Sunday, August 23, 2009

Preparing Horses For Sale ~ Tricks of the Trade (Post for Saturday August 22, 2009)

Whew, intended to post this after getting home from our "Saturday Night Date Night", but it got too late and I was exhausted. :) Here you go...

One of the most significant decisions a horse owner can ever make is the one to sell a horse. Sometimes, although it’s a big step, it can be fairly easy, such as when a child has outgrown a small horse or pony, if there’s some kind of personality clash and you don’t get along with the horse anyhow, or if the horse just isn’t capable of the type or level of event you want for him and you wish to “upgrade”.

Even though actually making the decision to sell is quite difficult, the rigors of parading your horse around for others to scrutinize can be a trying experience, often made worse when you have people you thought were interested call and make an appointment to see your horse, but never come by, or worse -- the ones who come to ride him, say they love him and think he’s “the right one”, but say they want to look a little while longer than never, ever come back to buy him. That, sometimes, can be heartbreaking.

There are some simple steps you can take to make your horse a whole lot more attractive to potential buyers without deceiving them. First, even though it’s sometimes tough to do when you’re at a public boarding stable, always insist on an appointment time or time frame around which to work. If you know approximately when to expect the customer, it’s easier to make sure your horse is ready to meet his possible new owners. Of course, if you put up an advertisement on the barn bulletin board or post a “for sale” sign on his stall, everybody is going to know your horse is for sale, so you can count on uninvited traffic looking at him at any given time. Usually the word gets out pretty quick that a horse in the barn is for sale, too, and other boarders may be pointing him out to those who wander in looking for a horse to buy.

Assuming that you have someone who has called on your ad and set up an appointment, always plan on them arriving at least fifteen minutes early. That way, if they do get there early you won’t be running around trying to finish grooming him as they’re walking down the barn aisle. Make sure you have clipped and bathed him, so he looks his best. Even with a clean horse, the more you rub on their coats, the more that coat will shine, and a nice, healthy, shiny appearance is always a good selling point.

If your horse is high strung and tends to need a lot of “working down”, I would suggest either longeing or riding him that morning so he’s tired enough to behave well and won’t appear too energetic. Naturally, if a buyer is in the market for an endurance horse, you’ll want to play up those qualities, but don’t let your horse over do it! The key here is to explain fully to potential buyers just what your horse needs in the way of schooling or longeing, because you do not want to mislead them!!

One absolute rule in selling horses is to be honest. If the horse has faults, and they ALL do, mention them. If the horse has had any major injuries, illnesses or surgeries, disclose them. If you’re trying to sell your horse as a broodmare, provide a past breeding history -- and if you know the customer is in search of a breeding animal and you also know that your mare is as barren as the Sahara Desert, explain that to them before before they ever make the effort to come look at her. Don’t be afraid that you won’t get that horse sold if you tell a prospective buyer about his quirks, and never, ever administer any medications or tranquilizers to him before the customer comes to see him. Most buyers will greatly appreciate your honesty and if they’re genuinely interested in your horse, will come back and consider him seriously before making a purchase decision.

Another point of major importance to remember is this -- well trained, well schooled, well behaved, well kept and well presented horses sell much faster than horses who don’t possess any of those qualities. Also, keep in mind that the concept of “potential” is difficult to convey to most people. Any horse can have potential, but if you can prove to the buyer that your horse is exactly what they’re looking for, you have a far better chance of closing the sale.

A lot of people don’t want to put time and money into a horse they want to sell, but that’s exactly what you have to do in order to get him sold. If you’re trying to sell him as a show horse, yet he’s thirteen years old and he’s never been to a show in his entire life, chances are you won’t be getting any offers any time soon. Take him out and get him some show ring experience, even if it’s only at the small riding club’s local horse show -- at least you can prove that he has been a show horse before!

One final thought to ponder: Would you spend a lot of your hard earned money to buy a horse who didn’t look or act like exactly what you wanted? Most buyers who are in the market for a horse feel just that way. They want the most horse for their money, and when hanging a price tag on your horse it really pays to be realistic -- that’s probably the most important lesson of all!



  1. Here's what I've done--make the appointment for the afternoon, assume the potential buyers are going to arrive 15-30 minutes early (which I hope they will do--it's a sign of an educated horse person.) So, that morning, I get him out of the pasture, groom him and do a quick tuneup ride, bathe him and clip a bridle path, then turn him out again for an hour or so.
    Hopefully, he hasn't taken advantage of that hour to roll in mud and get burrs in his mane!

    Ideally, the potential buyers show up when predicted, they want to see him caught out of the pasture herd, groomed, and ridden, then will ride him themselves.
    He's not tired, but he's relaxed--not pristine, but clean--pretty much at his best in a day-to-day situation. The potential buyer gets to see him at his best, but honest best. If things don't work out, well, it's because the right new owner for him is still waiting around the corner!

  2. That's right!!

    I have found while horse shopping, especially looking for a youth horse for one of my students, so many sellers are not honest about what their horses are like, or their capabilities (or suitability). These days I have a network of fellow trainers who I go to first when I'm in the middle of a purchase search, because I trust them and know they won't pull any of the stunts some people pull.

    Totally like the way you think. :) :)

  3. Thank you SFTS, right on.
    Because who would want the youngster or rehab for whom we've put in a lot of care and effort and trained to their best ability, to NOT go the best, well-matched home possible? It's one thing to set up the selling situation so the horse is presented at his best, totally another thing to dishonestly hide faults.
    Sometimes I feel lucky that I'm no longer a professional, even though I miss that world--buying, selling and training horses isn't something I depend on for my livelihood any more. So I get to be picky, and more importantly, I get to be honest.

  4. It really doesn't make any sense not to work as hard as you can to make a match of horse to rider, does it? And not being honest about a horse just really rubs me the wrong way. I have had clients who have just fallen in love with horses that have been misrepresented. Any honest, ethical seller would never do that. Unfortunately, there are a lot more unethical sellers than honest ones. :(


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