By Terry Worthley and Dave Reed

We’ve all been through it. For whatever particular instance in the myriad of reasons, you are now joining the rank and file of those looking to buy a hose. You are no longer well-mounted on ol’Apache (or ol’ Blue, Mariah, Star, Buddy, Chip or Thunder, as the case may be). You are embarking on that incredible journey through the maze of conformation, soundness, aesthetics, affordability and performance criteria. Having personally undergone the journey a total of 24 times, I have had the benefit of amassing a wealth of experience and information on the subject.

What follows is a sort of handy pocket guide of terms common to the business of buying and selling horses.

I hope you will find this information helpful and I sincerely wish you luck in your quest for the ideal mount!

What the ad reads or the person says ...

What it REALLY means ...

60 days’ training

still can’t be ridden

A free spirit

look out

Adult lead line prospect

walk-trot potential

Always in the ribbons

lead line (everybody gets ribbons)

Broke to harness

don’t try riding this one


in races horses, s l o w

Easy keeper

so thin you cut yourself on protruding hipbones

Excellent barn manners

is at least 28 years old

Excellent bloodlines

has hopped fence and is bred to full brother

Excellent conformation

nuts; killed 3 men

Excellent on trails

ring sour

Experienced rider

idiot wanted; so you think you’re good?

Experienced riders only

you’re the last stop before the killers

Experienced team roper

aged; never in the money

Family horse

has been around the block with 4H kids who are now card bearing AARP members


look out

Free lease

this horse has enough medical problems, feed supplements, a special diet and corrective shoeing that you'll need to second mortgage your house

Futurity winner

wealthy, politically connected owner

Great personality

does not show or trail ride

Great potential

we can’t do anything with him


12 years old and still nuts

Good pony

an oxymoron


is at least 30 years old

Lots of hock action


Loves kids

eats one a week

Needs finishing

a runaway; make an offer

Ninth in the Nation

you weren’t aware of the “registered, 1/4 Haflinger, 1/4 Appaloosa, 9/16 Peruvian-Paso, Morab on the Flat-and-Crossrails Division?”

No voices, sound

see what you get when you get home that the owner never noticed

Outgrown rider

real old, sour, cranky-eared, snotty, barn sour, colicky, foundered, cribbing pony

Personality plus

lawn ornament

Potential for distance/endurance competition

wild-eyed, stall-destroying lunatic

Professionally trained

has been owned by and injured 5 other people

Ridden by our 8 year old, or ladies mount

man hater; almost always an out-of-state sale

Sadly, must sell — college bound

a real bronc someone owned for three weeks

Started on the flat

never finished


Can buck uphill with a sure-stop head basked and tie down


walk, trot and stumble

To go home only

obviously a bona fide horse dealer

Trailers well

is at least 24 years old or is a veteran traveler to vet clinics

Very athletic

just plain nuts

Very willing

willing to let you chase him around the pasture for a couple of hours

Video available

you can’t afford this one!

Will deliver

you guessed it — can’t load or ride in trailer

Draft Horses


A willing team

one is willing to pull and the other is willing to let him

Matched pair

both runaways