Whether you are buying from us or another farm, here are some suggestions when shopping for a Gypsy Horse or, in most cases, a horse of any breed.
First, the seller should have the horse’s welfare in mind. A huge part of this is making sure the horse is a good fit in his new home. If we do not feel the horse is a good fit for a prospective buyer, we will say so. We always encourage people to talk with us about the horses they are considering in order to learn their personalities, faults (yes, there will be faults–no horse is perfect), habits, and training levels.
Second, we recommend the buyer ask the seller what is the worst characteristic of the horse. Is he food aggressive, does he bite, does he poop all over his stall and not in one corner? In support of Item One above, we at SFG will be candid as to the faults and habits of a horse because, when a horse goes to a place where he isn’t a good fit, he will most likely be the one to suffer the ill consequences.
Third, ALWAYS GET A VETERINARIAN TO CHECK OUT THE HORSE BEFORE DEPOSITING ANY MONEY. Believe it or not, we’ve actually had to twist arms of potential buyers to get them to do a vet check. A prepurchase exam, while not foolproof in detecting flaws, is nonetheless a responsible and smart part of purchasing a horse. It protects not only the buyer but also the seller. Our purchase contract states that, if the purchaser chooses to exercise his option not to have one performed, then he is agreeing to accept the horse “as is.” This clause simply encourages prospective buyers to do the check.
We tell potential buyers who are reluctant to have a vet check done this story. When we first looked at a horse that was still overseas, we pursuaded the Gypsy breeder to allow us to have a vet check done there. The breeder permitted us to do one, and the vet reported that the filly we were considering had uveitis in one eye, apparently from a brush with a briar. The condition was painful and would have required ongoing, expensive medical treatment, and so we passed on the filly. Had we not done the vet check, we would have purchased an expensive problem. We are convinced that the breeder was not aware of the issue.
Fourth, have the veterinarian check under the horse’s feathers. Many Gypsies have scratches, fungal or mite infestations which thrive in the warm moist area under this breed’s feathers. Scratches, while annoying, are not serious if treated and kept under control. However, there is a more serious problem which can pop up in Gypsies–chronic progressive lymphedema or CPL. It is much more serious and its presence should give the prospective purchaser pause.
Fifth, also have the veterinarian measure your horse at the withers. IWhen importing was much more common, it was a common joke that imported Gypsies “shrunk” in transit. The same can be true for purchases in the U.S. Verify that the horse is the size you’ve been told.
Sixth, if you are intending your horse to be a breeding animal, have the vet verify, to the best of his ability, that all reproductive organs are functioning correctly. We’ve heard of a mare imported to the U.S. that had no mammary ducts with which to supply her foals with milk! If you’re purchasing a stallion that you’re going to be offering outside your own herd, find out how viable is his semen after being chilled. You’ll most likely be shipping semen to mare owners a distance away.
Seventh, if you are new to the breed, insure that the horse can be registered in one of the four Gypsy Horse registries currently active in the U.S. The Gypsy breeders in the U.K. don’t have registries. In all four U.S. registries, if both parents are registered, then the foal’s acceptance to the registry should be automatic. However, a horse for which at least one parent is not registered must be approved by a registration committee, whose members will evaluate photographs to determine whether he meets the breed standard. All horses sold by SFG are registered prior to purchase.
Eighth, ask the seller to open the horse’s veterinarian records to you. At SFG, we routinely open a horse’s vet record to a potential buyer.
Ninth, have the horse insured the moment money changes hands. Like a house on which you have a mortage, the horse is yours even if not fully paid for. Should the seller accept payments, he will require you to purchase mortality insurance on the horse made out in his name.