Monday, August 25, 2008

Thoughts on Selling Horses

Here's a few guidelines for your ads.

Take good pictures. This one's kind of obvious, but still. Take the time to get your horse clean and on level ground. If your horse is trained, take pictures of it under saddle in action. Multiple pictures are better than one. Pictures from shows are great, if you're selling a show horse. If you have Photoshop, here is one super-easy adjustment that makes most pictures balance better in terms of color: open your image. At the top, go to Image--> Adjustments--> Auto Levels (or just press Shift+Ctrl+L). It balances the levels in the image and usually makes everything look nicer.

Write well. Do not write in all caps. If you don't know when to use periods, commas, or capitalization, ask a friendly neighborhood high-schooler for help. Please. For the sake of my eyes. In the text of your ad, some good things to include: age/name/color/gender; training history; show experience; important quirks (needs injections, on regumate, only sound for light work, has deathly fear of barn cats, etc etc); general description of personality; type of home your horse would be best in; whether the horse loads/clips/ties/bathes; why you're selling, and so on. This will always be specific to you and your horse. Keep the ad relatively short, with enough information to pique interest. You don't need to disclose minor issues here (doesn't like loading, doesn't get along well with mares, only drinks bottled water, whatever) but major ones like unsoundness or other issue would probably be best if included in the ad -- in other words, big dealbreakers might be best disclosed immediately so nobody wastes anybody else's time.
If you only follow one part of that, just put something more than "Bay QH Mare, 15hh, good gaming or OHSET prospect." If you say "Bay registered AQHA Mare, daughter of such-and-such sire, 15hh. Patterned on barrels and poles, explosive speed with a lot of potential. Intense and focused but can relax nicely, would make a great project horse for a junior, OHSET or 4H," you will probably get a LOT more interest.

Volunteer information. When a buyer emails you for more info, telling them about the horse (brief history, personality, why you're selling, whatever you feel like and you didn't include in the text) will probably garner more interest than a sentence or two with the bare minimum. Answer all questions asked.

Be honest. It is very frustrating to a buyer to show up to find a horse whose behavior is nothing like what was described; it wastes your time and your buyer's.

If you're going to sell a horse by word of mouth, that's great (and probably a better way to make sure it goes into good hands). If you're going to sell online, spend the money for a picture ad. Use multiple sites, though -- there are plenty of sites that are free or at least inexpensive for photo ads. A quick sampling: Equisearch, Dreamhorse, Chronicle, Equine Hits, BigEq, Equine Now, Exchange H/J. Here's a tip -- put one photo up on the ad so you don't have to pay much. Then, make a [free] simple website (we used Brinkster, but other options include Freewebs or Geocities) to compile more pictures, a quick description, and possibly some videos. Put the link to this site in the text of your ad after your brief description. Most of these websites come with 'site builder' applications that make it really easy to design a simple website.

For an example, here is the website we used when we were selling Bailey. It's really simple -- on the main page, it has links to videos of jumping schooling and three videos (one from each phase) from the schooling Horse Trials I took him to. It has some pictures and a few paragraphs describing him. Then there's a link to a page with more pictures and a page with contact information. It's simple, easy to go through, and gives you way more visual information than you could ever cram into an ad. No, he's not still for sale ;)

Another good venue is local horse organizations. Around here, good all-around horses are often emailed to the OHSET chair to send out to his/her massive email list of all teams and team members. If your area has a high school equestrian team, try emailing someone in the leadership to ask if they could pass around the information of your horse. Print out fliers and hang them in local feed/tack stores and barns. Contact your local Pony Club or 4H group to ask if they can spread the word.

Price accordingly. It's not hard to use those internet classifieds or ask around to see what horses of similar breeding and training are selling for.

Also, check your email. I know it sounds silly, but there are a lot of people who don't check their email more than once or twice a week; change that habit while you're selling a horse and check it at least once a day.

Be on time when a buyer comes to look at your horse. I don't know about everyone, but I'd prefer that the horse is in a stall if not in a pasture, rather than all tacked up pretty and ready to go. I also prefer that the horse is first longed and then ridden by the seller, then I will get on. That's my personal preference; your mileage may vary.

Tomorrow: Some Things to Do to Close the Deal

PS - if any of you ever would like help putting an ad together, shoot me an email. I'd be happy to do the Photoshop levels-balance, help you write a good paragraph, give my impression of your horse's pictures, help you with a website, whatever. It doesn't take much time and it helps a horse get a good home, so I'm all for it!


wolfandterriers said...

I love the idea of using a free website to show pictures and video of your horse. What a great idea! Not that I'm ready to sell hunter/jumper mare sold simply by word of mouth (and I also had a good trainer who set up half leases so she got light work and children for company!). Congrats on your new Appendix...she's gorgeous as well!

Esquared said...

Nice post, I deffinately agree with alot of it. Since I've both bought and sold horses online, I deffinately agree with allot of it. People just don't get how much of a turn-off it is to read all caps or see obvious spelling errors throughout an ad. When it comes time to sell my prospect I'll let you know, I'd love the extra input on his ads. Every bit helps.

Ms.BarnBrat said...

Free website - definitaly good! A lot of good ads have links to thier YouTube accounts too (which are like mini web pages)

I think you should write some tips on "When you are the buyer...."

or "why people seem so interested in buying your horse then dissapear" <--- check my new blog for an answer for that one!

And your new mare is very cute, looks like she got all the right parts from the right parents :)

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