Just the thought of selling a well-loved horse is enough to throw most owners into an emotional tailspin. But when circumstances tell you that selling the horse is the thing to do, the number one concern becomes finding the right home. You want a new owner who will not only take good care of your horse, but who will also appreciate him for his unique personality and abilities.
The effort you put into the sales process may be the important element in finding your friend a great home. So where do you begin? The normal advice that applies to selling anything from a car to a couch applies to selling horses, too. You'll have to research the market and accurately assess your horse's strengths. But that's just the starting point.
To get into some of the nitty-gritty aspects, we talked with Drenda Chappell, a broker who specializes in matching performance horses with new owners, but whose advice carries to selling horses of all types.
"Since horses can't talk, it's our responsibility as owners, sellers, buyers, agents, and trainers to do what's best for the horse," Drenda points out. "It's in our interest, as well as the horse's, to put in a sincere effort to place a horse well.
"That first effort begins with being emotionally prepared to sell," she continues. But that's often harder than the owner thinks it will be. Drenda has seen sellers who get grumpy or find fault with every prospective buyer that comes to look at the horse. In those cases, she tells the sellers that they aren't ready to sell.
"Since you are the one who knows the horse best, you're the one most motivated to find the right situation for him. If you are ready to let the horse go, then you'll treat the prospective buyers well, and you'll have the best chance of finding a good match," she confirms.
Selling is a numbers game. As with selling a house, you will have to be prepared to show the horse to a number of potential buyers before the right one comes along. That means you have to be prepared to be hospitable and to interact warmly with someone coming to look at your horse.
In Drenda's experience, you probably won't know on the phone whether the person is a serious prospect or a "looky loo." Often, lookers become buyers when they fall in love. Like romance, there's chemistry involved in finding the right horse. Even if a particular criterion doesn't match-the buyer really had in mind a chestnut and your horse is a bay-people are drawn to horses for different reasons.
If your horse is coming off the show circuit, he may be up to snuff in terms of grooming and training. But if he's been on vacation for a while, or just sitting in your back pasture, you'll have to get him ready for sale. The better trained your horse is, the easier it will be for other people to ride him, and the bigger your pool of potential buyers.
Brush up on his training, and represent it accurately to someone who will come out to see him. The last thing you want is an inexperienced rider on your out-of-condition horse. You may need to enlist the help of a professional to get him to a point where someone can try him. Or be clear to any potential buyers that the horse isn't ready to be ridden, and don't allow anyone to ride him when they come to see him.
To help attract the right kind of buyer, consider making up a flyer with a good photo to give people a feel for the horse. You can put the flyer up in feed stores and vet offices, and give it to trainers, farriers, and interested horse people. If you have a show horse, take the flyer to horse shows and distribute it to anyone you think might be interested, including professionals. You can go high-tech and make a DVD, which will give people an even better idea. However, if the DVD doesn't show your horse well, it may turn off a potentially good buyer.
Beyond that, Drenda suggests advertising in your local newspaper or local horse magazines. "The big advantage of local advertising is that it reaches people who are more likely to come see the horse than someone far away." If the horse has a show record, advertise in breed journals or with a broker who has a specialty in your sport or type of horse. Agents and brokers all work differently and their commissions vary, usually according to what they do to sell the horse.
Once a potential buyer makes contact with you, the work of determining if this is the right home for your horse begins.