Just as there are horse buyers to beware of, there are also horse sellers who should be avoided. In our examinations of many, many unsuccessful horse sales, we have identified several seller characteristics that are hallmarks of risk. The more characteristics present, the riskier the transaction is.
(1) The Liar
Horse advertisements are almost as legendary as real estate advertisements when it comes to emphasizing the positive and ignoring the negative. As examined in our equine advertising translation guide, horses often don't live up to their advertisements, to the point of humor. However, there is a big difference between a well-written ad and one that actively misrepresents the horse. Here are some examples of equine characteristics that are often misrepresented, each of which can be easily verified by the buyer prior to purchase: height, age, pedigree, registration status, and identity of registered owner. Even if the misrepresented quality is not an obvious deal-breaker, keep in mind that if the seller isn't telling the truth about something you can easily verify, the seller probably isn't truthful about less obvious issues, either.
(2) The Evader
If you ask direct questions, such as those in our Horse Buying Checklist, and the seller avoids giving you a clear response, that should be a red flag.
(3) The Apologizer
Within reason, the seller should be able to demonstrate everything that the horse is advertised as able to do, and at the level at which the horse is advertised to be performing. If for reasons such as weather or facilities, the seller's property does not permit the horse to be properly shown to you, the seller should be amenable to transporting the horse to a place where it can be properly shown to you. Beware the seller who explains a horse's failure to live up to his advertising as a "bad mare day" or the like. You can safely assume that if the horse won't perform properly at a sale showing, he won't perform properly when you need him to, either.
(4) The Bully
You should be completely comfortable with all the terms of a transaction and not allow a seller to bully you into agreeing to unacceptable terms. If the seller argues with you over the terms of the sale, imagine how difficult it will be to get any cooperation from them after the sale. Likewise, you should not allow yourself to be badgered into a premature sale by a seller's threats of having other buyers lined up, raising the price, etc.
(5) The Ignoramus
If you ask direct questions and the answer always seems to be some form of "I don't know," that's a red flag. If the seller doesn't know because they haven't had the horse very long, query why the horse is back on the market so soon. Sellers using sales agents who aren't knowledgeable about the horse may believe (erroneously) that they don't have to disclose a material bad fact if the agent doesn't know about it.
(8) The Smooth Talker
There's a difference between a good salesperson who can answer your questions and a smooth talker with a slick line of patter and an answer for everything. Beware the latter.
(9) The Dealer
While there are a few reputable horse dealers, they are in the distinct minority, to the point that "reputable horse dealer" is nearly an oxymoron. Reputable sales barns do share some common characteristics, however. They are knowledgeable about the horses they are selling, and have had them long enough to fairly evaluate their temperament, health and training. They want to sell you a horse that is a good match, not just sell you any horse you'll buy. Their terms of sale are clear, and they are memorialized in a good sales contract. They have been in business in the same geographic area for a number of years, and gladly provide you with numerous references to whom you can personally speak (rather than just glowing website testimonials). They do not have a lengthy history with their local Better Business Bureau or mentions on sites like www.complaints.com. When you Google their name, the search results do not include numerous unsavory chat board discussions of their shortcomings.
(10) The Balker
Any seller who balks at allowing you to see or try out the horse should be avoided. Likewise, any seller who balks at a vet check from a vet of your choice (whomever that vet might be) should be avoided.
(11) The Reluctant Salesperson
Sometimes, sellers don't seem very interested in selling their horses. They can't seem to make time for you to come and see the horse, bother to take pictures, promptly answer your emails, or send you a video. Why should you be interested in buying if the seller can't be bothered?