Saturday, January 12, 2013

Check, Check, and Re-Check!

Vetting Your Buyer

Today I am going to discuss the sometimes touchy subject of checking out the person who is buying your horse. We will discuss reference checks, site checks and checking up on your horse once it leaves your facility. Many people might think this is overkill, but really anyone not willing to submit to some basic questioning is probably not someone you want taking care of your horse.
Satin says sometimes new owners stink!

When I first begin correspondence with an interested party I immediately send a blanket email to every person who inquires. This cuts down on your time spent on each person who may ultimately be a tire kicker, and also gives the potential buyer the impression that you are serious and that this is a horse worth owning if it’s owner isn’t planning on just dropping it on the first person to produce cash. It should also rule out any person who is looking to pick up a quick flip as they’ll know you are a detail oriented seller interested in finding a perfect match. A blanket email should look something like this:

Hello (potential buyers name here)!

Mr Wonderful is still available. I am looking for a fantastic home for him. Before we get too deeply into this, I just want to ask you what you are looking for in a horse and to tell me a little more about you so I can determine if I think you and he would be an ideal match. I also want to let you know that any person who decides to buy Mr Wonderful will need to be willing to submit to a reference and site check, as well as sign a sales contract. He is a great horse and really deserves to find a fantastic home, here is hoping that is you!

Thank You!

How to Perform A Reference Check
Maybe your horse will get an arena with a view at their new home!

So you think you’ve found someone you really like to buy your horse. They probably said all the right things, got along great with your horse and seemed like a generally great person. Most likely you are probably judging their character correctly, but unfortunately really bad people can be REALLY good actors. I’ve been lucky enough in the past to have never sold a horse to a bad home—each and every person I’ve sold to have vetted out to be great people, or are people I am familiar with through friends or just the community.

Now that you have someone who is very interested in your horse, now is the time to discuss with them checking references and performing a site check, as well as letting them know you always sign a sales contract (that will be covered in the coming weeks). I feel the easiest way to communicate you all how to go about politely checking references, I will just give you an example of an email I’d send to a possible purchaser:

Dear Jane,
I am just thrilled that you and Mr Wonderful get along so well and I am very excited about you as a potential owner for him. I did discuss with you in our first email that I would request a reference and site check prior to selling him to whomever. After meeting you I think you will pass this step with flying colors. I just ask you to answer a few simple questions to confirm that you will be a great fit before you sign the sale contract!
1.      Where have you boarded before? For how long? Why did you leave?
2.      Have you ever worked in the equine industry? If so, where?
3.      Who is your current (or most recent) equine vet?
4.      Who is your current (or most recent) farrier?
5.      Have you ever shown? If so, which organization?
6.      Have you ever worked with a trainer or instructor? If so, who?

I’d also like to request three references, good references are equine friends you’ve had for a long time or perhaps people you have boarded or shown with. I’m certain you will check out great and can’t wait to move onto the site check and signing of the actual contract!

Thank You!

Once you have the answers to the questions above you can do a thorough background check. You are able to call the vet and farrier and ask how often they see the person, and their general feedback of the person. You can email previous trainers and instructors for their opinion, you can get a feel of their friends and their knowledge (usually the friends someone keeps is pretty similar to their care style and personality). It’s okay if someone is a beginner, but it is important they surround themselves with knowledgeable and kind people. You should get a pretty good feel for this from the references. You can also google their name and ask around the community if they live nearby.

How To Perform a Site Check
So now that you you know you have an honest, kind person on the line, the next step is to do a site check. Now I know you don’t always have all the time in the world to jump on over to some person’s house, but at some point the horse is going to have to make the trip to their house. Insist that you deliver the horse, and that can be your site check. A proper site check should determine fencing is safe and in good repair, there is shelter of some sort, the ground is not entirely mud (I know, the NW is known for mud—but anyone who has mud throughout their entire property is not making the proper efforts to keep up their property and/or has too many animals for their property to sustain).
A safe, pleasant, well lighted barn is the kind of home we'd all like for our horse!

Also important is to note whether water sources (whether they be troughs, auto waterers, buckets, garbage cans, streams) are in general clean and cool. You’ll also want to ask to see the feed room to make sure there is plenty of hay—you can also get an idea of it’s quality.

The most important part though is to see how the other horses on the property look and act. Generally the fact that they are even allowing you to look at their property should be a pretty good indicator of their honesty. A good thing about site checks is that you can inform the person as to how best to care for the horse—I see you feed alfalfa, he hasn’t ever had it so maybe change him over slowly, or maybe he doesn’t get along with grey mares, so maybe turn him out with that bay gelding. It’s the little things that will make the horses’ transition easier on everyone.

Occasionally you sell a horse out of state—I’ve only done it a few times, but often I find that asking for photos of the person with their horses, and photos of their farm (ask for recent pics and maybe some of their past faves). The most recent was a very kind, honest person and he was more than happy to share photos, which really made the transition pleasant and comfortable for both parties (he knew we were genuinely worried about where our horse would be which meant she must be good quality, and we knew she was going to a kind, knowledgeable person with a safe property).

Check Up on Them

Any good honest seller will want to see how their past horse is doing, no matter how much you didn’t get along with the horse. I always ask buyers to please update me as often as possible with info and pics of the horse. I tell them that if they ever have any questions or issues that they are welcome to come to me with them and I am happy to answer/help them through issues.

This gives them the comfort of knowing you are not just going to dump a problem horse on them and also give you the comfort of knowing how your old friend is doing. I’ve sold horses before I wasn’t particularly fond of, but I always find seeing them in their new homes with the perfect owner so gratifying, knowing that even though they weren’t the right horse for me, I was able to be selective enough to find the right one for them!
You don't ever want your horse ending up wearing one of these because of lack of due dilligence!

Well that’s all folks! Next week we discuss sales contracts!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

An Interruption to Your Regular Programming... chat about fantasy horsey Christmas gifts. Now we all know our ultimate gift would be a new horse, or a barn, or a trailer...I am talking things that are slightly more attainable. Slightly. So here are some of the (admittedly personalized) best fantasy Christmas gift ideas for that lovely horse-lady in your life:)

10. Newmarket Dress Sheet

What english rider hasn't coveted them at one point or another? And the best part is now you can more than the original gold/red/black! $125.99
9.) Ariat Bristol Jacket
Flattering fit, looks expensive and the most convenient color you can wear to the barn--brown! You can wear it to the barn, wash it and throw it on with your skinny jeans and cute boots for a darling winter look. OH so versatile ;) $109.95
8.) Pessoa Gen X XCH Saddle
Gorgeous leather, nice balance and a not terrible price makes this a lovely saddle for just about anyone. Price point is right there in the middle ground. $1519.00

7.) Custom Name Plates

The one I've listed is brass and is ALSO magnetic, which makes it ideal for metal barns, or for those of us who show and like to have name plates on our show stalls. A very thoughtful, and very REASONABLE gift:) $14.99

6.) Customized Padded Halters

This is one I don't have, and wish I did. Tons of colors to choose from, and endless fonts and styles of name plates. This particular brand is affordable and seems to be a nice quality. $99

5.) Cordoba Andalusian Riding Boots

Found at SmartPak, these gorgeous boots fit right in with out of the barn trends, while still being functional barn boots. Plenty of heel and rubber sole make them safe for riding, thick quality two-toned leather makes them good for wear, and the looks are certainly stand-out. Want! $274.95

4.) IRH Switch Tab Helmet

Safety, comfort and style? Check! The resurgence of the helmet came about a couple years ago when a well-known dressage rider Courtney King was injured in an everyday accident where her mount slipped and fell and caused her brain damage. Thank god for her, because I've always thought we should all be wearing helmets, but of course nobody thought it was cool. Now not only is it okay to wear a helmet, it can be downright stylish! The IRH makes one good helmet, nicely shaped and well-fitting and this one brings it to a whole nother level. You can satisfy your need for bling and color while at home, and still have the ability to change out that center tab to black or silver if you want to show in your helmet--as you should:) $99.95

3.) Gersemi Full Seat Breeches

Lovely fit, good quality and soooo cute! At $178.95 they really aren't terribly priced either, for good quality breeches!

2.) Oakcraft Plaid Tack Trunk

WANT. NOW. But seriously, so gorgeous, and useful too! Yes, I am aware they are as much as some horses, but these will LAST. Right? The price tag on this baby is $934.95

1.) Artemis Black/Brown Padded Bridle

I love this bridle. With it being brown and black you can use it with both your hunter and your dressage saddle, just remove the flash! Classy, flashy and still not obnoxious. This baby runs $179 and is totally worth it!

That is all! If I had everything on this list, I'd be one spoiled girl! Maybe someday!:)


Saturday, December 8, 2012

Make An Effort!

One thing that I see a lot these days, thanks to Craigslist, is people thinking they can slap a list of attributes up, say how much they love their horse, and post some random picture and expect to get $5000 for their horse. When someone makes them a reasonable offer based on the effort amassed in the advertising of their horse, they get offended.

I'd like to share a story of a friend of mine.

She had a nicely bred, cute little mare. She got her from a dispersal sale along with another mare. She planned to work with both of them, and keep the one that suited her more as a barrel prospect. The one that didn't, she would work with and sell.

The mare she kept was a little older, and a little stouter. The little mare was nicely put together, smart, and bred nicely to be a speed horse. She had worked with the two and just preferred the personality of the bigger mare. 

She started out trying to give her away to a good home that would use her.
She advertised her lightly (by word of mouth, on Facebook)with a little interest, but couldn't quite get someone to bite.

I suggested she let me take some photos of the mare, and help her throw some ads out there. I offered to do it for free, so really there was no reason to say no:)

The mare, although quality, was a little rough. Had a bit of sunbleaching, and her coat/tail/mane a bit brittle. She had been halter broke and thrown out to pasture for 3 years, so though she was coming around, she didn't love being messed with. Very no-nonsense kind of girl. Friend groomed her up the best she could, and I found the best places I could to take pics.

It was late summer so the grass was dead, no real flowers to speak of and the farm didn't have much in the way of clear wall-space or areas without fences competing for attention. Because she was still wary of new people, and situations we opted to do photos in the round pen and arena so as not to overwhelm her.

Here is what pic my friend had been using to advertise her mare:

If you have a good eye you can see the quality here, but really it's just a picture of the mare eating. Not much to attract you to her over a million other chestnut QH mares right?
So about an hour total spent grooming and photographing garnered these photos:

Really did the mare some favors. She originally listed her on July 1, 2012. We did photos the end of August, and she was sold by Oct. She got $700 for her and she is getting saddle broke and loved in her beautiful new home. My friend checked references, was very honest and had the buyer sign an airtight contract--even for $700 (ESPECIALLY! for $700) to ensure her mare didn't end up going to slaughter, or starving in someone's mudpit of a pasture.

It really pays to take the time to properly advertise!


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Writing Ad Copy--Craigslist Style!

A good example of the type of photo NOT to use in a CL ad:) (Me and my Rescue Ellie)

This blog will be a quick one!

When writing an ad for your horse on craigslist, please refrain from doing the following:

IceeZ is my favorite pony. She is pritty when she stands out in the pasture. She doesn't really do anything but eat. She is 10 years old, and I 've ridden on. her two times bareback. She knows how to jump 6', I know because she jumps out of the pasture all the time! She is 14.1hh so she's the perfect heighth(not a real word folks!) for anyone, or Could even be a kids pony!!!!!! I think she cld be a great 4-H prospect!!!< I'm asking $100 for her and she comes with all of her tack, even a pink Wintec saddle! To good home slotter people!!!:(

The biggest mistake here is that the asking price is just asking for a kill buyer to come pick your pony up, and make some money on her. Not ONLY do they get a pony for a good price, but they get all of her stuff with her which they can also sell and make a profit on. If you insist on a low asking price, please perform a proper site check, references and a signed and notarized contract (all of which will be covered in another post).

Here is an example of what this person could write instead:

Iceez is a 10yo 14.1hh large pony. Very attractive and would make a fantastic project pony. She is not broke to ride, but has had ground work done. She has shown some talent for jumping, but would suggest anybody interested in a hunter pony come out and take her through a jump chute and see her move. Good minded, but very green. Will require site check, references and a contract. Her tack is available for sale at a nominal fee to buyer. $500 OBO

And that, folks is how you write a professional sounding, concise ad!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Photography 101

The first and most important blog post is going to be a simple guide to taking good, clean photos that will advertise your horse at it's best. Or at least the best it can look at that point in time. I will give my three biggest hints on photographing here. I am by no means a professional, just an amatuer who loves to play around, but I've found a good picture doesn't take long to get if you know your basics.

1.) Shoot your photographs from a chair.

I kid you not! When you take your photos from a chair and at a distance it takes all the guesswork out of the height of your photos. If you are a tall person like me it is easy to make the horse look short, ugly and any number of other distortions that make for an unappealing photo. The horse in the photo below is 14.1hh on a good day. I took his photo from a chair from about 100 feet away with a long lens. He looks like a good height, and there are no distortions (ie his body looks well balanced) so his legs look like a normal length, his head doesn't look large and his hip (which is slightly weak) doesn't look terribly so.

2.) Pick an aesthetically pleasing, but not distracting background.

Most people will tell you a wall, or some sort of greenery is preferred, and in most cases I agree. However if the wall you have available is an ugly color, dirty and/or otherwise not aesthetically pleasing, don't do it! I personally prefer to find a pretty bush, some nice trees or a nice flat area in front of a pretty garden or view (mountain, pond, etc). Ideally photos would be on gravel or pavement clear of weeds and manure, with some sort of nice background. Proof that background makes a difference (now wouldn't this photo be prettier if there wasn't a manure pile behind her?--yeah that's my fault):

3.) ALWAYS clip and bathe prior to photos.

I don't care if it's the middle of winter and your horse is a fuzzy yak, they should be clean and have no whiskers. If your horse doesn't clip--use scissors to minimize the old-man beard. If they have nasty dirty legs--wash them! I don't care if it's super duper cold--legs are SUPPOSED to be cold. Wash the legs, and rub them dry with a towel. Soft scrub soap with oxi-clean works well and won't leave purple dye on them if you are worried you won't get it all off before they are done. If they are a hairy yak and it is FREEZING out, curry the heck out of your horse and brush then HOT water and some show sheen in a bucket works--dunk a rag in, ring it out so it is just damp and scrub the horse in circular motions. Then when they are dry, take a dust rag (the kind that are sort of static-y?) and spray with show sheen or use a bit of baby oil and show sheen combined and wipe em down! Baby oil on face, baby oil or quick braid applied to tail head, mane forelock, and ears makes a nice neat appearance. Hint: don't go to heavy on the baby oil!:) A little show sheen or baby oil on the feet if you will be in grass or on pavement or non-dusty gravel makes a nice finish. Amazing what a tiny bit of baby oil does for a head, even if the rest of the horse is scruffy and suffering from oild man beard syndrome. Note: this is my retired horse--she lives in a pasture so has to keep her whiskers:)

Okay folks, that is all for today! But no worries, I have plenty to share to improve your photography skills--and help you sell your horse!

The Reasoning

So I am soooo tired of people complaining about how they can't sell/re-home their horses. I know this economy is terrible, but as far as I can tell if you put some effort and time into it you can sell/re-home just about anything. This blog will be my attempt at educating the masses, and improving the horse market one sale at a time!

Each blog post will be one hint at how better to advertise your horse. Topics will range from Photography 101, to ad copy 101. Each blog will teach you how to best photograph your horse, where your horse ought to be advertised, how to price your horse, how to write a clear concise ad that won't seem like you are over or under selling your horse, hwo to communicate with potential purchases, how to perform a site check, and what kinds of documentation you'll need to ensure you are fully protected once the sale is finalized.

I plan to make this super-simple to read, and as the blog materializes I'd love to add your success stories (ie before and after photos, great sales stories and rescues) for proof that my advice has helped at least one of you!

So onward and upward we go! Enjoy:)