A Note about Sugarbush Draft Horses

I see it over and over again, and no matter how many times it's said, it's still wrong. "Sugarbush Drafts are just an Appaloosa Draft Cross". Uh.... no. The Sugarbush Draft Horse was a breed created many years ago in Ohio. While the initial cross was made using Percherons to Appaloosas, in the many generations following, the breed has been solidified into a consistent type. Saying these horses are "just" a draft cross makes as much sense as saying that AQHA horses are "just" a Thoroughbred cross, American Cream Drafts are "just" a dilute Belgian, or that Morgans are "just" a grade.

Friday, February 11, 2011

How to sell a horse (basic version)

Ok, the weather has been disgusting.  I haven't been able to do much with horses in all this mud.  I've kissed, I've hugged, and I have hauled feed/hay/water to them all, but nothing really "fun" like riding.  In my "free time" I've been catching up on other business work.  Like making cool SDHR items at Zazzle!

Design a personalized gift at Zazzle.

Sales from these items are funding our educational programs.  From breed information and fliers to helping make people aware that the breed even exists.  Ok, and truth to tell, some of the stuff is kinda cool just to have.

But, I digress.

I have also been inundated with "will you buy my horse" requests.  Because I'm basically full up (I have room for ONE more, just one... and if I have something returned or needing a home....) I'd like to have that spot open.  I've had many responses to this.  From, "Oh, ok" to "what do you mean you don't want MY HORSE!!!!!!".  First off, pissing me off is NOT a good way to get me to take your horse.  Sorry.  Secondly, do you really want me to have your horse if I don't WANT it?

So, I got to thinking about people selling horses.  What is so hard about this?  Ok, yeah, the market is NOT good.  It's decent (here) but not great.  But time and time again, I hear the same thing.  Now, for most of my readers this will not apply, but I have to vent a bit.  Who knows, maybe someone will learn something.

First off, when selling a horse, you must advertise it.  Some where.  Doesn't matter how much that advertising costs, you just need a way for people to learn that the horse even exists.  This is the MAIN problem I am seeing with people who are desperate.  Our conversations go something like this:


Them: I was wondering if you'd be interested in a lovely horse?
Me: No, I'm sorry, I don't have room for any more horses.
Them:  Can you help me sell it?  I can't feed it any more, and it has to be gone by the end of the month!!11!!!1!!
Me: Well, where are you advertising the horse for sale?
Them: I can't afford advertising!!!11!!1
Me:  There are places, such as Craig's List, Horse Clicks, and many websites that offer a free ad, most of them allow at least one picture.  (include list of links)
Them: But I don't have any pictures of the horse!!11!!1
Me:  Then you might want to consider getting some.  They are the best way to advertise.  


Ok, so see, there's a train wreck waiting to happen (now in truth, I put about 5 people into that one "them" above).  First, no advertising, and not even an effort to advertise.  Yet this is someone that is online, and surfing the web (because they found MY website somehow).  I know that it's believed that advertising is expensive, but believe me, it pays off if you do it right.  If you don't know what you are doing, don't spend a lot of money.  Try out a bunch of cheap places, and test ads.  Run many different ads, from the "facts only" to something with more heart. 

One thing I do before writing and ad for a horse, is to go and PET the horse.  Being with the horse reminds you of all its good qualities, and some of the bad ones.  You have it all right at the front of your mind.  For me, I write the verbiage about my horses pretty much just like I would when I'm telling a friend about the horse.  Then I go back and edit for proper grammar.  I try to keep a personal feel about my horses, so when you read the ads, you can feel what it's like to have that horse as yours.  Let the emotions show (if they are good).

Now, that whole grammar thing.  It's important.  Nothing is a turn off to a buyer like multiple misspelled words, or, as shown in the conversation above, "leet" speek, or textese.  Saying "U R" instead of "You are" makes you the writer look like a moron.  Sorry, but it does.  Using numbers for letters, makes you look like a moron!  I don't want to know how much your horse H4TES water.  It's not cool, it makes you look like a little kid pulling a prank, and the only responses you will get are other kids, and spammers.  And of course, avoid the !  and ....   both are horrible habits I have.  But that's why you re-read the ad before you post it.  Take out all but one exclamation point, and remove every single ellipses.

And then there's pictures! 

Pictures are very very important.  This is your horse's first impression on people, and in many cases it sets what they think about the seller too.  Here's an example:

This is Sweetie.  She's my own personal Moose-horse.  Here in the above picture she looks wormy, un coordinated, and well, not pretty.  This isn't a BAD picture, but knowing the horse, it's really not a way to show her in a good light.  She's filthy, she's not prepared for a picture, and she looks like an unhandled mutt.

Compare that to this:
Same horse, less then 2 months later.  This picture is taken at a level below her back (yeah, I had to bend over) she was groomed to the last inch of her life (and no winter hair hiding her beauty).  She is standing up, and presented as if she's worth a million bucks (to me she is!).  While her summer coat is not nearly as impressive looking as her winter coat (she's much whiter all over in summer as you can see) overall she looks, well... like a horse and not a moose.

And here's yet another picture:

This one is about a year later.  It's not professional at all, but it gives a feel for the horse.  She just looks SWEET in this picture.  I would use this as a supplemental image for emotion in an ad.

Also consider how the setting of the picture makes your horse look. 
Here is Scorch being lunged by me.  Notice all the crap in the back ground?  Notice how he's NOT working with me?  Notice how my fat butt is the first thing you see (and then that whip)?  This picture was taken when I asked Scorch to reverse, and he didn't wanna!  He does not look like a lovely well mannered colt at all here, instead he looks like a black hair rampaging monster.  Only a few seconds later, my photographer (mom) got this picture:
Working nicely, well rounded, behaving.  No human, no junk, and a lovely clean background that compliments his coloration (he's not lost in shadows).

Same camera, same photographer, same session.  The only difference was which angle the picture was shot, and how the horse was acting at that moment.  Seriously, which horse would YOU think about buying?  The top picture makes me think "$500 at best".  The bottom makes me ... raise the price a bit. 

And like I said, I'm talking about the basics of advertising your horses and getting them noticed.  These are the 'must haves' not the "fancy farms only" type of things.  You have to have a horse at a decent weight.  You have to have decent foot care on the horse.  I mean seriously people, if you aren't willing to spend money on your OWN horse, why the hell would any one else want to give you money FOR it?  Buyers expect that the horse is fed, farriered, vetted, dewormed, and can be touched.  If you can't do this with your horse, then you can not sell your horse.  I know in years past you could sell just about anything, but not now!

If your horse is rank, can't be approached, sure, you can advertise it, but do NOT expect the horse to sell.  If you want money for it, then put some time into it.  If you just want the horse gone, then offer it up for FREE!  Because trust me, some unhandled piece of testosterone that needs to be gelded with no papers, and no training who is related 5 times to some horse 9 generations back... is not worth a small fortune.

Things that lower a horse's value:
1. Testicles (unless the horse has a HUGE show career already).
2. Pregnancy (again, unless the mare has an amazing show career).
3. Ribs showing
4. un handled, or lack of training
5. lack of papers, or papers with some obscure registry like the grade horse assoc.
6. lack of age.  If it's too young to ride, for about 75% of the buyers out there, it's too young to buy.  The day and age of selling weanlings is long gone.  I can't think of ANYone that is making money doing this.

Most people sell their pets.  They aren't breeders, they just have a bad time, or life changes, or something that makes them think their horse would be better off somewhere else.  If you are (or want to be) a breeder, then you had better be running the numbers.  It costs a lot to produce a foal, feed and care for the mare, feed the foal until its weaned and handled, and then MAYBE you can sell it.  At that time, the chances of getting your money back are pretty slim.  I mean, why would someone want YOUR horse over all the others out there? 

So, if you're breeding, you have to then start thinking about getting the horse old enough to train.  Hoping you either know how to train, or have a buddy, or can afford a trainer.  Then hoping that your horse will be valuable enough to make its "cost" back.  If it's not gonna do that, then why bother making them?  It's often cheaper to just buy horses and give them away to strangers!

Now, I'm not anti breeding at all.  Hell, I'm a breeder!  My point is that people some how expect the rules to change for them.  It's like "no one can sell horses right now, but I'm going to breed 100 crappy foals, do nothing with them, and ask 5k each!".  Uh, dream on.  Won't happen.  For those of us in the industry, who are trying our best to do it right, we KNOW we often will lose money.  We usually have something else we are striving for.  For me, that's saving the genetics of the Sugarbush Draft Horses.

Oh, and a word to the wise on giving away horses:  References!  I ask for 3 references MINIMUM.  And yes, I do call them.  I have to have 2 professional references (vet, trainer, farrier, massage therapist (for the horse), dentist, barn owner, and such) as well as one personal reference that doesn't need to know a thing about horses (friend, co worker, neighbor, etc).  If they do, then great, but they are a "character reference" allowing me to see what type of personality the new owner has.  Are they really what they said they were?  When you put them all together, you usually get a great idea of the person you are giving a horse to.

And if your potential new owner is new to horses, they can still have these references.  A vet, even for small animals will give you an idea of their base care ideas.  Do they own a farm, or will they be boarding?  If boarding, it should be set up before they get the horse.  If they own their farm, who will they turn to when they have questions later?  A horsey guru they know?  Then get the guru's number.

Oh yes, and the last, and MOST important thing.... contracts!

It doesn't matter if you whip it up at home.  Have the deal in writing, with everything spelled out, and clauses in case of bad things.  Selling a horse on payments?  Better have a repossession clause.  Leasing a horse, make sure you get regular updates, and put it in the contract!  Giving away a horse, ask for first right of refusal and/or notification of any change of ownership (with contact information for the new owner).  You don't HAVE to use those clauses.  But if you ever do need them, well, it's not pretty when you don't have them.

And now that I have that off my chest, I am going to go back to making more fun things for the SDHR store, and completing the SDHR webpage 2.0.  I've got more work to do to it, but so far things are coming together.  I think the new Sugarbush Website will have tons more information, and be much more user friendly.  I just had to get this off my chest.

8 comments:

  1. Everything you said is so true...I look at ads all the time and sometimes I wonder how these people ever sell a horse. And then sometimes I look at their ad and if they posted a video, I look at the horse and wondered if they put the wrong horse in the video. "Champion in the show ring," "perfect 4 beat gait," and what I see is a ewe necked horse cranked up and pacing. AND they want $5000 for it. I don't think so..lol.

    And the pictures ARE worth a thousand words. And please learn how to spell. It's GELDING not GILDING. (or guilding.) Drives me crazy!

    When we went to buy our gaited appy pony, Cosmo, his feet were so horrendous..I can't imagine showing a horse looking like that. I bought him just to take him home and help him. His feet are still not right, but they are a lot better. I just don't get it..it would only have cost about $25 to get him trimmed...

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  2. Good information. I am a 'visual' person, so your pictures (good and bad) really helped me see how valuable something as simple as a picture can be.
    Thanks for the good info.

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  3. Very well said! I have to say I got a bit of a giggle with your 'pissing me off is not a good way to make me take your horse' It SO reminds me off when we cut off drunks in the bar and they're all in your face and calling you names WHILE they are trying to get you to give them 'one more'.

    And your grammar tips... (yeah I'm addicted to ... and !!! too lol) Until you pointed it out I thought that "!!1111!!" was a typo YOU made. Have to say I was thinking wth? She usually catches those!
    And while I use "textese" when commenting or texting I never would use it in an ad, and you're right I find it very annoying when people do.

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  4. As soon as I see textese in an ad, it registers in my brain as "unprofessional and not to be trusted."

    I hope to make it up to see my boy tomorrow. Haven't seen him since I dropped him off. How far behind are we?

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  5. Great informative post. I decided to surf the horse ads and came across one-
    Nice little Pony around 5 years old..green broke..has not been gelded..I dont have the time to put into him..he was for my son who is only 3 and is way to much for a beginner so i would either like to sell him or am very willing to trade for an older kids horse or..current on all shots and great for the farrier..please call or text me if u have more questions.

    It's a beautiful little pony- brown with flaxen mane and tail (nice photos) but not gelded at 5 years old and it's for their very young boy????Jeez!!!

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  6. Everything you said is so true...I look at ads all the time and sometimes I wonder how these people ever sell a horse. And then sometimes I look at their ad and if they posted a video, I look at the horse and wondered if they put the wrong horse in the video. "Champion in the show ring," "perfect 4 beat gait," and what I see is a ewe necked horse cranked up and pacing. AND they want $5000 for it. I don't think so..lol.

    And the pictures ARE worth a thousand words. And please learn how to spell. It's GELDING not GILDING. (or guilding.) Drives me crazy!

    When we went to buy our gaited appy pony, Cosmo, his feet were so horrendous..I can't imagine showing a horse looking like that. I bought him just to take him home and help him. His feet are still not right, but they are a lot better. I just don't get it..it would only have cost about $25 to get him trimmed...

    ReplyDelete
  7. Good information. I am a 'visual' person, so your pictures (good and bad) really helped me see how valuable something as simple as a picture can be.
    Thanks for the good info.

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  8. You don't mention any good websites to sell a horse. Any suggestions? Another question: what is wrong with a horse having testicles?

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