Don’t underestimate this important part of selling horses



Don’t underestimate this important part of selling horses

Sometimes, selling a horse is less about marketing the animal, and more about marketing yourself and your program.

Recently, a gentleman scheduled a visit to try one of my horses for sale. As usual, I went through a lot of effort making the horse look its best; I pulled his mane, braided it over the night before, gave him a bath, and had him neat and shiny, ready to go at the arranged time of 9am. 9am came and went; I sent a message asking if the man was running late, or perhaps lost. I heard nothing back. At 9:30, I put the horse away and moved on to other farm chores. I sent another message at 9:55, asking if the buyer was coming or not, would he please let me know? Finally, at 10:10, he showed up.

They say you shouldn’t judge anyone, but you can’t help but make first impressions. As Mr. Buyer drove down my rustic driveway in his Very Expensive car, I had a definite feeling this wasn’t going to work and I was wasting my time. My horse was advertised properly, and I was upfront and honest with him in all our emails…but I had the distinct feeling my horse wasn’t going to be quite what he was looking for. However, I smiled and shook his hand and brought the horse out for his inspection.

Mr. Buyer seemed smitten with my horse, giving snuggles and kisses to him on the cross-ties. Trying not to seem impatient, I talked about the horse’s history, soundness, and way of going, and fifteen minutes later he finally let me tack up. Under saddle, the horse was tense and unusually quick, but I hid it well. When Mr. Buyer got on, the horse seemed to forget half its training on the flat…the man knew how to ride well, but his WBs were quite different than my OTTB’s way of going. Still, he gave the horse every chance to relax and settle, and said he really liked the horse’s mind and how well it focused. Walking back to the barn, Mr. Buyer said he was definitely interested, but I didn’t feel like it was a slam-dunk sale by any means.

By now it was well after 11:30am, and my husband was being polite but circling about like a shark wanting to get on with the rest of our day’s plans. I hosed off the horse, noting its silly habit of pawing in the wash stall until you sprayed his face so he could drink from the hose, while Mr. Buyer watched and smiled, enjoying the antics. I put the horse away in his stall, and was ready to wrap up the session. Mr. Buyer leaned over the horse’s door, watching him eat hay, making small talk and gushing over the horse’s fine points. Then he commented on my other horses, and wanted to see them too– not to buy, just to admire. I dutifully brought the other horses out, chatted about their history and pedigrees, and how I managed them at my farm. Mr. Buyer was impressed by the horses’ relaxed and happy attitudes, and also their excellent physical condition. I shared my feeding program, training schedules, and future goals for each.



Now, perhaps three hours after he arrived, Mr. Buyer inquired about setting up a prepurchase exam. I offered the names and numbers of local vets, and noted which ones I have used, to avoid a potential conflict of interest. He lingered around a bit longer, watching the dogs do tricks for cheese, and asked if he needed to leave a deposit. As a rule, I don’t do deposits and I will hold a horse for a serious buyer who is committed to arranging a vetting…I feel most buyers are honest, and I won’t sell a horse out from under anyone. I will still offer to show the horse to others, but will make it clear who is first in line. Satisfied, Mr. Buyer finally pulled out of my driveway about four hours after he originally arrived.

Later that evening, I received an email from him– reading the first line, my heart sank…. “Dear AJ, I have thought about it on the whole drive home, and I have decided to skip the prepurchase exam.” But then I kept reading…”After meeting you and your horses, I feel confident about this horse and I like him enough that I just want him. Are you flexible on price?”

Was I flexible? On this one, yes, for sure. I emailed back a reduced offer, and Mr Buyer felt like he got a great deal. I got a hassle-free sale, and it only cost me four hours of my time. Four days later, I received a cashier’s check, and two days after that, the horse was on his way to a new home with a guy who loves him to bits.

What did I learn from this? Well, for one thing, first impressions aren’t always right– Mr Buyer may have expensive tastes, but he did not look down on my workmanlike farm, and he recognized and appreciated the small details. But most importantly, you should always be professional and generous with your time. What sold this horse was not the 45 minutes of riding; it was the hours of talking about him, grooming and bathing, allowing Mr. Buyer to get to know him in all ways, being honest and transparent about my horses and my program. Mr. Buyer clearly liked the horse, but what sealed the deal was proving my horsemanship, knowledge, and standard of care, and how that set this horse up for its future success.

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