Bringing Your Horse Home: What Comes After the Speed Date

In our last column, my husband, David Marcus, discussed his recommendations for “speed dating” the horse you may be interested in buying, either for yourself or someone else. He outlined our process of selection that we believe will help you decide if you could enjoy a long-term relationship with a particular equine partner. 

This column will answer the question “what are the next steps to take after you’ve decided you would like to bring the horse home?” 

Here is a check-list to help you maximize the success of your choice:


  1. After you are finished riding the horse, review the video of your ride with someone else, perhaps your veterinarian, to get a different perspective and trusted second opinion.
  2. Inquire if there are current radiographs on the horse (ideally, taken within the last six months to a year). If not, inquire about the availability of older radiographs. Use these to compare to the newer ones you take to assess if anything has changed. 
  3. Forward the radiographs to your veterinarian for their professional review and assessment. Have your vet use them to compare older and more recent radiographs. If he/she doesn’t have any issues with them, you may proceed with the pre-purchase exam.
  4. Have a list of specific X-ray views and angles that you and your vet would like to have recorded. You should discuss very clearly with your personal vet what your current and future expectations and goals are with this horse.
  5. If the horse is in a different country, it is foreseeable your own vet may not be able to perform the pre-purchase examination and you will need to engage a local veterinarian to conduct the exam.  Be absolutely certain there will be no potential conflict of interest with the seller and the vet that will be doing the pre-purchase. It’s very important the pre-purchasing vet and your own vet can communicate clearly with each other. If you would like, ask your own vet to be available by telephone while the pre-purchase exam is happening.
  6. Once the pre-purchase exam is complete, there is a waiting period for all of the information to be recorded, reviewed and results to come back to you. As a general rule, drug screenings should be complete within a week. It’s respectful to try to move this process as quickly as possible so the horse isn’t “off-the-market”  longer than necessary should it not work out. There are some things that may take longer than others such as the blood work, but do your part to ensure everything else is completed efficiently.
Belloona goes through her veterinary inspection


  1. The process of importing a horse can be intimidating so talk to someone who has imported horses before. There are multiple companies who ship horses around the world. It’s important to do your research to identify the company you want to work with.
  2. Do your research about where you are importing your horse from and to, and what the import and quarantine procedure involves.
  3. It is wise to contact the shipping company prior to vetting the horse.  This will put them on notice that you may be shipping a horse with them within a certain timeframe. Time is sensitive and importing is a risk. When your horse is on the other side of the ocean, it is out of your view, sight and control. The faster you can get them to your country, the faster you can start to control how they are handled.
  4. There are different shipping requirements for mares, stallions and geldings. Learn them.  
  5. Contact different horse transportation companies, get quotes and decide what the priority is for you. Is it the price? Is it where they get shipped to? Is it the timeline? Choose what is best for your requirements as well as the horse.
  6. Discuss insurance for the horse. If you decide it is something you want, ensure your horse as soon as you purchase them. Definitely insure them before they ship and insure specifically for travel. Those companies can guide you on all the details.
Belloona arrives home at Marcus Fyffe Dressage

Welcoming Them Home

  1. When they arrive at their final destination, take into consideration your horse’s travel plans. When horses are transported for international competition, typically the rider or the groom accompanies the horse to help make sure they have a smooth and safe journey.
  2. Understand this horse has experienced a huge life change that was not their choice. It is advisable to give the horse time to adjust to their new home and surroundings.  Bear in mind that you don’t know how much they’ve been exercised and how consistent the exercise was since the last time you tried them. Shipping is a huge stress on horses and you should begin to bring them to work in a fair way.
  3. On the first day, don’t expect the horse to feel like it did when you tried them in their country. Numerous factors have come into play since. You have to bring them back to the level they were at in a considerate way.
  4. Take your time getting to know the horse and build a relationship with them. They have come to you without any support system and every single thing is new to them. Slow and steady wins the race.


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