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!
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!
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!