The End of an Era

This week, I helped put my family’s last two equines, a mini-donk and my beloved Riley, on the market. As the youngest of my siblings has now officially graduated from high school, my parents are preparing to become empty nesters, and as such, are planning to sell their 6 acre equestrian property and transition to a much smaller house, with less acreage to tend for, and that plan sadly does not include horses.

My mother has taken care of horses since she was a little girl, across more than 4 countries and as many decades. She said to me in regards to the horses that after so many years of horse-stewardship, and watching the horses become less and less used in the backyard, that she was tired. And in my personal opinion, maybe a little sad, to see such loved family members not be doted on any more.

My last couple trips down to my parents’ home have included taking sales photos and making videos where applicable of the horses still there. My dad’s horse, Cochise (pictured above), is a butterball of a spotted draft cross, and his main goal in life is to be a couch. He has now been placed with a veteran’s therapy program in New Jersey, and I couldn’t be more thrilled with this practically perfect match for him.

It’s a little more bittersweet thinking of the other two finding homes beyond my family’s backyard. Hudson, the mini-donkey, has been in our family since he was 3 months old and we found him at an auction as a sickly orphan wedged in a 3′ wide space between two stalls. For the last 7 years he has been the source of much entertainment, chasing the German Shepherds around and braying for ear scratches when someone gets within range. Luckily, there was essentially a facebook-brawl to get to Hudson, and he is very securely spoken for and to be picked up this weekend.

Which leaves Riley. He, of course, has been with the family longest of all. He’s the product of two of our personal horses, and though people looked at us squiggly-eyed when we said we bred an Irish Draught x Haflinger, he’s been exactly what we were hoping for and some. I taught him to lead, crosstie, bathe, flyspray, and together with B, started him under saddle. I got to spend some more quality time with him last summer and fell in love with him all over again. All I can say is I hope whoever is lucky enough to end up with this guy appreciates a horse who rests his head on your shoulder when you scratch under his chin, who grabs the hose to drink out of it before he will stand to be bathed, and who had more athleticism and ability in him than we ever found time to tap. It’s going to be tough having this one belong to someone else, that’s for sure.

I can’t imagine how I will feel when I visit my parents and see not a single equine out in the fields. For years, it was my duty to feed the horses, so much that when I went to college I often woke in a panic realizing I hadn’t done the chore already. But beyond the habit of having horses in my life, and theirs, it is bittersweet to me to think of how others will enjoy the products of our love, in a home beyond our own.

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Do’s and Don’ts: So you want to sell your horse

I grew up on a horse farm, where my mother started out buying OTTB’s and reselling them before moving into the breeding business. She handled her sales ethically and responsibly, and her breeding clients would come back for foal after foal. Growing up, as soon as I was able to lead a horse I would help take sales photos, and then as I became a better rider we would buy resale prospects at auction, I would put training and miles into them, and we would sell the horse and get another. Quite the learning experience.

Our main stud, Hadrian, taken at the old farm

Our main stud, Hadrian, taken at the old farm

So it probably comes as no surprise that I like to make a daily venture into online classifieds to see what the horse market is doing. It is obvious to me that some of the ads are going to be successful, and others not. Here is my own little list of Do’s and Don’ts I’ve collected over the years.

DO List a Price
If you have no price tag, I tend to assume you are A) asking so much money you are embarrassed to say, or B) going to waste my time playing number games. Either way, I personally never contact a seller if ‘Private Treaty’ is on a listing. Figure out what you think your horse is worth, and what you want to ask ahead of time. Then let prospective buyers know. If you want a buy-back clause in the sale agreement, you can discuss that in the negotiations.

Friesian cross filly, Fleur

Friesian cross filly, Fleur

DO Have a Picture
In the world of smartphones and tech gadgets, there really are no excuses for this. You don’t have a camera, or a smartphone? I bet you know someone who does. Back in the day we had to take our photos to be developed before mailing them in. I bet you can find a way.

Another stud photo, taken by a professional

Another stud photo, this time of our Connemara stallion, taken by a professional

DON’T Forget the Action Shot!
So, this mostly applies to horses being sold as riding horses, but also pertains to breeding and young stock. There is nothing worse to me than seeing a fancy Dressage/Showjumping/Eventer/Whatever horse that has a price tag of $20k + but has no photo of it doing anything beyond existing in a paddock. Surely if he’s done every circuit imaginable, and has tons of ribbons to his name, someone documented it. Even if it’s not a photo at a show, which is optimal, it is still going to be important to your prospective buyer to see how the horse moves and reacts with a rider on his back.

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A sales photo of one of our foals- no fancy camera, but it gives a lot of information on her way of going

DON’T Make the Horse Look Like a Mule
Or the Do version of this- learn to take a conformation shot. It can be tricky, but it’s worth the effort. Taken as a profile shot, the front legs of the horse should be together and the back feet apart. Not parked under itself, and for goodness sake try to get those ears forward! It just makes a good impression. Don’t let your ad end up here.

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This photo of Foster is not perfect (and could be made better with a bath and braids) but would suffice

DO List a Phone Number
This may be a personal preference, but I as a buyer would much rather talk to someone over the phone about a horse than through an email. I am thinking of buying a half-ton creature from you that within its rights could kill me easily, and I want to know that you as the seller come across as a decent person who is not trying to sell me a four-legged devil.

DO Have a Video
This one is a little more difficult. But if at all possible, have a video. I insisted on seeing one before I made the trip to see Foster, because again, I was looking for a prospect for a certain discipline and if he moved downhill or like a three legged goat, it wouldn’t be worth my time. Not to mention these days videos are more and more common, help yourself out.

Here’s a very homemade video of a green draft cross for sale, meant to demonstrate his puppy-dog personality:

DON’T misspell words/horse terms
OK, so this is the grammar nazi speaking. But when you list your horse as being 15.5 hands tall, with pretty gates, I think you own a horse of questionable height that decorates fences for a living. OK so maybe not, but seriously. Also main/mane, tale/tail, and those little ‘ and ” signs are for measurements. He doesn’t jump 26 fences, he jumps 2’6″ fences. Sorry, rant over.

36atr2All of these details will make your ad more easily understood and attractive to buyers. While the sales process can often be a frustrating one, giving potential buyers more information up front can help cut down on tire-kicking and other time-wasting annoyances. In addition to this, as a seller it gives you confidence knowing that the prospective new owner has as much information as possible, and you are connecting the right horse with the right buyer. Win-win, people, win-win.