Patience, honesty and finding the right fit are the most critical factors in selling a hard to sell horse. Photo © The American Quarter Horse Journal

Tips for Selling the Hard to Sell Horse 

No matter what your price range or what you are buying, compromise and negotiation usually go hand-in-hand with a purchase. As with any purchase, age, price and durability are often a factor when determining whether to buy. Throw a living, breathing animal into the equation, and this purchase has gotten a little more complicated.

So what do you do if you have a horse that you know is sellable, but might be a hard sell?

We spoke with Ruth Ellen from The Horse Source, who has over 25 years of experience in the equine industry and has assisted in purchasing and selling countless high-end horses throughout the country.

We also talked with Anthony Leier of Leier Performance Horses who focuses on fitting, showing and selling prospects that go on to win at the highest levels. They shared their tips and advice with us on selling a horse that might be considered hard to sell.

Determine How to Market – Ruth Ellen’s first piece of advice starts with determining “why” the horse is hard to sell. Is it soundness, age, behavior or other issues? She told us, “Figure out the reason. Once the reason is determined, you can then decide the best way to market the horse.”

All horses are sellable, it just takes finding the right buyer and probably some time and patience. Ruth only works with sellers who disclose all information about a horse that is for sale and she, “recommends being completely open and honest when it comes to selling horses, but especially horses that may have some challenges, whether that be soundness, behavior or another issue.”

Make a good first impression – Just like any sale, making an excellent first impression is essential. But with a horse that might have a few less than desirable qualities, it is even more crucial. Anthony told us, “A picture is worth a thousand words and a first impression is worth even more. Take the time to get the horse looking like a world champion. Grab your buyer’s attention from the very start with a beautiful picture.”

Going the extra mile might mean a little extra effort and investment to present the horse as best as possible, but Anthony agrees its worth it. “When trying to sell a hard to sell horse, get them cleaned up, banded with their mane down for professional pictures.” This will positively present them from the start.

Avoid Surprises – Ruth told us, “Avoid any surprise elements and be sure that the buyer is educated up front.” Even with soundness issues, buyers feel more comfortable knowing what to expect, so don’t depend on the pre-purchase exam to disclose any soundness issues. Ruth also advised to “give them as much information beforehand as possible, whether that be x-rays, veterinary records or whatever else might be needed to make the buyer feel informed.”

Play on the positives – A senior horse may be considered a challenge to sell, but Ruth reminded us that’s not always the case, especially if their talent is in a more technical class like the Trail. “Look at the horses winning at the highest levels, at the World Show and the Congress. Many of them have taken years to develop their expertise in these classes. They are winning at this level because they enjoy their job and they are good at it,” Ruth said. Pointing out the positive about a hard to sell horse may spin the perspective of the potential buyer.

Be a Good Matchmaker – Ruth advised to, “get to know your buyer and know how far they are willing to compromise.” No matter the price range, the buyer and seller need to be willing to compromise and negotiate to make the sale work. “Some of the hardest horses to sell are the ones with behavior issues,” Ruth told us. “However, it might just be a quirk, like not liking the ramp at the World show or when it is in the pleasure pen and goes the second direction, it may take off,” Ruth said. These horses are not unsellable, but you do need to match them with a buyer who can handle their behavior and is aware of the challenges. In these cases, Ruth says, “you have to be brutally honest.”

Patience, honesty and finding the right fit are the most critical factors in selling a hard to sell horse. There are buyers out there who are willing to compromise on particular characteristics to find a horse that fits their needs. Hard to sell horses can be a challenge on the surface, but with some time, thought and effort, these horses can be sold to buyers who can have a lot of success with them in the future.

Julie Hoefling was born and raised in Akron, Michigan but now resides in Cave Creek, Arizona with her husband, Jerry. She works at Central Garden & Pet (Equine Division – Farnam) as a Brand Manager over grooming, wound, and leather care. Julie shows her horse, Doctor Phil Good in the 3-Year-Old Futurity events under the guidance of Ryan and Andrea Kail.