I'm currently horse shopping, and have come across one or two horses who seem to be very underpriced. Would it be rude to go ahead and ask why the horse is priced how it is, or should I be more delicate?
I would not consider that rude at all. Sometimes the sellers are very motivated and are in a situation where they must sell quickly. But often there may be an issue that the seller would not like to publicly disclose on a website advertisement, but will discuss with any potential clients to see if it is something they can live with. Many times there are very nice horses that have an issue that would turn some people off, while others will not care at all about it. In that case someone may get a great horse at a reasonable price.
Q. Joyce, Stonebrooke Farm, Ky.
Would you sell a horse to someone that wasn't, in your opinion, a good match?
We try to avoid that as much as possible. I've told several people that something was not a good match, especially in situations where parents who aren't horse people are purchasing something for a child. I do have to consider my liability and am especially careful when it comes to children. I've seen people purchase horses that I would not have chosen for them, but if they are experienced horse people or their trainer thinks it’s a good match, then we let them decide for themselves. We try to provide as much information as we can up front about the horses and show the prospective buyers a variety of horses for sale so they can make an educated decision. All in all, if I think it's going to be a bad situation, I’d rather just not sell the horse to that particular person.
What kinds of things should and shouldn't you put on a sales videotape?
I think it’s great when we can get a videotape of a horse away from its home territory, to show how he or she is in a new situation. It’s especially nice to have videos from horse shows whenever possible. When we are doing a videotape of a horse on our website, we keep it fairly simple. A few minutes of trotting in each direction, cantering in each direction, doing their lead changes if they are at that point and jumping a course. We try not to get overly lengthy tapes--we just like to show the way they move and their jumping form, because beyond that a customer is going to need to try the horse to determine if it’s a good match. My feeling is that a videotape can only show the way a horse moves and jumps and give a general sense of how it goes.
I have a 4-year-old Thoroughbred gelding off the track who I think would be suitable for the hunter ring. Is it an issue that he’s a Thoroughbred? I remember a time when the Thoroughbred was the horse to have in the hunter arena. Now, everything has a brand. Is there a decent market for a nice Thoroughbred?
I do find it hard to sell Thoroughbreds to many amateurs, especially ones that raced. Many people feel that they can't ride a Thoroughbred or are concerned about the resale value of a Thoroughbred. If the horse does not have a lot of “track issues,” such as a hard mouth, hot temperament, old bows etc., and he or she is sensible and fancy, then I do think they can be sold. Unfortunately, they always seem to sell for less than a warmblood of similar quality. I have found people to buy attractive, clean legged, quiet Thoroughbreds as hunter prospects because they cannot afford the prices of the warmbloods. If it’s a quality horse that is reasonably priced, then you should be able to find a market for it.
Q. Wynn, Ocala, Fla.
I've experienced the 13.3-hand pony problem, and we've talked about it a lot on the Chronicle of the Horse Bulletin Board. How extensive do you think it (trainers' negative attitudes toward the "wrong" height) is in the pony hunter industry?
I see it a lot with the fancier, higher priced ponies. Most people looking for a really high quality pony want that ideal 14.2 size. I’ve found people looking for a quiet children’s hunter or short stirrup type to be more reasonable about the size and focus more on temperament and experience. And other disciplines, such as Pony Club, do not seem to be as concerned about size.
When marketing a horse for sale who has a good show record in one area, but has not shown where you live, how applicable is the previous show history?
A. Dear Leslie,
I would say it is very applicable. It's nice if you can get them to one or two shows in the area you are trying to market them, but previous show history, even from a different area, is very important and relevant.
Q. Sophia, Baltimore, Md.
How do you recommend handling a situation where a buyer wants to take a horse on trial? Also, how many times do you generally allow someone to try a horse before making a decision?
A. Dear Sophia,
We take trials on a case-by-case basis. If we do a trial, we have to feel it was a good match and going to a good situation. In our case, it is always up to the owner of the horse, but if they consult us about a trial we would like to know that it is going to an experienced horse person or to a reputable trainer while on trial. When horses go on trial we make sure the clients have a vetting set up, so the horse is not on a week trial, and then we have to wait another week to do the vetting. An insurance binder is taken out on the horse, and we hold the purchase price of the horse while it is on trial. We also sign an agreement that the horse will be returned or paid for on a certain date, and that the purchaser is responsible for the horse while in their care, and that they will cover the cost of shipping. In terms of how many times customers try horses; it seems that three times is generally sufficient. Clients can come out and try the horse and see if they like it, set it up for a trainer or other experienced friend to give their opinion on a second try and occasionally they will then want to possibly see it at another ring, either in a horse show environment or if it is an event horse at a cross-country course or out in the hunt field, depending upon what they are looking for. I’ve also had situations where the horse could not go on trial, but the customers did not feel ready to make a decision after a few tries, so it has worked out (if they are in a close proximity to the horse) to pay the owner or trainer of the horse for a few lessons on the horse after they have tried it to help make their decision.
Q. Jen, Chantilly, Va.
As a first-time horse buyer what questions are best asked so one doesn't come off as a "tire kicker?” I wouldn't want to waste anyone's time with silly questions, but I want to find out more about a horse (to see if it's suitable) before having the trainer/instructor call. I’m just not sure of what to ask.
A. Dear Jen,
I always find it helpful when a client tells us what they are looking for first, instead of asking several questions about the horse. I would tell anyone listing a horse for sale what you want to do with the horse (for example take lessons, jump 2’6, go to local hunter shows and trail ride) and tell them what kind of temperament you need and see if that matches what you are looking for. If you give a good description of your needs that helps answer a lot of the questions about the horse. Some other useful questions to ask when looking at a horse would be would be: How often is it ridden? What is the worst thing the horse may do? Is it on any maintenance? Does it have any known soundness issues? Does it have any stable vices? How much turn out does it get? How is he/she when turned out with others or alone? How are the horse's ground manners--do they clip, load or are there any problems with biting, kicking etc.? That would cover the basics of what you want to know. Some sellers do get turned off by laundry lists of questions; I think it’s most important to see if the seller thinks the horse will fit your description of what you are looking for.
Q. Sylvia, Larkspur, Calif.
I purchased my perfect horse from you years ago. I would like to know how you price them. Do you have a formula with regard to age, temperament, conformation, talent? At the time he was on the expensive side, but I've come to realize that comparatively in California where we live he was very reasonable, even including shipping across the country.
A. Dear Sylvia,
In almost every case the sellers price the horses themselves. We can give our suggestions as to what is selling at the time and for how much, but ultimately it is up to the seller to determine the price. Occasionally people want us to price the horses, and we do have a good feel for what will sell based on the market and the horse in question, but for the most part the sellers will determine price.
Q. Yvonne, Freehold, N.J.
How did you get started in Equine Sales and how did you make the jump from racehorses to hunters and Jumpers?
A. Dear Yvonne,
My decision was born out of necessity. All I had ever done was racehorses for 35 years, and when the time came to quit riding races and my mother was having health issues, I knew I had to come home and start a new career.
A few years before I retired from racehorses, I had been thinking about how I could put the internet to use as well as my name and reputation in the horse world. My mom helped me start the business. She was in her 70s, but she bought a computer and started learning about the internet and website development, and she helped me to develop the idea. We started out experimentally; our original thought was just to help people who were getting started with horses. We were thinking we could help amateurs who were looking to purchase horses, to make sure they made well informed decisions and also to help with the care and set up of equine facilities. I was thinking of basically starting an equine consulting company.
A good friend of mine, Helen Richards, was a jockey for many years but also had many contacts in the show horse world and had shown and ridden hunters. She helped me in learning the different disciplines. She had some success selling Thoroughbreds off the track to show hunter barns, and she thought sales would be a good way for me to go, since I had a recognizable name and a good reputation. From that idea we put a couple of horses on our website that were owned by Christy Hite (now Christy Heflin), a hunter trainer in our area that we had been introduced to and the response was incredible. One introduction led to another and we started meeting different horsemen and women in the area that worked in all disciplines, so I started learning the differences between the disciplines and meeting some very knowledgeable trainers who I continued to learn from.
I had the background from all of my days in racing, training and breeding and certainly knew a lot about conformation, soundness etc., so I learned the rest as I went! I had a good lesson from my father--he always told me it’s better to keep your mouth shut and let people assume you were a fool, then to open it and prove them right. So, in the early days I kept my eyes open and my mouth shut! A prominent horse show judge in the area told me in the early days of our business, “You sell more horses than anyone I know by saying nothing than most people sell by saying everything!” I just showed them what seemed appropriate and let them make their decision. We still follow that rule to a degree, but now we’re much more informed! It’s certainly been a learning experience, and I’ve gotten to meet some great people from all walks of life. I found out that all horse people have the same struggles, the same passion and go through the same heartaches and have the same love of the horses that we did in racing. I find the greatest joy in my job is in helping people sell horses, who may be struggling or who are trying so hard to do things the right way and just need someone to help give them a break. I can definitely relate to those people and just find true pleasure in being able to help those types of owners and trainers.
Q. Alexa, New Canaan, Conn.
As a seller, how do you get a feel for how interested someone is or whether they’re just window shopping? Do you ever turn away someone who wants to see a horse because you know they are not serious? Basically, how do you minimize people wasting your time?
A. Dear Alexa,
I can usually get a feel for how serious someone is. If a customer seems to know what they are looking or has enlisted a trainer or qualified friend to come help them horse shop, then that is always a good sign. Customers who need to find a horse in a specific time frame, such as before they leave for Florida or as soon as possible because their current horse sold, tend to be more serious. People who will ask me about 10 or 15 horses for sale that are completely different in terms of discipline, price and sometimes even opposite ends of the spectrum size wise generally are not seriously looking or have not gotten to the point yet, to really know what they want and more importantly what they need in a horse. I always ask them specifically what they are looking for and in what price range to narrow the field of horses I will show them. If you can speak to their trainer or a friend of theirs to help assess their needs and situation that can also help and provide good insight. I have turned people away after showing them several horses that are a great match for what they are looking for, and they still want to see more and more. I have actually seen people horse shopping for as long as I’ve been doing this that have never bought a horse!
Q. Tammy, Phoenix, Ariz.
What are some of the most common mistakes that you see buyers and sellers making on a regular basis?
A. Dear Tammy,
I think sellers who are overly pushy lose a lot of business; no one wants to be pressured into buying. If we have a customer that truly likes a horse we’ve shown them, and we know other people are looking at the horse, then we will let them know that there is other interest, but ultimately we feel if it works out it works out and if not there will always be another horse. If you push people into making quick decisions, they may make the wrong choice. I’ve also seen a lot of owners focus on the negative aspects of their horse instead of the positive, such as he’s definitely not going to be an upper level horse (when the client is only looking for a low level horse), and he’s not the prettiest or he’s not the best mover. I think you should tell the client the basic information about the horse, what he is currently doing, what type of ride/rider he takes and let them decide. I think being up front and honest about your horse and letting the clients make their decision without a lot of pressure is the most effective. It is also helpful to provide some background--people like to know what the horse has done and where he’s come from, or if the horse has an unknown background. If the potential buyers feel the owners are not being forthcoming about a horse’s history, then that can also put them off. I have seen buyers miss out on really good horses that were a great fit for them because they feel they have not looked at enough horses yet. It is good to have a comparison, but it can be a mistake to pass by the perfect horse because it is one of the first ones you've seen. I’ve also seen buyers miss really good horses because they did not vet perfectly. It is important to know what you can live with in a prepurchase exam and what you cannot, and if you are not experienced enough to know the difference, then it’s important to have a trainer who does. If you love a horse and a few issues come up in the vetting, then as long as they are not severe, I would recommend getting a second opinion. I would also steer buyers away from horses that are clearly not a fit for them at the time when they are trying them. I’ve seen people try a horse and not get along with it, but make excuses for the horse or think that they will improve enough to learn to ride the horse in time. That may be the case, but it’s best to start with a horse you know you can ride and get along with, otherwise you may be stuck re-selling a horse in a few months that you’ve never gotten to enjoy.
Q. Jordan, Nashua, N.H.
If you are selling a horse that fails the prepurchase examination for one potential buyer, what are you obligated to tell the next person who comes along to try him?
A. Dear Jordan,
I think that depends upon the pre-purchase vetting. If something obvious was found such as an OCD or a spur, then I would tell another potential client that information. If the horse was slightly off in a tight circle one way, I don’t think something like that would be necessary to divulge, as that is more subjective, and another vet may see it another way. It is also important to tell them what the previous client was vetting the horse for, as a horse may fail a vetting for an upper level event horse but the vet would feel totally comfortable passing it as a training level horse.
Q. Letitia, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
How do you handle the buyers with unrealistic expectations? The ones that try 30 horses and always find something wrong or want a younger, sounder, more experienced horse than they can afford?
A. Dear Letitia,
Those are the most difficult types of people to sell horses to. I have had customers like that, and I’ve done my best to show them what was in their price range, and we eventually had to tell them that we just couldn’t help them. But, we have seen some of those same customers come back a year or two later and they've either upped their budget or gotten more realistic about their expectations after a few years of looking! So, generally we show them the best we can find in their budget, and if they’re not satisfied then we just can’t help them at that time.
Q. Amy, Southern Pines, N.C.
Some people assume that the price is negotiable when dealing with a horse sale. Others are offended if you even try to dicker about the price. On average, do you find that most sellers are willing to consider an offer? What advice would you give to a buyer who is trying to make sure she gets the best deal?
A. Dear Amy,
It truly does vary on how negotiable people are in their pricing. Some people do feel greatly insulted when they think they have a really nice horse at a reasonable price and someone makes an offer, but others have priced their horses higher to allow for negotiation. In our situation we know the sellers and know who is negotiable and who is not and we will present the offers to the owners. But, I think the best thing to do if you really like a horse is to just make an offer instead of asking if there is negotiation. Most sellers are motivated by an actual figure and know you are serious when you offer to pay a certain amount.
Do you find it beneficial to register a horse or pony, especially if they are young in order to sell them for a performance career? A good example would be Welsh ponies bred for the hunter ring.
A. Dear Connie,
Yes, it does seem to help especially with the young horses to have them registered. I’ve also found many people do the Welsh shows and are looking for something with ½ Welsh or full Welsh papers.
What is the best way to sell young horses in the 2 to 4 year old range? I'm fearful of sending a young horse to a sales barn. Do you have a different approach for selling a young prospect versus a more experienced horse?
A. Dear Connie,
You do have to be careful not to overface a young horse, which may happen in a sales barn. I have found there to be a market for correct, very good moving unbroken prospects. It also helps if they are well bred and have possibly shown on the line. It may be a good idea to video the horse free jumping once, so you can show that to prospective clients and not have to continually free jump the horse for prospective buyers. Or if they have been started under saddle, but are not currently in work, video them under saddle and allow customers to see how they go. It is always a gamble with a young horse, but many professionals are willing to take the risk, to find a very nice horse at an affordable price. I do find it hard to sell the young horses that are maybe just average movers or not very flashy--those types seem to sell after they are going and doing and have some sort of a record to back them up.
I am interested in trading one of my horses in order to help finance a new pony for my daughter. I realize I'll need to come up with cash as well. How common is this practice? Should I be upfront about trade possibilities before the first farm visit?
A. Dear Connie,
I do know many people who work in trades, but we do not personally as we are not the owners of the horses. I would contact local trainers and see if they have interest in your horse, and if they would have something suitable for your daughter. Trade situations seem to work out through word of mouth, so it is a good idea to put the word out trainers and other horsemen in your area. I would be up front with anyone that has a horse for sale that you are looking at with a trade in mind.
Q. Linda, Cleveland, Ohio
I have two granddaughters (currently one's 3 years old & the other's 18 months), and I'm already looking toward the time when I can buy them a pony and get them started in riding (I'm a pleasure rider myself). What do I look for in that first pony? What makes a pony a “good” first pony for little kids? How do I find a seller who won't “fluff the duck” in order to make a sale? What age would you recommend I get them introduced to a pony and riding? I've heard that their legs should be long enough to be effective, like at 10 years old, but I see much younger kids on ponies.
A. Dear Linda,
I do think it's OK to start younger children out on small ponies, so they can get a feel for balance and position and can enjoy the caretaking process. I would look for something that is an appropriate size for a smaller child, something that is tolerant of the mistakes children will make and must have a great disposition to work around, as that will be the majority of what a younger child will be doing.
I would make sure that your grandchildren try the pony on the longe line, to make sure the pony is OK teaching off of a longe line, have them work around the pony grooming, picking its feet, feeding it treats etc. I would say it’s better with the first pony to get one that is not as fancy and possibly aged rather than getting something fancier or more talented (with the hopes they can keep moving up with the pony) and look for something that will move forward, but needs to be asked. I would feel comfortable buying something for a small child that maybe has some soundness issues that limits it a bit, but is a good walk/trot pony and may no longer canter or jump.
The most common problem with small ponies is foundering. Not that all foundered ponies cannot be useful, but make sure you know what kind of turnout they are used to, whether or not they get muzzled and have a veterinarian examine the pony to make sure it’s something that can be comfortably maintained. A pony with some arthritis or foundering may be perfect, as long as it's comfortable for basic work. I don’t know if I can say an exact age that would be appropriate for a child to start riding, but I would say when the child has an interest and is strong and balanced enough to maintain his or her position on a pony and is old enough to take basic instructions from a trainer or family member. I believe my daughter was about 3 or 4 when she started on an older Shetland pony.
Q. Julia, Burnaby, B.C.
How are trainer’s commissions handled when there are two trainers involved? For example: I own a horse and engage Trainer A to train and sell the horse. We agree that Trainer A will receive 10% commission on the sales price. Trainer A knows Trainer B and mentions the horse. Trainer B, coincidentally, has a client who would be suitable for the horse. Client tries it out, likes it and decides to buy it. Is Trainer B compensated? How much and by whom? Does it make any difference whether we are talking about the eventing, dressage or hunter/jumper? Also, who typically negotiates the sale price? Does the trainer or the owner negotiate with the prospective buyer?
A. Dear Julia,
Usually both trainers would be compensated, but Trainer B should receive a commission from their client, not the owner, since they are putting the work in to help find their client a horse. I think it's fair for Trainer B’s client to pay them a 10% commission, or whatever may have been worked out beforehand, such as a flat fee for coming out to look at the horse. I think this applies with all disciplines. Trainers and agents do want to be compensated if they contribute towards making a sale, but problems arise when commissions are not set ahead of time and everyone is not informed. Potential buyers must realize that if they enlist the help of a professional, the professional will feel entitled to a commission or some sort of compensation. If a trainer is acting as your agent, they should negotiate the sale, but be in direct communication with you and present all offers to you. You can rely on their expertise to know if it is a fair price and how to best proceed.
Diane Crump is one of the biggest names in horse sales in the mid-Atlantic region, matching hundreds of horses and riders. She and her daughter, Della, have agreed to answer all your questions about the dos and don'ts of buying and selling horses. Her website www.dianecrump.com features more than 300 horses and ponies for sale from bloodstock weanlings to “A” circuit show hunters. Diane facilitates the sale of approximately 100 horses per year. She has more than 35 years in the horse industry and was the first female jockey to ride in the Kentucky Derby.