While many of us buy a horse thinking it’s going to be a lifetime friend, the reality is that horses can live 30 years or more and are extremely time consuming and expensive to keep. It may not be feasible to keep a horse forever.
If you have a horse to sell, you have some options: 1) List the horse yourself, 2) Enlist the help of your regular trainer, 3) Send the horse to another professional who specializes in selling horses that are similar to yours 4) Sell the horse at a public auction or sale.
In this article, I’m going to talk mostly about the first two options and some of the reasons it might be good to consider #3.
In my business, I typically see the following reasons behind a horse sale:
If I'm charged with selling a client horse, I will likely charge a board/training fee in addition to a 10% commission on sales price. That commission covers my time I'm going to put into making videos/advertisements, the time I'll spend talking to potential buyers about the horse, the potential liability involved in having someone come to my facility to try the horse (something to think about if you want to do this on your own), and my time involved in the vetting/contract process.
For going (not green prospects) horses in jumpers and eventing, show results have the greatest impact on price. If you’re looking to price your horse, start with a basic internet search of what horses of a similar age and show experience/results are selling for. Green warmbloods, quarter horses, and other horses with specific breeding, are a whole other ball game, and something I am not an expert in. Green OTTBs are generally going to fall into a pretty narrow price range, with the higher end being those who have excellent movement or jump and the lower end those who are older with previous injuries, a lot of nervousness/tension, and other difficulties that may make them hard to handle by an average amatuer. Price modifiers include all the other factors above, as well as movement quality and overall appearance. These price modifiers can add a little to your horse’s price if they are positives, but any major issues will be a big detractor. If your horse has no show record, can’t be bred, and isn’t the ideal candidate for absolute beginners, you’re going to have a hard time selling him in any market.
Location is a big factor in horse sales. I prefer to sell horses in Aiken or Ocala at the beginning of the season because there’s a lot of buyers looking in that area and the horse will sell quickly for a better price. The climate and access to facilities such as a XC course can also help me show off a horse to the best of its ability. I will say, there’s a growing market in NWA for rideable horses under $15K with potential for hunters/jumpers/dressage! If you’re listing a horse somewhere without an active riding community in the discipline your horse is best suited for, be prepared for it to take a lot longer, and accept a lower price, than if you take the horse to a better location.
If I have a horse with a particular skill set, special considerations, or I need to sell a horse at certain time of year, I will often use a sales agent or trainer in a "hotter" horse market. I am not going to have an easy time selling a preliminary level eventer in Arkansas in July – no one wants to come here to try that horse!
If I’m selling the horse myself and I have an accurate assessment, I’m probably going to network that horse by sending a video and the below description to other trainers I know first. If that doesn’t hit, it’s time to make a good sales ad.
Some basic guidelines for sales ads: Have decent photos and/or video ready to go. If you’re selling the horse as a jumper, you have to have good over fences video. For any discipline, it’s good to have high quality images of both sides of the horse to evaluate conformation.
Absolutely do not post a horse advertisement or talk to anyone about the horse you have for sale unless you can inform them of:
While Facebook is a good place to post, keep in mind that livestock ads are illegal and you need to be careful about getting your post flagged for removal. Many people will use terms such as “Low 5 figures” or X # of carrots, to help with this. There are some other great horse sale sites such as dreamhorse.com, manestreetmarket, warmblood horse sales, sporthorse nation, etc. Do some searching around and don’t be afraid to post ads in a few different places. If I’m selling a horse from my farm, I’m going to make sure I put up its information on my website and use a variety of photos / videos on different social media channels.
Once you have advertisements up, it’s important to respond to inquiries in a timely manner. It is very important to also ask questions of the buyer. Start with, “Can you tell me more about what you are looking for?” If the person can’t answer that question, they are a tire kicker. If they are looking for something that your horse is not, tell them so! Don’t waste your or the other person’s time if it’s clear it won’t be a good fit. You don’t want to sell your horse to someone they aren’t suited to, it only opens the door for bigger problems later.
So you have a potential buyer...
If you find a qualified ADULT (I absolutely refuse to discuss sales horses beyond basic information with anyone under the age of 18, and you shouldn’t either) and have shared photos/videos, answered all the basic questions, and had an honest discussion about the buyer’s riding ability and desire to purchase your horse, it’s probably time to set up a time for them to come try the horse.
A few notes on trials, while a lot of buyers will request this, I generally avoid off-site trials unless I know the person or they are very local. There’s a lot that can go wrong in an off-site trial and no matter what is signed, you stand to lose all the investment in your horse if something you can’t control goes wrong.
Just like the buying process, if someone comes to try a horse with me, I like to show them how the horse is to catch, groom, tack up, etc. Even with that in mind, I’m going to make sure the horse is well prepared – has been worked regularly, is clean, trimmed up, and that my tack is clean and ready to go.
I’m going to ride the horse for a few minutes, explaining how I usually warm the horse up, any preferences or quirks the horse has, and what a typical riding session might be like, and then let the potential buyer or buyer’s trainer get on. Especially if the buyer doesn’t come with a trainer I know or trust, I’m going to encourage them to get comfortable, but also set clear guidelines about what they can or can’t do with the horse on my property. If I have a green OTTB who has jumped some X-rails, I’m NOT going to let a potential buyer take that horse over a 3’ XC jump. I know this sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how many buyers have very different standards or expectations. Do not be afraid to say, “I don’t think this is a good fit!” or “I’m not comfortable with you doing that.”
Other things to discuss with a potential buyer include what their boarding, vet, and farrier situation is like, how often they ride or take lessons, and other environmental factors that may affect how your horse performs in the future once sold. While not every sale works out, as a professional, I don’t want to sell a horse into a new situation where I KNOW it will fail – that’s going to reflect poorly on me and hurt my business in the future.
If the buyer likes the horse, it’s probably time for them to arrange a pre-purchase exam. Ideally the potential buyer picks the vet, but in more remote areas (like here), I sometimes have to give them a list of options. I’m upfront if there’s a vet that has regularly treated the horse, because the buyer may not want use that one. I am also candid about vets in the area who I don’t think will be a good choice because of their unfamiliarity with performance horses.
If the horse “fails” the vetting, it doesn’t mean the horse is unsellable, but it’s likely that adjustments are going to be needed on price and description/potential future use. I recommend offering to purchase any X rays or reports that indicate the issue, and it may be worth seeking a second opinion. No matter what, you're going to have to disclose whatever was found to any potential future buyers!
If the vetting goes well, it’s time to draw up a contract! Sales contracts should include the basic horse information as well as any identifying registration numbers (USEF, USEA, Breed, microchip, etc.). For my personal horses, I usually include a “first right of refusal” clause – or at least require notification if the horse is sold again. This is how I try to make sure that a horse I sell doesn’t end up in a bad situation. All horses I personally own and sell come with the guarantee that they can come back here (for free) if the owner ever ends up in a situation where they are unable to properly care for the horse.
I always send horses with some quantity of their current feed and a halter/lead rope, at a bare minimum. I like to make a “one-pager” of basic information such as feed, tack, vaccination dates, farrier dates, etc. that goes with the horse and can be given to a new barn manager or anyone else who might be responsible for the horse’s care throughout transport or in the future.
Hopefully with all this in mind the horse has gone on to an excellent new home and will be a great partner for its new owner! If you make a good match, there's nothing better than seeing that horse succeed with someone else!
A lot of people have talked to me lately about buying or selling a horse. The Equestrian Voice podcast, Buying and Selling Horses under $40K, is a great resource, but there's added challenges for most people I know in this sport and this part of the country. For those who are searching in an even lower price range, or dealing with the complexities of living in an area (like NWA) that has a very low concentration of eventers and show jumpers, buying a new horse is quite an endeavor!
I’ll write another post on selling, but let’s start with the fun part – purchasing!
Whether it's your first horse or your 31st horse, if you want to buy a horse you have to start with a good amount of self-reflection. It’s necessary to be honest with yourself about your finances, goals, abilities, and the time/effort you are going to be able to devote to a new animal.
No matter your price range, I strongly suggest working with a qualified trainer. The equine industry is all about relationships, and a good trainer may know about horses you wouldn’t be able to find on your own. They can also help you try horses, evaluate what’s suitable, interpret a pre-purchase exam, and navigate the purchase process.
If you’re already taking lessons from someone (and want to continue that relationship), please do not go out and purchase a horse without their input! A lot of parents, especially those with a little horse savvy, don’t want to add the expense of a commission to their horse buying experience, but those dollars are going to be insignificant in comparison making a bad choice. Trainer involvement is not just about commission, although it’s likely any commission they receive will be well earned. There’s nothing worse than having a talented kid in your program who has lots of goals and dreams, then seeing that kid end up with a horse who is dangerous, green, lame, or otherwise unsuitable, when they could have a horse who keeps riding FUN for them and allows them to learn.
If your trainer is traveling with you, especially long distance, keep in mind that they are likely taking day(s) off lessons and training income to help you find this horse and may even have to arrange for extra expenses in the form of horse or child-care at home. For dedicated travel, I usually request a modest day fee. For horses $10K and up, I will apply this day fee to the commission owed (usually 10% of sale price) once a horse is purchased.
Before we even start thinking about looking at horses, I ask my clients to consider:
1) BUDGET – The horse’s purchase price is the CHEAPEST part of horse ownership. That being said, a $20,000 horse who has had good care for most of its life is often going to cost less to maintain than a $2,000 rescue. Make a spreadsheet and factor in board, shoeing, veterinary care, insurance, lessons, showing, new equipment, and then multiply all that times 1.5. Unless you’re a professional or a talented ADULT amateur who has brought along horses before, if you’re buying a horse who doesn’t have at least one year of experience doing the things at or above the level you want to do, factor in some training expense as well. After all this is calculated you can take an honest look at what may be available for your horse purchase price.
2) SELF-ASSESSMENT – Write down the following:
3) THE HORSE - THE FUN PART – Don’t even start talking about the horse until you’ve gone through the above budget and self-assessment. Everything in this section should be negotiable. Although a 17hh, 4 year old, dapple grey, WB gelding with four white socks may be the dream, that horse is useless if you can’t ride it. Be aware of your internal prejudices and focus on the behavioral characteristics that are going to help make this relationship most successful.
THE RECKONING – It’s possible you may not be able to purchase a horse that meets all your wants and also is in your price range, in that situation you have two options – compromise or consider a lease. The easiest area to compromise in is age. Everyone wants a horse who is under age 10 or 12, but one who is 14 or 15 may have so much more experience, need less riding, not need any additional training, and be significantly more affordable, still while lasting another 10+ years. Have this conversation with your trainer and further develop a list of “must haves” and “would like to haves.” If you can’t afford the horse you need, then a paid lease is a great option! For growing kids or college students with uncertain futures, a lease may also be the most prudent option.
So what happens next?
If you’re lucky enough to live in a place that has horses who meet your needs within an hour or two, your trainer may be able to set up a few appointments. If you live in a more remote part of the country (like northwest Arkansas), it’s quite likely you may have to travel. Work with your trainer to set up a trip to a more concentrated location (such as Houston, Ocala, or Aiken) where you can look at multiple horses over the course of a day or two. Your trainer may post an ISO advertisement online or on various groups, do online searches of popular sites, and make phone calls to other people they know in the area. It may also be most effective to try horses while you’re already at a big show.
I like to send a few ads or videos to my clients ahead of time to get their thoughts, but if I’m setting up a whole day of looking at horses, I likely won’t send them every advertisement ahead of time. Instead, we’ll just focus on how they feel riding and interacting with each horse!
Before looking at any horse, I like to have the basics: name, age, breeding, show record, any major quirks or injuries or veterinary considerations written down. I keep this document on my phone and make notes once we are in-person.
If possible, whenever I’m looking at horses with a client, I like to see the horse get caught from a paddock/field or in a stall, experience how they are for grooming and tacking, and then watch them go under saddle with the current owner or trainer riding first. From there I’ll put my client on the horse, and will likely also sit on the horse myself. For most clients if they have concerns getting on the horse after watching the current owner or trainer ride it, it’s not going to be a good fit. If at any point the ride is going very poorly, it’s time to get off. There’s NO shame in walking away at that point, you do not owe it to the seller to ride it out on every horse, especially if it’s not what you are looking for.
Once I’m in front of the seller, I like to discuss things such as what the horse’s regular routine is, the horse’s personality, what tack they use and why, what the horse eats, what its turnout routine is, etc. If a seller thinks a horse has particular limitations or would prefer a particular job, I want to know WHY they think that.
It’s important to make sure that the horse will be happy and comfortable in their new situation. While not every horse is currently in the optimal situation, a horse who is taken from a busy barn where he is turned out in a herd for 12 hours every night and worked every day, will likely have a drastic personality change (potentially for the worse) if he’s brought to a back yard barn, turned out with one other horse for a few hours a day, and ridden for 30 minutes 2-3 days a week.
After trying 5-10 horse, ideally we’ve narrowed the search down to 1-2 good options. From there I usually get clients to pick their favorite and we schedule a vetting. This vetting needs to take into account the horse’s future use. If the horse is going to have a very low impact career and is coming from a person we trust and who knows the horse’s history or is willing to share current x-rays or medical records, anything more than a brief vetting may not be necessary. I could write an article on pre-purchase exams, but it’s important to remember that the vet’s job is to find issues and potential issues, and they will find something – the question is how much of an expense will it be later to fix or maintain, and will that something be likely to impede the horse from its intended future use. If the answer is clearly yes, it’s necessary to pass on that horse and move on to a second choice or start the search again.
Vettings can also be used as a data point in price negotiation, however, in the current market most horses are selling for very close to asking price. If my client has gone through the whole process above and we’ve found a good one, I usually make a verbal offer to the seller – if it’s accepted, we draw up a contract and make arrangements for getting the horse home!
We had a super busy end of the season November 9-10 with AAF students and boarders at three different shows!
Lissa Kelly and her horse Llama (Fourteen Dreams) had a successful outing at the NWADC show.
Maggie & Laura McCalister traveled to the NWAHJA show at nearby Jasper Springs, and had multiple students and horses across multiple divisions.
We brought three horses to Texas Rose Horse Park for their last USEA event of the season. Anna Zweig on Cal completed another BN, Ludo (Flight School) placed 3rd in the Novice Horse division with me (Christy), and Brad & Aaron's Oh My Sweet Carolina did her first starter level HT. I can't say enough good things about this pony mare! We had a blast and already can't wait for next season.
Now that we are home, Ludo and Knox will be getting little time off, and it's time to focus on the sales horses and horses in training!
Christy, Laura, & Maggie have openings in their lesson schedule. Contact us to learn more!
The whole AAF team had an excellent weekend at Holly Hill Horse Trials in Benton, LA!
Although the weekend started off wet, muddy, and gloomy, the sun was shining by Sunday. Everyone always enjoys this beautiful venue with nice courses, friendly people, and great atmosphere.
The absolute highlight of the weekend was Aaron competing in his first rated horse trials in the Starter division with his own horse, Lacy. Aaron had a steady and well ridden dressage test, a careful and clean XC, and ended the weekend with a beautiful double clear SJ! Aaron and Brad are also literally the best people to horse show with, and dramatically improved the hospitality of our stall row. Seriously....we are never horse showing without Aaron and Brad again!
Anna Zweig, recently returned to AR after living in TX for years, and also had a wonderful first show with her new horse Cal. She placed 4th in the Senior BN Rider division, adding just one rail to her dressage score. I don't think anyone has ever worked harder at a horse trials than Anna did this past weekend, and she really deserves this placing.
Flight School "Ludo" was entered in the Area V Novice Championships. He qualified just last month, at his very first Novice, a 3rd place at Feather Creek. He is still very green and makes it easy to forget that because of his overall rideability. He carried some tension into his dressage test and had a disappointing score of 37. He then went into show-jumping and got a little star struck by the area surrounding fence #2, resulting in an uncharacteristic stop. He came around and jumped it on the next try, but was still a little looky and pulled that rail. He stormed around the rest of the course clear! XC he came out of the box a little slow off the leg and I probably compensated by riding him too fast. His gallop felt great but he could not process fence #8, a tiny ramp in the shadows coming out of the sun, and had another stop. Although I've never had two stops on any horse, and never would have expected to have a stop on this one, I still feel like this horse has tons of potential and had a really great show! I was most proud of him for powering into the water without hesitation! I can't wait to ride this horse in just two more weeks at Texas Rose because I think he is going to put all the pieces together and be a force to be reckoned with!
Fat City "Knox" competed in the Novice Horse division. He was really a perfect pony the whole time and did exactly what was asked of him. This horse has grown up so much over the past year and feels like an old friend at this point. We have a lot of winter homework to work on not pulling at the gallop and some more strength on the flat, but I don't think I could have asked for any more from him! He ended the weekend on a total score of 39.7 having added just one rail to his dressage score.
No rest for the weary! We now are back home and practicing for Texas Rose on November 9-10, 2019.
We are very excited to host a jumping and dressage clinic with Rebecca Steggers on October 19-20, 2019.
One and two-day options available, SJ, XC, or dressage. Please send an email to email@example.com if interested.
Click here for entry form
We are very excited to host our second horse show!
SHOW DATE: Sunday, September 29, 2019
Always August Farm
530 Habberton Rd., Fayetteville, AR 72703
Organizer: Christy Zweig Niehues & A-Team Eventers
Ride a dressage test of your choice, just a stadium/XC round, or put them both together for the event derby (see below).
What is an event derby?
This competition will include a dressage test and a jump round consisting of 8+ stadium fences and an additional 4-6 XC style obstacles. All XC obstacles will be inviting and appropriate for their level. This is a fun and casual show, but we will stick to USEA rules/regulations for tack/bitting and scoring. Protective vests must be worn for jumping at the BN level and up (we are happy to loan you a vest if you need one). ASTM/SEI Certified Helmets Required at ALL times while mounted!
All entrants will receive a score on their dressage test, converted to penalty point (for example, if you score a 70%, you will have a dressage score of 30).
The jumping portion will have an optimum time and speed fault time, and penalties will be assessed at 0.4 points per second for exceeding optimum or speed in excess of speed fault time. Rails incur 4 points, and run-outs/refusals incur 20 points. A horse/rider total score is tallied with the lowest score winning.
*Please note this will take place on grass with some terrain. If you have never evented before, I urge you to enter at a level slightly lower than the height you are used to jumping at home. Dangerous riding will not be tolerated.
Ride times available at the Wednesday before the event.
STABLING: Limited stabling/paddock space available $25/night
o Light concessions available on grounds.
o Please leave your dogs at home.
o Dressage and Jumping will be in outdoor grass arenas.
o Riders will ride dressage prior to jumping
o This is an informal and fun competition!
o Dressage tests available at https://useventing.com/events-competitions/resources/dressage-tests
Please send your entries in ASAP so we can plan the time schedule for this event! Entries due by 9/22/19.
It's almost August and the farm is still green and beautiful (one good thing about all this rain). I'm very excited to be back riding well ahead of schedule and I've entered my first event on Ludo (Flight School) at Feather Creek Farm on August 10-11.
This summer has been filled with tons of fun trail riding and XC schooling excursions, and even lesson/husband horse, Tonic, is getting to go on outings. Most recently, lesson student, Aeryn, rode Tonic in the puddle jumpers at the NWAHJA Summer Classic, where she put in two great rounds, jumping much longer and higher courses than she had previously. Ludo also put in two great rounds where he was calm, super responsive, and jumping beautifully. We both took it slow, but still got to take home some ribbons.
We are looking forward to a late summer/fall eventing season. We also have a couple horses for sale/lease and have weekend lesson availability (your horse or ours).
Here are some pictures from the June 30 (rain date) show here at Always August Farm, taken by the talented Mariah Farmer.
Adventures eventing as a semi-pro in the mid-south.