Horse Selling Red Flags

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Selling a horse can be a tumultuous experience. As a continuation of Tuesday’s article A Beginner’s Guide to Horse Selling, here are a few red flags to avoid setting off as a seller as well as red flags to look for when meeting potential buyers.

How to Avoid Setting Off Red Flags As a Seller

1. Have the horse up to date on shots and coggins

This is one that is very important. It’s not just about having the horse up to date on this year’s shots and coggins either. Having medical records that prove the horse has been kept up to date on shots and coggins consistently for the duration you have owned the horse speaks to your commitment to his health and well being. It shows a pattern of good upkeep and responsible ownership that goes a long way towards building your credibility as a seller.

If, on the other hand, you have not kept up on your horse’s shots but have gotten everything sorted out before the sale, don’t make excuses. Making a big deal about it and trying to sell a big sob story about a poor financial situation or something isn’t going to do you any favors. Be honest. A simple answer such as “he didn’t leave the farm during that time period so we didn’t always keep him up to date on his shots like we should have” will suffice. Just make sure you’re telling the truth. Maybe there were other extenuating circumstances, but the potential buyer doesn’t need to hear your whole life’s story. You might still get a frown and it may still count against you a bit, but making a big deal about it certainly won’t help.

2. Have all your paperwork in order

I like to put together a packet containing copies of the horse’s registration papers (if you have them), show record (if applicable), medical history, coggins, shots, and current deworming schedule. I always give the buyers photo copies to look at if they like while they are viewing the horse. I have originals on hand if they want to look at them, but I don’t let them out of my sight until the money has actually changed hands. It may seem like a pain, but it goes a long way towards showing that you are a serious seller who cares about the health and well being of the horse.

3. Be willing to allow the buyer to try the horse

As a buyer, I don’t believe the horse can do anything unless I have seen them do it in person. Normally, a picture is worth a thousand words. But, when it comes to buying a horse, pictures are nice, but they can be photoshopped. Even if a picture isn’t photoshopped, it isn’t that hard to cover up a lot of conformational faults by standing the horse in just the right position if you know what you’re doing. Videos are worth more but even a video can be edited to show only what the seller wants you to see.

I’ve never bought or sold a horse without demoing it first. Even if the horse isn’t saddle broke, there is a lot an experienced handler can learn from working with a horse for a few minutes on the ground.

4. Be willing to answer any questions

This should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway. Don’t try to give non-answers to questions. Anything you try to hide will come out eventually. Be upfront about flaws. No horse is perfect. As a buyer, I am skeptic and if it seems too good to be true it probably is. So if you are trying to pass your horse off as perfect, it will only make a smart buyer wonder what you are hiding.

5. Be open to vet checks

You would be surprised how many buyers ask about vet checks just to gauge the seller’s reaction. I do it all the time. I’ve had buyers do it to me. I’ve never had a buyer actually go through with it. They just wanted to see how I would react. I just shrugged and said; “Sure. It will be at your expense, but you can pay for whatever tests you like. Would you like a list of local vets or did you have one in mind?” That is the type of response that sets most buyers at ease.


Related Article: Horse Shopping Red Flags


Red Flags When Meeting a Potential Buyer

1. Buyers want to buy cheap horse sight unseen

This is a huge no-no. Selling a horse sight unseen does happen on rare occasions. But, it generally only happens in very specific circumstances. A horse that’s under $10,000 with no show record or breeding potential to speak of is not the type of horse that is sold sight unseen. A buyer looking for a cheap horse with no regards to training temperament, show record, or really anything that a buyer is normally interested in is a huge red flag for a seller. In this case you are probably dealing with a kill buyer.

2. Buyer doesn’t want to try the horse

A buyer who wants to see the horse but isn’t particularly concerned with trying the horse themselves is another red flag. These buyers will likely also try to drive a hard bargain. There are two options here. It might be a kill buyer. But, the more likely option is that you are dealing with a flipper or a dealer.

Flippers will put 30 days on them. Dealers will turn around and advertise them as is within a few days. Kill buyers will ship them off to Canada or Mexico before the week is out.

3. Buyer doesn’t ask questions

The buyer who doesn’t want to try the horse probably won’t ask the seller too many questions either. Neither flippers, dealers, or kill buyers are interested in the details. Flippers and dealers want a pretty horse that look salable with minimal effort. Meat buyers only care about the weight.

4. Buyer doesn’t want to answer questions

Again, these are the flippers, dealers, and meat buyers. Most buyers are fine chatting about what a great home they are going to give your horse. It’s the ones who get shifty every time you ask an innocuous question you need to be concerned about.

One thought on “Horse Selling Red Flags

  1. You go to look at a beautiful Paint mare, the seller is eager to sell, & explains that they were looking to buy an “upgrade” for their daughter. When I went to my truck, & return with my saddle, the seller starts to look very “uncomfortable”, changes the subject. I asked her if there is a problem with my riding her, or? She finally said, “NOBODY has been on that horse in over a YEAR”! She explained how they’d gone “horse shopping” with a “horse trader“ ‘friend’, who’d said this mare was perfect for her novice, 15 year old daughter, (who’d only ridden a lessons horse, in an arena, during lessons, for a year)! I been riding & working ranch horses “on the fly”, for 25 years, so I decided to ride her. She wasn’t a happy at 1st but when she realized I wasn’t afraid of her, or going anywhere NOT of my choosing, she fell in line pretty well! When her buddy bound mate began pacing & calling loudly, I kept her focus, the owner looked terrified, & suggested that I “go ride by him”! When I got off her, explaining to the owner the reasons why doing what the horse wants, is the biggest problem, & that wasn’t a good choice for her girl. Nice mare, she could out from under a green rider, but great for a gymkhana prospect, but sellers, PLEASE, ALWAYS BE HONEST-To many buyers, she’d have been a hard PASS, but not every issue is beyond a “work around”! I should have passed, but my gut said yes. (Probably a really bad idea, in hindsight)!

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