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Standing In the Saddle: The Horse Trader’s Secret

“Maybe you need to pick pine nuts, maybe you need to install that sign on your barn and you don’t have a ladder…” Maria Wachter details that age-old horse seller’s trick — standing up in the saddle.

Video still from the horse selling days. Photo by Maria Wachter

There are lots of horses for sale out there on the internet with pictures of their riders standing on their backs. Why is this? What is the need for standing on your horse’s back? Some people say there is no need EVER to stand on their back. Other people say “but there is a need!!”

Maybe you need to pick pine nuts, maybe you need to install that sign on your barn and you don’t have a ladder, maybe you need to stretch, but by getting off the horse to stretch you know you won’t be able to get back on (okay, that’s a long shot since clearly if you have the athletic ability to stand on the horse, you probably have that same ability to mount from the ground.) Whatever the reason is for being strongly opposed to standing on their horse’s back, there are equally as many people who are pro-standing.

The real reason why horse sellers (or traders, as they are normally dubbed) stand on their sale horses’ backs… it sells. Let’s face it. Anyone who has sold enough horses learns how to sell horses and for some reason a pic of standing on that horse for sale will get the horse to sell faster and for a higher price that not ┬ástanding on his/her back. When I used to sell, if the horse hadn’t sold in a month, I’d go make a video of me standing on their back and sliding off their backside. Normally that said horse would sell within 24 hours of that video. Same horse, same training, new marketing.

Now why does this little trick work?

Well, to be able to stand on their back the horse needs to have a decent “whoa” and not be freaked out by someone hovering above it five or six feet over its head. It shows the horse is (hopefully) broke and safe enough that most people would feel comfortable riding it. Now, I’ve seen horses that you can stand on that are otherwise total asses (no offense, my donkey friends) under saddle. I myself would never market a horse for sale that was untrusting under saddle that I could stand on, but I do know a lot of traders that will… and do… on a regular basis.

The author, literally picking pine nuts from the top of a tree. Photo by DiAnna Huntsman

But buyer beware:

Unfortunately horse traders have gotten the reputation for not being the most trustworthy, and even more unfortunately a lot of them have earned that reputation. But let’s face it: who on here has looked on social media or Craigslist recently and had a for-sale horse catch their eye from someone doing something stupid on its back? I know I have, and I have to keep telling myself “Maria, this is smoke and mirrors. You know that seller has a horrible reputation, and the horse could be drugged for all you know. Do not buy that horse with PayPal and ship it across the country. Don’t do it, Maria. Stop it, don’t even send that text. Remember the last time you bought three mules sight unseen? Go look at your boyfriend’s collar bone that healed up in two pieces if you forgot. Just don’t do it!” (Thankfully that voice in my head is strong enough to keep me from making more bad decisions.)

But the crowd that shops Craigslist on a regular basis doesn’t have that strong voice in their head and WILL send out that text based on that horse for sale with the ad sporting a cover photo of the rider standing on its back. As a buyer it is OUR responsibility to weed out the bad ones from the good ones. Unfortunately that is hard to do, unless we have been burnt a lot in the past or bring someone more knowledgeable with us to have a voice of reason that isn’t buying based on emotion.

So, people, IF you can’t seem to sell that horse, why not try standing on him? But, please, please, please, if he’s a pile of manure, put that in your ad, too. “Horse for sale. You can stand on him… when he’s not bucking.”

Go riding.

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