Friday, May 23, 2008

The reason you can't sell horses - IT'S NOT THE MARKET!

Boy is this blog entry overdue...

All over the 'net, I read the whining about the terrible, terrible state of the horse market. While there is some truth to it (I do think people are downsizing their overall numbers due to the cost of hay), at the same time I see tons of people looking for competition horses who can't find what they are looking for. These people have cash in hand, ready to buy - and they can't find what they want. Meanwhile, plenty of what people don't want is going to slaughter.

It doesn't take Einstein to figure out how to fix this situation, folks.

Here is what I see a lively market for:

1. Show and competition horses ready to show and compete with. They are not green. They don't need finishing. They don't have weird quirks. They already have some kind of record at what they do. They're sound or have very manageable issues.

2. Excellent quality young stock and green prospects for some kind of competitive discipline. A word about this: Quality is not enough if you want the high prices. Presentation counts, too! A colt that is a $2000 colt standing shaggy and dirty in the pasture can easily be a $5000 colt standing bathed and clipped and presented in a pretty show halter in your barn. If you can't be bothered to get off your butt and do the work to make your horse look great, I have no sympathy for you when he sells far under value. Hell, if you were selling a car, you'd wash it, but I see horse sellers all the time drag these muddy horses with burrs in their tails out to show to someone. What is that? If you don't care, why should a buyer?

I don't see much of a market for anything else. Need a bombproof oldie for a kid? Hell, they are everywhere and you won't have to pay money for them. I've seen horses with unbelievable killer show records free in the past year or two due to having some kind of soundness issue. If you can handle a little corrective shoeing, supplements and Legend/Adequan, you can pretty much bring home a ROM pleasure horse for your kid to show 4-H on for cheap to free. It's just the way things are right now. People will kill for a good home for these horses. If you have that to offer, you hold the cards.

Now let's say you think you have a horse who fits into category #1 or #2 - and he's not moving. I'm going to share an unpleasant truth with you, and some of you are not going to like it. Either:

1. Something YOU are doing is the problem (poor presentation, your marketing campaign is all wrong, etc.) or...

2. Your horse is not as good as you think he is. This runs the gamut from he's simply overpriced to he's actually not a horse there is a market for, period.

Last year, I had two horses for sale. One was a large pony I was selling for a friend. She was grade (strike one) and older (strike two) and swaybacked (FAR bigger of a strike than I could imagine!). But hey, she was idiot proof to ride, 100% sound sound sound, didn't need shoes, perfect manners and palomino! I thought for sure I could get her sold. Good God, what a nightmare...I wasted more time e-mailing back and forth with time-wasters and looky-lous. I heard tons of misconceptions about the effect of a swayback on usability. (I mean, we are talking about a large pony that I would not have sold to someone over 150 lbs in the first place.) She did eventually go to a little blonde girl (they match beautifully, ha ha).

Part of the problem with selling a low-end horse is you get a lot of low-end buyers. They don't know a lot about horses. They are easily scared off by issues that an experienced person would think nothing of. They believe all the stuff Uncle Charley the horse dealer told them about horses. It is a frustrating experience for all concerned. However, it's also a good illustration of a horse that honestly shouldn't have been bred in the first place. She was a pretty color, but she was grade, fugly, and although well trained for a specific discipline (youth gaming), she had enough strikes against her to be hard to sell.

Let's contrast that with a horse I picked up off the track about a year and a half ago. He had a suspensory injury, but he was sound and he was absolutely beautiful. Nicely put together and with a big splash of white on the end of his nose. He just screamed cute. I picked him up, rested him and handed him over to a pal with a h/j barn for retraining. Just months later, he was resold for five times his purchase price to a wonderful home with an amateur owner. A lot of credit must go to the trainer who got him going quietly over fences, but I guarantee you that his attractive appearance and super cute face were equally important factors. He had all of the elements he needed to sell to a good home for a good price. The "bad market" did not seem to affect his sale a bit, did it?

That's because there is no bad market for super pretty, show quality horses with great dispositions. If you are one of those sitting around saying nothing's selling, nothing's selling, nothing's's time to reevaluate. Maybe you truly aren't breeding something there's a market for. Maybe you've dropped the ball on training. Maybe you've dropped the ball on presentation. But something is wrong and just as with ANY business, if sales are down, it's your job to figure out why and take steps to fix it. Maybe you need to buy a video camera. Maybe you need to pay someone to ride your horses who rides better than you do and can make them look more impressive. Maybe you need to board your horse at a facility where buyers can try him out in an indoor arena and there's an indoor hot water wash rack to clean him up for them. Maybe your prices are unreasonable. Maybe you need to drag him to a show and get him seen/get show video of him. There are a lot of things you can do other than sit at home and whine about the market if you really want to sell that horse.

For discussion purposes: If you typically sell horses, what was your highest/fastest selling and lowest selling (or just won't move, you can't rid of it for anything) horse in the past year? Basic description, factors that you think influenced marketability? Let's define what there IS a market for!

All right everybody - it's Friday and you know what we do on Friday! Today's Friday Featured Rescue is Snuggles who is in the care of Saddlebred Rescue, Inc. of Blairstown, New Jersey. I have mentioned before that I think this rescue is doing a great job, and I will repeat that. Their horses are fat, shiny, groomed and RIDDEN. Repeat, RIDDEN. I was surfing around for a rescue to feature and do you know how many I had to nix because y'all have got like 22 adult horses that are only halter broke up for adoption? Sorry, I am not going to plug them for you 'til you get them broke and useful. If you're the rescuer, this is your job (or pay someone else to do it). No more warehousing!

OK, back to Snuggles. They found this beautiful older gentleman at an auction headed nowhere good. From their site: "If any one remembers I wrote about going to the sale and picking up two Christ bought for us. Pat noticed what looked like two more saddlebreds standing in a back pen, well one WAS a saddlebred and it was this horse. This gelding never backed and ear and seemed to be sending me messages to take him. When I went in the pen I could tell his tail had been in a set and one look at his teeth I knew he would be making a one way trip to Europe through Canada. I figured we already did not have room for the two we were picking up so we might has well not have room for three. Right? My salemate will for sure understand that logic. This is the exact kind of horse that haunts my dreams, an older horse that has worked all his life and has no where else to go when he can no long stand up to the road work."

I hear you, I feel the same way! Snuggles has turned out to be super well trained and it looks to me like he could easily re-enter the show ring for a young saddleseat rider who wants a solid mount. (Emotional outburst: Look at the cute EARS! I want to kiss them!) If you are interested, please contact Saddlebred Rescue.

All right everybody - enjoy your long weekend and your horses!