Once you have figured out the parameters for what kind of horse you are looking for, its time to hit the road and start trying them. This is by far the most fun part of the entire process if you follow a couple guidelines to keep you protected and safe. There are tons of horses out there too, so be sure to not settle for anything less then your dream horse. Here is where time is your friend. The only binds I have ever gotten into with buying horses is when I got impatient. Being able to really look closely at all of the little things will help make sure you find the perfect horse. Look at everything with a fine tooth comb because it will rarely get better once that horse leaves the property.
After you have vetted your seller and seen videos of the horse, its time to load up and go try some. Just remember to have your criteria already in place when you leave the house so you wont be as easily swayed out in the field. It can be easy to get caught up once you get out there and buy something you will regret, I know, I’ve seen me do it. Another thing that can be good to do is bring your own saddle. You will already have some new factors going on, why add one more by riding a saddle that is new too. Be sure and bring a saddle and a good rope, that way you set from the start.
When you first set up an appointment, I recommend telling the seller to leave the horse in their pen. You can see a lot about a horse by how they are to catch. When you arrive, tell the seller you would like to catch the horse yourself. See how they act, are they trying to always turn away? Is the horse scared or nervous? Not that any of these are deal breakers it just shows you their true colors.
Once you catch the horse, I recommend doing all of the saddling your self. Not only does this give you great insight into how the horse is to be around but also keeps sketchy sellers from being able to tip tow around a spooky horse without showing you. For me personally, some of the best horses I have ever had where a little touchy on the ground, but for you if you are older or have little kids, it might just be something you don’t want to deal with.
Let Them Go First
Once you have the horse saddled and booted, its time to get on. Right here is one of the biggest safety tips I have and that is to make sure to make the seller rope on them first. This way if anything bad happens, its not you that hits the ground. This will also give you a great insight into how the horse travels and how the seller manages them. Every horse has a little quirk and you just want to make sure you don’t mind the ones this certain horse has. You can always lope them around later and feel them out but make sure they aren’t going to do anything with you on them.
I also let the seller run the first couple steers on them too. Have them talk you through how to ride them. They should know this stuff by heart and if they don’t it either means they are hiding something or they don’t know the horse very well. Ask every question that comes in your mind because if you don’t you will regret it later. The only one I dislike is why are you selling them. Everyone has their reasons and it really doesn’t matter. You either like the horse or you don’t, and who knows sometimes one mans trash is another mans treasure.
What To Watch For
There are only a couple things that are deal breakers to me and that is rearing, bucking, and box problems. Everything else is pretty fixable, but a horse that does any of those three things, run! Box problems are so much harder to fix then you think and unless you can get a handle on it on day one, it will likely always be there. I used to think I could fix every horse, after all, my good blue horse reared up and walked out of the box on his two back feet the day I tried him and I still bought him. But he is the exception not the rule and I can honestly say after 5 years those issues are still there, I have just learned how to manage them. There are too many nice ones to deal with issues. Even if you have a lower budget, don’t get your self hurt. Operation “Don’t Die” is still in full affect.
Watch how the horse moves and travels. This will give you a big indication on how they will work in the field. Like I said in the previous article very few nice horses lope around like bull dogging horses. Watch how they stop, how they are in the box how they score. Every little detail matters here. Also think about what you personally want. Do you like a ratey horse or more of a free rolling horse? Do you want one that reads your throw or does the drive by shooting in dodge city? Also watch how they handle cattle in a head horse and read cattle in the corner as a heel horse. That is a huge make or break factor for how easy a horse is to win on.
The moment has come. It’s your turn to try the horse out. I recommend starting by loping them around and feeling them out. Get a feel for them first before you ask them for their life. There is a time to push them but that time is not at the beginning. It’s a great way to permanently ruin a relationship with a seller if you instantly get on and start picking. Feel them out first to see what they are capable of. Some horses are just green, others are just not going to work for you. It’s not your job to fix the horse, and trust me, any seller appreciates that you don’t.
When To Get Off
I think a lot of people think that they are being rude by getting off really quickly. They think they are being disrespectful. But the truth is, not every horse will work for every roper and good sellers know that. I actually tell people that come to try my horses, that if you get to a point that you know this one isn’t for you, feel free to get off. There is no need to waste your time or theirs on something that is going no where. If you run two and you don’t love them in the box, get off. If it’s not perfect but you can see the light, keep roping. I always think when I’m trying horses that its rarely ever going to be a match made in heaven from the beginning, but we need to at least see the light at the end of the tunnel.
After you have ran a couple steers and gotten a feel for them, it’s time to press a little. Here is where I would start to run a couple of stronger steers in a row and not score any in between. I’ll even tell sellers thats what I’m doing so they aren’t alarmed. Now, you are not trying to blow the horse up, but you do need to see if you can run 4 in a row without them coming unraveled. This does not apply if you are trying a green horses by the way. But if you can’t run 3 or 4 in a row on a finished horse, how are you going to do it at the roping? After that, if the horse doesn’t work, offer to come back and score some before you get off, and even if they do work good make sure to come back to relax the horse on a loper or two. If they are a finished horse you should be able to get them back under control in a couple scores and a loper or two. If not you might have an issue with them not being finished enough.
I actually don’t recommend trying horses at ropings for a couple of reasons. One is, as a seller, I have rarely had it go well. Buyers tend to throw the horse in the fire without any help and are shocked when it doesn’t work. Two, it’s really hard to win on a horse that you have almost no rapport with. If they haven’t been many places maybe see if the seller will haul them somewhere for you and let you enter once, just to see how they handle the lights and the sounds. The truth is if you fit a horse, you will learn to work with them at a roping and if you don’t, you won’t. I do recommend trying a horse you really like in a different arena though especially if it is a finished, higher dollar horse, just to see them in a new environment.
Finalizing the Deal
If after all of this, you think the horse is going to work for you, it’s time to work out a deal. First, there is nothing wrong with offers and sellers have come to expect them, they will either except or counter. Secondly if this horse is for you, I highly recommend vet checking them. No matter how young or old, a crippled horse will not do anyone any good. Have your trusted vet check them out. It’s the cheapest insurance you can buy and it starts at 230 bucks or so. Then you know what you have and can move forward. I like to say pending vet check passing, we have a deal. Leave the horse at the sellers place until you actually hand them a check, because otherwise you could own a horse you didn’t want if they get hurt on your property. It is standard for the seller to hold the papers until the check clears too unless you want to bring cash or a cashiers check.
With all of this said, trying horses is one of my favorite things in the world and can be a ton of fun. I hope this lengthy article was helpful to everyone, as always Have Fun and God Bless.