With tongue firmly in cheek, the author describes the perils of selling a homebred horse.
So, you want to breed event horses and sell them? It sure seems like a promising and profitable goal, but the reality is sometimes much different. Here’s how to go about it.
Start off in the usual way of selecting a mare and stallion of merit and breeding them. Wait a year for the foal to arrive, not forgetting to pay lots of vet bills and to feed, house, and pasture the mare until she delivers. Write down all of your expenses to date.
Because the foal will not sell, keep it another year, or two, or three, until you can break it and sell it as greenbroke. Keep track of all these expenses as well.
The average agreed-upon fee to keep a horse alive per year is between $5,000 and $6,000. Use $5,000, as it rounds out nicely. Bear in mind you have thus far put $15,000 into your 3-year-old, plus the year in the mare, plus the stud fee.
At this point, it’s a good idea to toss out the expense sheet, as you’ll never recoup the bottom line to date, and having all that money detailed in black and white will just anger you sometime in the future.
Is Anyone Out There?
A greenbroke horse is very hard to sell, as everyone wants a “packer.” An off-the-track-Thoroughbred will cost between nothing and $5,000, and is roughly at the same stage as your horse, only physically and mentally banged up.
Whoever can ride “greenbroke,” however, knows how to hang on and is likely to have learned that the hard way (probably from lack of lessons on suitable packers) for monetary reasons, and their budget will aim for the OTTB.
So, you put in more time and more money to transition your sales prospect from “greenbroke” to merely “green.” The 4-, 5- and 6-year-old years are full of promise as the horse is now able to compete!
But keep in mind that he’ll need shoes, entry fees, and stabling. You will need to pay for fuel for the truck, hotels, meals and days off to compete.
Meanwhile, you have been moving the prospect up the levels to the point where he’ll certainly appeal to some talented young rider. The trouble is that the TALENTED young riders have—you guessed it—gone to get a $5,000 OTTB, leaving the financially gifted young riders a crack at your horse, who is still not a packer.
Show your horse, who is in his first year of competing at preliminary level, to at least a dozen potential buyers, and have him go well for all of them. For a multitude of reasons (another chapter in itself) they will not call back, which is fine (mentally, not financially) because most of them don’t need a $35,000 horse; they need a $1,000 horse and $34,000 worth of lessons.
It’s Murphy’s Law
Continue to enter events to the tune of $500 per (see previous paragraph outlining expenses), just to keep his name out there and get results, as well as risking bad goes and injury. Eventually someone will want a second look.
If someone is interested in your horse, and scheduling the first visit went smoothly, it is a guarantee that the second one will not. Coordinating the parent with the child (in school) with the coach, and lastly, with your plans, is not possible. Continue to feed and compete and shoe the horse for another two or three weeks until the planets align.
Bring the horse in to do a polish-up ride at 4 p.m. the evening prior to the second showing (which of course is on a Sunday). Notice that the great feet—that you have been using as a selling point—have decided that despite having NEVER lost a shoe before, today is the day! Call your farrier by 4:45, but doubt he’ll retrieve messages on a weekend.
Begin composing story about how he “just came in without the shoe an hour ago,” to tell second-time-looking potential buyers. Turn horse back out and wonder why you had him shod in the first place.
Answer phone at midnight. It is the farrier. In a stupor, you agreed to van the horse an hour to meet another farrier (who’s covering for farrier No. 1) the next morning. Hang up just in time to remember you promised to transport your own child to a friend’s house (half an hour in the opposite direction) at precisely the same time. Re-dial farrier. No answer. Did you get farrier No. 2’s number? No, of course not.
Don’t Normal People Do This?
Get up at 5 a.m. the next day, do the absolute bare necessity of chores and then wake child to explain situation. If you use soft, soothing tones, she may not notice it’s 6 a.m. on a Sunday and bite your head off.
Ask her how good the friend she is visiting is and does she think her family wakes up before 9 a.m. on Sundays? Do they have a front porch? Do they lock their doors, or do you think you can slip in?
Daughter wisely opts for Plan B and gives her grandmother a 6:45 wake-up call once you’re on the road, to ask for asylum until friend’s family wakes up. Drive diesel dually pick-up with gooseneck trailer through quiet suburban streets to grandma’s house prior to 7 a.m. and wonder why you have no friends outside of the horse world.
Because you did not have to go all the way to daughter’s friend’s house, you are early. You have time for breakfast! Try to get truck and trailer around back of McDonald’s. Practice backing skills yet again.
On the road again at a now-somewhat-acceptable hour, you call a friend to cancel the “fun” trail ride you had planned. Also call the boarder who was going to accompany you. Call the vet to arrange treatment for your “good” horse, and agree to meet at another barn (to save time) where he can also school his horse. Call that barn owner to ask permission for both schooling and use of plug in her barn for treatment. Get message machines about 50 percent of the time and leave your numbers everywhere.
Arrive at meeting point still 45 minutes before farrier is due. Proceed to organize tackroom of trailer, clean tack, polish brass, sweep, shake rugs, and bag garbage.
Half an hour AFTER agreed-upon meeting time, check home messages for cancellation. Clean out that container on the tackroom door you never ever clean.
After another 15 minutes, farrier shows up. Seems he just got the 12:30 p.m. message at 9 this morning as he left his phone off ring, on vibrate, and under a chair as well. Get shoe back on, wave cheerfully and drive away, checking messages all the way home.
Clean barn you left filthy at 6 a.m., ride daughter’s horse as a favor for getting her up far too early, ride own horse, feed all horses, clean horse for sale (noting shoe still on).
Talk to potential buyer, who is running late, and assure her there is just enough daylight left in the day. To save precious time, get horse tacked up, booted, with studs in, bridle clean, and ready.
With daylight fading, you check messages. It seems buyer got directions wrong, got lost, got discouraged, turned around, and is nearly home; but when can we re-schedule?
Untack, un-boot, un-stud, and turn out sale horse. Move gamepiece back to start.
If you enjoyed this article and would like to read more like it, consider subscribing to The Chronicle Of The Horse. “How To Sell A Horse” ran in the Jan. 29 issue.