Tipps for buying a horse in Germany
There are many things to bear in mind or watch out for, when buying a horse - here are some tipps from my 40-year experience with horses, as a rider, a horse owner, working as a horse-riding instructor, for a dressage horse dealer, as a groom in a dressage stable and for a show jumping team, working as a holistic horse practitioner and running a livery yard:
1. Watching the horse being groomed and tacked up
This can give you many clues as to the horse's behaviour, health and ridability. So insist on being present at this early stage, because
- Horses that cannot tolerate grooming of the back very well, often suffer from back problems
- Same goes for horses that cannot hold up their hind legs very well
- Horses that appear to be nervous and agitated usually have a health issue with being ridden
- Does the horse stay calm and relaxed when the saddle is put on its back?
- Does the head stay down when the bridle is pulled over the ears? Horses that are being ridden with force and/or draw reigns tend
to develop problems in the poll as this is the end of the ligamentum nuchae.
- Feel the tendons before and after riding: are they cool and firm?
- Are the hooves firm and even? Look for good quality hooves because this is the foundation of your horse even though they might be improved with feeding however it could a source of worry and extra work
2. What to look for in a Dressage Horse
The rider in this picture has every reason to be happy. Her horse is not only an extremely beautiful chestnut, it has also got a very good shape (maybe the frame could be a little bit longer for a dressage horse). Moreover the topline is almost perfect making contact, with the head in the vertical, easy.
It is an excellent example for the principle: the rider forms the horse.
Therefore take a close look at the topline and the muscles of the horse you want to buy. The longer it has been under the saddle and the older it is, the more important this is.
After that, watch the horse in free movement and then under a rider:
- Walk: The strides should be neither too big nor too small. Horses with extremely big strides usually have a difficult canter too. Short strides
can be improved to a certain extent by working in-hand and going out hacking.
- Trot: The trot is developed during training not only by muscle development in the hind end but especially throughout the horses back and
- Canter: This is the most important gait to look for - you want an uphill canter in free movement, which is best seen without the rider .
When you ride yourself, feel for the following criteria:
- Acceleration: How well can the horse push from behind? Even in an untrained 4-year old it can feel like pushing down the speed pedal in a Porsche. It is a wonderful feeling.
- Balance: Depending on the level of training this is a very important issue. Balance can be felt under the thigh: The amount of horse we feel under each thigh should feel even. Additionally compare both front hooves: Are they exactly the same? If one hoove is flatter that the other, it means that the horse overloads that leg usually due to a weakness in the diagonal hind leg. Is the horse able to move with ease equally on both reigns? Are both hindlegs tracking up the same? How smoothly does the horse move its back? These are just some areas to watch out and/or feel for. Good balance is key to good performance and health. (I learned this the hard way)
Two reasons why you should always test ride yourself:
1 Is the horse really sublte?
I have experienced this problem many times by watching other people ride and everything looked great. Then I test ride the horse myself and it feels terrible. This is usually due to the fact that the horse is not really subtle even though we get that impression watching it which again is due to the fact that many riders are not being taught how to feel for the horses mouth and movement and ride the horse properly from behind.
2 Does the horse's "blueprint" matches yours?
No matter how nice the horse moves, it has to feel good for YOU.
3. What to look for in a Show Jumper
There are basically 3 major things that you should want to find in a good show jumper:
- A nice bascule: The ability of the horse to round its back when jumping
- The horse should pull towards the jump
- Knees up: Talented horses pull their knees up automatically
4. Buying a Horse in Germany - Legal Issues
The days of the handshake are long gone and private horse buyers have benefitted from the change in EU legislation regarding product liability. However you must ensure that there is a written contract: It still happens that horses are sold without proper contracts. So it is best to have a look at the contract BEFORE you fall in love with a horse!
In particular you have to ensure that when you buy the horse from a professional trainer or dealer, that this is written in the contract because it means that your liability rights are totally different compared to the purchase from a private person. Some professional sellers try to avoid this problem by telling you it is the horse of the son or another private person.
5. Never Buy a Horse with Thin Tail and Thin Mane
If a horse has a thin tail and a thin mane it can mean that it has extremely weak bones too. Traditional Chinese Medicine looks at a body in a different way and in a horse a thin tail and a thin mane this might mean a weakness in the so-called Kidney Meridian which is also in charge of bones and teeth. When I bought my Knabstrupper gelding Hidalgo I had no idea about Chinese Medicine, neither about the predisposition of the colour to Equine Recurrent Uveitis, neither about the hereditary exterior weakness in some of the breeding lines of Knabstrupper horses.