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How to sell a horse

Overview

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.

Photos and videos

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

  • Always provide three top quality photos all from the mane-free side of the horse. One of head and shoulder, one from the side in trot and one from the side in canter. When taking photos of the horse in movement have the camera slightly in front of the horse and not higher than the shoulder of the horse. Never use a lens that shortens or lengthens the horse’s body. The background should be neutral and without disturbing items.
  • When providing the video, you need to cover trot, canter and walk. If the horse is older and on a higher level you should show dressage movements as flying changes, pirouettes, piaffe and passage. If it is a jumper, you should of course show the horse over fences. A video should never be more that 2 minutes. You just want to give a glimpse of the potential of the horse, not everything there is to be seen.

Basic facts

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

  • Gender. If it is a stallion, mare or a gelding is important to many (but not all) buyers. Additional information could be if a mare has had foal or foals and when a gelding was castrated.
  • Pedigree. Father, mother and mother’s father are mandatory. If the horse belongs to and is registered in a studbook and if it is a stallion whether he is approved for breeding
  • Age. State the year of birth, not the age at the moment you write it down. As horses turn one-year older January first every year you don’t need to state the exact day of birth but if the horse is born late, i.e. in the second half year, it is of interest
  • Height. The height of horses is measured differently in different countries. We suggest that you state the height to the top of the withers straight from the floor in centimeters.

Soft facts

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.

  • Temper. Some horses have a given forwardness, other could be calm or even lazy. Top horses are often “electrical” that could be beneficial for some riders but could scare the life out of others. If the horse is very sensitive to sound or activities in the surroundings it might not be the best companion to a rider who wants to ride out in woods or the traffic
  • Bad habits. Horses that rear, bucks or bites are maybe not the best as family horses for non-professionals but that could be of less importance to others. Not to be overemphasized but not totally hidden either.
  • Easy to shoe and easy to load. Could change over time but important to know the first time. If special shoeing is needed mention that
  • Hard or easy to feed. Some horses eat everything and some are very suspicious to some types of futter. Does the horse need special treatment to be in shape, mention that.

Vetcheck

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.

Merits

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.

Pricing

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.

Contract

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

  • Name and identification number of the horse. Pass number.
  • Name address and identification number of seller. If the seller is a company, who is contact person and representative of the company
  • Name address and identification number of buyer. If the buyer is a company, who is contact person and representative of the company
  • Date of contract
  • How the horse is to be delivered
  • When and how the health status of the horse is checked. If there are any findings attach the vet check protocol
  • What the horse is aimed to be used for, e.g. competitions, breeding
  • Whether the horse is insured and if so in which insurance company
  • When the liability is transferred to the buyer
  • Price and payment. What amount and to what account and if VAT is included or not
  • How eventual conflicts between buyer and seller should be resolved, e.g. in court or arbitration institutes

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.

Photo presentation:

Movie presentation:

https://youtu.be/uVtelbYohwY