I recently found myself in the market for a new dressage horse and once again I was surprised by the price differences between US and European horses. Yes, there is the cost for import and traveling to Europe but it seems in order to look at several decent horses in the US, one would need to travel quite a bit, making travel in the US expensive also. So really shipping and all the quarantine expenses seem to be the big difference. Recently, I checked out prices for import from Germany being between $5-6k for a gelding, so that will be added to the purchase price. But here's what bugs me, I can look at a horse in the US that is more than $5-6k expensive than a horse in Europe and the US horse may not be as nice as the one from Europe. Take a look at the horses below to see my point.
I personally think Zagato is very very nice, and priced very well; while Astro is ok and more expensive. I would love to support the US market but with the US horses costing more, this seems hard to do.
After living in Germany for 2.5 years and seeing the quality of horses and the price that they sell for then I made the decision that when I buy a horse that I'll do it over there. Upon moving back to the States I went with a friend to look at a young horse that was WTC with contact issues (and nothing to write home about in the movement department) and they wanted $25k for him. He would have sold for less than $10k in Germany. It was very confusing to me. My friend that I went with that was looking at him said that was typical for the market here and he wasn't overpriced. Wow.
I've seen lots of upper level horses in Germany sell for around $20k so you could have it back here for about $30k. There's just so many more educated, nice horses there than can be found here. Even with the hassle of travel and import I think it would be worth it to shop there.
I think it's really hard to tell a valuation difference with only those pictures. None of them for either horse are bright or of very good quality. Is there a video, too, perhaps? Maybe there are showing differences as well. If Astro is a solid citizen in the show ring and can help an amateur get their bronze medal, there is something to be said for that value versus the flashy and maybe more potential-based value of that European horse. What's odd is that the American horse is not found on centerline scores with the name Astro MG...
On a broader-scale, the economy may very well have something to do with it. I didn't look anything up but if the economy in the Netherlands is giving a fair market value of x for their horse, that is assumed to be the fair market value of buyers in that market. Presumably local. Or perhaps they are figuring out that there is a better market for Americans with money and a willingness to spend it on shipping a European horse and the price reflects that.
And American prices vary so greatly from region to region. That horse is from MA maybe that is the price the market will pay for him there. If the horse was in Wyoming, the price might be different (just as an example).
Or maybe all of that is not true and the buyers just think that's what they can get for their horses for whatever reasons they might have! Those are just my guesses
To address the two examples you gave, the first horse does not have a clean change. If he did, they would not have shown the poor one. Therefore, to me, he is not 3rd level and at 9 years old w/o changes I would not want him for any price. The second horse is not ridden nearly as well as the first, so it's hard to tell if he is capable of more. He's lacking energy. Therefore, I can't compare the prices and determine which is a bargain or overpriced.
As for whether one can get a nicer horse at a lower price in Europe, I don't doubt it, although I can't say for sure.
What I will say and this is just my personal opinion, is that I would never buy a horse from Europe and not even one in this country that has been recently imported. Why? Because I think that most of them have had a soft tissue injury, it healed, and then it went up for sale. I have seen too many times the imported horses going lame with soft tissue problems shortly after going into work with their new American owner.
I am willing to pay more to buy a horse bred in this country where I can thoroughly check out where it's been and what its' health record is. Sure, even then I might not find out everything, but there is much less risk and a much better chance to getting a good fit if I can buy here in the USA.
Just do add to my above thoughts (after reading ToN Farm's response): the main reason why I would feel comfortable buying a horse in Europe, Germany specifically, is I have friends there that seem to know EVERYONE in the dressage community in Germany so the horse's history wouldn't be so much of a mystery. Now if I didn't have a reputable contact there then I'm not sure I'd have the same feelings. I do still have the same feelings regarding price- nicer horses for less money over there. There are just more horses for sale I think and that makes the price not so high.
I do know of a nice, young 3rd level horse for sale there at the moment...
I was horse shopping in the past year and considered horses from both North America and Europe. In Europe you have the advantage of sheer volume - there are *a lot* of really nice horses to choose from at all levels and a strong tradition of dressage training even for horses that are not destined for upper level dressage careers or even dressage careers at all. I have friends and relatives in Germany, Sweden, and Denmark who ride and they can do half-passes and tempi changes and true collection as ordinary recreational riders who would never consider themselves 'dressage riders'. Their horses - even school horses and ponies at run of the mill lesson barns - are very well-trained and conformationally correct and you can't swing a dead cat without finding fields full of warmbloods. The fact that these things are so common make the horses and training less of a premium product and therefore the prices are lower, especially if you buy privately vs. through someone specializing in selling horses to North America. Meanwhile I rode for 10 years in North America without learning how to put a horse on a bit or seeing a warmblood. I would go to riding camp in Europe during the summers and they would laugh at me because I didn't know anything
I did not have a huge budget for my horse but I found that I could get a very lovely young dressage horse in Europe for $15K, which would make the total price $25K after import costs, and there was a lot to choose from. Finding the same in North America was hard and in the end I gave up on that idea. But what I did discover was that list prices in North America were virtually meaningless. After every single horse I tried my trainer would say "You can get him for 10K/15K/20K less" and she was right. In certain communities in particular you know that your potential buyers are willing to go to Europe and you have to compete with those prices.
One of the true advantages of buying close to home is your connections. The horse I did end up buying was from one of my trainer's clients and I got him for less than half of his asking price because they knew he would be staying in our barn and I would love the hell out of him. I would never even have looked at him at his original price because it was out of my reach. One of my friends was able to buy a dreamy Grand Prix schoolmaster for next to nothing because her trainer had heard about his owner retiring him at 14 because she was getting out of riding.
If you can use your own network to your advantage it can really pay off. Don't take list prices too seriously, especially in this market. And some trainers have a dedicated dealer who imports horses for them virtually at-cost, which can save you the trouble of flying over there.
I have only bought hunters abroad, not dressage horses... so take this for what it's worth. But as an amateur, buying only one horse at a time, I have found it a lot easier and less expensive to buy in Europe. For the price of a single plane ticket and a couple of nights' hotel expenses, I can look at as many really nice young horses as I care to see. They tend to be further along in their training than horses of a similar age here in the US, and they seem to have a good basic foundation on them, unlike many US horses I've been presented with, whose owners say it's just too expensive to put a similar amount of training/mileage on their young stock. For the record, I am sure that's true and it costs more here, but I just don't feel compelled to underwrite that difference in $$$.
As an example, I bought a nice green coming 4 year old WB gelding not long ago in Germany. Beautifully bred, lovely conformation, fantastic, easy, amateur friendly temperament. He was a great mover (and an even better jumper.) He "got off the boat" in November and we showed him in the baby green classes at WEF in February with good prizes. (He is now a very, very successful amateur horse for his new owner, who has won with him at the biggest venues in the country.) Importing him cost $8K including the quarantine and shipping to our trainer's farm in FL.
By comparison I was just looking at another young horse in the US that is at a similar point in his training. He is older than my German horse (5 coming 6 instead of 3 coming 4.) He does have a lovely, amateur friendly temperament but is frankly nothing special to look at on the ground, and he is a nice-but-not-particularly special mover. He is still green enough to require a LOT of rider assistance with his balance and straightness. He will make up into a nice local level horse, I think, and he is kind and quiet enough to always have a market, but more as a packer type, not a superstar competitor.
They are asking $10,000 more for the US horse than I paid for the fancy German model (and I could buy as many of the German ones as I wanted for what I paid.) Ten grand is a bunch of money to me, and when you add in the costs of the travel within the US that it takes to see a similar number of prospects compared to what I can see in Europe in a weekend... it's really a very easy choice to make.
********** We move pretty fast for some rabid garden snails.
This is a hard one for me as it is a debate that will probably last as long as we ride dressage
Europe has access to young riders that are so skilled they can bring along their horses for so much less than we pay here for training. Those same skilled riders keep those horses in shape, in training and showing. Here we have AA like me SO that his a huge factor in economics.
Europe is dense...we are so spread out making horse shopping difficult.
I think we have the bloodlines, we have the breeders...what we don't have is the training, the skilled young riders and the ease of shopping.
We also have the security of being able to scrutinize the seller and have thorough veterinary prepurchase exams here in the US. In Europe that can be a hurdle.
I do think in the end though that most US sellers and breeders are willing to compromise on selling price when the right home/ rider is found. I know I have and never regret doing so (and am not at all offended when someone offers a lower price).
From h/j land... I initially tried to buy in the States. Many of the horses that would fit my needs and were local, were imported and priced out of my range. I didn't need a WB, but I also didn't want a small, dainty, or downhill horse. I wanted a show horse of some variety.
I traveled on weekends, sometimes staying in hotels, just to see 1 or 2 horses that didn't fit right. It was time-consuming and frustrating.
I was going to Europe, anyway, so friends gave me contacts and I was able to see as many horses as I wanted in a few days. And almost all of them were nice, and the size/age/temperament indicated. There are just so many horses in a relatively small area. It was easy.
Unless you live in an inexpensive area in the States, raising and training horses to sell 4-5-6 is just expensive!!! It's an uphill struggle for those breeders and trainers. And marketing is challenging for small breeders. I wish it were easier for US buyers to find those nice US-bred horses that are out there.
Prices are also not directly comparable as the US prices are often inflated to allow a lot of wiggle room on negotiations. This doesn't seem to be the case in Europe.
Looked at both videos. I agree with ToN Farm. First horse does not have a clean change, and trying to "fix" this issue could be problematic. Personally, I do not care for that horse at all - too much tension, overall. I was not impressed.
Second horse, while it should be more forward, is supple, more elastic, and softer in the bridle. Other than teaching this horse to be quicker off the aids and to go more forward, it has good basics. You won't have to be "fixing" issues that I think you would with the first horse. For its age, one would hope it was further along in its training. Is it a $45K horse? That is another question.
Without question, you can see so many more sales horses in Europe than North America in the run of a day.
I agree that I think the second horse is a nicer horse. He is much more relaxed and supple in the bridle versus horse #1. The first horse has a lot of tension in the bridle that really shows when he attempts the changes. I also think horse #2 has much more fluid gaits including the walk. Yes, horse #2 could use a little more forward but it appears he is ridden by an AA rider and that is probably where she is comfortable riding (I would be the same). I think horse #2 you could go show 3rd level and probably do quite well where as horse #1 you are going to have to work through all that tension.
As several other posters have mentioned, the first horse has limited talent as well as size (16.1H), while the second one is a year younger, has more talent and size (16.3H), but is ridden by a seemingly timid person.
I don't think the first horse is worth what they're asking for, and you could probably get the second one for a little less than listed. So, in my opinion that makes the US horse the better deal.....
Siegi Belz www.stalleuropa.com
2007 KWPN-NA Breeder of the Year
Dutch Warmbloods Made in the U. S. A.
Agree with both Seigi and ToN - first you are comparing two very different horses, it is like saying the Whopper and the Double Whopper are the same price because they are both on the same size bun. Second, unless you have a GOOD agent/contact in Europe, you may end up with a problem. I've seen it happen to a LOT of people here - they go to Europe, get the "better deal", and within a few months, the horse is lame - due to pre-exisiting injury. Vets in Europe represent the sellers, not the buyers - and US buyers are seen as easy money. I know more import sad-stories then I can count on both hands. The people who succeed in import either have a GREAT agent (such as Honeylips works with), or have friends/relatives in the horse industry in Europe that are protecting them.
I do agree geography is a huge issue in the US - wish more breeders could work together to create regional "breeder maps" to help shoppers.
As for training of young horses - it is a huge issues, but many of the Euro horses are auction ridden - tight, over tempo, shoved together, and that doesn't ultimately translate to good training in the long run. Seems to do well at the lower levels, but you may find a lot of retraining required to get up the levels.
You'll get more horse for your money in Europe, hands down. That's not to say that every single animal in Europe is a star, but the average quality of horseflesh is much better than in the States. On top of that there are simply so many more to choose from. I've found Denmark to be a great bang-for-your-buck country for horse shopping. The key is to have a contact that you trust.
Given your price range I would probably import, however, you may want contact C. Haddad-Staller. She just moved back to the US after 20 years in Germany, and if she doesn't have what you're looking for, then she'll be able to point you in the right direction across the pond. She is very professional and very honest.
That is key no matter where you purchase a horse from. When you buy in Europe, imo there are several commissions usually taken. If you don't mind that, fine. I do mind it. I want to know who is getting the check I'm writing for the horse; i.e. the true sales price. I want to know how much commission I am paying.