Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Discussion: How to price horses these days?

Pricing sale horses correctly has always been a challenge. I remember years ago seeing a well broke but not finished, pretty AQHA mare sit and sit and sit at $2500. The owner finally got the idea to up her price to $3500. I bet she was sold in two weeks. Whoever bought her was looking to spend $3500, that's what they searched for, and that's what they got. Go figure.

In the last year, I've seen horses who sold for $5000 just a few years ago go for under $1000. I've also seen a pony purchased for $500 get resold with some training and showing for $8000. That's kind of obvious - training and showing successfully will up the price on any horse, but there's more to it. A lot was presentation. The pony at $8000 was clipped, shiny, and living in an A circuit barn. He was a long way from the feedlot he'd come off of less than a year earlier.

But, you know, it's just a weird time to sell horses. Like I said, I can get you a free Thoroughbred any day of the week and I know of quite a few free Quarter Horses right now. The Thoroughbreds are just track broke, they may need some lay up, but still, free is pretty cool.

Here's what I've observed in the past few years about selling horses:

1) If there's any kind of a major flaw or what people perceive as a major flaw - cribbing, not tying, swayback, a maintenance issue - you are screwed. You are looking at $1000 or under with one exception - if the horse is in a Big Name Trainer's barn and the BNT can talk some amateur into the sale.

2) Much of the general horse-buying public still thinks anything over 12 is old, and that they shouldn't have to pay very much for it.

3) Most people don't want to train their own. They absolutely will pay $5000 for a trained TB instead of picking up one for free that is fresh off the track and paying someone to train it or doing it themselves. I think this has to do with risk. They just don't want to gamble. They want to see the finished product even if that costs them more money. They are making not just a financial, but an emotional investment in a horse, and they don't want to have to go back to the drawing board and try again.

Like I say, I have a list a mile long of free horses I can get you. Some are giveaways, some are care leases, but if you want a horse, I can get you one. Most need training, some need rehabbing. But for those who have sound, trained horses for sale - how do you price them these days? I think a lot of people are completely baffled at what the values really are in today's market, where so many excellent horses are going cheap or free because of an inability to provide for them.

Let's discuss this a bit. Name your part of the country and tell me what the following would sell for or what you've actually sold the following for this year. My answers are below for the categories of horses I've sold or friends have sold in the past year. I'm in the PNW.

a) well broke trail horse, safe for a beginner, either grade or unremarkably-bred registered horse (free to $700)

b) too young to ride, but with breed/rated show potential ($1500 - $5000)

c) too young to ride, 4-H/open show potential (free to $1000)

d) green broke, with breed/rated show potential ($2500)

e) green broke, 4-H/open show potential ($800)

f) OTTB, ready to be retrained (free to $1000)

g) OTTB, retrained and ready to compete or been to a few shows ($5000)

This should be interesting, and informative. I think we all agree that the way to sell them these days is training, training, training (and a competition record is even better), but now I want to talk about what they are actually selling for. I think the other big factor is presentation (is the horse clipped? shiny? good weight? is the handler/rider/seller professional? is the horse at a nice facility?) What else do you think makes the difference between selling the same horse for $5000 or $1000? (We know it happens all the time!)