Buying a horse that has been heavily treated with Bute or a similar medication is costly in several ways. We’ve been there, done that! First, you paid your good money for a horse you didn’t get. Second, you now own a horse that has some sort of problem. Third, you feel cheated and slicked. All of this assumes, the horse didn’t blow up and throw you or get you hurt when you learned you didn’t get what you thought you bought.
Ace, Bute, pain killers, calming drugs, and mood altering medications can be hard to spot, sometimes impossible depending on the substance and without time for it to wear off and dissipate the system. So how can you avoid the unscrupulous seller who wants to give you his problem in exchange for your hard-earned cash? Here’s a few ways we learned over the years.
First, you shouldn’t just buy a horse. You should also be “buying the seller”. In other words, if you don’t know the seller and have confidence in what you are being told, don’t buy the horse. Sure it may look pretty and may appear sound and quiet, but those qualities aren’t enough by themselves. It is important to know if the seller is honest, actually knows the horse, and has the communication skills to relate the knowledge about the horse to you in a meaningful way. In short, you need to know the seller or accept you are taking a risk.
Second, ride the horse several times before you buy. Watch for a horse that is unresponsive to situations that should generate attention. For example, wave a trash bag and watch the eyes and head. If the horse doesn’t widen his eyes or turn his head to see what is taking place, there’s usually something amiss. Ask if you can show up without notice and call when you arrive at the gate. Don’t give the seller the time to administer the next dose. While it doesn’t take long to medicate, the uncertainty makes it easier for you to spot. Did the seller bring the horse out or were you allowed to follow him to catch the horse? Attention to the details of the situation can tell you a lot.
Third, ask questions and not just once. Listen to the answers for consistency. Ask straight up, has this horse been given medications or fed anything that will affect his disposition. Some sellers will flat-out lie, but others will grudging admit if asked a direct question while looking them in the eye.
At the end of the day, there is nothing better to ensure a healthy and drug-free horse than actually knowing the horse and the seller. So get to know them both before you load the horse in your trailer.