Anyhow....I've never had to market a horse before because I would generally just go to local shows, list the horse for sale on my entry, and eventually a buyer would come along. This is also easy to do with low price point horses. Not that it doesn't work with higher price point horses too, but you have to go to rated shows, which obviously ups your costs. If you are going to those shows anyway it's not really an added cost, but if you are showing only to sell the horse it can get expensive quick.
My initial intent was to show Rose on the circuit this past summer and sell her that way. Mostly because I really wanted to enjoy one show season my horse that I had poured nearly four years of blood sweat and tears into. I wanted to have that exhilarating experience showing her at least a couple more times before I sold her.
The problem with this most excellent show/sales plan? The baby of course. The baby meant lack of time to really ride regularly and prep for shows. I don't go to rated shows to loose, so I don't go if my horse isn't ready. There was no way to be ready.
That left me in a pickle. How do you market a horse these days without hitting the circuit? I may not have sold a horse since the internet was birthed, but I have window shopped as any good horse addict does. As such, I certainly had an idea where to start. The following list is my current guide to selling a horse in the age of the internet.
How to Market Your Horse for SaleOption 1: This sales method has been around as long as horse trainers have existed (I assume) and requires little to no effort on the sellers part.
Have your trainer sell the horse for you. This option is good for busy people, who have a horse in training or are willing to put it in training, board at a trainer's barn, and don't mind losing about 10% of the sale price to the trainer. Because the trainer gets a commission on the sale, they generally try and get your horse sold quickly. Most will sell in barn so that they keep the horse as a client, but the horse could easily end up going out of barn.
Note that if you own a really expensive and awesome performance horse that your trainer often shows and wins on, they won't be inclined to lose the horse from their program. Because of this, some unscrupulous trainers will not put much effort into selling your horse. Bare this in mind if you are among the 1% with a grandprix horse in training. In the mean time, if you need your horse hacked give me a call!
Option 2: Sell the horse yourself.
There are a few things you must do to sell your horse yourself. Here is my little guideline.
- Price your horse. Consult a trainer(s) regarding the price you are asking and see what other people are asking for a horse of similar breeding and training. Be realistic about the price. I find it is good to ask a little more than what you want, because everyone wants to bargain when it comes to horse sales. However, don't expect to sell a young horse that has never been backed and has no performance record for much more than the costs involved in breeding said horse. If it has been inspected by a breed registry and got a premium score you can expect to get a little more. However, if you really want a good price for a baby you must be very well handled, have manners, tie, load, pick up feet, etc. AND have a performance record. Take it to schooling shows and rated shows and show in hand. Once your baby is bringing home ribbons you can realistically ask for more.
If you have a started green horse, you can ask a bit more, since it's had some training. I have found that most people either buy foals or backed three year olds, but nothing in between. So don't expect to ask more for a 2 year old than you would be able to ask the same horse as a foal. Remember, you are not selling the horse based on what it might be worth in a few years. You are selling it for what it is worth now. For a green horse that has been started, calculate breeding costs and add in a bit more for training. Don't try and recoup boarding and vet costs. That's just the cost of your hobby, so don't even try to go there.
If your horse is finished it's usually a bit easier to come up with an average cost based on the horse's training, health, temperament, breed, and performance record. This is where a trainer can really help you determine the horse's current market value.
- Quality photos. A picture is worth a thousand words, or so they say. This is one of those times that saying couldn't be more true. A good photo will have your phone (or email) ringing off the hook with serious buyers. A bad or average photo will mostly send tire kickers your way. If you want your horse to sell for a good price and quickly, then invest the time and effort in taking good photos.
Find a friend with a good camera (or hire a photographer). Do your prep work. Bath your horse, braid it if the main doesn't lay flat, oil or polish the hooves, and take the photos in the morning on a sunny day for the best light. There are two types of photos you will want to take, conformation and action.
Note: You do not need a butt photo. Honestly, I don't actually understand why people do this. Even if you wanted to buy a horse based on the size of its rear, a photo from that angle is extremely distorted and will not tell you much in regard to how robust the rear is. Also, do not use photos of the horse grazing, dirty, standing uphill, or downhill.
Conformation Photo: This is the one most important photo you will take, as it tells the buyer the most about the horse. In my experience, it is this photo will sell your horse. Find a nice bridle or leather halter with a leather or black lead rope. Locate an area of level ground with a good backdrop with nothing distracting in the distance. Standing the horse outside a dark barn isle way or arena works well as a backdrop, otherwise look for a plain wall, barn doors, or some decent shrubbery. Ideally you want the horse standing on asphalt or concrete so that all four hooves can easily be seen. When you take the photo you want to be square with the horse's body, see all four legs in the photo, with the legs closest to the camera on the outside and the other two on the inside. This allows the buyer to see all four legs and to see if there are any obvious injuries (i.e. bowed tendon). The horses' neck should be posed in its most flattering angle for the horse's build and you should not see the handler (or any appendage) in the photo.
Action Shots: These should be good clear photos and are best done in an outdoor arena or paddock. You don't want to post warm fuzzy portraits of you and your horse. You want the buyer to envision owning that horse, not have a searing memory of you in pigtails on your beloved pony. To this end, wear a helmet, classic understated clothing like a plain polo shirt and beige britches, and proper footwear. Again, even if you don't normally wear a helmet, you don't want a buyer fixating on the fact that you aren't wearing one and that you once attended an AC/DC concert. Clean your tack and use clean coordinating and understated saddle pads, wraps, boots, etc. This is when a white saddle pad and white polo wraps really work well, for any discipline. In the absence of four white socks, the white wraps help to highlight the horse's movement (especially in video).
Only bother taking action photos highlighting a good trot and the horses jumping abilities (if applicable), or whatever discipline it is the horse is trained in. Walk and canter photos don't tell a buyer much. Fewer excellent photos are better than lots of mediocre photos, so strive to get that one really great trot photo. Ideally, this will show all four feet off the ground and your bum down in the saddle (not up at the post).
If your horse is super green and hasn't been started, you can still take action pictures in a round pen. Free longe your horse while the photographer takes photos. Get a good trot picture. If you can free jump your horse in an outdoor arena have a photographer on hand and get a photo of the horse at the crest of the jump with nice square knees (hopefully).
- Quality Video. Video is a better option if your only option is an indoor arena. Video obviously works well in an outdoor arena as well and is a nice addition to photos as most buyers these days expect a video of some sort.
Keep the video short, remove all sound (talking etc.) and replace with an understated sound track ideally without vocals. Try to match the beat of the music to the pace of the horse. Again you don't want the buyer focusing on the music, but your horse. Video the horse at the walk, trot, canter in each direction, and over a couple jumps. If you have video of a nice jump round from a horse show that is a nice additional video to compliment your basic w/t/c/j video. If you horse doesn't jump under saddle but is a jumping prospect, take a video of the horse free jumping as well. When you've got all your video sorted, edit the video with something like windows movie maker, remove the sound, and keep it short. You can add music when you upload to YouTube if you don't have other means.
- Describe your horse. This sounds simple but it's not that easy for most people. Leave your feelings out of it. You want to describe your horse in a positive light, but keep it short and simple. State what skills your horse has, what its experience level is and rate its temperament. Buyers won't read a big drawn out description of everything your horse has ever done. Any additional info they may want they can ask over the phone or in person. Your goal with the description is to peak the buyer's interest enough that they will contact you. That is all.
Note: Unless you are selling a foal, do not write a long winded explanation of the horse's breeding, that's what the pedigree is for. If the buyer wants to know more about a certain stallion they will look the horse up. If a buyer is interested in your horse because of the breeding, they already know what they want about the stallion or dam, which is likely what led them to your advertisement.
- YouTube. Upload your video(s) to YouTube.com. Make sure you provide some sort of contact info on the video description and key words that will help buyers find your horse's video. Good key words include your horse's registered name, age, lineage, and skills. For contact info, I like to link everything back to my sales website (see below).
- Website/Blog. Create a page just for selling your horse. I like to create a whole separate blog just as a sales site, simply because it is easier than buying a domain name and throwing together a website and sorting out hosting stuff. Blogger.com is great for this sort of thing. List your description of the horse, sales price, upload your photos and embed your YouTube video(s), etc. Link to your horse's pedigree on allbreedpedigree.com. If it's not already on there, add your horses pedigree (it's free and easy).
- Post on Sales Websites. There are a lot of free horse websites. Some are better than others. There are a few that are breed specific, and a few that cost a little bit to post on but are well worth the quality advertising. Sites I recommend are dreamhorse.com and warmbloods-for-sale.com. Clearly if you are selling a quarter horse you won't use warmbloods, but there may be other breed specific sites out there that will work well for you. Dreamhorse seems to have everyone covered, and is my go-to window shopping site. Post your photos and video, and again link to your sales website for more info.
Posting on craigslist.com can work for lower price point horse sales, but it is rare to see higher price horses (5k +) posted. So, post on there if you like, just don't have high expectations if you are selling a higher end horse.
Happy trails and swooshing tails!