An interesting issue in the equine industry

     One of the many aspects of the equine industry is the constant buying and selling of horses. Since most people have a horse for a specific purpose, it follows that when that purpose is unavailable a change in ownership will be considered. I always like to think about the horse industry in tiers, because there are completely different attitudes and actions between tiers. First we have high level competition mounts. I’ll be the first to tell you, I don’t know a lot about this genre. So I’m going to glaze right over this one.

     The mid-range equestrian is the one that most interests me. These are the people that love their horses or competition and work on a budget (of varying size of course). Cost is always considered, but the health of the animal usually comes first. These are also the interesting buyers/sellers. This tier is usually interested in horses less than 10k, usually much less. Here we have clients trying to buy and cheap horse and get some training in order to sell or compete. We also have clients that aspire to achieve the higher tier, but cannot afford that level. Buying and selling horses in this tier has a lot of variation. I like to think I live in this range, even if my purse doesn’t back up this notion currently.

    In any case, I am going off topic. I am currently browsing local ads for a suitable horse for Robert and I. I have fairly stringent requirements. I want a draft cross over 17hh between 4 and 18 years old, with training from green broke to finished all around. I do not care about the color or gender of the horse, but I require the horse to be priced fairly. While these requirements seem very lax, there are very few horses who even meet the 17hh description. I think it goes back to a trend in the high tier world.

     Currently, ‘sporthorses’ are very popular. This description varies greatly, but it usually means a horse with heavier bone than a thoroughbred that is athletically inclined, especially those with ‘nice movement.’ Now this horse can be anything from an Appendix grade to a Clyde/QH cross (really, I have seen it!). What many people like to think sporthorse means is fancy athletic warmblood, such as an Irish Sporthorse. Do you see where the price inflation comes in?

     So as I peruse the ads, I see green broke at the WTC selling for 5k. My friend over at 14hands has written an extensive article on the pricing structure that is based on the skills and value of a horse, so I won’t trouble you with a rehash. I do want to highlight some of the key points.

  • What does your horse know? Has it just been weaned but has been messed with quite a bit as a youngster (and also, see above rant for this to qualify)? Add $200. Is it a 2-5 year old and green broke with the skill to stop, start, steer, and transition between all three gaits? Add about $400. Give or take some depending on the level of knowledge and training the horse has. Is your horse trained to do a specific job and to do that job well and consistently? This is a hard price range to define…. For the sake of discussion we’re going to assume you have a horse trained to do schooling shows (and has competed and done well). Add around $2,500. I am talking a horse that I could jump on and, with a little get to know you time, I could take this horse to a show and do well on it within 6 months.     
    This is a pretty key point here, that a lot of the ads I read miss. The value of the horse is determined by the training. Unfortunately it seems like a lot of people want to place value on a horse based on how they feel in their heart, or their size alone. I don’t think I have seen a horse over 17hh for less than 3k.

     Another challenge I have reading ads is the misunderstanding about what constitutes a horse’s size. When I view an ad, I would like a concise description of the physical characteristics of the horse. Including, but not limited to their breed, height, weight, injuries, and color. I cannot tell you how many horses I have seen advertised as a ‘large horse’ that is 15.2hh and 1100lbs. 
     This is the challenge in finding a new horse. Sometimes you have to traverse the tiers and try to speak another language. At the bottom tier, it might be ‘a large horse that rides good without kickin’ while the middle tier might describe a horse as ‘willing sporthorse’ or even the top tier that might say ‘prospective jumper or hunter’ or ‘performance bred and push-button’ It is always a challenge to interpret the ad and determine what the seller actually means, and how the price should correlate. And this, my friends, is why you should never buy or sell a horse without having a knowledgeable friend proofread and double check.
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