Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Buying a Horse from a Afar

Missouri to Montana- According to MapQuest:
I-90 E 1585.76 miles
24 hrs 42 mins 

Why couldn't I have found a suitable horse a little closer?? Well he wasn't even that suitable come to think of it.. (remember the criteria?) But that is water under the bridge now.  Otto's a long ways away from where he needs to be here in MT.  Buying a horse  from a distance can be tricky. In my situation there were a couple of added "wrinkles" to the process. All in all it worked out ok for me  (well I think it has, I don't have him quite yet)  but I thought post about the whole process was in order. Maybe someone can take something away from  it and pass the time on blogosphere while I wait for my new boy!

What do I know about Otto so far? Other than the fact that he isn't gelded yet and according to the vet and now past owners, he is very intelligent, curious , friendly and loves attention? Not a lot really. He apparently likes giving kisses. The daughter has been training him on that little trick I guess. By the daughters report, he will come over and put his nose up to ask for a kiss. The owners daughter thinks its cute I guess. To me,   that could easily lead to biting so I will have to see about it. Maybe it will be perfectly fine.. but I am not much on encouraging these types of behaviors , especially on young stud colts.. ! He recently had to be penned up alone because they have mares and didn't want to take a chance on someone getting bred, which even though he is young... can happen.. believe me.. (that is how Brego came to be actually)

Anyways, I got distracted ..

This  whole buying a horse long distance thing was new to me. I might have mentioned I haven't actually bought a horse for a number of years, and now I was buying one from a very long way's away. In recent years, I have always been on the other side of the sale, the one selling a horse to someone else , usually in another state. It's a similar process but definitely different being on the buyer end of the deal. Less sense of control for sure.. your kind of at everyone else's mercy to hold up their end of the bargain.

 Obviously,  I wasn't going to be able to lay eyes on this colt in person. All I had was some limited  video and pictures.  I definitely wanted to do a Pre-Purchase exam. I probably would have done one even if I could see him in person because it's a good policy.

So after alot of looking at videos of dam, sire, colt and obsessing for days over it, I decided to take the next step...

Rule #1-  PRE PURCHASE EXAM= MONEY WELL SPENT- In my opinion.... Always, always, always do a pre- purchase exam, and if you can afford it, do the xrays , which is usually an add on option. The value of a prepurchase is priceless. If your going to make an investment in a horse, you may as well do what you can to identify any underlying issues,  especially if you are buying from afar.  Yes, they are horses, and they could kill themselves in the blink of an eye... but.. you want as few surprises as possible.

If your  not familiar with what it involves, it's kind of like going to our doctor for an annual checkup. The vet should do an overall look at the horses conformation, stance, and physical condition. They should also check the  heart, lungs, eyes , ears , teeth and gut sounds. Often the dental exam is done to confirm the age but also checks for any mouth issues that could cause the horse problems as a riding horse that will have a bit at some point. The vet should also check for neurological issues. They can do this by turning the horse in tight circles and asking the horse to back up. Another check is the reflex response by tapping the horse in certain areas of the body, kind of like when the doctors check our knees.... similar thing. If the horse 's conformation doesn't reveal any potential issues, then your vet should move onto the lameness check.

This is generally a two part process. Passive versus Active Lameness Exams.

First the vet will do a hands-on examination, palpating and feeling the tendons, joints, ligaments , etc for any signs of issues  or abnormalities. .  Ideally the vet will check the hooves carefully, examining the size and shape as well as using hoof testers to check for any soreness. The vet should also be palpating the spine and pelvis area. The horse is just standing there for this exam and not being asked to move. This is the Passive Lameness Exam.

The next phase is the Active Lameness exam where the horse will be asked to  move. The vet will have an assistant walk trot, and canter, if able , in hand while he watches the horses gaits, looking for any issues in movement. At this point, the vet will perform what is called Flexion tests, which will reveal any pain or issues with the lower joints like the pasterns or fetlock area. Usually the last step is that the vet will lunge the horse, preferably on a hard surface to see how his movement is in a circle.

At this point, the owner can opt for xrays if they would like. Most people that are purchasing a horse that they plan to compete on for reining, jumping, dressage, etc will want xrays, but it can also depend on what the vet saw in the exam and what the situation is.  In my case, I opted out of the xrays because of my conversation with the vet I used for the pre purchase. Details on that later in the post..

I knew I wanted the exam done.. The question became how to go about getting it done. This is where it started to get a little tricky for me.

The owner, who I will refer to as P,  was totally ok with the notion of a pre purchase exam and before I move on... here is another point to make:

RULE #2-  WATCH FOR A RED FLAG  This wasn't the case with my situation but I thought I would mention it. If the owner tries to talk you out of a pre purchase.. major red flag.. walk away or do some further investigation! This exam is at the buyer's expense so as the buyer, you really are the one to gets to decide. And....don't forget  the vet is working for you, the potential buyer. General guidelines dictate that the vet  not discuss their findings with the owner you are purchasing from. If you want to share that with the owner, your welcome to and I did in my case.

Ok back to what I was saying.. the tricky part:

The vet that P  typically uses was 40 minutes drive away from where Otto is.  That was going to cost me quite a bit in the trip charge alone. I had to save where I could given the transport costs and the owner completely understood. Unfortunately, there was no way for P to bring the horse into the vet for me,  because she isn't even living where the horse is located..

Remember I said I had some wrinkles in my story???

Apparently, P had just moved to the area where the horse was located only a few months prior, bought the farm,  moved the horses from the old place to the new place  and then had to leave town shortly thereafter.  She is in the military and got transferred for a temporary assignment in another state.  That is understandable but less than convenient when your trying to buy a horse from her. Her  daughter is home at the farm with the horses, but works full time and has very limited time off. Add to that she had no way to haul the colt into the vet herself. No trailer.

I kind of had to decide if this was all going to be worth it because it was going to require alot of legwork on my part. I really liked the colt.. so after alot of phonecalls, google searches and map questing inquiries, I did manage to find  one vet through a recommendation of another vet.

Keep in mind.. I didn't know any of these people , nor did they know me,  but I will give a shout out to the midwest folks. They are a helpful bunch!

I had to trust what I was being told by complete strangers on who was a good horse vet and who was not. ......oh.. ....and Google Reviews.. thank goodness for that.. It helped tremendously as well.

The vet I found was only about  8 miles from where this horse lived!  The vet himself called me back and said he could swing by there  one night that week on his way home and check the colt out for me.  He asked me what I was planning to do with the horse and if I wanted xrays or just the basic overall exam.   I told him endurance and jumping were the primary goals but pretty much an all around horse.  Before I even had to ask, he stated.....

"then you probably want to make sure those legs and feet are going to be up for the job?"

 I suppose most people want to know the legs and feet are in working condition for any prospective using horse,  but I think he understood just HOW important those things become with endurance and jumping, compared to some other disciplines.

Based on our conversation, we agreed that he would do the regular exam and if he saw anything to indicate an issue with the legs or feet, then he would call me to see if I wanted to move forward with xrays. Sounded good to me. I had already decided if there was something not right based on the basic physical exam,  I was going to pass on the deal altogether, so xrays were out. No sense going any further.  This might be another rule that could be added here -Know your limit- Decide how far your willing to go or what your willing to spend before you talk to the vet and send him out there.  

I gave the vet the horse  owners contact information and he made all the arrangements with P to  meet the daughter for an evening appointment.

Rule #3- QUALIFY YOUR VET ( as much as possible from distance) that you decide to use. This was a weird experience to try to find a vet who you don't know to do a pre purchase exam. It is hard to qualify them based on a phone call. Generally with a few questions over the phone, you can get a sense of a person. I found that having an open conversation with the actual vet  and not just talking to the office staff went a long ways. The vet I found was a really nice guy and clearly knew what he was doing. Talking to him gave me a comfort level and I felt like the vet exam by this guy was going to be money well spent.  I think it also helps the vet to know what your after so he/she can do a good exam. I think the fact that I didn't end up using P's  normal vet was probably to my advantage, not that he would have done a bad job at all, but I think  it's  best to have an objective set of eyes. For Pre Purchase exams, vets are  are supposed to be objective if the horse happens to already be one of the vet's regular clientele but sometimes that is hard to avoid.

I did know that this particular vet did alot of work with barrel horses and the racetrack so I felt pretty confident that he knew his way around horse legs. Granted I was still paying for this service,  but I got the distinct impression that he was definitely being pretty flexible with his schedule in this case to accommodate the daughters schedule. I was eternally grateful.

I called the next day to find out what the results, since no one called me from the clinic ( I waited until noon....which was ample time in my opinion..)  which I thought was a little odd. The staff were clueless and had no idea what I was talking about. They even got a little snotty with me. Apparently, an exam never even went into their appointment calendar so they thought I was crazy when I was telling them that the vet did a pre purchase exam. They couldn't find it in their little magical box so in their world,  it didn't happen, I guess.

Vet =1, Vet office staff=0

Anyways, the office girl had to ask the vet about it and call me back. I did get a call back later that day from her. She was much less snotty , the vet had in fact gone out and the news was all positive. She said the vet did the exam and stated the following:

"he's was a nice little colt, sweet natured, easy to get along with , friendly, and I really liked him". " I think he would be a great prospect for what you are looking for".

The office girl also said that he noted that he checked to make sure both testicles were descended.  I had forgot to mention that when I spoke to him so I was glad he checked.  Little Otto WILL be getting gelded and the last thing I wanted to deal with was a cryptorchid!

**Side note here- You should get a document in writing from the vet for the exam.. I am still waiting for mine which is a little bit of an irritation right now. 

It looked like all was a go.. I just needed to decide if I was going to bite the bullet , write the check and figure out transportation to get him here. Easy Peasy.. right??

I talked it over with the hubby that afternoon , thinking he would talk me out of it.. 

Only he didn't..

having a spouse that is involved in horses sometimes has it's down sides!  

I even tried a few friends..none of them tried to talk me out of it either. (bad friends...)

I called the owner that night and said I would take him. I had no reason not to and so far I have not had buyers remorse.. !

Next hurdle: Tom was headed back to work (summer break goes so quickly)  on 8/25 and we just weren't able to get the paperwork and everything else in order that has to be done  before he started the school year again. Once school starts, he can't really request a few more days off after being off all summer!  I wasn't interested in making that kind of trip alone and I couldn't find any willing volunteers to go with me.. :-(

Transport company it was..

Transport of a horse is kind of a big deal when your having someone else do it for you. Add to that, Otto is a young horse, not very well trained at the trailering thing and he's sporting a set of boy jewels.

RULE #4- FIND A QUALIFIED SHIPPER- I think this is the part I dreaded the most. I really wanted to do this ourselves because of the fact that he was so young and inexperienced. My biggest concern was that I didn't want his first major trip in a trailer to become a bad one. There are alot of horror stories out there with shipping horses. But, I had to remind myself,  there are also a lot of good companies as well. I know from experience that I prefer the smaller family owned operations over the national companies. It seems to be that, in most cases,  family owner companies here in MT atleast, seem to be livestock owners themselves and  not just "truck drivers". There is a difference. I would just recommend to do research , ask alot of questions, and check reviews and/or ask for references. A reputable company will not hesitate to answer any questions or provide any references. I found three shippers that work out of my home state that I was able to get bids from. One I was very familiar with and he lives about 20 minutes from me which is good because where I live, I am kind of the end of the line unless someone is headed to Canada. Two of the shippers I contacted could get a horse as far as Billings but that is a 9 hr trip from me. That didn't help much. The o
ne I was very familiar with I thought had retired , otherwise I would have just contacted him first and been done with it !  I was pleased to hear he had not retired and as luck would have it, he was  going to Florida in September. His bid was by far the best and I knew I could trust him to do a good job. Better yet, he could accommodate the colt with a box stall  and has camera's in his trailer. Can't ask for much more than that.

I had another option as well that might be worth a mention because I wasn't aware of it until recently.

UShip.com- When I sold Maggie, I learned about this very neat website.  That is how her new owners arranged for shipping . Basically it's a site where you can put in a request for bids to ship just about anything you can think of. There are reviews and rating from customers right on the site which helps. When I started my search for a transport company I actually threw a request out there for a bid . The same company that hauled Maggie gave me a bid within only a couple of hours of putting the request in. The bid was reasonable and they did a good job with Maggie. I would have gladly used them again but their trip was scheduled too quickly so I had to decline. It all worked out and I am happy with the quote and the company I went with but it's good to have options.

Now that I had a shipper and a date parameter to work around, I had to get the appropriate paperwork for Otto to travel which meant I also had to arrange for the vet to get back out there again for a blood draw for the coggins. With the tricky scheduling situation with the daughter , that is what took the longest but it finally got all done this past weekend.

RULE #5- STATE REQUIREMENTS FOR TRAVEL PAPERS- Ok,most of us know this and I am not trying to be captain obvious  but it's worth a mention because MT is a little different than some other states on paper work requirements.Most states just require Coggins and Health Certificate. Coggins requires the blood test and is generally good for 6 months. The Health Certificate is only good for 30 days. Timing is important here when transporting to make sure your working within those parameters. Also, keep in mind, it will take some time to get the blood test back from the lab. Most times, the vets plan 7 days to get those results back, although it's usually sooner. My local vet can get a coggins done in a two day turnaround  time if need be. This vet I was working with was not able to do that.

In some states there is an additional piece of paperwork called a Brand Inspection. MT requires one of these and it doesn't mean the horse has to be branded. It's just another piece of paper but it has to be completed by a State Brand Inspector.  Missouri doesn't require a brand inspection but alot of  western states do. In my case, the shipper will need to obtain one when he enters that first state that he travels into that requires one,whatever that state might be ( I think it's Wyoming). In order to obtain that very important piece of paper, he will need the bill of sale. The bill of sale is given to the brand inspector and then he gives you a new piece of paper that supercedes everything else for proof of ownership.The bill of sale goes on record at Department of Livestock for Montana.

In spite of what alot of people think:
*** Registration papers with your name on them does not mean anything when it comes to ownership of the horse. Brand inspection and an actual  brand (freeze or hot) rule the law on proper horse ownership in MT. We actually do brand all of our horses. We have had our own brand registered with the State for a number of years. I actually don't particularly like the idea of branding the horses but there is a good reason for it. In MT, if you happen to lose a horse, especially in the wilderness, the  Department of Livestock and the Forest Service is obligated to assist you in searching for your beast, IF your horse is BRANDED. If not, they are not obligated to help and you are on your own. You would be surprised at the number of horses that have been lost in the forest/wilderness here. Especially this time of year with all the hunters that head into the mountains. 
So, we brand all of our horses. Our brand is a Heart raised Three. Front right shoulder and I think we are also registered for back left rib on cattle (if we had cattle).

RULE #6 -COORDINATE and COMMUNICATE- The last thing you want is for you your hauler to show up and the paperwork to not be ready. Your not only risking messing up his schedule and  the schedule of his other clients/ passengers aboard , you might just end up paying for a trip without a horse arriving. Make sure when planning paperwork  you coordinate with your shipper. In my case, my shipper plans to pick up about Sept 15 but he wanted the paper work done a few days in advance in the event he is early, while still working within that 30 day window of the health certificate,  so we had to  make sure the paperwork was done by the 10th.  More logistics to work through.

There was one small red flag that came up.  Otto has only been vaccinated for tetanus and that was last year. He has had no other vaccinations. In general, we have actually scaled back on what vaccines we give our adult and senior horses . We only do flu/rhino and tetanus  in consideration of our geographic location , my horses exposure levels to other horses (low) and  travel schedule of our horses (not much and not out of state).  But ,  when it comes to youngsters, I follow the recommended guidelines for the first few years of their life. And then, situational beyond that..

The fact that this colt hasn't had anything, lives in Missouri and will be getting on a trailer with horses from who knows where...??

That made me cringe a bit.

So when the vet goes out there for bloodwork, I arranged to have him vaccinated for all the recommended vaccines like Eastern Western, tetanus since its' a year since he's had it, Rhino, Influenza and West Nile.  It will give him about 10 days prior to the time he steps onto the trailer. I only pray it's enough time to build up some antibodies. The vets said 2 weeks is the general timeline of when they get protection. I always thought it was about 6 weeks before they gained any significant protection.

RULE #7-  VACCINES BEFORE TRAVEL- Confirm and Reconfirm that the horse is up to date  on vaccines and ask for the medical records to be released. (this was more of a lesson learned) I assumed this colt had had all his vaccinations based on what the owner told me on one of the phone calls we had (there were many).. but maybe I misunderstood. I was pretty sure she said that he had all his regular vaccines as a colt. But then when I asked her again,  because I wasn't sure what shots exactly she had said,  she said he had only had tetanus. She had not had him to the vet because she did the tetanus shot herself so there were no medical records on him.  I was glad I asked for clarification because I was able to get him vaccinated, but it was cutting it a bit closer than I wanted to. 

With all the details and leg work completed, we are now just waiting for him to arrive. Time is going slowly.

Once Otto arrives, around the 15th of September is what the plan is, I will be keeping him in a corral area away from the other horses for a few weeks as a "quarantine" of sorts,  just in case given the vaccination thing. 
That will also allow him to settle in and get to know me instead of immediately bonding to Cassidy,who will be his babysitter to start.

Eventually , my hope is to run all the boys together but we will have to see. Brego and JB might be a bit hard on him.

Stay tuned for updates....

***** Just a quick JB update- He is finally sound. I rode him this weekend a bit around here and he did great. Things have cooled down here signifigantly but I love fall riding so I am looking forward to getting a few rides on the trail with him before the snow flies.

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