I don't do a ton of sales, but when a client is in need of a new horse, I help them sell their own horse, if necessary, and then help them find their next. Lots of trainers offer a service like this for their students, and everyone does it a little differently, but at the end of the day, we offer our expertise to our students to ensure they come home with the right horse.
Here's my process:
- I start with a conversation. What does my student want? What are her goals, both long- and short-term? What's her budget, and what's her situation: Will the horse live in training with me or at home? Will she have a lesson every day or once a week? This is what guides my search initially, though as we start looking at and riding other horses, sometimes the situation changes.
- Armed with all this, the search begins. The first thing I do is email my friends, trainers in the area or afar, with a list. I'd much, much rather buy from someone I know and trust, or someone THEY know and trust, than a random person on the Internet.
When I do start looking around online, there are a few sites I go to. Dreamhorse.com has the most user-friendly search function, and it's a terrific source for most price ranges. It's not the place where I'm going to find a plethora of international-caliber Prix St. Georges horses, but it is the place to find beginner-safe, or jack-of-all-trades, or low- to mid-level dressage horses, or young national-quality horses, and then occasionally I'll hit pay dirt on a more expensive, more educated one.
Warmbloods-for-sale.com is another favorite, and they're improving their searchablity. You can now search by level for all the English disciplines, though I wish you could do a more targeted distance search - searching by state isn't as helpful as being able to search by region or, even better, by mileage from my zip code.
I'll peruse DressageDaily.com, particularly for the more expensive, upper-level horses, but their search function isn't very user friendly. And I've struck pay-dirt on both VirginiaEquestrian.com and EventingNation.com, but they both require a more dedicated search.
Once I find a horse that sounds interesting online, I do some Googling. And here's a penny's worth of free advice for sellers: don't lie. When you say that your horse has shown third level at recognized shows, he should probably have actually done that. And be ready for me to see his show record - a consistent string of 49 percents at recognized shows is going to make me raise an eyebrow.
- When I talk to someone about a horse, I want to talk to the trainer. It's not that there aren't incredibly skilled and knowledgeable amateurs out there, just like there are lots of crappy professionals. I want to talk to a pro because, sometimes, amateurs and breeders get a little "barn blind" - their horse is PERFECT, perfect for absolutely everyone, could be a horse for anyone, etc. This just isn't the case. Nothing is perfect, and the horse that would suit my timid lady brilliantly will not be inspired enough for my ambitious kid rider, and vice-versa. Generally speaking, a professional is more likely to tell me this than an amateur owner.
And I want to know if the horse isn't going to be a good fit. When I go shopping for a timid rider, or a beginner rider who's balance isn't always 100 percent perfect, I don't want to go see stuff that you need to be spot-on to ride… and I'm not going to be remotely upset if, when I talk to a seller, that seller tells me not to bother coming out. In fact, I'm going to appreciate the honesty. I do the same thing when I sell horses - it's a waste of everyone's time if the match is clearly going to be unsuitable.
I also ask about what the horse's day looks like. Does he hate turnout? Then he's not suitable for the client who keeps her horses at home, out in a paddock while she's at work all day. Does he need to work every day? Not a good match for the rider who only gets a few days a week in. And conversely, does he only get ridden twice a week? Then possibly, though not necessarily, not the right choice for the rider who rides every day.
- Photos and videos are great, but of course, they don't tell the whole story. A video is crucial because I just want to know what kind of mover I'm dealing with, and whether or not the horse can do the work it's advertised as doing. If you're selling a third level professor, I should see it at a show, doing a third level test. If I'm looking at a young horse under saddle, I want to see it under saddle. If it's a beginner horse, I should see it with a beginner, even if only for a moment.
And I HATE long sale videos, and I HATE fancy videos with slow-mo and ridiculous music. A little background muzak is fine, and I can always turn music off, but do I really need to watch a 6-minute video of a $5,000 beginner-safe Pony Club horse set to "Moves Like Jagger"? I think not. The video should show the horse walk, trot and canter both directions, and do movements if it knows any. And for baby horses who aren't yet under saddle, I want to see it at liberty, but also being handled.