A Few Tips For Selling Horses

Giving anyone “a few tips for selling a horse is a challenging task, and evaluating a horse you’re considering buying is usually time-consuming and fraught with disappointment. And our country?s current economic malaise doesn’t make either task –selling a horse or buying one –?any easier, because horses in the same price range can have a very wide range of ability, soundness and training or competitive experience.

Last weekend, my wife, Heather, and I accompanied two students who were each looking to buy a new horse. We looked at seven horses over three days, at three different stables in the San Francisco Bay area. These horses were priced from $1,000 to $7,500, the range at which we find the majority of horses offered these days. And two were lame behind, one clearly had a physical problem in her back or withers that was making her practically hysterical, and one was so green and poorly started it could do nothing but wander around a round pen.

But three of them were lovely horses. One student has already bought one, and the other student is debating the merits of the other two. We’re planning on taking her to ride both horses again.

Recalling this weekend?s horse-shopping experience (and others in the past), I have a few tips to offer any readers who are trying to sell (or thinking about trying to sell) a horse.

First and foremost, the horse should be sound and in reasonable working condition, enough that he can stand 45 or 60 minutes of work while the potential buyer tries him. THere’s no better way to guarantee that a potential buyer will drive away unhappy than to bring out a lame horse. You probably won?t find someone who?ll buy a lame horse, so don’t waste their time and yours.

To be fair, the seller had warned us that one horse (whose price was nearly free) had what she considered a ?bridle lameness? (an unsoundness caused by his owner?s riding), so we were expecting to see a problem. But the gelding was really lame, and he was understandably ornery about it. We didn’t even try the other lame horse, a lovely Thoroughbred who?d raced dozens of times until a few months ago, because he?d obviously smashed his right hip into the starting gate and was uneven just walking around the field.

Second, the horse should be going reasonably well under saddle, unless he or she is an unstarted young horse. The horse shouldn’t buck, rear, slam on the brakes or bolt when someone asks for a walk-trot or a trot-canter transition or jumps over a crossrail. When this happens, it’s especially annoying if the seller has assured me, ?Oh, He’s quiet and easy to ride.? In my experience, horses that react this way either have a physical problem (usually in the neck, shoulder, back or hip) or they’ve gotten away with doing whatever they want with a previous rider and object to being told what to do. Either way, I’ve not come to train or fix your horse, and I’m going to drive away annoyed, either because you?ve lied to me or because I’m not going to suggest that our student to take on someone else?s problem.

Those are my two biggest pieces of advice. ?But tip No. 3 is to have the horse ready for the potential buyer to see and to ride when they arrive. Have the horse waiting in a stall or a nearby paddock. don’t make them trek to the back 40 or make them wait 15 minutes while you retrieve him from there. That probably means that the buyer will have 15 minutes fewer to evaluate your horse, because they’re annoyed or because they have somewhere else to go?perhaps another horse or two to see.

And when they arrive, your horse should be ready to be seen. He should be groomed as if He’s going to compete. That doesn’t mean he has to be braided (although some sales barns do braid their sales horses to be shown), but he should be spotlessly clean, trimmed and, preferably, shed out or body clipped. He shouldn’t look like a horse who just came down from the Mongolian steppes.

The saying goes, ?You only get one chance to make a first impression,? and it’s very true when selling a horse. If a potential buyer?s first impression is that your horse is poorly cared for and that you haven’t a clue what you’re doing, they?ll look at your horse with a jaundiced eye, an eye that’s looking for holes and problems.

If, though, their first impression is of a well-cared-for horse, they?ll at least start to look at him as a good horse they?d like to have.

The bottom line is: If you really want to sell your horse, you need to have him prepared to show off. If He’s as ready for sale as if He’s going to a show, you’re chances are much better than if you just ignore him (and his problems) and hope a sucker comes along.

You?ve probably heard the saying, ?What’s a horse worth’ What somebody will pay for him.? Well, it’s an even truer saying today.