How to Sell Your Horse

Selling a horse is rarely easy and can prove very difficult indeed. It can be an extremely stressful time- it is time consuming fielding phone calls and showing the horse to potential buyers and the owner can feel guilty and upset about letting go of their pet, anxious about securing a good home and/or be under time pressures to place their animal because of the ongoing costs.

To make it as straightforward as possible, it is important to go about it the right way. The following article gives some hints and tips which I hope will assist. The information was originally published on Suite 101 back in 2009 and has been fleshed out a little. Of course a lot of this is influenced by my experience and opinion, so comments and further hints and advice are very welcome.

Writing a Sale Advert for Your Horse

Creating a sales advert is the most basic starting point for selling your horse. Doing a good job at this stage will help streamline the process, as constant calls from unsuitable parties quickly become frustrating. Most people get their share of these anyway, but without the correct information in an advert you will get more than most! Try to ensure that you have considered the following in any sales advert:

The Facts

A good advert should always include the most basic facts about the horse for sale; height, sex, colour, breeding (if known) and age. Even if your personal opinion is that some of these details should not matter, chances are they will to a high percentage of buyers and could be a deal-breaker for many. Some people are completely averse to buying mares, a horse under five, or anything grey or likely to grey out! Height is an obviously important factor as people looking for a ridden horse need to know if the horse is big enough for them or conversely, not too big, but incredibly, height still often gets missed on adverts. Include all the facts and eliminate the people looking for something different before they even pick up the phone.

Don’t Assume Everything is Clear from the Photo

It is important to include a good quality photograph (more on this later), but don’t assume that the photograph will carry enough information for the buyer and so avoid stating any of the most essential facts we have mentioned earlier. Colour is just one example. Reproduced photographs may not be the clearest and may have some strange colour shading depending on print quality. Always state colour and sex alongside other facts and leave nothing to chance. Best not have people ringing up on the off chance that the iron-grey mare in the picture could actually be a black gelding.

Make the Most of Every Word

Most sale adverts must be short, or get more expensive with increasing length, so you need to include the most essential information. Along with the basic facts this should include what your horse can do and what it can’t if relevant. It sounds harsh but the buyer doesn’t really need to know your horse’s name, favourite treats and the fact that it has a cute little spot on its nose. They can learn these extras if they decide to visit. They need to know if the horse has the physical attributes and the skills they are looking for. Make sure you list the horse’s CV in terms of the jobs it has done e.g. hacking, schooling, jumping 2ft or 3ft courses and attending pony club camp. This catches the eye of anyone seeking the perfect partner for specific activities they have in mind.

There are many abbreviations and short phrases used in adverts which help to add more details in limited space. You may want to familiarise yourself with them to see if any can be used in your advert. The following list of the most common is from the useful and informative website Equine World;

AES: Anglo European Studbook.
Backed & ridden away: The horse has been backed but has not yet been schooled.
BD: British Dressage.
BE: British Eventing.
BSPS: British Show Pony Society
BSJA: British Show Jumping Association.
BWB: British Warmblood
CB: Cleveland Bay
CHAPS: Coloured Horse And Pony Society.
Foward going: Responsive to the leg aids, not a slow plod. Could also mean the horse rushes or is strong.
Easy to do: Is well mannered.
Green: The horse is inexperienced and requires a competent and confident rider with experience to school or educate it further.
Has Competed: The horse has participated in at least one competition. This alone means little as the horse may have only attended one competition and come last in the class for this statement to be true. Ask more about the horse's competition record.
HT: Hunter Trials.
ID: Irish Draught.
ISH: Irish Sports Horse.
KWPN: Dutch Warmblood.
LDR: Long Distance Riding/Rides
LR: Lead rein pony. A pony used for a child when being led on a lead rein. Although suitable as a lead rein pony the pony may not be suitable for when a child is ready to start riding without being led as ponies can become used to being lead rein ponies or may have become lead rein ponies due difficulties being ridden without.
M&M: Mountain and Moorland.
NF: New Forest
NPS: National Pony Society
ODE: One Day Event.
PB: Part Bred
PC: Pony Club
Placed every time out: The horse has been placed at every show it has attended. However the horse only needs to attend one show and have been placed (and it could have been a small class where all horses got placed) for this statement to be true. Ask more about the horse's competition record.
PUK: Ponies UK
RC: Riding Club
Schoolmaster/Schoolmistress: A well behaved and experienced horse that has seen it, done it and got the t-shirt.
SH: Show Hunter
SHP: Show Hunter Pony
Snaffle mouth/Snaffle ride: Has a responsive mouth so is ridden in a snaffle bit, as opposed to horses that are stronger or whose mouths are unresponsive and who require a stronger bit.
SJ: Show Jumping.
TB: Thoroughbred.
WH: Working Hunter.
WHP: Working Hunter Pony.
XC: Cross Country

Emphasise Positive Qualities

Emphasise the horse’s positive points and don’t underestimate the value of small things you may be taking for granted, so always mention if it is easy to catch, load, shoe and handle. These can be very desirable features for many buyers and it is surprising how many horses can be difficult in these respects. If the horse for sale is a solid steady character that is happy to be ridden out alone and doesn’t spook at a thing it may be much in demand even if jumping is not its forte. Play to your horse’s strengths. Don’t try and sell a fairly plain pony as a future showing star if it is the sweetest, calmest, most sensible character anyone could wish to handle or sit on - it is clearly a perfect first pony and many parents will be anxious to get their hands on it for their children even if it will never take first in a beauty contest. Promote it as that. If you are worried that you are not being objective and are not sure what your horse’s best qualities are, ask a friend who knows him to tell you what they think.

Acknowledge Limitations

Major limitations on the horse’s capabilities should probably be addressed in the advert- i.e. sooner rather than later. If injury has restricted your horse’s activity and it can’t jump, you need to mention this rather than wait until people call up to ask, as many will. If it is not a suitable first horse, say this too. If it is very handsome but scars would dent a showing career, mention that the horse is blemished. There is little point in glossing over your horse’s flaws. Yes, this is a sale ad, and you do need to emphasise the horse’s attractive qualities, but you don’t want anyone to waste their time and yours by calling to discuss your horse and discovering that it is not suited to the career they have in mind. Outright deception can never be recommended- you are likely to get caught out as most buyers will have the horse vetted and even if they don’t, and take the horse, you could find yourself in court if the horse is not suitable for the purposes you claimed it was.

Price Realistically

Many horse for sale adverts don’t include an asking price. This can work against you as people may be put off from calling at all if they think the horse will be outside their price range, or will mainly call to ask what sort of price you would take! If at all possible, I would always recommend you include at least a guideline figure- you can always state ‘ONO- or nearest offer’ or ‘OVNO- or very nearest offer’ to allow some room to haggle and show you are open to discussions.

Pricing a horse can be very hard; too expensive and the horse will not sell, especially not in what is currently a buyer’s market, too cheap and people may wonder what is wrong with it! Do your best to come up with a sensible price- jot down the bulk of the advert, listing the positive and negative features of the horse, and then look at as many adverts as you can online or in magazines to see what comparable animals are going for. You can sometimes get opinions on internet forums, and can ask friends at the stables for their thoughts to help you. In the majority of cases I would avoid the use of ‘POA- price on application’ which, certainly here in the UK, tends to indicate a horse of very substantial price- or as a friend of mine once said ‘POA- Please Offload As- much-money-as-I-can-possibly-squeeze-out-of-you!’

Location/How to Get in Touch

Make sure that people know whereabouts in the country your horse is, particularly if you might advertise online or in a national magazine. Cost of transport often comes into a buyer's range. They cannot travel an indefinite distance. Also make sure that contact information is correct (double check your phone number and your email if relevant) and if you are only available at certain times e.g. not after 9pm, you may want to mention this. Yes some buyers will ring very late or very early! If you do have the option to include phone and email it's probably worth doing this as then people can get in touch very easily whenever they see your advert (some people do horse shop at work and could email discreetly from their office!) and email can be less disruptive to your everyday life but do bear in mind that the written word is open to misinterpretation and that people tend to be bolder and can be downright cheeky in emails at times!

Choose Your Medium

Whatever web site, paper or magazine you are considering advertising in, look at some copies first. Check prices to advertise and the kind of horses that are being offered for sale. If your horse is not particularly valuable or has done very little and can’t demand a good price on that basis, free papers and local press may be your best medium. This protects your marginal profit and few people will be willing to pay a lot to transport a horse that does not have very special qualities long distance, so the horse is most likely to be sold locally. A top performer, immaculately produced youngster or a potentially excellent breeding animal may be better sold in regular national magazines, and it can be worth paying a fair sum for a good advert in these publications. This may secure more enquiries from wealthier prospective buyers who could offer you the highest possible price.

Photographing a Horse for Sale

A good quality picture of the horse offered for sale is often top of the buyer’s want list when he or she is scanning adverts. Think about the times when you may have been window shopping horses as many of us do- did you spend much time on the adverts without photographs? An advertisement with a picture will always attract more attention than one without, and may be the difference between securing a serious enquiry or your horse being overlooked altogether. A good, carefully selected picture can tell the buyer a lot about whether this horse is for them. Try to consider the following guidelines on photographs to accompany a ‘horse for sale’ advert.

Always Include a Photograph or State one can be Supplied

There really is not much excuse in these days when photos are so easy to get and many people even have cameras in their mobile phones, not to either have a picture in the advert of the horse for sale or mention that photos can be emailed by request. A picture can paint a thousand words, and with advert words often limited, or involving extra costs the longer the written part of the advert gets, this really can save you a fortune.

Ensure the Picture is Clear and From a Good Angle

Remember that the photograph you supply will probably be much smaller in its final form, especially if it appears in printed media like magazines. Don’t supply blurry out-of focus shots which will not reproduce well and will tell the buyer very little. Take the picture from the best angle to show off your horse. Many people try to snap their horse by standing back and holding the lead rein at the very end- this can make the horse’s heads look large and not show much of their body, so either try and have someone hold your horse or try and take a picture loose in the field, again from a sensible angle. Fully side on is usually most informative for the buyer, giving a good idea of the horse’s condition, build and conformation.

Clean up the horse first!

It sounds obvious but the buyer would like to see the horse’s true build and colour, not a mud monster which could be a completely different shape underneath! Going out and snapping a horse with knots in its mane and tail and filthy patches all over its body suggests that you don’t care much about it, and the buyer may wonder if you are just desperate to get rid of it. So take time to have the horse groomed and looking its best for its sales shot. You’re not likely to get the best possible price without a bit of elbow grease. Having worked on the horse don't take the picture when it is dozing, try to have it standing square and alert with ears pricked. Rustling something will usually get the horse's attention.

Only have One Horse in the Picture

Take a shot with only the horse that is for sale in it, to make that horse the star of the picture and avoid any confusion over which is actually being offered. A very nice horse in the background could make yours look ordinary by comparison. You certainly don’t want to waste the limited words you have on saying ‘the horse is the bay on the right of the photograph’ and the last thing you need is lots of calls about that darling little chestnut behind your horse who is not actually for sale.

Pay Attention to the Background

The background should be simple and clear, a field or a wall perhaps that won’t blend into the horse’s colouring- so a light wall for a dark horse and a dark one for a light horse. Fussy, messy backgrounds will probably confuse the horse’s outline once the picture appears in press and don’t look very nice. A scruffy untidy yard or even your driveway full of a car and children’s toys is not a great backdrop to the horse you are trying to sell for a substantial price.

Make Sure People in the Shot Look Professional

It’s best if anyone appearing in the picture on the ground or on the horse looks safe and professional. You may loll on your horse hatless and in trainers and jeans every day, but for the purposes of a sale ad, it’s best to wear correct, safe riding gear and sit up straight! This just helps give buyers the impression that you know what you are doing and the horse will have been correctly handled and schooled while in your care.

Use an Appropriate Picture

Present pictures that help to indicate what the horse is capable of. If the horse has not been broken in, it is probably best to get simple conformation shots of the horse not in a saddle and bridle, even if it is has been introduced to tack. Pictures of the horse wearing tack can lead people to assume that it is fully rideable and make enquiries based on that assumption. If the horse is a good performer and being advertised as such, with an appropriate price tag, an action shot may be preferable, but remember that the buyer would really still like to get a good look at the horse. A long distance shot of your horse clearing a very impressive fence may not be best for selling purposes- a closer shot of a good jump over an ordinary fence may be much more suitable.

Use some careful thought and put some effort into a sale picture, and it will help you get the best possible price, and perhaps more importantly, the best possible home for your horse.

To see how NOT to do it- look here!

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