The Bane of Selling a Horse

This article first appeared in the December 2017 issue of Heels Down Magazine. For more stories worth reading, subscribe now in the app and get a new issue delivered every month.


By Wendy Angel
Photography Mackenzie Pearce

I have a lot of runner friends. They undertake great feats, such as running half and full marathons. I’m proud of them. But when they tell me about their latest race and how difficult it was, a part of me wants to say, “That’s great, but have you ever successfully sold a horse?”

Nearly everyone who has owned a horse has undergone this arduous task, and a full 95 percent of us have lived to tell about it. From the initial selling decision to finally putting that horse on a trailer to ship to his new servant, the process is riddled with heartache and stupidity. Why is selling a horse so difficult?!

Let’s set aside the “should I or shouldn’t I” dance (an article unto itself, right there) and skip right to the actual selling process. First, we have the sales ad. You have to find just the right words to accurately and appealingly describe your horse, and for some horses that’s really a Sophie’s choice right there. So you do your best to find the creative words that don’t make him sound like a demon, but maybe hint around his sometimes-forked tail. “Needs a strong, experienced, heavily padded, heavily medicated rider. He is SO sweet on the ground! Stands well for the farrier.”

Then on the day you go to take video of him, his neck grows ten feet, he forgets what round is, and he sees the Ghost of Christmas Future in every jump. He also decided to roll in the mud beforehand, but at least you can fix that.

And then the buyers come in. First are the questions that already have the answers spelled out in the ad: “How old is he? How tall? Do you have video? How much?” Sometimes I think these questions are a test to see if you have incredible patience and thereby likely trained with a kind and patient demeanor. Let’s just go with that.

And then come the interesting questions. “I know he has four shoes and pads now and needs shoeing every four weeks but do you think he can live barefoot outside in rocky soil? I believe in natural horsemanship.” And, “He’s been off the track for two months so do you think I’ll be able to take him in three-foot hunters next month?”

And my personal favorite: “Why do you think that super-heavy Percheron cross won’t make an upper-level eventer?” SIDE EYE.

If by some miracle you manage to get a buyer to actually come in person to see the horse, the fun really starts. There are those who appear too scared to even mount the horse, yet insist on jumping anyway. The ones who walk the horse around the ring once, write a check and leave (what?). And then there are the endless tire kickers who ride your horse for a full hour without asking any questions and are clearly just there to get in a free ride. I thumb my nose at you people.

Now you are down to the one person in the world who actually wants your cow of a horse and whom you’ve deemed just sane enough for you to hand the horse over to. Then comes the pre-purchase exam.

“It looks like he THOUGHT about being in pain in his hind end. I mean, there wasn’t really a sign or anything, but I could tell by his face. I want you to knock $3,987 off his $5,000 price tag.”

“Oh, he might need maintenance? Yeah, he’s a 17-year-old schoolmaster who has done everything, and I know nothing, but I’m not willing to spend money on that kind of stuff. I’ll just go buy that three-year-old for the same price if you can’t bring his price down to literally nothing.”

“He seems great, but can I have a one-month trial?”

And now, congratulations: You’ve found a buyer, shipped him off to his new home, cashed your check and rolled in your two dollars after commission and expenses are taken out. Those are a fine two dollars indeed. Just when you thought you were free of this madness, the new owner calls two weeks later.

“He is insane. I am certain you drugged him. He’s going nuts. What? Yeah, I completely changed his feed and now he doesn’t get turn out, and I haven’t ridden him yet, but what does that have anything to do with it? Take him back.”

The fun never ends with horses. But at least on the other side of the selling process, you then get your turn to be the crazy buyer. Don’t let the power go to your head, and spend those two dollars wisely.


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