With the recent economic slump, selling a horse isnt easy. Its a buyers market, so you have to be smart about how you present your horse for sale. Courtney Cooper, an event rider who specializes in consigning sales horses and making matches between horses and riders, has some sage advice about how to make the selling process as pain-free and efficient as possible.
Courtneys golden rules when selling horses are realistic expectations and honesty. Dont try to make the horse into something hes not, she says. At the end of the day, peoplebuyers and sellersdont want their time wasted. People want to be treated fairly. If youre selling a horse, treat a potential buyer as you would want to be treated if you came to look at this horse.
Honestly Evaluate Your Horse
The first thing you need to do is to honestly and objectively evaluate your horse, pinpointing his strengths, weaknesses, ability level and temperament. Its hard to do if that horse is your only one and youve spent years riding him and loving him. You tend to turn a blind eye to his flaws. But to know how to price and market your horse, you need to have a very clear, unbiased idea of what he is.
If you work with a trainer regularly, ask her for a frank opinion of your horses good and bad points and how she would describe his niche. If you dont have a regular trainer, ask a professional to ride your horse and tell you what she thinks about your horses ability and level. She doesnt have to price your horse for you or act as an agent but just give you an objective opinion on your horses strengths and weaknesses, Courtney says. Its no different than selling a house. You have a realtor come in and tell you to clean up the clutter and repaint these rooms.
Being bluntly honest about your horses capabilities and limitations will allow you to market him effectively to the buying audience he needs. It does no one any good to advertise your horse as an über-talented, upper-level prospect if hes actually a solid citizen whos comfortable jumping around at Training level. Youll just frustrate potential buyers who come to see him with the goal of going Advanced, and the people who want and need a horse who is consistent and sane at Training level wont schedule a visit to see him.
Price Him Appropriately
Once you know what your horse iswhat hes good at and where the upper limits of his ability areits time to put a price on him. Its important to eliminate any sentimental feelings in this process. He might be your best friend, but to a potential buyer, his worth is dictated by objective factors.
I get unrealistic people on both sides of the coinbuyers and sellers, Courtney says. But every horse is saleable if you price him correctly and hes sound in his brain and his body. Keep in mind that the recent economic slump has taken a toll on the horse industry as well.
Its a buyers market. Horses are usually valued 15 to 20 percent less than they were three or four years ago, Courtney says.
Two common traps sellers fall into are thinking their horses must be worth more than what they paid for them and that they need to price those horses at a figure high enough for them to be able to buy their next horses. You have to come up with a price that fits your particular horse and his abilities at that point in time.
Six main factors go into setting a price for your horse: age, height, intended job, temperament, performance record and soundness. There are always exceptions to the rule, but these are good general guidelines.
Age: Age can work against you or for you, depending on what people are looking for, Courtney says. If youre marketing your horse as a prospect, hes going to raise some eyebrows if hes over the age of 10. But an older horse can be very attractive to a buyer looking for a safe, experienced partner.
Height: It might be tempting to add a few inches to your 15.1-hand horses vital statistics, but dont. If buyers are truly looking for a 16.1-hand horse and arrive to see your horse falling short, theyre immediately going to be disappointed and wonder what else you were less than truthful about.
Intended job: What job your horse does well is also a major factor in his price and one that requires brutal honesty. As much as youd like to say a horse who jumps three-foot-six well is X price, a horse who jumps three-foot-six with style and is quiet and easy and lopes down on a soft rein and can go be a show hunter is worth a lot more than a three-foot-six horse who is tense over fences, isnt careful in show jumping but jumps cross-country like a lion, Courtney says. In general, horses aimed for the show ringequitation horses, hunters and jumperscarry a higher price tag than event horses.
Temperament: In general, the quieter and saner a horse, the higher the price. Its a lot easier to sell something that is not so talented but is a good citizen and is going to show up to work every day, than it is for something thats world-class talent but unpredictable on the day, Courtney says.
Usually, I divide horses into four different categoriesappropriate for Juniors, Young Riders, amateurs or professionals. An amateur doesnt want any nonsense. Shes lucky to ride four days a week, and she wants to be able to get on and go with a solid citizen. The Young Rider wants a talented horse and will deal with some nonsense. The Junior needs something safe that she can learn on, whos not leaping up and down. And the professional usually gets the ones who are less rideable and more talented, Courtney says.
Performance record: In the Internet age, its easy for a potential buyer to access a horses performance record online. If you want more money, the horse has to have records, and if he has records, they have to be good ones, Courtney says. Sellers say, I dont want to spend money to show the horse just to have a show record. Thats fine, but know that the downside of that is that youre going to get less money selling him. No matter how well hes trained, if hes going to be a competition horse, people as a general rule will pay more only if he has competed.
Soundness: Courtney advises to look at soundness in relation to the job for which the horse is intended. In some horses, you can live with certain problems because theyre downgrading a level or going to a different career, she says. Maybe an upper-level eventer is going to be a show jumper and not have as strenuous work overall. You have to think about what the new career is going to be.
Two somewhat less important factors in pricing are gender and color. Everyone is looking for the ideal of a 16.1-hand bay gelding. If youve got a small chestnut mare, she will probably be worth less than a small bay gelding, Courtney says. Its not right or wrong, but its a fact.
You also have to take into consideration your locationif youre in the heart of a horsy area, your horse will probably be able to carry a slightly higher price than if he were in a remote location. Look at comparable horses in your area and see what prices their sellers are asking. But take that information as a rough guideline only. Its hard because you see what horses are advertised for, but thats not necessarily what theyre selling for, Courtney says.