To sell a horse may have many different reasons. And different type of horses might be sold through different channels, depending on the horse, the owner, expectations of price etc. In the following we will focus on sales of high-quality sport horses, i.e. horses for jumping, dressage, eventing on a mid or high level. That said, all buyers are not top professional riders, but many non-professionals want high quality horses to have a pleasure of riding their new horse on a reasonable level without spending time and money on competitions week after week.
The most important perspective when preparing to sell a horse is to understand the buying process
Buying a horse is a mix of facts and feelings. The facts are rather simple to provide but the feeling is given by photos, videos and of course testing the horse in reality. Also, the seriousness of the seller is an important part of building the trust of a deal. We will in the following cover items as how to present the horse in photos and videos, the pedigree, the temper, the merits, the health status, contracts and pricing.
This is the most important items to catch the interest for a horse. Do not underestimate what is needed to do this. If you don’t have the knowledge and the equipment to do it properly, consider hiring a professional photographer. If you are not an experienced rider knowing how to present the gaits or the jumping technique of the horse, ask your trainer or a professional rider to show the horse in the video.
Here are some tips
There is some information that is mandatory and needed and to some extent used to filter out horses that are of interest of a buyer
Some information is of importance but has different importance to different buyers and is often not objective. Thus, a professional buyer might give less weight to these fact as he or she thinks that most of these could be changed with training over time. On the other hand, this could be of highest importance to other buyers who do not want to spend time to evaluate certain types of candidates.
All horses to be sold must be vet checked in advance. There is nothing more tiresome than falling in love with a horse, agreeing on all details and then have a vet check with a “killer-concern” that drops the whole deal. To avoid this as far as possible the seller needs to have an initial vet check in advance. There is no need for extensive x-raying but a normal check by a practitioner in horse veterinary is enough. Most buyers will ask for x-rays of fetlocks, hoofs, hocks and the spine. The vet check should not be older than a couple of months when advertising the horse and the full report should be available for the buyer.
This said the buyer should always be advised to make his/her own vet inspection preferably with a vet that the buyer has trust in. This might not always be possible in practice but then a “neutral” vet could be chosen to whom the buyer’s vet could communicate. From the perspective of liability, it is of highest importance that the final vet check is made on request by the buyer.
How about findings? Very few horses are totally out of findings especially if they are not youngsters. Experienced veterinarians and trainers understand this and that findings could be of more or less importance regarding what the horse is supposed to be used for and who is the buyer. The findings should be evaluated as notifications without importance, warnings or injury. Also, injuries could be of temporary type or possible to treat. This could of course extend the sales process or affect the price.
To present the merits of a horse is of utmost importance for a quality horse with a high price tag. On the other hand, most horses under let us say 15 years of age are sold on potential. This is of course most relevant for young horses but let us say that you have a 10-year-old jumper that is shown in 130 classes you want to know if it could go to 150 or a Prix St George dressage horse of 9 could go to Grand Prix in 3 years.
First you need to state if the horse has merits of its own in competitions or young horse performance tests. You should not list them all if there are many results but a couple with the level and the horse’s result. You could count on that the buyer will look it up before finishing a deal.
If the horse hasn’t competed or the result is not good you should try to find and list merits of siblings, father and mother etc.
Last you should state what level you think you horse is right now. If your jumper easily takes fences of 120 at your weekly trainings at home but has not competed you could say that, but not that it is ready for 150. When it comes to test riding it is important that you have not exaggerated the status of the horse as that will kill the trust of the buyer or even be dangerous.
This is always tricky. The price levels of horses are not open information reported in official statistics and there are no organizations collecting and publishing prices such as for second hand cars. If you want to buy a 5-year-old Audi with 100 000 km milage you could get both average price and spread. This does not exist for horses. You could get a hint from auctions, there are frequent auctions in Germany and the Netherlands where you could see prices when auction is closed.
Price tags for horses vary a lot. High potential competition horses could be sold for millions of euros and high-quality youngsters for tens of thousands. Besides, in many deals there have been many middle-hands such as trainers, horse dealers, sometimes in chains. What the real seller gets or what the buyer pays in these deals is seldom known.
In the end this is a real market, you get what someone is prepared to pay, and you pay what a seller is prepared to sell for. The market varies over time and as a seller it is always important to know if you want a quick deal or if you are prepared to wait. It is always beneficial from a price perspective if you have several interested prospect buyers.
You will always have to mention a price. When advertising you could sometimes write “price on request” but then you need to give a price when requested. If you then give an interval, you could be sure that the buyer only will look at the lowest level of the interval. You always need to decide if you are willing to negotiate the price or if it is fixed. If so, mention that directly otherwise buyers will take it as a first bid in a negotiation.
It is also important to understand the size of the purse of the buyer. You will not probably ask this directly in the first meeting or call but if the buyer is accompanied by his/her trainer it might be possible to get an idea. And it is no good spending time to convince a buyer that a 11 year old Grand Prix horse is the right one for a purse of 25000 euro.
The sale of a horse should always be documented in a written contract. The sale of a horse is treated differently in different countries but there is some basic information that always should be stated
There are often standard contracts to be found from breeding organizations or from sport horse federations in your country that is adapted to the country’s regulations.