We’ll start with who sells horses and what the differences are between these types of sellers. The most common one is the private seller. This is simply the person who originally bought the horse and now had decided to sell him or her. Perhaps the horse was not a good fit for this person, or maybe the person can no longer afford a horse.
There are numerous reasons why people sell horses and it is a good idea to ask a private seller why they are selling.
If a private seller decides they don’t want to deal with the process of selling their horse, they may send them to a trainer to be sold. This is very common and is usually done with horses that have quality breeding or are already trained in a particular discipline. Trainers that offer horse marketing and sales offer a very valuable service.
The trainer knows where to advertise the horse, how to best price the horse, and has a personal network to find the right match for the seller’s horse. In exchange for their service, the trainer collects either a marketing fee or a commission or both. You can and should expect a more professional experience when dealing with a trainer.
There is another type of horse seller — a dealer — Horse dealers buy and sell lots of horses. They will frequently buy horses at an auction in one state, and then sell them in another state either privately or at another auction. Generally, dealers do not have the horses very long; they buy horses to “flip” them quickly to a buyer. Dealers will also buy horses from private sellers that want to move their horse quickly and will take a cheap price. There are certainly exceptions, but as a general rule, it’s buyer beware when looking at horses from a dealer.
Horse auctions are another way to find a horse. Horse auctions vary widely in quality. Some auctions feature very well-bred, well cared for horses that are being sold by breeders or private owners. These are usually the breed or discipline-specific auctions. Other auctions may allow horses to be sold that are lame, sick, or have severe behavior issues.
These lower-end auctions are often the last stop for many horses because there is no other place their owner can sell them. The sad truth is that there will be bidders at these auctions who are buying horses for slaughter. Many horses at these low-end auctions are drugged to hide lameness or behavior problems.
that’s another negative of auctions, there is usually almost no space to ride the horse, and it can be tough, if not impossible to find any information or history on a horse.
This brings me to another place where you can find a horse and that is a rescue facility. A lot of rescues are breed-specific and there are many rescues for retired racehorses, standardbreds, and especially off the track thoroughbreds (abbreviated OTTB). Rescuing a horse is great, but I am going to say again that it is not the best for beginners. Most rescued horses, and especially racehorses are going to have a lot of mental baggage and “triggers.” Just as people can see something or smell something and it reminds them of a past event or feeling, horses experience the same thing. Being at the racetrack is a stressful, adrenaline-filled experience for a horse, so they are likely to become anxious and temperamental when something happens to trigger a memory of those experiences.
OTTBs can be wonderful horses and can excel in many disciplines, but a lot of people who are not well-matched with an ex-racehorse end up with them simply because they are cheap and there are many available. Just remember that it is not worth getting a horse that is beyond your skills and abilities as a handler and rider; it puts you in danger and it is no service to the horse, which may just need to be sold again down the road. That said, rescue horses can also be similar to auction horses in that you don’t know much about their past, so proceed with caution. A horse’s temperament is created first by breed and genetics, but will also be greatly influenced by the handling and training they have received throughout their life.