Philosophy & Personal Guidelines for Selling & Buying Horses
Guidelines for Selling/Pricing
Our mission at SDF is to offer
quality sport horses at fair prices. Before I started selling horses professionally I asked others – buyers, sellers, breeders, students,
etc. – about their experiences. I was appalled by some of the stories I heard ~ horses misrepresented, prices drastically inflated
to cover multiple commissions, and agents trying to get commissions from both the buyers and the sellers! I even had a bad experience
of my own, which consisted of a (supposedly) reputable trainer who asked me to present a horse to her client, after which she told
me the client wasn’t going to buy but she would. She then sold it herself to that same client (the next day) with a 50% mark up! When
confronted about this, her response was “Everybody does it.” All this made me realize why buyers do not trust sellers, and that I
wanted to base my business practices on higher standards. (After all, I only have one reputation!)
This is why I underscore the fact
that I am not a “broker” and
only represent horses I own, train, or am familiar with.
Since many of these horses are ones I produced,
I am very attached to them, and want to insure they receive the best home. These are my “babies!” After much deliberation, I came
up with the following guidelines.
1. Determine “Fair Market Value”
Pricing is a complex issue. I take into account the horse’s age,
training, trainability, and show experience. I especially look at each horse’s competitiveness, either actual or potential. Whether
they are or should be competitive locally, nationally, or internationally is a major consideration. Also, are there any temperament
or medical issues? If it’s a client’s horse, does it need to be sold quickly, or only sold if it meets a reserve price? What is a
reasonable price which will satisfy the client and keep it fair to the buyer? How much has the horse cost up until now? These are
some of the issues that are taken into account to determine the sales price.
2. Honestly Represent the Horse!
I openly disclose their
weaknesses and vices, as well as their strengths. There is no perfect horse, and being up-front will save time and frustration for
3. Direct the Buyer to Appropriate Horse(s)
After receiving as much information from the buyer as possible, I offer
recommendations on which horse(s) best fit their criteria. Since I know them well, I can offer insight and direct the buyer towards
the horse(s) I have which are worth their consideration. If I don’t have anything, I am perfectly willing to refer them to someone
who might. I will not sell a horse if I think it is not appropriate for the rider!
4. Offer Selling Services at a Reasonable Commission
only expect to be compensated for work I do. I charge a reasonable fee/commission for selling a horse, commensurate with the work
I do. I place (and pay for) the ads, produce the video, field requests, and present the horse to prospective buyers. If I need to
refer a buyer to another seller because I don’t have an appropriate horse, I do so without expecting remuneration!
5. Foster Direct
Communication Between Buyer & Seller
a) I encourage contact between my clients and a buyer. If a buyer has questions, they are
welcome to talk with the owner directly. This way the buyer can be confident that I am not manipulating the price.
b) I will not sell
through a third party who won’t allow direct communication with the buyer! I dislike the practice of the buyer’s trainer handling
everything, to where they won’t even allow the buyer to talk to me. I’ve seen this done as a way for them to scam money off their
client! By not being a party to this, it ensures the sale is on the “up-and-up,” and I can feel comfortable that the buyer and horse
are a good match.
6. Do Not Inflate the Price to Cover the Possibility of Other Commissions
If a trainer contacts me for their client,
I feel that they are acting as the buyer’s agent - not mine! Any commission they expect is between them and their client. This way,
we can set the price based on the horse, not on how many commissions might have to be paid (which utimately means the seller pays).
7. Keep Price Current and Revise as Needed
A horse’s value is dynamic, and will change with their training, the market, even the owner’s
circumstances. For example, a young horse’s value will dramatically increase in the months between backing and his first show. I list
a price range on my web-site, then offer the current price when requested to avoid the confusion (and time consumption) of frequent
price changes. This also keeps the price down, since I don’t need to inflate it to cover future training and expenses - I just revise
8. Don’t Play the “Low Ball” Game
Since I have set a “fair market price” on each horse, there is not much room for negotiation.
I will consider offers, but usually the prices are pretty firm. If a client really needs to sell, then I will price the horse below
market value to help move it quickly. For example, please do not assume that a price of $20K really means we’ll take $12K. I myself
really dislike playing this game. If I felt the horse was worth only $12K, that’s where it would be priced.
9. MOST IMPORTANT - Do
What’s Best for the Horse!
If this means losing a sale because I don’t believe the buyer is a good match, then so be it. I want buyers
to be thrilled with their new “baby,” not end up frustrated or - even worse - hurt!
In conclusion, I feel that the way I do business
is the most fair and ethical for all parties involved. These guidelines have proved successful, as evidenced by past sales. The purchasers
have become friends, have referred others to me, send me photo’s and videos, and E-mailed up-dates. It is a great feeling to know
that I helped them find their new best friend. It makes it all worthwhile to hear “Thank you for selling me “Mr. Wonderful” - he is
the best horse I have ever owned!”
Guidelines for Buying a Horse
Buying or selling a horse is a time-consuming, emotional, and
often frustrating procedure. After having done both, I would like to offer some observations and recommendations for Buyers.
You need to budget not only for the price of the horse, but also for the search, the vetting, etc. Costs you will incur may
a) Travel Time & Expenses. Decide beforehand how far you are willing to travel. Realize that the closer to home you
stay, the longer your search may take. Factor in that you should see the horse more than once before deciding to vet.
Exam. Talk with your own vet prior to beginning your search to determine the minimum vetting you want (exam, flexions, X-rays, etc.),
then plan for more than one! It is also a good idea to have the vet doing the pre-purchase exam talk with your vet to convey the results.
Fee. If possible, have your trainer visit the horse prior to the pre-purchase exam. If unable to do this, then video-tape your session
and send it to your trainer for review.
d) Transporting Your New Horse Home. This can run into the thousands of dollars, so don’t
e) Price of the Horse. Research the market, and have an idea of the price range a horse you want will usually be
in. Depending upon the above, this could end up being only a fraction of your budget!
2. Determine What You Are Looking For
sounds logical, but many people start looking and then start revising their expectations as they go! It is best to set some parameters,
knowing you might have to adjust your budget, rather than settling for a lesser-priced horse that is inappropriate for your needs!
Make a list of qualities, and divide them up into what you have to have, what you would like to have, and what can be compromised
on. Some questions to ask yourself are:
a) Do you need a schoolmaster, competition horse, or both?
b) If you want to show,
at what level do you want to be competitive? Locally, nationally, or internationally? The value of a horse is usually based on their
competitiveness - either realized or potential.
c) What level of training must you have? Be realistic about your own abilities.
Most people overrate their riding skills, so ask your trainer for an honest evaluation. This can circumvent future heartache and frustration!
For example, if you are still struggling to achieve an independent seat and hands, a young horse is not appropriate (unless you are
willing to pay your trainer to bring it along for you until you are ready).
d) What temperament compliments yours? This is the
MOST important quality to match! You can be the most talented rider with the most talented horse, but if you like a deadhead and the
horse is a “pocket rocket,” neither of you will be happy! Ask the seller numerous questions to help ensure that you are on the same
“wavelength,” and that you understand what the seller considers to be “quiet” or “hot.”
3. Be Reasonable and Courteous to the
There are many sellers like me who are trying to train, sell, and take care of our horses with little or no help. Offering a
horse for sale is expensive and time-consuming for everyone. I try to make the process as enjoyable and time-efficient as possible,
and have found that there are things a responsible buyer can do to help. These items may seem logical and common courtesy, but you
would be amazed how often they are overlooked.
a) When you first contact the seller, give as much detail about yourself, your
goals, skills, discipline, and type of horse you are looking for.
b) If you are interested in a horse priced higher than
you’ve budgeted, ask if the price is negotiable before pursuing.
c) Request a video only if you are serious. Let the seller know
when you receive the video, and give feedback as to whether or not you are interested. Return the video.
d) Don’t be a “tire kicker.”
Only request a trial ride if you are seriously considering a purchase!
e) Call for an appointment - then show up! If you can’t
make it, call to reschedule or cancel.
I hope these suggestions help make your shopping easier, and improve
understanding between you and the seller. Good Luck!