Every dressage rider has dreamed of their ideal dressage horse. If you are an American and interested in buying your dream dressage horse chances are you've considered traveling to Germany to find your perfect dressage horse. I am not here to give you a step by step plan for how to buy a horse in Germany, but I do think you need to be prepared for how you will be approached once you arrive. Speaking as someone who worked in dressage stables you may not be flattered by the way German breeders and dealers view American clients. You may also want to think twice before spending thousands on shipping and handling to bring this dream horse home from Germany.
First of all, they generally view you as being uneducated when it comes to riding dressage. Because of that, they expect to sell you anything simply because you think German bred horses are the magic ticket to fulfilling all of your dressage dreams. This means you will be presented with the dressage horses that don’t sell for much in Germany, but they think they can get a lot of money from you as an American client. For example, a horse that would typically only sell for 15,00 to another German rider, they will present to you as a finished S level horse and expect something like 25,00 -$30,00. Also, don’t expect to be shown the best horse, or the easiest horse, for the budget you bring with you. German sellers especially have a tendency to view the female clients as being a typical airhead/valley girl. You know, the type that always has her starbucks and says everything is “Amazing”? Basically, they won’t have a lot of respect for you as a client.
That being said, I have not worked with many in the horse business who are respectful of anyone ever. I once worked for a man who was caught laughing at a client while they tested the horse (he was not the greatest with people). This prompted the client, who really liked the horse, to go somewhere else. When a German seller is being perceived as rude to a German client, they will leave and take their business elsewhere. American clients do not have this same level of confidence when searching for a horse in Germany. They are more accepting of this kind of insulting behavior from a person who at the same time expects you to buy their horse. Word of advice? Walk away. You don’t have to accept this kind of rude treatment from a person taking advantage of the fact that you think you can’t find a similar quality horse in your own country.
Now that you know they can be unbelievably rude, don’t be fooled by the charmers. They can be just as bad when it comes to thinking American clients don’t know anything, they just have a different method of selling. These are the guys who will be flirty with the girls, and saying the horse never looked better as when you were riding it. This is just another way for them to sell a horse they have been stuck with for months (sometimes years) and you are their last hope for making a big deal to brag about later.
Another point about buying dressage horses from Germany is that they hate the vet check. There are a lot of complaints from the German sellers that American vets will find anything on an x-ray that their German vets don’t see. I haven't really noticed this problem in the stables I have worked in, but I have had a few Germans ask me why the American vets always find a chip in a bone, or anything in the same x-rays their vets say are clean. They ask this because they thought the American vets were making something up to help the American buyer get a better price, but I don’t really know much about this. I can’t really say one way or the other what is happening in a situation like that, but perhaps someone who is a vet will eventually explain it.
Ok, I know this all sounds super negative, and it’s not great, but I don’t want to discourage you from buying your dream dressage horse if Germany is where it comes from. However, I do want you to be aware of what the German seller is thinking the moment they realize an American is coming to their stable to find a dressage horse. I do think if Germany is the only place for you to find a dressage horse, you shouldn’t go alone - unless you are an experienced rider that knows how to deal in this business environment. If not, and you are not able to find someone who can help, I would recommend limiting your search to the states.
I’m not saying German stables are the only stables operated by the only people in the world who will try and take advantage of you. What I am saying is that they learned a long time ago they had a special market with the American buyers, so they will try and take advantage of the situation. Dressage breeding in America is growing and I think there is something to be said for looking at what is available near you before flying yourself, and a trainer (or friend) to Europe. You will save time, money, and can help support a local breeder who may have a horse just as nice as any you would find for a more expensive price tag in Germany.
Best of luck on your search!
As always, if this was helpful please like or leave a tip. Thank you!