Lies or Just Poor Communication?

The agriculture industry is full of poor communication at best and downright lies at worst. The horse business has some of the best and the worst. We started our horse operation out of frustration over the horses we bought that didn’t meet our expectations or the promises made to us.

Probably some of you have been there also. The guy on the phone says the horse is so gentle even his wife can ride it. You put a foot in the stirrup and that bomb proof horse blows up. He really was bomb proof, but  you weren’t!  Then you find out later, the guy’s  wife was riding broncs at 4 years old.  

How about the kids ride him all the time. Ever heard that one? We have and far too many times it turned out to be slightly less than accurate. Sure the kids rode him, five years ago from the barn to the gate. Whether less than truthful or just bad communication, it is still  your hard-earned money for something you didn’t want.

Frankly, we decided a lot of the problems aren’t so much sellers trying to cheat folks as just plain, old lack of communication. What  ” gentle  ” means to one person is  not the same to the next. Broke is a term that can mean almost anything from ridden twice without bucking to ready for a noisy Christmas parade.  A ” good horse ” is equally valueless in terms of understanding what the seller means.

Communication is a two-way street and the buyer also plays a role. Don’t ask vague questions when  purchasing a horse. Ask detailed questions that get to the heart of what you want to know. Example: Does he load in the trailer easy? Sound like a detailed question?  It’s not. Are you talking about a four horse stock trailer or a one horse? Does it have a ramp or does the horse have to step up into the trailer? Does it have rubber mats or does it have a slick floor? See how just a few variables can really change the meaning of what everyone believes they said or heard.

A better approach is to ask the seller to simply tell you about the horse and then listen to what is said. ” How many times have you loaded the horse into a trailer? ” “How did you load him? ” ” Can you show me? ” These types of questions along with ” show and tell ” give the prospective buyer far more information. If the seller grabs his cell phone and starts calling the family to help ” load the horse “, you get a clear picture.

We used to say, ” Tell me about the horse’s bad habits. ”  With some people you get straight to the truth. With others, you don’t get what you want to know. Having been the owner of a proud cut gelding several years ago, I distinctly remember asking the seller  to tell me all the bad things about the horse several times. He clearly said there weren’t any. The horse was a dream in every way when saddled and a nightmare when not. The man said he owned the horse for 5 or 6 years. I noticed there were some brood mares just down the road and we talked about them. Really hard for me to believe he told me the truth. Now it’s water under the bridge, but an expensive lesson.

If you are looking for a horse, make a written list of everything you think your next horse should be able to do. Try to spend several hours and write down all the simple things  you can possibly can. Don’t assume a horse does anything other than cost you money! If you think the horse will stand tied, you better find out. Some stand tied better than others. The details are nearly endless and you should know more about what you want and expect than anyone.  These are the areas you want to go over with the seller in DETAIL.  Don’t assume because the last 5 horses you rode were easy to bridle that the one you are checking out will be.

I scratched the hood on a nice car one time getting out of the way when a guy tightened the cinch on a  ” well broke ” horse. It reared up and fell over backwards trying to grind the saddle into the ground. Notice I said the guy pulled the cinch! I already knew enough back then to make the seller do everything I wanted to do FIRST.  You may be surprised how many sellers would love to ride the horse for you if it wasn’t for that ” catch in their back “.

At the end of the day it is buyer beware. So questions, questions, and more questions!


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