hooks, points, ridges or sharp spots, ulcerated areas on the tongue and inside of the mouth? If so, this can be handled by having the horses teeth floated. Some horses need to be sedated for this, while others are fine on their own. Prices vary according to your location and the quality of the person doing the work.
If the horse is thin when you looked at them, ask what they are being fed and how much. Sometimes it is a matter of not enough feed, or the right feed. Is it a mare that has just been weaned? Some mares just can't maintain weight while the foal is at their side, where others have no problem doing so. If kept in a herd situation, are they separated at feeding time? If your horse is the lowest on the pecking order, they will not likely get much to eat and it will show. Throwing and extra flake of hay and spacing them out can help fix this, but may not work in every situation.
The hooves also require a close look. Are they long and overgrown? Does the horse toe in or out? Do the hooves have a nice 'bell' shape to them or are they small and straight? Are they in proportion to the size of the horse they are under? Is the seller making a big deal about the "New Shoes" the horse is wearing? Could be because there was an all out battle to get them nailed on... Can the horse go barefoot or do they require shoes? Can they get by with front shoes only? If you have a horse wearing shoes but standing on hard packed ground, day in, day out and buying the horse means they will be moving to a stall with bedding and well groomed arenas with nice footing- you may be able to remove the shoes without issue. Then again, you may not.
The overall condition of the horse can tell you a few things. If they are thin, have the 'wormy belly' and their feet are long, chipped or haven't been trimmed in how long(?), it should raise a few flags and eyebrows, that the horse has not had routine care. A few dollars for wormer, a few extra dollars per bale for good hay, having their teeth checked and seen to once a year or more as needed- costs you far less to maintain the horse, than it will if you ignore everything and wait for it to all fall apart.
And believe me, when it falls apart, it FALLS APART! No amount of grooming will cover these things up, and sometimes the damages cannot be fixed.