August 20, 2014
Horse trading jargon

By Julie Carter, Cowgirl Sass & Savvy
There is an entire dictionary's worth of phrases, sayings and quotes you can pin to the horse trading business.

The best advice for the horse buyer is to carefully discern the words they hear and try to decipher what those terms and phrases may actually define. Hidden meaning is the trademark of a seasoned horse trader.

For example, when the trader tells you, "This horse will let you do all the thinking," it really means he is big, dumb and heavy-footed and needs constant guidance. If he says, "For this one you just need to start a little sooner or cut across," he means the horse has two speeds, slow and left behind.

When the trader tells you "he'll watch a cow," he could mean that he'll actually have the instincts to keep his eye on the cattle and have some quick responsive action. However, it could also mean he'll stand in the gate and watch them go by.

A buyer should always look beyond the obvious. "This horse doesn't let much get past him" usually doesn't mean he is alert and attentive. It more likely is that the horses will booger at a shadow or a bird flying overhead at a thousand feet. Riding uneventfully through rolling tumbleweeds and blowing dust will never be an option.

The horse described as having "a nice little cowboy lope" is one that is so rough to ride he will loosen your teeth fillings at a trot and, if you can ever get him in a lope, he'll jar your hemorrhoids up to your tonsils. This type of horse can be described as having the ability to give a woodpecker a headache. I can attest to that, having owned at least one.

The age of a horse is often disputed, especially if the horse has no registration papers for proof of age or origin. The ability to "mouth a horse" and read their age by the stage and condition of their teeth is a real benefit to the buyer.

But the die-hard trader will always justify a smooth-mouthed old horse with the line, "He's been in a sandy pasture and his teeth may look a little older from that sand grinding at his teeth." Anything over the age of 20 will be declared to be 13.

Buyers beware when you hear things like, "He doesn't buck very often." Or, “he’s a little cold backed but he’ll be fine once you warm him up.” My suggestion would be that even if you don't mind an occasional bucker, if the trader can't tell you exactly when he does buck, keep shopping.

Other things to listen for are the brilliant statements like, "When his nose quits running and his eyes clear up he'll be just fine," or "I usually don't have to hobble him to saddle him but he just looks better when I do." “He had that knot on his leg when I bought him and it’s never bothered him.”

Traders just can’t help themselves. They actually say those things even to people who know better. Horse traders come in all sizes, shapes and classes much like used car salesmen. Some you can't trust and others you shouldn't trust.

Having a horse for sale and being called a horse trader is much like being a writer and being labeled a journalist. It is just not all that flattering.
Julie can be reached for comment at