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Rachel Kosmal McCart is a lifelong horsewoman and the founder of Equine Legal Solutions, PC, an equine law firm based in the Portland, Oregon area. Rachel is a member of the New York, California, Oregon and Washington State bars and is admitted to practice before the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon and the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California. Rachel currently competes in three-day eventing.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

A Buyer's Perspective: Tips for Selling Your Horse

At the moment, I'm not looking to buy a horse.  But over the years, I've bought a number of horses, and in several different disciplines.  I've bought babies and prospects, green horses and made horses.  These days, I still like to window-shop online to see what's available for sale, and at what prices.  Probably, if I saw a horse that was truly irresistible, I might suddenly be in the market.

If you're trying to sell your horse, these tips might help.

Here's what I'm generally looking for when I buy a horse, in this order:
  • Temperament.  The horse must have an easygoing, trainable, sensible temperament.  There are so many good-minded horses out there - I don't need to buy a horse that works against me, no matter how talented he or she might be.  Also, I don't want to buy a horse that's so hot he/she won't pay attention to me, or a horse that's so lazy he/she won't go forward.
  • Soundness and physical health.  The horse must be sound and free from major health concerns.  There are lots of sound and healthy horses out there - I don't need to buy a vet bill.
  • Conformation.  The horse's conformation has to allow him or her to be athletic and not foretell potential future soundness problems.  Deal killer examples:  A mature horse built "downhill" (i.e., his/her withers are lower than his/her point of hip), crooked front legs, disproportionately small feet, a horse that naturally stands with his/her hocks behind the point of the hip, a pronounced club foot, pronounced "posty" hocks, a disproportionately short and thick neck.
  • Absence of stable vices.  I don't want to take on a cribber, weaver, etc.  These types of behaviors are often "contagious" and I don't want my other horses to pick them up.
  • Training and experience.  The horse's  performance should match what you tell me about its training and experience.  What matters to me is how the horse behaves when I step on him or her, not whether Big Name Trainer once showed the horse successfully.  If he/she hasn't been ridden for a year, I will take that into account, but the horse should give the impression that it knew its job before it had time off.  
  • Absence of training I have to fix.  I'd rather buy a horse with no training than a horse who has had bad training.  It's much easier to start fresh than it is to convince the horse that what they have learned (and been rewarded for) is not acceptable.
  • Avoid photos showing your horse with his head down grazing. Not only is it nearly impossible to tell what kind of overall balance the horse has from this type of photo, it gives the impression the horse's principal talent is eating.
  • For horses 5 years and younger, include photos taken within the last month.  Young horses' balance often changes radically and quickly as they grow, and no matter what discipline your buyers are pursuing, they want to see what the horse's overall balance looks like today, not 6 months ago.
  • While the horse doesn't have to be show-clean, knocking the mud off of him before taking the photo wouldn't hurt.  To me, a horse that is not well-groomed = price highly negotiable.
  • Photos that allow me to evaluate the horse's conformation are helpful - side photos, taken with the horse's feet reasonably square underneath him/her, where I can see the whole horse. 
  • If the horse is supposed to be able to do X, I want to see him doing X in the video. 
  • I will assume the video is the BEST example of the horse doing whatever you advertise it as being able to do.  
  • If the horse looks even remotely lame or "off" in the video, I will pass on the horse.  This seems obvious, but there are a LOT of sale videos of lame horses out there, and in all price ranges, too.
  • For young horses, rough footage of walking, trotting and cantering in a round pen is fine, just make sure I can see their whole body and their legs throughout the video.
  • If you've heavily edited the video, I'll be able to tell. I'll also assume the edited-out portions showed bad behavior or some other problem.
  • Silence is best.  Too often, the music of choice blasts out of my computer speakers, startling me into reaching for the mute button. I don't care whether the horse is in time with the music, and unless the horse's specialty is freestyle dressage or drill team, other buyers won't care either.  Also?  Your musical taste is unlikely to be the same as your potential buyers'.
  • Avoid video taken in dark indoor arenas. I want to be able to see the horse!
  • I want to know how tall the horse is.  Not how he/she "string tests," not how tall his/her sire/dam are, but how tall he/she is TODAY.  Don't guess or exaggerate - I'll be REALLY annoyed if you advertise him/her as being 16 HH and I arrive to find he/she is eligible for a pony card.
  • I want to know how old the horse is.  Period. 
  • I want to know how the horse is bred.  That means what breed he/she is, and who his sire and dam are.  "Creative" breed descriptions are a big turn-off - tell me what he really is, not what you think will help sell him.
  • If you list your horse for significantly more than you would actually accept for him/her, I will never see your ad.  When searching ads, I set price limit parameters very close to my budget. For example, if you advertise your horse at $20,000, but would really take $10,000 for him, I would never look at him if my budget was $10,000 or less.  Also? I exclude "private treaty" ads from my searches, figuring that if I have to ask what the price is, I can't afford the horse (which may or may not be true!).
  • Be realistic.  Your horse's asking price should reflect the factors I consider when looking for a horse.  If your asking price seems pretty high, I probably won't even bother to come and look at your horse, no matter how nice he/she is. Instead, I might watch your ad to see if you lower your price.
  • Despite what you may have heard, serious buyers can and do email you with their questions.  I'm one of them.  I tend to email with basic questions and then if I like the answers, perhaps call with more detailed questions.  If the horse is close by (say, within a half hour's drive), I'll probably ask very basic questions via email and then make an appointment to see the horse.   Check your email program's junk mail folder and spam filter - often, inquiries from potential buyers end up there.  If you don't respond to a potential buyer's emails, they will probably think you're not interested in selling the horse, and never consider that you might not have received their email.
  • In your ad, put a real live phone number and email for the person in charge of selling the horse.  If I call the phone number in your ad and reach your mother, who seems really confused, finally figures out you're selling your horse, and then says she'll have to call you and have you call me in a couple days, that's a huge turnoff.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Getting the Most from Your Equine Clinic Experience

Last weekend, I participated in an eventing clinic.  On the nearly five hour drive home, I had plenty of time to reflect.  I've attended a number of clinics in different disciplines over the years, and no matter what type of clinic it is, there are some specific things participants can do (and not do!) to make the clinic experience great for everyone.

Before You Sign Up:
  • Take the time to learn something about the clinician's philosophy and methods, and make sure both are a good fit for you and your horses.  Don't just sign up because the clinician is famous.
  • Given the clinic schedule and location, make sure you can be there in plenty of time, stay for the entire session, and still make it home in time to be well-rested for whatever is next on your schedule.
  • If the clinic is focused on X discipline, and you and/or your horse have never done X before, make sure the clinic is beginner-friendly.
  • Review the offerings carefully and sign up for the session that is the best fit for the ability, experience and fitness level of you AND your horse.  Don't sign up for a session above your level and hope you'll be ready.  
  • Unless it's a colt-starting clinic, don't bring a horse that's never been anywhere or done anything.
  • Unless it's a clinic designed to address behavior problems, don't bring a horse with a serious behavior problem.
Preparing for the Clinic:
  • Take the time to make sure you, your horse and your tack are clean and presentable.  It shows respect for the clinician. 
  • Make sure you bring all of the tack and equipment your horse normally wears for schooling.  Clinics are not the place to experiment with new bits, new saddles, etc. (unless it's part of the clinic).
  • Read the instructions.  Is bedding provided?  Are meals provided?  Do you need to bring anything specific?  If in doubt, ask the clinic organizer before you hit the road.
  • Check the weather before you leave, and pack the clothing you and your horse will need to be comfortable.
  • If you absolutely must request something special, such as a private lesson with the clinician, or a particular stall location, make arrangements with the clinic organizer beforehand.  If you aren't charged for the special favor, bring a bottle of wine or a special treat from home to show your appreciation.
 Etiquette during the Clinic Session:
  • Show up on time and ready to learn, with your tack properly adjusted and your horse warmed up.  
  • Everyone attending the clinic has paid to hear what the clinician has to say, not what you have to say.  While the clinician is speaking, keep your comments and conversation to an absolute minimum.  Unless you have a question that's relevant to the whole group, wait to ask until after the session.
  • Don't corner the clinician after the session.  He or she is probably anxious to use the facilities or get a drink of water.  If you have a question that might require more than a very brief answer, ask the clinic organizer when it might be convenient to ask the clinician.
  • There's one person in every session who takes more than his/her fair share of the clinician's time.  Don't be that person.    
  • Nobody likes a showoff.  Your appearance and behavior should not draw undue attention.  Save the bridleless demonstrations for your YouTube channel. 
  • Don't be a Negative Nancy.  If you don't agree with the clinician on some particular point, keep your opinion to yourself. 
  • If the clinician asks you to do something, make an honest effort to do it, even if you don't think you can.  You just might be surprised at the results.
  • Avoid making excuses. If you and/or your horse can't do it, you can't do it - no one, including the clinician, wants to hear why.
  • If someone is having a problem during the session, be patient and kind.  You might be next!
  • No one, especially the clinician, wants to hear any sentence that begins, "But my trainer says..."   
  • Take advantage of any opportunity to observe other clinic sessions, but make sure your presence is not distracting in any way.
Etiquette at the Clinic Facility:
  • Unless you can count on your dog to be perfectly well-behaved AND you get advance permission from the clinic organizer to bring your dog, leave him/her at home.  Clinics are not dog-training opportunities.
  • Don't assume you can park your RV or living quarters trailer and camp out at the clinic facility, even if your rig is self-contained.  Ask the clinic organizer for permission.
  • If something isn't clear, ask before doing.  Examples:  Where to dump manure, what stall to put your horse in, where to park.
  • Don't assume you can take photos and video of the clinic session.  Ask the clinic organizer for permission beforehand.
  • Don't bring an entourage.  Extra people means extra distractions, for you AND other participants. Unless they are essential to your participation, leave your mother, children, boyfriend, etc. at home.
  • Don't hog the parking area. Unless there's PLENTY of room for everyone, including people who arrive after you, don't unfurl your awning, set up a private lounge area next to your trailer, etc.
  • Avoid forming a clique with people from your barn, and be friendly to everyone - you just might make some new friends.
After the Clinic:
  • Make some notes about what you learned.  Work what you learned into your training program at home.
  • Thank the clinic organizer.  If you can't do it in person, drop him or her an email. 
  • Send the new friends you made at the clinic a Facebook friend request and/or email.
  • Plan the next clinic you want to attend.