Horse For Sale - Selling Your Horse
Horse For Sale
Tips For Selling Your Horse
Since 2006 when the United States congress enacted a law which essentially banned Horse slaughter houses across the entire USA, there has been a glut of horses on the U.S. horse market which has made it very difficult to sell horses especially for a reasonable price and within a reasonable period of time. However there are some tricks that can get your horse noticed and sold despite all the additional competition. As Horse Breeders, Sellers, and Buyers, we have become very familiar with the process of selling horse(s) and this article provides some important tips, observations, and practices involved once you’ve decided to put your horse up for sale.
Making the decision to sell your horse is often a very hard and usually emotional decision. You’ve probably grown to love your horse and you want to make sure he/she goes to an excellent home, that you get a fair price, and most importantly that there’s a good match between the horse and the prospective buyer. And furthermore, you want to do all of this within in a reasonable amount of time.
Once you’ve decided that selling your horse is the right decision for both yourself as well as your horse, you first need to decide upon the asking price for your horse and how you are going to market or advertise your horse. You can usually determine the asking price for your horse by reviewing what similar horses are selling for. When doing this, make sure to evaluate your horse’s experience and training, age, skills and disciplines, achievements in competition, and your horse’s pedigree or bloodline. Most importantly, make sure to consider what you need to make you feel comfortable about the prospective buyer and their ability to take good care of your horse.
First, make sure you have some good photos and videos that compliment your horse to use when it comes time to advertise or market your horse. So often, horse sellers only provide photos and neglect to provide any videos of their horse. Although photos can show what a horse looks like, they cannot do anything to show how your horse moves, rides, or gaits. So, to convey that your horse is a good riding horse or a quality horse for breeding, make sure to also provide at least one video showing your horse trotting, galloping, being ridden or better yet, all of the above. Also, we’ve all seen many poorly taken photos and videos of horses and this will only encourage a potential buyer to look elsewhere. Make sure to present your horse in the best way possible in a photo by taking the photo with your horse standing square with ears pricked forward and head alert. For videos, make sure to use a nicely dressed rider mounted on your horse, in motion, trotting in a definitive pattern and obediently following the rider’s instructions. Make sure photos and videos compliment your horse, are in focus, taken in good light, with lots of nice green pasture in the background.
Next, take a moment and list all the attributes and important information about your horse for the equine Classified Ad. Put yourself “in the buyer’s shoes” and consider everything you would want to know if you were buying a horse.
Almost always, prospective horse buyers will want to know the following:
- First list all the vital information including Gender, Name, Age, Height, Weight, Colors / Markings, and Breed(s) including all mixed breeds.
- If your horse is registered, make sure to list your horse’s registration number and corresponding horse association or registry. Spend the extra time to document all your horse’s detailed pedigree information or ancestry. It’s also a good idea to take a photo of your horse’s official registration document and include this photo in your equine Classified Ad to verify your horse’s registration.
- Document exactly what your horse is already trained to do such as Trail Riding, Barrel Racing, All Around Horse, Dressage, Jumping, Western Disciplines, Child Safe Horse, Equitation, Endurance, Driving etc. Make sure to list the highest level of achievement or any awards won for any of these skills or disciplines.
- Make sure to list who the horse is most suitable for suggesting potential buyers / riders such as All Riders, Juniors, Inexperienced or Amateur Riders, Professionals, Small Children, or Advanced Riders only.
- List any special talents or unique qualifications your horse may possess such as Loads Quietly, Safe for Children, Leads Easily, Spook-Proof, Championship Experience, Award Winner, Great Temperament etc.
- List your asking price and indicate whether the price is firm or negotiable. You may add obo (or best offer) if you are flexible with your price and are a motivated seller. You also may want to consider listing the price as “private treaty” which means that you’ll negotiate a price with a specific buyer at the time of sale. This is especially useful for expensive horses or where the horse has been up for sale for an extended period and may have gained significant additional training or achievements during this period.
- List all your horse’s “special perks”. If you feel your horse has any special qualities or skills you should definitely mention all of them. Consider such adjectives as beautiful, stunning, excellent gait, lovely head, multi-colored coat, perfectly groomed, well conditioned, good conformation etc.
- Include all the necessary contact information such as an email address or the name of your business, ranch, or website address. Be careful however giving out personal information such as your real email address, phone number, and last name as there are many fraudulent buyers and sellers that prey upon many equine websites. Look for equine websites such as WikiHorseWorld.com that provide an internal email system such that you don’t have to reveal your real email address. If possible/applicable, also include your website address for additional information, photos, etc. This is a great way to draw potential buyers to your equine website without spending so much money on individual horse Classified Ads for each and every horse you plan to sell.
Now that you have gathered all the information for your horse Classified Ad(s), you need to determine where to place your Ads.
- The Internet. The internet is by far the most popular media for advertising horses or any equine products, services, or events. You will reach a much wider audience for a much lower cost by advertising on the internet as compared to virtually any other media. A few good equine websites are wikihorseworld.com, horsepost.com, and agdirect.com.
- Local/Regional newspapers, magazines and newsletters. Placing an Ad locally (with a good photo) can sometimes be a great way to reach many local horse people.
- Fliers. Create a flier with the horse's photo(s) and place the flier at feed stores, tack and horse supply stores, leather shops, sale barns, coffee shops and keep a pile with you in your car to pass out to anyone you might meet.
- Word of mouth. Tell everyone you know that you are selling your horse. Send all of your friends an email with the flier and some extra photos or videos attached and ask your friends for some help to distribute them.
Now that you have your horse out on the market what should you expect?
Don’t expect any immediate response or a flood of interested buyers especially in this somewhat depressed horse market. Hopefully however, if you’ve done a good job marketing and advertising your horse, in less than a week you should start to receive some inquiries about your horse. Answer the prospective buyer’s questions bluntly and be sure to respond using all the proper horse terminology (if necessary do a little research). Be positive and encouraging but also be totally honest. Remember that in addition to selling your horse, an equally important goal is to find your horse a very good home and find a good match between your horse and the prospective buyer / rider. Try to set up an appointment for the buyer to come out and see your horse.
Once you have the appointment set, proceed as follows:
- Show up at least an hour before your scheduled appointment time. This will give you plenty of time to groom and prepare your horse and clean up and organize the area where you’ll be showing the horse. Remember that your horse facilities (e.g. barn, stalls, round pens, tack etc.) reflect strongly on the level of care the horse has received while in your care. You should also be dressed ready to ride in case the buyer wants you to demonstrate the horse. Remember that you are also marketing yourself as a horse person and horse caretaker. Lastly, have any pertinent papers with you such as veterinary notes, vaccination, worming and farrier schedules, and pedigree or registration documents. Make sure to have your cell phone handy in case the buyer calls for directions.
- Have your horse groomed thoroughly and looking their very best when the prospective buyer shows up. Your horse should be shiny, mane and tail combed out, and hooves oiled to look their best. Keep them naked to show off the horse's conformation to the potential buyer. Your tack and saddle pad should be clean and easily accessible.
- When the buyer arrives, greet them warmly, introduce yourself and then introduce them to your horse in the same manner you would introduce them to a beloved family member. Walk into the stall, round pen, or wherever you have the horse standing and bring the horse out to meet the prospective buyer properly and formally. It’s a good idea to have the horse confined when the buyer arrives so that you can avoid the embarrassment of having to chase a misbehaving horse in front of the buyer. Bring the horse to a protected area where the buyer can take a good look at him/her.
- Usually the buyer will ask lots of questions but if they do not, you should say "do you have any questions or is there anything you would like to know about my horse?" Answer any questions the buyer might have bluntly, honestly, and with a positive spin. If you are not sure of any answers, tell them you will get back to them with the answer in the next day or two.
- Always try to take charge of the meeting and tell the buyer all the significant good points, achievements, and skills your horse may possess. Tell them why you are selling your horse and don’t make the buyer ask this question. Any horse person will usually understand all of the valid reasons to sell your horse even if it’s "he deserves a more suitable partner."
- Allow the prospective buyer to watch you saddle up your horse. Unless the buyer says differently, you should always ride your horse first as this will better insure that your horse is loosened up and de-spooked to give the buyer the best possible experience. Explain clearly what you are trying to achieve with your exercises as you ride the horse and the methods you use to reign or control the horse.
- Ideally the buyer should sign a liability waiver before they mount your horse or alternatively you can post a large clearly visible sign (available from most states) which express this waiver. The buyer should also be provided with and instructed to wear protective headgear so make sure to have this handy. The initial ride should take place in an enclosed relatively confined area until you, the buyer, and the horse are all feeling very comfortable and ready ride out in the open. Saddles can often be a problem when selling riding horses because your saddle may not fit the prospective buyer for the test ride. If possible, have several different sizes of saddles available where one of which will hopefully work for both horse and rider.
- If the buyer seems inexperienced or having any difficulty whatsoever riding or controlling the horse, give the buyer a few riding tips on how to control or manage your horse. Explain that it’s for their safety and that each horse/rider pair tend to develop their own unique techniques. Watch the ride carefully and make suggestions where they seem appropriate.
- If the ride time is getting too long and you are concerned about your horse's fitness level or the heat of day, suggest to the buyer that you believe this should be enough to gauge the suitability of the horse and that you should now be getting the horse back to their stall.
- After the ride, offer to answer any questions the buyer might have. Make sure to brush down the horse after the ride to further reflect that the horse has been very well cared for.
If the buyer is interested in your horse, the process will likely evolve to a discussion of price. Tell the buyer up front that you always provide a veterinary health inspection for every horse you sell at your expense. These inspections cost only about $30 and are a good investment as it reassures the buyer and protects you in the event the horse is injured or gets ill during transport. If the buyer asks you if your price is firm you can either say yes and explain why the price is fair, or you can indicate that there is some price flexibility if you’re motivated to do so. Often the buyer will make an offer and you can either accept the offer or decide to counter offer. If the buyer is not yet ready to agree to your desired price, accentuate all your horse’s very best points and remind the buyer why the price you’ve asked for is fair. You may go back and forth several times until a final price is agreed upon and that final price is payable only once the horse passes the pre-purchase veterinary health inspection. The veterinarian will give you a certificate of good health and make sure that both you and the buyer receive a copy.
If the veterinary health inspection is negative and your horse passes, you can then request payment. You may want all of the money up front or you can request half now and half at the time the horse is either delivered or picked up for transport. You should never release the horse to the buyer or to the transporter until you have the cash in hand or their check has cleared the bank. You should create a bill of sale transferring ownership of the horse to the new owner and also present the owner with the horse’s original registration documents (but keep a copy for yourself).
The buyer should exclusively make all horse transportation arrangements and be responsible for all transportation charges. If necessary to close the deal, you can offer to transport the horse yourself (for an agreed to fee) however it is not recommended. If you transport the horse yourself or are in any way involved in the selection of a transporter, you may be liable in the event the horse was injured or gets ill during transport. If the buyer arranges for transportation, once the horse gets into the trailer, it is the buyer’s responsibility.
Some extras that you can offer to close the deal are:
- Give them a free lead rope, halter, or blanket
- Offer to go out on trails with them on your horse while you ride another horse
- Set up an appointment to give them a free riding lesson on their new horse
- Provide references for them to contact who can substantiate you and/or your horse's worthiness
- Offer to take them to lunch or have coffee to discuss your horse or their ability to ride it
The ideal horse sale is one where both you and the buyer feel that the price was fair and that the horse is a good match for its new owner. Of equal importance is that you feel comfortable with the new owner’s “horse worthiness” and their ability to take good care of your horse and give him/her a good home. Once the deal is nearly closed but before any payments have been made, we suggest politely asking the prospective buyer about their ranch or where the horse will be boarded to assure yourself that the buyer has the wherewithal to take good care for your horse. Usually this will be the case, however in the event you’re concerned about what you’ve heard, it’s still not too late to back out of deal and prevent your horse from a potentially very bad experience. If you’re really concerned about your horse’s well being at their new home, it’s a good idea to offer a trial period of 30-90 days where you’d agree to buy back your horse for any reason (no questions asked) for the agreed to purchase price provided the buyer pays for a veterinary health inspection and transportation back to your ranch. Offers such as this will go a long way to reassure prospective buyers and more importantly prevent your horse from potential abuse or neglect.
Hopefully the above tips will enable you to successfully sell your horse for a fair price, insure your horse is well cared for, and find a good match between buyer and horse. Lastly, it’s always a good idea to keep in touch with the buyers to whom you’ve sold horses via email to find out how they’re doing with their new horse and this also opens new avenues for potential horse sales in the future.