Take a witness with you, ask all the questions but don't believe all the answers, and trust your gut feelings.
I bought a lovely young horse last Feb, he had shoes on when I bought him, I asked if he was good to shoe and was told he was, but the first time my farrier shod him he was a bit fidgety, I commented on this and my farrier pointed out there were no other nail holes, the shoes he had on when I bought him must have been his first pair of shoes ! So they didn't exactly lie, but getting one set of shoes on a horse once isn't my idea of "Good to shoe" !
I would do it slightly differently. I wouldn't ask everything under the sun over the phone but I would only ask the main things to confirm this is a horse worth viewing.
Concentrate on a brief history of the horse so far, i.e. are you talking to the owner, is she a private seller or a dealer, does she also ride the horse, how long has she had it, where was it before, why is she selling?
Then ask her what kind of rider/activities is the horse suitable for. Don't say what kind of rider you are, wait to see if what they say matches what you want. E.g. if you want a bombproof, first time owner hack, and they say the horse is a straightforward first competition horse, then you know it's not for you.
If all goes well then concentrate on suitability for the activities you want to do, e.g. does it hack? In a snaffle? Alone? In company? In traffic? In open spaces? Does it buck/rear/nap/take off?
In this weather confirm that there are suitable facilities for trying the horse. Never get on a horse the owner refuses to ride!
If all that sounds suitable arrange a time to see. I don't want to write this in capitals so as not to sound rude, but please, please, please take your instructor with you. Firstly she knows you and can assess the suitability of the horse for you. Secondly you can now ask a million questions and you have a witness to the answers from the owner (which you do not have on the phone).
A final thought...can you afford to wait a couple of months before you look for horses. This is an awful time of the year, you don't want to have to get used to a new horse which cannot be turned out or ridden due to the snow and most private owners who are not in any hurry to sell would wait till spring anyway to get the best buyer possible.
ask if the horse has previously been sold and returned to the owner for any reason only a friend recently bought a horse and the owner failed to mention that he had been sold before and returned due to suspected stringhalt in a hind leg overall it caused a lot of hassle and the poor horse was left unwanted as new owner didn't want him n previous owner refused to take him back
This one may or may not be appropriate depending on the horse, but I found that when I said that the horse was to be a family share for me and my daughters, the sellers seemed more likely to confess its faults. They were happy to have me bucked off and trampled, but conscience kicked in more readily when kids were involved!
I have lifted these questions from another site: http://www.newrider.com/forum/showthread.php?t=51164
But they seem rational! There are TWO sets of questions here, from two commentators - I have not checked them for doubling up but you can cut and paste and put them in rational order and then use on the phone - I'd get a pad of paper and have two columns for Q and A so that you actually ask the questions and not get side tracked!!!
Obviously there's a lot here and so some could be for a first viewing - ALWAYS get them to ride the horse first...I went to a viewing and the person was bucked off her own pony - suffice to say I didn't 'pop' on board as offered!!
When/Why did you buy the horse - Do you know the horses past history/breeding/breeders/past competition results - Why are you selling the horse (important one this!) - What vetinary treatment has the horse had to have while you have owned him (you can check this with a local vetinary clinic if you are uncertain) - Has the horse ever been unsound - When was the horse last checked, or ever checked, by a physio/chiro and by an equine dentist - Does the horse have a height certificate - Is the horse registered with any breed or competition societies - How much competing has the horse done, and with what success - How good is the horse to shoe (if unsure, check with local farrier) - How good is the horse to load and travel in a horsebox AND a trailer - How easy is the horse to catch. - What herd position does the horse seem to assume - Has the horse ever suffered from Laminitis, or Sweet Itch or similar. - What is the horse like to hack in company/alone - How is the horse in traffic (ask specifically about certain things, eg. tractors, bicycles, motorbikes, fast cars, articulated lorries) - How much schooling has the horse done, do they have regular lessons - How much jumping experience does the horse have - What height has the horse jumped free schooling and under saddle
From another person commenting on the site:
Age? can it be confirmed? Height? Can it be confirmed? What is his personality? Quiet? Feisty? Lazy? Does he have or has he had any medical problems/injuries/allergies? Is he registered with any societies? which ones? ... About the horse's behaviour: Is he good to... catch? shoe? load? lead? clip? How is he to handle? in the stable? outside the stable? in a diffierent atmosphere (e.g. competition)? Does he have any behavioural problems? biting? kicking? chewing? Does he have any stable vices? if so what started them? what is done to reduce them? If a mare, is she particularly marish? Is he scared of anything in particular? does he have any phobias? how is he with hose pipes, etc? Whats he like with the vet/farrier/dentist/people/other horses/other animals? ... About the horse's care: What bedding is he stabled on? why? What is he fed? why? any supplements? why? how much hay/haylage per day? How long is he turned out per day? Is he kept on his own or with others? Is he more happy turned out or stabled? How well does he travel? How well does he adjust to new people/surroundings? Is he up-to-date on vaccinations and worming? What shoes does he wear? Why? ... About riding the horse: Is he an easy/difficult ride? Is he suitable for a novice or experienced rider? Who is he normally ridden by? Is he good to hack? alone? in-company? on roads? Is he particularly spooky? at what? where? when? Can he be ridden both indoors and outdoors safely? What disciplines does he participate in? does he compete? Does he have any behavioural problems? rearing? bucking? napping? bolting? What is his current level of fitness? Does he lunge? Does he enjoy jumping? Does he jump coloured fences? Does he jump natural fences? Whats he like at shows/in stressful circumstances? ... About the horse's tack: What tack is he ridden in? why? What bit is used? why? What boots is he ridden in? why? ... About the horse's history: What is the horses breeding? can it be confirmed? What did he do before the current owners had him? How long have the current owners had him? (be suspicious if its only a couple of months) What has he done with the current owners? What types of competitions has he done? at what level? with how much success? Has he had any medical conditions/injuries in the past? ... About the sale: Why is he being sold? How much is he being sold for? is it open to offers? Can you have a vetting? Is tack included in the price? if not, can it be bought seperately? for how much? Does he come with any rides for competitions? which ones? Is there a possibility of a trial period? how long? When can the horse be collected? or can you transport him to me?
I'm in the process of buying my first horse (v exciting), and I've found one I like the look of! I am going to call the lady this eve - so what would be the one question you would ask? Not sure where to start and will prob end up asking all the wrong things and forgetting to ask the obvious! Lol! Thank you!