There are many things that I like to look at when assessing a sales prospect, but one of the very first things I consider is the “First Impression”. We all know that First Impressions are important and there is a reason for it. Our gut instinct is a survival tool and one that can be well utilized if we learn to let it guide us vs. our emotions when buying a horse. Our first impression is a tool of survival our natural instinct uses to help us make sound decisions.
For example, we all analyze an individual when we first meet them. Do they stand up tall or slouch, look us in the eye or avoid direct eye contact, have a strong or timid hand shake, do they appear athletic, fit, average, overweight, skinny, limited or some other physical variable, are they too friendly, are they rude, are they blessed with beauty or average looking, are they in good health or ill, do they appear to be safe or should we avoid them, when they speak are they educated, average or below average, and the list goes on. The same could be said for first impressions when buying a house or a car. Our First Impressions tell us a lot.
A skilled broker, trainer or seller is going to know how to give you the best First Impression for the horse they are trying to sell. After all, this may be how many make their living and it is their job. Which is fine of course, but you want to be smart and make sure you buy what is good for you, buy right and buy what you want. For example, a seller may have the horse ready for you with boots or polo wraps already on. Now this may be fine as they are on the ball and want to get the ride going. Or, it could be they want you to ride the horse, fall in love with it, and then after you ride it you see that it has a major scar or bump on its leg. You won’t care so much now that you’ve ridden the horse because you are in love with it. Or, they may have the horse saddled so you do not see the withers are really high, he has a very low or long back, or saddle sore scars. Perhaps the mane is braided. How nice, but this is a good way to lengthen a very short neck. They also may have the horse tied up in the isle or wash rack so your first view is from the front end, not from the side which may not be very attractive because it looks like it was squeezed out of a toothpaste tube.
When I go to look at a horse, I ask the buyer to leave the horse in the stall with no tack or equipment on. I want that first impression when he walks out of the stall. I want to also see how he behaves when someone goes in to get him. I’d like to observe him while he is being groomed and tacked up and how he handles being bridled. This gives you time to make small talk with the seller and find some information out. Such as, has he already been ridden that day, turned out or lunged?
Remember that your first impressions of the seller are important too. You are the buyer, it’s your money and you have the right to seek information prior to purchasing any horse. Ask your questions. The Seller is obligated to answer. And if his answer is not clear, ask again or in a different way. Note how the seller answers your questions. Often what is NOT said is as important as what is said. For instance. If the seller says he can be a little cinchy that may mean he can kick or bite when cinched or even be a little cold back when you get on. When you get an answer like that, probe some more. Listen to your gut instinct when it comes to first impressions. When you drive away, if your first impression is nagging at you, listen to it. You’d be surprised how often your gut is right. Remember, it’s easy to buy a horse and much harder to sell one. First impressions can tell you a lot, followed by due diligence.