Fall is a busy time of year for selling horses.
Weanlings will be weaned and leave for their first homes.
Kids go off to college or back to school and need to sell the horse they no longer have time for.
The show season is over, and now is the time for competitors to sell their show horses or purchase their prospect to begin training for the next season.
Two and three year olds will have their first 60-90 days of riding and will be ready to go to someone who can put them on track for their future careers.
Everyone feels the crunch of colder weather, less time to ride, and more expensive hay costs in the coming Winter months.
All around the country Ranches will be hosting their Fall sales, and a many organizations like AQHA and NRHA host Fall sales in conjunction with big year-end shows.
This is all good news if you are in the market to purchase a new horse this Fall.
But if you are one of those who has a horse to sell (like me), here are some tips, tricks, and reminders that will help you get your horse sold.
1. Get Good Pictures
This one is really a deal breaker. The pictures are usually the first thing that grabs a potential buyer's attention. It pays to get good pictures!
They don’t have to be professional (although professional quality pictures do give an edge), but make sure your horse is groomed to perfection, and use your nicest tack.
Follow general good photography rules….no distracting backgrounds or bad lighting.
You will want to include conformation shots of horse but also action shots.
Grab some horse buddies to help you hold the horse, pose him correctly, and keep his ears forward. It takes an army!
2. Get Good Videos
Remember that you are advertising your horse in the 21st century!
People will expect to see a video before coming to look at a horse. It will save them hours of driving/gas money, and it will save you hours of answering questions that could have been answered by watching a two minute video. Your video can be as simple or as extravagant as you can make it. A short clip of your horse demonstrating the basic gaits or an edited compilation of clips complete with complementing music!
Consider this a “commercial” for your horse. Often the video is what makes a buyer really fall in love with your horse.
Go ahead and make it memorable!
3. Online Photo Ads
The internet is often the first place potential buyers will begin to search for horses.
There are many different online equine advertising sites, and cross posting your ad to several of them will get your horse the most exposure. Prices can range from free to triple digits for some ad packages. You don’t have to go broke selling your horse, but make sure you can include several pictures and a video link to your ad. The pricier ad packages usually will land you more ad views. And if no one sees your horse, no one will buy your horse.
A few of the most popular equine advertising sites include:
Several more come to mind, but these seem to be the reigning popular venues for the time.
Also consider advertising on more specific websites if they apply to your horse.
Your Breed Association site (AQHA, APHA, etc.)
Finally don’t forget to take advantage of local sites like craigslist. There are also a myriad of Facebook horse groups for every breed and discipline of horse you can imagine.
Posting flyers at horse shows and local feed stores can’t hurt either.
Advertise, advertise, and advertise!
4. Don’t Underestimate The Power of WOM!
Word of Mouth. This ancient form of advertising never goes out of style and is always effective.
I sold a hunter pony once just by sending an email to the breeders whom I purchased him from with a link to his video and a few pictures.
They were excited to promote a pony that they themselves had bred and raised. In turn, they forwarded my email to all of their pony friends. 24 hours later I was receiving emails and phone calls from people in California, Ohio, and Texas! 48 hours later the pony was sold to a great home…..and I didn’t have to spend a dime in advertising!
I have also bought horses through word of mouth myself. Often the best horses will never even reach the public market before they are snapped up by someone in their immediate circle.
So go ahead and send an email out to all your horse friends, post something on Facebook for all your friends to share, make a few phone calls to your old trainer, your local 4-H or pony club leader, your veterinarian, farrier, etc. People will be more liable to seriously consider a recommendation they receive from a friend or a mentor. So let everyone know that you have a horse for sale!
5. Be Professional, Courteous, and Reply Promptly
This is just basic good business 101.
When someone contacts you about your horse, be sure to reply ASAP, and answer all their questions honestly. Go above and beyond.
If you promise to send pictures tomorrow, then send pictures tomorrow, not three days later.
Nothing is more frustrating for horse shoppers to inquire about horses or ask questions and never get a reply. If you wait for one day to long they may pass your horse up for another.
6. Give Yourself Plenty of Time
It will take time to sell your horse. Don’t wait to start advertising until 3 weeks before you need to have your horse gone. It would be great if your horse sells overnight, but don’t count on it.
Give yourself at least 6 months. If you have time, you can be selective about who your horse goes to and will be more likely to get your asking price.
7. Price Realistically
Price your horse realistically and competitively…..but don’t “sell yourself short”.
If you’re not sure what to ask for your horse, then ask your trainer or your horsey friends what they think. Search for horses of similar, age, breeding, and training level as your horse to see what the general going rate is. Ask what your horse is worth. Remember you can always drop the price later on. It’s a good idea to leave yourself a bit of breathing room.
8. Describe Your Horse in the Ads
Remember to always include all the important information in your ads.
Breed, height, age, gender, location, discipline, and pedigree are essential. You will want to describe your horse's training level, experience, and any other relevant information.
If you include all this information, you will save yourself oodles of time answering questions.
You may also want to include a few lines describing your horse’s personality. People want to get to know your horse. Tell about what makes them special, what makes them stand out. There may be a 100 other horses that can run a 16 second barrel pattern…..what makes your horse better than the others?
If your horse has any major faults, such as cribbing, soundness issues, bucking, etc., you will want to disclose those in your ad. Buyers will appreciate your honesty, which will make them more liable to trust you. But don’t waste too much time describe little imperfections….say your horse doesn’t like to cross water, or doesn't like fly spray….these are little things that most people can live with. You will certainly want to let your buyer know once they get serious about your horse….but don’t turn people off before they even inquire about your horse.
9. Get All Your Ducks In a Row
Make sure that you have all the necessary paperwork and documents ready to transfer your horse’s registration papers. It’s always a good idea to use a Purchase Agreement, and you will want to have that prepared in advance and ready to sign.
Make sure your horse’s Coggins is current. It is also a good time to make sure they are UTD on vaccinations, deworming, dental and farrier work.
You may want to go ahead and get general health papers from a Vet, since these may be required if your horse will be shipped over state lines.
10. What to Do If you Don’t get any Bites
If you are not getting any nibbles on your horse, you may want to go back and spruce up your ads.
Often times just posting better pictures or a new video will be all that you need to attract more attention to your ad. Sometimes just updating your ad will bump it back to the top of the listings, which means more potential buyers will see your horse.
You will also want to carefully consider your current price…..if it’s too high, buyers will pass it right by.
11. Consider All Options
You can sell your horse privately, but it does take some time, dedication, and know-how.
If this is your first time selling a horse, or if you just don’t feel up to the job, don’t be afraid to enlist the help of a professional. Most horse trainers will be quite willing to help you advertise and sell your horse for a small fee or commission. There are some people who make it their business to take horses on consignment and sell them privately, usually taking a commission off the selling price. This can be a sure-fire, stress free way to sell your horse.
Other options include leasing your horse, or consigning them to sales.
At the end of the selling process it is very comforting to know you have matched your horse with the right rider….and now you can sit back and watch them both excel.