Contact the registration associations to ensure all papers are in order and that the seller/broker is a member in good standing.
Ask the seller for a list of previous owners - if it is a registered horse the association can provide this information along with any contact information they have on file. Contact previous owners for additional information.
Ask for references from the seller and/or broker and ask how they may handle dissatisfied customers.
Ask for a sales contract and that it include a complete health and training write up On the signed contract or bill of sale write what this horse is being sold to you as. ie. Trail Safe or Beginner Safe, show horse etc. Ensure that ALL verbal agreements that are discussed and agreed upon are added to the contract with both parties signatures or initials..
Employ the services of an experienced horse person (paid professional or a friend you trust) to watch you ride and interact with the horse and speak to the seller about issues you may not be experienced enough with.
Have a prepurchase vet examination done by a veterinarian of your choosing and ask the vet to offer their opinion on how the horse was to handle and what their temperament seemed to be like.
Handle the horse in the manner in which you will be handling it - ride it they way you plan on riding it when you purchase it.. Make sure that it is capable of performing the discipline that you will be requiring of it. (if you want a trail horse, ride it on the trails, a dressage horse - ride the pattern, a cowhorse - take it to cattle, etc etc etc).
If buying with payments and the horse must remain with the seller, ride it often and make sure it will be a good match after the payment period
Ask for a buy back guarantee or a trial period for a specific period of time agreed upon by both parties - if on a trial period and the horse stays at the sellers, make sure you visit and ride often to ensure a good match.
Before you shop for a horse, make a list of things that are non-negotiable for you (easy to catch, good health, proven show record, temperament etc etc) Keep that list with you when you look at each horse and ensure that the horse meets those requirements. If you have to give up any of these requirements ask yourself if you are OK with that (and why) and ask if the horse really meets your needs.
Tips for successful buying