We have all been there.  You get a horse going well, whether it be intentionally to market, or just because of a change in lifes plans, make an ad, set a price, and think, “Yes, in just a few days a stall will be open, and my bank account full!”

And then you wait. And wait some more.  And begin to panic, and then begin to question.  Did I not advertise him fairly?  Did I set his price too high?  Is he uglier than I thought?  Do I have rose tinted glasses?  What went wrong.

Often I hear the horse is to blame.  His breeding is incorrect, or his height is too small. I hear the chestnut mare myths, and the thoroughbreds can never be hunters/dressage horse untruths.  

A dressaging thoroughbred. Photo by Melissa Bauer-Herzog

But more often than not, its the owner or seller doing the horse the injustice.  I’ve learned that by following a few simple rules, most can sell even the “unsellable” horses, and are quite easy to follow.

Price Accordingly:

This can go both ways.  I always recommend to my owners, fellow sellers, and equestrians to look at the market, have a good hard come to Jesus with yourself, and then set your price.  Because price too high, and a horse will sit for an endless amount of time. But price too low, and a horse can be overlooked.

It is definitely more dangerous to get greedy than to sell cheap, but either side of this grey line can leave your horse overlooked.  And I see it quite often.

Do not say that your horse schooling beginner novice is worth $20,000 unless you have one hell of a grand mover on video.  Vice versa, do not say that your 8yo horse is a preliminary packer and price it at $7,500.  I see those ads and immediately assume something is wrong with the horse – whether it be brains or vetting. And I always shoot a slight bit higher so leave some haggle room on my bottom dollar, but try not to get cocky. 

Because the only thing you’re hurting by overpricing your horse is yourself. 
So educate yourself on what your horse is actually worth. And if you’re not sure, ask some respected industry insiders for their opinion. 

Advertise What You Say:

If your ad says that the horse is schooling novice, then your photos better damned well show a horse schooling novice.  If your ad says that the horse is solidly showing 1st level and schooling second, than I better see some lateral work and shoulder in in that video.

If you say he’s schooling training level, he better be schooling training level. Photo by JJ Sillman

It is hard to show that a horse can take a joke or loves hacks in a video, but those things should still be conveyed in some way through photos or videos.

More importantly, never oversell a horse.  Do not say that the horse is doing 3′ courses if it once jumped one 3′ fence at the end of a grid.  Do not say that it has confirmed auto changes just because you once felt it swap at a gallop.  And don’t say that it’s amateur friendly if you wouldn’t put your dear friends on it for a road hack.

All that will happen is that a potential buyer will travel from afar to try a horse that they would have known all along wasn’t suitable for them. You are wasting their time. You are wasting your time. And you are potentially having someone come ride your horse who could interfere with his training. It never wins.

Be Honest:

This goes alongside the advertise what you claim, but incorporates the little things that a video or a photo can’t always say. And moreso, highlights the one thing I try to avoid.

Because…I. Hate. Tire kickers.

And because I hate these tire kickers, I try to avoid them.  

Tire Kicker (n): Someone who asks 72 questions about your horse, possibly even tries your horse, and takes up hours of our time without ever intending to buy said horse.

And I do so by being brutally honest about each and every horse that I sell. If I say this horse is amateur friendly, I mean it.  If I say this horse has had no soundness issues, I mean it.  If I tell you that he is on no supplements, no injections, and is low maintenance, I mean it. 

So, in a nurshell, don’t lie.

If your horse doesn’t hack out well alone, and a fox hunter calls you to inquire – TELL THEM this.  If your horse doesn’t do well in new environments, and a 12 year old pony clubber shows up to try him – TELL HER MOTHER.  It’s these little “white lies” that make horse buyers wary of what they will encounter.

Not amateur friendly. Photo by Kendra Penn

And you can twist the positives to outshine the negatives, but our job as horse sellers is a) make a good match, b) waste no ones time, and c) have everyone be safe.  

So don’t let that kid come try your professional ride.  Don’t tell that adult amateur that you *think* your horse will haul well alone when you’ve never tried it.  Be careful with saying that your horse is confirmed as something you’ve never tried.  It will make everyone’s life easier. And more importantly, safer.

In addition to this, having the basic information in a readable format on every ad is so key.  Age, sex, height, discipline, location, and current level competing.  Oh, and price.  Nothing annoys me or most others more than not even having an idea of a price range.  All it does is add 75 comments of people who could never afford your horse asking for a PM.

Photos and Video’s Make or Break A Sale:

I can’t say this enough.  Have a conformation shot.  Have a head shot.  Have a shot of a horse flatting, and have a shot of him jumping.  If you have stated that he has schooled XC and does water/ditches/banks – have a photo or video of him doing these.  If you have said that he has competed at a recognized event, then it sure does pay off to have a photo of a horse braided and in formal tack doing dressage or stadium.

A conformation shot is so crucial. Photo by Jackie Barr

We live in a digital era.  One where iPhone videos are good enough quality for a sales ad if edited correctly.  But does it pay off to have a good friend with a good camera come out and shoot some shots?  Get some video?  Heck ya. And if you don’t, be prepared to pay a photographer to do so (shout out JJ Sillman).

But good screen shots can be grabbed, and plenty of video footage can be edited together.  

Just promise me ONE thing: LANDSCAPE.  Tell any of your friends, fiances, or fellow boarders to hold your phone in the correct direction, and say it with me: ZOOM is your friend!

And finally….

Present Yourself and Your Horse In the Best Light:

This sounds strange to say after saying to be brutally honest, but I mean this in a different way.  Your sales photos and videos should be done in what I consider “Pony Club Attire.”  I almost immediately ignore sales ads if either horse or rider look sloppy.  Hair tied back.  Helmet on.  Breeches and tall boots with a clean polo tucked in, or if you ride western – clean jeans, clean boots, and button down also tucked in.  Horse should be groomed to a shine, and mane/tail/forelock brushed out and neatly pulled/trimmed/done.

A nicely turned out failed polo pony. Photo by JJ Sillman

Clean boots on the horse, clean pad under the saddle.  If you are doing a conformation shot, a clean bridle/halter on the horse, and no manure piles or broken boards behind it.

I could write an entire blog on what makes a good photo or a good video, but the most important is that if you wouldn’t show up to a local show in the attire, its not good enough for the video.  And I hate to say “matchy” – but bold and crazy clashing colors only distract from the horse, and should be avoided.

Matching is important to me. Photo by Xpress Photos.

The market is not down, and one breed is no harder to sell than another (eh hem, thoroughbreds).  But we are quick to judge each other, and just as quick to judge a horse in front of us.  

There are so many horses on the market currently, and not as many buyers, so do yourself and your horse a service by having him be marketable, presentable, correctly advertised, and buyable. Those are the keys to a successful sale.

It will help you.  It will help your prospective buyers.  But most importantly, it will help the safety and security of your horse and his future.

4 Comments on “Five Things To Think Of When Selling Your Horse

  1. As someone currently in the midst of horse shopping, I couldn’t agree more with this! The one pet peeve I have is listing the price as “mid to high four figures”. Seriously, what does that even mean?! Put a price on the ad so I can see that it is out of my budget and move on. I refuse to PM someone for a price. I just assume it is too high and scroll to the next ad.

    Also, outright lying. Ugh. I saw an ad, contacted the seller, was brutally honest about my abilities and needs, she agreed he would be suitable and then I got there and found out he was the exact opposite of the ad, most of it was a lie and I walked away. What a waste of my time!!

    Blurry screen grabs, far away videos that look like a tiny brown blob and don’t get me started with the crap “Trick” photos and free running hollowed and inverted in the pasture shots. Who cares that you can stand on your horse’s back? I will literally never do that.

    That got long…sorry…I ave many feelings about this process.

  2. Yep, had to tell many a mother NOT to bring their kid to come try my horse unless they had a regular trainer the kid would be working with that would be coming along. Even then I had one try to bring “trainer” only to find out trainer was under 18 too…lol.

    And YES to landscape. No quicker way to kill my soul.

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