How I Bought A Horse In This Crazy Market

Dec 20, 2021 - 7:59 AM

Spoiler alert: I have a new horse. Her name is Azul. She is a 15.1-hand (potentially still growing) 4-year-old Oldenburg mare by Carrasca Z out of a Roc USA mare. She is by far the fanciest horse I’ve ever purchased, with a big, sweeping canter and a slow, round jump. She has a great brain, a curious nature, a sweet demeanor, and wow is she pretty. My long-term goal with her is to be competitive in the 3’ adult amateur division. From first seeing her picture on Facebook to signing the paperwork took 11 days, and it would have been less had a few scheduling hiccups not occurred.

In today’s crazy horse market, just the fact that I was able to find, vet, try and buy Azul, all within my budget, feels momentous enough.

Azulfield
Meet Azul, blogger Sophie Coffey’s newly purchased horse. Photos Courtesy Of Sophie Coffey

I’ve heard the horror and heartbreak stories and have friends experiencing them all first hand as well. I’ve had enough people ask how I made it work so well and so quickly that I felt my process was worth sharing. So, here is the step-by-step process that helped me quickly find and buy a horse in the toughest horse market in recent (and past) memory.

Before I begin, here are a few caveats: I did not purchase with the intention of resale, which would change the calculus for sure. I also had a trainer who was open to me doing the search with her input and guidance, rather than my trainer primarily doing the searching—every program is different on this point and no program is right/wrong about it.

Step One

Write wish list; know where you can compromise. This is the most important piece. I sat down and took a very hard look at the balance between my must-haves and where I was willing to concede (because I would have to concede), and how that fit under my $25,000 budget ceiling, which included vetting and shipping if needed.

Must Have #1: I wanted something bred for the job I intended it to do. This meant that, for the first time, I wouldn’t be looking at my normal off-track Thoroughbred or slightly avant garde breed options. It most likely meant a warmblood.

Must Have #2: I wanted to know I could walk into the 3’ adult amateurs in most rings in my competitive zone, lay it down, and have a shot at not just a personal best, but a ribbon in the class.

Must Have #3: I wanted something on the East Coast for ease of shipping. I was willing to go as far south as Florida and as far north as Massachusetts.

That was as far as I got before starting on the concessions, because those are some pretty big must-haves…

Concession #1: My budget dictated that it was going to have to be a baby in the 3- to 4-year-old range. I did decide, though, that it needed to have a great brain (Must Have #4) and at least 30-60 days under saddle as a minimum (Must Have #5).

Concession #2: I decided I was fine with something in the “hony” range of 15.1 – 15.2 hands. I didn’t have 3’6” aspirations, and while of course it would need to have a long sweeping canter (Must Have #6) to make the lines without running, that height was where my budget could find the best foothold.

Step Two

Write the ad. Based on the above exercise, I came up with a very clear “in search of” advertisement that included my must-haves, age range, size range, budget and nothing else. Exact breed, color and gender were all up in the air.

Step Three

Let the search begin. I posted my ISO ad on Facebook and also used it to help dial in my searches on BigEq, Dreamhorse, EquineNow and a few other websites.

My personal jackpot happened on Facebook. Within 24 hours, someone responded with a gorgeous conformation shot, simply saying “4yo, Registered Oldenburg, 15.1h.” I asked for some videos, and saw a little mare with a sweeping canter bopping around a field of teeny jumps. Not all of them were perfect, but she also never seemed to get rattled, and she used her body correctly. As a bonus, there was a video of a good-riding kid also bopping around, staying out of her way so you could see what her instincts were when getting there a little long or short.

4yo mare
The picture that started it all for the author was this simple conformation shot in reply to her Facebook ISO ad.

Step Four

Research. I spoke with her breeder and her agent on Facebook, and even received pictures and videos of her momma (who she is the spitting image of). I read about her sire, Carrasca Z, and her dam’s sire, Roc USA. I asked about her background and daily routine. Finally, I showed all of the gathered info to my trainer, who gave the thumbs up.

Step Five

Vetting. Normally this happens after I try something, but I knew speed was of the essence in today’s market, so I wanted everything to be cleared before I flew down. I also wanted to show her agent how serious I was about buying. I knew that if I sat on her with a PPE already in hand, the chances I would get off and not sign the paperwork were slim to none. I also knew that if she didn’t vet, I wouldn’t be out the money for the trip, so I called Peterson & Smith in Ocala and set up the first available vetting appointment.

I’ll also mention here that while I was fortunate they found no issues in my vetting, I was prepared for things to not be perfect. I wasn’t going to use her for a 3’6” career, and most horses, unless there’s a major flaw or finding, can do 3’ with a little maintenance without a problem. In short, I went into the vetting with an information-gathering mentality rather than a pass/fail one.

Step Six

Try the horse. I flew down to Ocala, and Azul was everything they said she was. There’s not much you can really feel from a quick ride on a young horse with little formal training, but she seemed willing, forward and tried to please. She also had fantastic ground manners for catching her, tacking up, cooling out, etc.

I’ll also note that in this crazy market, I wouldn’t always try them, especially a young horse that you won’t be able to do much on. In my case, because she was small, I mainly just wanted to make sure I didn’t look too large on her.

Coffey and Azul starting their partnership together in Richmond, Virginia.

Step Seven

Sign on the dotted line.

What worked for me was setting clear goals, knowing where to compromise, being realistic with budget, and moving quickly when one popped up. Is this a one size fits all magic formula for buying horses in today’s market? Absolutely not. I’m simply sharing my process with the wish that it might bring some new ideas, refreshed resolution, and replenished hope for yours. May the horse purchasing force be with you.

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