Friday, August 7, 2009

Marketing WIN

Sometimes instead of criticizing, I like to show an example of a barn that is presenting itself in a positive light on the Web. I'm going to do that today. This link was sent to me and I have to agree - these folks have put some thought into looking like a reputable farm with quality horses that is honest and professional.

Note the following:

- Lots of information about each horse. Pictures, pedigrees, etc.

- RIDING pictures and video. Horses are not merely standing in a field with the written assurance that they ride. You can watch them BEING ridden. If they go hunt and western, you can see both. You do not have to take anybody's word for anything, or waste your valuable time coming out to see a horse that, it turns out, has not been ridden in five years.

- Videos also show ground manners! Very helpful. You know, it makes sense to cover all the bases. I bet they spend a lot less of their time with people who the horse isn't right for thanks to being so forthcoming in their videos.

- Riders are appropriately attired. No one is shirtless, wearing a bikini top or in shorts. Youth riders are wearing helmets. I did not watch every video but what I did see had a helmet on every child and I am guessing that is their policy.

- Background looks good - no junk, well maintained. Lovely arena, nice fence, no obvious accumulations of manure. Nothing broken, no trash, nothing unsafe.

- The person jumping Larz rides well enough to jump! He is overjumping but she is giving him a big enough release and looks completely secure. I can look at the horse, not think OMG someone is about to die.

- All sale horses look GOOD. There are no snarly manes, patches of rain rot or ribs showing. No saddles sitting on the withers, no bits on backwards. Someone actually picked up a grooming kit and gave a BATH before taking sale pictures. Amazing, huh?

Updates on previously sold horses. I don't know about you, but I feel much better buying/adopting from someone who has recommendations like this from those who have previously done business with them. If you sell quality horses, you should have no problem at all adding a section like this to your website.

No, this is not a perfect example. I did see a few times in the video I watched where little kids were closer than I'd allow to the horse's back legs while on the ground, and you all know I hate the tarp stuff and the standing up in the saddle stuff. I will say, it doesn't bother me so much when it's not the only skill the horse exhibits and the horse can, you know, actually go to a horseshow and win, too. And of course it also depends on discipline. Your buyers will gag at the sight of a tarp if you are selling sport horses - barrel racing and trail clients, not so much. Know your audience and take the time to think about what the things you show on your web site say about your business.

So what have you learned about what is and isn't effective on your web site? We always talk about good pictures, for example, but what do your buyers tell you caught their attention and convinced them to call and make an appointment to see the horse in person?
E-mail me and tell me what has worked for you!

New Mexico folks - here's a fun show with lots of classes for older equines and older equestrians! I LOVE shows like this. For those of you in the PNW, don't forget the SAFE show is on August 22 in Graham, Washington. That also has classes for horses 15+ of age and rescue horses.

I received this in e-mail and am happy to pass it along. This is a 1999 Appaloosa mare (may be registerable - pedigree is known and can be seen here). Her owner has terminal cancer and the mare needs a good home. She is not broke but is tame and sound. Pedigree here. Free to a good home, in Ohio. E-mail me for contact information.


"I'm familiar with Valley View Ranch. They are indeed a high-quality facility and well deserving of your positive attention. Just a question, though - what is your disagreement with the way Valley View is demonstrating their horses' level of desensitization with tarps? Also, I assume your comment about buyers of sport horses gagging at the sight of a tarp is geared toward these buyers on the West Coast. My experience with sport horse buyers in the Hunter/Jumper world in Texas - especially buyers looking for youth/junior mounts - appreciate demonstrations that a prospect has been "sacked out" and desensitized to "scary things that move and make noise" - things they'll see all too frequently at "A" shows."

FHOTD in: It's my experience that tarps, standing on the back, etc. are associated by buyers with natural horsemanship aka non-competition-oriented training. So normally those tactics are not used by sellers of show horses. Texas may indeed be different. I know here on the West coast, you won't see a serious H/J or dressage barn waving tarps around. Desensitization would be geared more toward things like being worked in strange arenas, accustomed to loudspeakers and crowded warm-up rings and other similar things a show horse needs to learn. Also, many hunt/jump riders do not like a horse who has been desensitized too much as they feel it contributes to sloppiness over fences. There can be some truth to that. I had an old polo mare I jumped and she was great except that she did not really care if she hit things! I believe she was so desensitized to contact from bumping in polo that hitting a pole really didn't mean anything to her.

“Just a comment on your "marketing WIN!" post to add that it's not just
breeders and sellers of horses who need to do this kind of successful
marketing. Horse RESCUES do, too. I know you work with a number of
rescues that are very well-organized and well-represented in this
respect, and I've seen some online that have absolutely outstanding
websites. I've also seen rescue organizations -- both truly massive
ones and small backyard operations -- that may be run impeccably, that
may have wonderful animals and robust education programs, absolutely
fly under the public radar because they aren't doing everything they
can to let people know that they're there, to let people know what
they're about and what they have on offer. The more information
organizations offer online -- and the more professionally they do it
-- the easier it is to draw adopter and donor interest. People feel
like their money is well-spent with you because you've at least in one
respect got your shit together, and having more detailed information
online gives them a way to connect to you even if you're not located
nearby, as well as allowing people to see that you are running your
facility with the seriousness and dedication it deserves. (Plus, you
can feel better as a donor that you've invested in a good organization
when they're routinely posting pictures and news about their horses
and you can see what condition the animals are in, that training
progress is being made with them, and that there are "success stories"
-- that people are actually taking their adopted horses home and are
able to then DO things with them.) By necessity, rescues have to have
a budget for marketing, and a website should be part of that. These
days, it should be a HUGE part of that. And it doesn't have to cost a
lot of money; I've been a web designer and graphic artist for my
entire professional life, and I've often offered my services free for
rescues; when I was a horse rescue volunteer, I often had other
volunteers and visitors offer to redesign the site free, too. (If only
that had been my call to make... :D) Often rescues won't take me or
anybody else up on those offers because they don't see anything wrong
with how their crappy site already looks, or because they're afraid of
losing control of it or don't want to learn a new way of updating it.
Unfortunately all they're doing is shooting themselves in the foot. We
all know a sleek website doesn't necessarily equal a well-kept
facility or well-run organization, but a well-run organization truly
can't thrive in this day and age without an equally well-run website.

As you can tell, this is kind of a passion of mine. :D Anyway, in the
spirit of putting my money where my mouth is, I'd like to make an
offer. I don't have time to take on creating full websites at the
moment, but if there are any good rescues out there (or therapeutic
riding programs, youth riding programs, whatever) that need a website
overhaul, I'm willing to design a new look for their sites if they can
find someone to code it. Or if they need print materials, I'll do some
full-color or black & white brochures or advertisements. For FREE.
(Though for the record, paying for good marketing materials, like
websites and brochures, shouldn't be something that rescues balk at
paying for.) Feel free to post this offer on your site or if you know
of some folks who could make use of this offer, just throw them my
way. Not sure how many I'll have time to do at the moment, but I will
certainly give it the old college try. ;) I have a portfolio at and folks can email me at

“I have seen this site a few times before. She has about twenty horses at a time on Dreamhorse. She does market her horses well, but in my opinion over exaggerates their abilities and is really really proud on price. Though… she sells enough horses that if she’s getting what she’s asking, I suppose it’s not too high. For example though, a while back I saw a horse on her page advertized as a “reining horse,” but it spun slowly and sloppily - on its OUTSIDE hind leg, couldn’t lead change, and had sub-standard stops and rollbacks. IMO, it’s got about as much potential to win in the reining pen as my friend’s 25 YO trail mare. Still, I haven’t met her and she’s got so many satisfied customers that she’s gotta be doing something right, haha

Gotta say… that palomino Slick – if he had better feet and a sorrel coat, he’d be my horse’s twin. Conformationally, they are nearly identical! Granted, it’s not near perfect conformation, but I always think it’s cool when a horse looks so similar to mine.”

“I don't have a website or sell horses but this is one of my favorite ASB sites. They keep track of all their horses born at the farm or elsewhere. They always keep tabs at auctions, etc to make sure none of their horses end up in a bad situation.

Last month there was a gray ASB mare at a kill buyers, they made sure it wasn't one of their horses and the person that bought the horse (saved) they are helping to identify the horse; just great people.”

“I have met the Valley View Ranch people at horse shows and they are very nice, knowledgeable and easy to deal with. I wanted one of my students to check out one of their horses but said student went out and bought a horse with out me (I don't charge anything to find a horse for my students.) She was disappointed and I wish she had dealt with the barn you featured instead. Yes, they do some things that I'm not crazy about but I must say that at the show all the horses were well ridden and did all right. Not a clean sweep and it was a schooling show but a good turnout none the less.