The Riding School: The perils of horse shopping

Think Black Friday is unnerving? Try horse shopping, any day of the year. This week, The Riding Instructor offers some advice for sellers to streamline the process for buyers.

From The Riding Instructor:

I’ve been looking for a new event horse for myself recently, an experience I haven’t really had before.  All the horses I’ve personally owned have dropped into my lap in some way or another (in the case of the one I bred, that statement was quite literal!) and, as I’ve reflected on it, the same has happened for those of my students over the years who’ve ended up with their own horses: someone was looking for a home, we had a suitable one in the barn…my students have acquired their horses every way but exhaustive internet searches and shopping trips.  And we don’t seem to sell them; they retire or get passed on to another student or leased.  So my experiences with this kind of shopping – that sounded really fun a few months ago, but that has definitely lost its glamour – have led me to come up with the following list of recommendations for sellers.

For your ads:

  • Have a picture.  Seriously, it only costs about $10 to add one to your listing and it just makes it so much more likely that I’m going to make a trip to see it in person.  And, while you’re at it, take twenty minutes to spruce up Ol’ Dobbin a little bit; elbow grease is free and that sow’s ear can look a lot more like a silk purse with some judicious combing and an application of coat conditioner.  I take foster horses for a racehorse rescue and I joke that that first thing they get when they come into my barn is an extreme makeover; I like to take before and after pictures and they usually don’t even look like the same horse.
  • Give all the pertinent information: age, experience, breeding, location, price – at least a range.  I know people think they won’t get as many inquiries if they leave out the age instead of saying that Ol’ Dobbin is fifteen, but honestly, if you don’t tell me how old he is and I contact you, I’m still not going to buy him and we’ve just wasted both of our time.  And that “private treaty” thing is nonsense.  If he’s for sale on the interwebs, it’s not “private treaty”.
  • Have some video available.  It doesn’t have to be on the ad – youtube is free – and you can just email the link.  But being able to see the horse walk, trot, and canter goes a long way.
  • For the love of Lightning, enough with the musical accompaniment already!  Some (i.e., most) of us are known to do a little horse shopping on a break at work and “The Ride of the Valkyries” blasting out of the computer doesn’t exactly keep this on the d.l., if you know what I mean.  Your taste in music in no way affects my perception of your horse.

When you are showing the horse:

  • Present yourself professionally, even if you aren’t a professional.  The “upper level event rider” who decided to show me a horse wearing boat shoes and no helmet just telegraphed the message “corners have been cut.”
  • Don’t tell lies about the horse; it’s too easy to check them out nowadays.  One seller, when I asked if he had breeding information on the horse, gave a quick yes and then emailed me two names the next day – of horses that have been dead for twenty years.  Hard to get me to trust you again after that.  As I tell my students, it’s okay to say you don’t know.
  • Find a decent saddle to put on the horse.  I’ve sat in some pretty funky saddles on this horse shopping journey and in some cases have had to really ask myself, do I hate this saddle or do I hate this horse?  On the other hand, I’m still trying to figure out whether I liked the mare I almost bought (until she failed the vet) because of herself, or because of the really, really nice saddle she was wearing!

So that’s what I’ve learned after almost five months of horse hunting…I hope I’m about done (vetting on Wednesday – fourth time’s a charm…), but I do feel like the next time I have to buy or sell one, I’ll be much better prepared.

Anyone else have shopping pet peeves?

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