I began writing the series “How to buy a horse” back in May.  My, how time flies when the horse flies are out.  For those just joining us, you can hop in here, and read Parts I, II, III, IV, V, and VI later.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words.  In the case of horse shopping, a video is worth several thousand words.  And an even greater number of dollars.

When I’m shopping for a horse for a client (or for myself) I like to see both, because there are different things to see in each.

In photos, I like a classic conformation shot.  And for a hunter, a jumper or an eventer, I want to see how a horse uses his legs (especially his front legs) over fences.   Those are the basics but I’ll look at a dozen photos if a seller has them and sends them, because it’s amazing what you can see in one photo that you might miss in another.

Videos can confirm what you suspect after you’ve seen the stills.  Or they can surprise you.

Look at Jazz, who was #1 on the World Breeding Federation of Sport Horses Dressage Sire Ranking for 2011:

Looking at his hind end, and without knowing who he was, you might think his femur (thigh bone) is a little short for an upper level dressage horse.  I do.

“F” is for Femur

I’m not the only one who thinks a long femur is important.  Hilary Clayton does too, and it’s the feature she most associates both with good movement and with soundness.

But now look at Jazz in motion:

Here’s the truth when it comes to pictures and video:

The fact is that you can’t tell how a horse moves until you see how a horse moves.  But movement isn’t the only thing a video can show you.  There are usually other things you can pick up that will give you a clue about a horse’s history, not the least of which is how people ride or handle the horse you’re considering, and how the horse deals with it.

We all know that what goes on behind closed barn doors usually stays behind closed barn doors.  So you might think that even if someone trained a horse to jump in side reins on a lunge line, they wouldn’t put it in a video (you also might wonder what would possess someone to jump a horse in side reins, but I can’t help you there).  Sorry, I can say from experience, some people do this and they put it on a video.  But look on the bright side, as I do:  What an excellent opportunity to evaluate a horse’s willingness and submission!

I wish everyone would make videos the way I’d like to see them, but whatever you can see, you should.  These days, most sellers are happy to take video and post it on youtube, publicly or privately.  It’s so easy.  If a seller hasn’t taken the time to do so (big names and big reputations excepted), I wonder how serious they are about selling.

Admittedly, it can get depressing to watch videos of horses for sale because too many sellers either don’t see or can’t admit that their horses are lame.  In all fairness, it can be hard to see, especially if the lameness is subtle. That’s why it’s important to educate your eye.  If you don’t trust your eye, ask your trainer and/or friends who have an eye for lameness, to share with you what they see.