Proper Paperwork when Buying a Horse

June 03, 2022 3 min read

Purchasing a horse can be an exciting – and stressful – time. Finding one with the right price, temperament and training can feel like looking for a needle in a haystack, but it’s all worth it to hear their soft nicker in your barn.

Making sure you’re prepared with a checklist of proper paperwork will have you looking like a seasoned buyer, and give you the peace of mind that you’ve done all the research on your new four-legged friend. Benefab has assembled a list of the paperwork you should ask for when shopping for and purchasing your next horse.

Registration Papers & Show Record

Registration papers are non-negotiable in most cases of horse-buying. Papers verifying parentage give a horse value and point owners towards what the horse will excel in.

A step up from the regular registration papers would be a black-type pedigree, which is applicable across several breeds including Quarter Horses and Thoroughbreds. It’s considered a horse’s resume, listing personal accomplishments as well as sire, dam, and sibling accomplishments. Most horse sales use black-type pedigrees because of their universal nature, and once you learn how to read a black-type pedigree, you can read them all.

A bonus that comes with owning a registered American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) is their database called QData. QData behaves much like a black-type pedigree, and updates weekly with earnings and titles.

Owning a registered horse has its perks, and purchasing a horse with its papers in hand can help preserve the horse’s value. The papers also can give clues on potential genetic diseases and conformation faults that worsen over time.

Genetic Disease Testing Results

Genetic disease testing is important for all horses competing or breeding in the future. With testing, most of these devastating diseases can be managed. Some registered horses will have the 6-pannel disease test run automatically, and it’s a good idea to look at the results before buying a horse.

Testing centers such as UC Davis offer the panel for $99, and it includes screening for diseases such as Glycogen Branching Enzyme Deficiency (GBED), Hereditary Equine Regional Dermal Asthenia (HERDA), Hyperkalemic Periodic Paralysis (HYPP), Myosin-Heavy Chain Myopathy (MYHM), Malignant Hyperthermia (MH) and Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy (PSSM1).

Color Testing Results

While this isn’t a required test for buying a horse, it is nice to ask about it beforehand. If you’re looking to breed your horse, knowing its color genotype will help you make an educated breeding decision.

The colors and patterns that benefit from testing the most are paint horses, which carry an overo pattern that can result in Lethal White Overo (LWO), and Cremello horses, which commonly suffer from skin issues due to lack of pigment near their eyes and noses.

PPE Papers & Coggins

When buying a horse, having a pre-purchase exam can calm a lot of worries about the horse’s condition both inside and out. PPEs are completely customizable and large animal veterinarians can perform one in less than an hour.

After performing a PPE, a veterinarian will write a ‘report card’ on the findings whether you had flexing, x-rays, or bloodwork done. 

If a horse doesn’t have a current negative Coggins test (Equine Infectious Anemia), the blood can be taken at the time of the PPE as well.

Horse Passport

If a horse is crossing international borders, a horse passport may be required. In associations such as the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF), horses traveling from the U.S. to the United Kingdom and vice versa have to have a horse passport verifying ownership and vaccination status. Obtaining a passport can take up to six weeks, so act accordingly if you’re looking to move your new horse out of the country.

Bill of Sale

Like many large purchases, having a ‘receipt’ of sorts will help with taxes, insurance, and future appraisal. A horse bill of sale should include the seller and buyer information as well as a horse’s registration number, description, date, sale price, and any caveats on the sale (such as the right of first refusal).

With the right paperwork in hand, you are armed with the information needed to purchase and care for your new horse!


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