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More and more folks are looking to the Internet to find their next cat, dog or horse. While this offers a convenient solution and broader selection outside of ones locality, it can be fraught with unseen expenses and potential heartache. It seems inevitable that buying horses online will become more the norm than the exception as the Internet grows. With that in mind, following is a short list of what one should do when looking to purchase their horse through an online source.
1. Call the seller - don't just email. You'd be surprised at how many folks have never spoken a word with the seller until after the money changed hands.
2. Ask for a recent video. Most Internet-savvy sellers already have videos on hand and will have no problem with that request. Some sellers will not have access to a video camera, and in that case, you need to try to find someone who can go to where the horse is and check him out, or, better yet, go yourself if possible. Of course, your requirements in a horse and budget will determine if it is worth all the time and money spent making sure the horse is what you want. A $1500 animal might not warrant a $300 plane ticket plus other expenses. It would really be best to look more local for your next equine friend in that case.
3. If you seem fairly certain that the horse is for you, hire a local vet to go over and give a check to your prospective horse. If one doesn't do anything else here, hiring a vet should be the minimum that is done when buying a horse online. Just doing the standard Coggins and general overview for transportation purposes won't cut the mustard. Have the vet look over the teeth, eyes, hooves, muscle condition and coat condition. A horse is finely attuned to everything in and about it - if anything is wrong it usually shows up in the eyes or coat at the very minimum. Ask the vet for an objective opinion as to if the horse is sound and easy to manage. A vet chose their field because they had an extraordinary affinity towards animals - they have more skills than just their medical knowledge when it comes to animals, or in this case, horses - make use of them.
4. Ask for references for previous horse buyers from the seller. If this is a one-time sale with no other references available - then depend on a phone interview with pre-determined questions. A caring, honest seller will gladly answer your questions as well as ask you plenty too.
5. Make sure you have insurance coverage for the transport. Most commercial horse transporters will carry a certain degree of insurance to cover accidents and mishaps, however, it would behoove you to carry extra insurance on your horse, especially in the event he/she falls ill during or after the transport.
6. The very best advice is for a potential owner to make the trip themselves, inspect the horse personally, bring in a local vet for checks, and spend time communicating with the horse to assure him/her that everything will be fine once they arrive to their new home. Making the trip with your horse will help them to become accustomed to you as their one constant and will pave the way for a much smoother homecoming.
This is but a short list of what one should be looking at when buying a horse online. You may get lucky and hook up with a seller who has all of the above and more ready for your look-see, but just to be on the safe side, it's best to know at least some of the minimums that need to be addressed. Always keep the horses well-being in mind when deciding that you just have to get that beautiful looking Paint horse who happens to be 2000 miles away. If the horse isn't feeling 100% in the first place, and you put him through the stress of an uncomfortable long haul, you may be doing some major harm to the frightened horse that could end up being a heartbreak for all concerned.
Cris Mandelin-Wood owns several websites covering pets. Animal welfare issues are of special interest.