By Tammy Chipko
Finding the right horse can be an exciting and rewarding experience if you are prepared. When it comes to selling a horse there are a variety of marketing options, from sale barns to online listings or a combination. I had the opportunity to speak with four very different professionals who specialize in “matchmaking for horses and owners.” Whether you are buying or selling, their collective knowledge may help you.
TAMMY CHIPKO: How would you describe your professional life in the horse industry and what led you to buying and selling horses?
JULIE: For more than 30 years I have been managing a 150+ acre facility in Nevada that encompasses everything from lessons, training and sales to a breeding program. In order to showcase my personal horses for sale, I set up a viewing of sales horses at the Indio Polo Grounds near the former location of HITS on Mondays. I invited people to bring their own horses for sale and present them in a quiet, casual atmosphere. People could come and see and ride the horses knowing they were all for sale. This proved to be a successful hands-on approach that everyone really seemed to enjoy.
JOHN: I started as a kid growing up in the Quarter Horse world. I would go to auctions when I was 16 and pick up what I could in order to sell them. I suppose it has always been in my blood I have always wanted to work for myself and own sale horses, so I started Apollo Farms in 1993. With my own place I can manage the horses and have a facility to showcase them.
ALAN: I grew up in California and went to Palm Springs High School. I was always around horses and planned on making this my business. I took 24 horses to Florida one year and sold 21 of them. I decided to go to Europe to buy some new horses and return to Florida. I never returned. I have developed a special niche and enjoy developing horses from the beginning to the show ring. With a large stock of my own home-bred horses and connections with all the local farmers, I have built an excellent American style working facility because I have an understanding of what Americans look for. I know how a Hunter should look, understand what is expected of an Equitation horse and know the different levels of Jumpers.
SCOTT: I used to buy and sell horses myself and found the turn-around time extremely slow. Buyers would fly all over looking for horses without knowing what they would see when they arrived. Sending videos was a drawn-out process – a horse could already be sold by the time the video would arrive. Websites that showed horses were either not specific to high-end show horses or the horses were not represented well. We combine the power of our website and publication to ensure that both the people and businesses we represent reach the maximum number of horse enthusiasts. Our goal is to connect the show horse world’s riders, trainers, and horses with each other more quickly and efficiently through print, web and video.
TC: What advice can you give to a potential buyer?
JULIE: It’s important that buyers are realistic about their abilities and goals, and honest about what they are able to spend on a horse. People are funny about discussing money but it makes the process so much easier for everyone if they are just honest about it. Another bit of advice I would offer is to be patient. If someone calls me, I keep a record of what they are looking for. I may have seen them ride at horse shows, or know of past horses they have owned. I am always looking for the right match.
JOHN: Apollo Farms is an established sales and show barn which is based on integrity and passion for the sport. I want to be sure that the rider and horse make a good match. If I don’t feel good about the combination, I will suggest that it is not a match. I stand behind the horses I sell and have almost none returned. With that said, if there is a problem I fix it. I think this is key to my success.
ALAN: Be honest about your background, what you want in a horse, your level of riding and what you are able to spend. It cuts down a lot on time. Also, don’t go looking for “the perfect horse”. What suits you will suit the horse. Be honest and I can find the horse!
SCOTT: Suitability, suitability, suitability! Find the horse that suits all your needs, not just some of them. This is especially important for juniors and amateurs.
TC: Common mistakes people might make when they are looking to purchase a horse?
JULIE: Try not to be gun-shy if you find the perfect horse and it happens to be the first one you sit on. If the first horse seems perfect, then that’s great! It’s a big decision, but it’s best not to procrastinate. A year later you may have no horse because you are still looking for the perfect one. Another mistake people make is buying a horse without their trainer. The trainer has the expertise to help assure that the horse will work for you. And ultimately the trainer may also be responsible for trying to sell the horse for you.
ALAN: Do your homework. Most people who sell horses are honest and trustworthy. Some may not necessarily be dishonest, but may not be knowledgeable. Some Europeans might not really understand what an American Hunter or Equitation Horse, or a Low vs. High Amateur Jumper is. Ultimately, do your homework, check records, and know what you are purchasing.
TC: Common mistakes people might make when they are looking to sell a horse?
JOHN: The seller and I have to believe in the same price. I do not want to take a horse that is overpriced for the market – it doesn’t make sense and it makes everyone unhappy. If a horse is priced under or fair market it is much easier to sell. I also have to believe in the horse. To make sure I know what I am representing, I like to take the horse to one or two shows. By doing this I feel I get to know the horse. I give my opinion on what the horse needs, and how long it may take to sell. Each individual horse is different and some may take longer than others. I am honest about my expectations and costs in order to eliminate any confusion.
TC: What advice can you give to a potential seller?
SCOTT: Anyone who is buying or selling can use Central Equine. We work with top trainers, sales barns, and individuals. We now have an alliance with EquestriSol so sale horses can be seen weekly in print and e-news, 24/7 on our web site and in our eBook which has distribution on both coasts. We do not make commissions or charge a fee when a horse sells so we are not eliminating the use of trainers and or agents. It’s quite the opposite – we want to help them reach the maximum audience to showcase their horses. All a seller needs to do is provide pictures, a video, and the information about the horse. We do the rest. Our website is very easy to use and allows sellers to update their sale horse’s information as needed on their own. Your role is to present your sale horse correctly. Low quality pictures, poor video, or weak descriptions will get your horse overlooked. We provide the information buyers need which can more effectively help them find the type of show horse they are looking for.
TC: Most rewarding experience?
JULIE: I love seeing horses that I matched up with people at the horse shows. It is especially rewarding when someone comes up and thanks me for finding that special horse, or I see someone achieve something great because of a good match.
JOHN: Just to walk around the horse show and have people come up to me and say that I sold them the best horse they have ever had.
ALAN: Oh, I have so many. First and foremost, I am a father of two incredible kids.
As far as the business – well, where do I start? I love the horses. I love the training process. I have a huge attachment to my horses. I do not look forward to seeing them walk out of my stable – I do however, love seeing them be successful!
SCOTT: Since we began Central Equine in 2004, we have had an 800% increase in traffic on our web site. In 2006 we started printing 1200 copies of the magazine and now we print 12,000. That is rewarding!
TC: Thanks to you all for your time and expertise.