A. Dear Yvonne,
My decision was born out of necessity. All I had ever done was racehorses for 35 years, and when the time came to quit riding races and my mother was having health issues, I knew I had to come home and start a new career.
A few years before I retired from racehorses, I had been thinking about how I could put the internet to use as well as my name and reputation in the horse world. My mom helped me start the business. She was in her 70s, but she bought a computer and started learning about the internet and website development, and she helped me to develop the idea. We started out experimentally; our original thought was just to help people who were getting started with horses. We were thinking we could help amateurs who were looking to purchase horses, to make sure they made well informed decisions and also to help with the care and set up of equine facilities. I was thinking of basically starting an equine consulting company.
A good friend of mine, Helen Richards, was a jockey for many years but also had many contacts in the show horse world and had shown and ridden hunters. She helped me in learning the different disciplines. She had some success selling Thoroughbreds off the track to show hunter barns, and she thought sales would be a good way for me to go, since I had a recognizable name and a good reputation. From that idea we put a couple of horses on our website that were owned by Christy Hite (now Christy Heflin), a hunter trainer in our area that we had been introduced to and the response was incredible. One introduction led to another and we started meeting different horsemen and women in the area that worked in all disciplines, so I started learning the differences between the disciplines and meeting some very knowledgeable trainers who I continued to learn from.
I had the background from all of my days in racing, training and breeding and certainly knew a lot about conformation, soundness etc., so I learned the rest as I went! I had a good lesson from my father--he always told me it’s better to keep your mouth shut and let people assume you were a fool, then to open it and prove them right. So, in the early days I kept my eyes open and my mouth shut! A prominent horse show judge in the area told me in the early days of our business, “You sell more horses than anyone I know by saying nothing than most people sell by saying everything!” I just showed them what seemed appropriate and let them make their decision. We still follow that rule to a degree, but now we’re much more informed! It’s certainly been a learning experience, and I’ve gotten to meet some great people from all walks of life. I found out that all horse people have the same struggles, the same passion and go through the same heartaches and have the same love of the horses that we did in racing. I find the greatest joy in my job is in helping people sell horses, who may be struggling or who are trying so hard to do things the right way and just need someone to help give them a break. I can definitely relate to those people and just find true pleasure in being able to help those types of owners and trainers.
Q. Alexa, New Canaan, Conn.
As a seller, how do you get a feel for how interested someone is or whether they’re just window shopping? Do you ever turn away someone who wants to see a horse because you know they are not serious? Basically, how do you minimize people wasting your time?
A. Dear Alexa,
I can usually get a feel for how serious someone is. If a customer seems to know what they are looking or has enlisted a trainer or qualified friend to come help them horse shop, then that is always a good sign. Customers who need to find a horse in a specific time frame, such as before they leave for Florida or as soon as possible because their current horse sold, tend to be more serious. People who will ask me about 10 or 15 horses for sale that are completely different in terms of discipline, price and sometimes even opposite ends of the spectrum size wise generally are not seriously looking or have not gotten to the point yet, to really know what they want and more importantly what they need in a horse. I always ask them specifically what they are looking for and in what price range to narrow the field of horses I will show them. If you can speak to their trainer or a friend of theirs to help assess their needs and situation that can also help and provide good insight. I have turned people away after showing them several horses that are a great match for what they are looking for, and they still want to see more and more. I have actually seen people horse shopping for as long as I’ve been doing this that have never bought a horse!
Q. Tammy, Phoenix, Ariz.
What are some of the most common mistakes that you see buyers and sellers making on a regular basis?