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We have now reached one of the most difficult parts of owning a horse – deciding when to sell your beloved friend.  For some owners, they will be able to keep their first horse for the duration of the horse’s life.  Those lucky enough to keep their first horse are able to do so because: they may continue to be comfortable to ride at their horse’s level, they may have the money and the place to keep this treasured equine or may they lease him to a suitable partner.  For most riders however time, money constraints, or the desire for advanced work beyond the capabilities of a beginning horse require that they must sell their first horse.

The first step in this process is recognizing that there is a need for change in your current situation.  Perhaps you have been considering going away to college and your parents have pointed out that they cannot afford tuition and horse board.  Or, you have had a successful summer competing and your trainer has mentioned that you are ready to move up and your beginner mount is no longer suitable.  Or, your job and family are placing additional demands on your available time and you are no longer able to ride on a regular basis.  You realize something must change in your horse situation.

Take into consideration what will be best for both you and your horse.  What do you want for him? You want him to be comfortable, loved, and happy in his work.  Therefore, you must take some time and figure out in what type of situation would your horse be happiest.  Then you need to find a person that will provide your horse with this sort of situation.  Another important question to ask is what do you want for you?  This is often more complicated because of the conflict of emotion and logic.  Emotionally, it may be difficult for you to part with your friend; you feel sad, lonely, or even angry at the thought that you may have to sell your horse.  On the other hand, you may know that your horse will get more attention with someone else, or be more comfortable being ridden at a less advanced level.  It can require some time for our logic to win out over our emotions.  Take the time to go through this thought process fully.

If you are at a boarding or training barn, your instructor and/or barn manager would be the first place to start in finding your horse a new owner.  They know how your horse behaves, what he is like to work around, and what he is best suited to do.  They will also probably have a long list of people looking for horses.  They may be able to point you in the right direction.  You can also advertise your horse through a number of different avenues: a local club’s newsletter, on bulletin boards, the Internet, and in magazines.  You must be prepared with the information on your horse prior to placing your ads, so you will be able to answer inquiries in a timely fashion.

You will want copies of your horse’s papers and show records (if applicable), be able to explain your horse’s soundness history, temperament, and training levels.  Tell prospective buyers what you have done with the horse, why you are selling it, and what type of situation you feel the horse would be happiest in.  Have a couple conformation shots of your horse that you can send to customers that are out of town.  A good video showing your horse standing, moving free in a paddock or arena, and being ridden will help potential buyers narrow down their prospect list.  Consider all marketing and mailing costs as part of the expense of selling your horse.

Once someone has decided to come try your horse you will want to make sure he is presented in the best possible fashion.  Have your horse groomed and waiting for the client to try.  You want him to look his best!  Ride him for a few minutes, showing what he knows and how you usually work him.  The prospective buyer will then want to ride your horse (if they have a trainer with them, they may also ride).  If they are interested, they may want to try the horse a couple of times.  The more you can tell them about the horse, the better they can make a decision on if it is a suitable match for them.

Occasionally, a prospective buyer will ask if they may take your horse home on a trial basis.  This is a difficult decision for you to consider.  Most sellers will not allow this option and just explain that the person is welcome to try the horse a number of times at their facility, but that they are not comfortable letting the horse go out of their care.  Other sellers draw up a detailed contract stating who is responsible for any vet care, transportation, insurance, etc. while the horse is out on trial.  A check is usually held by the seller for the full purchase price of the horse.  If the sale does not go through, the check is returned after the horse is returned in the same condition as it left.  As you can tell, there can be a number of conflicts in this process and therefore, trial periods are quite rare.

Before you advertise your horse on the market, be sure you are ready to sell.  Nothing is more frustrating or difficult on you or a prospective buyer than if you keep changing your mind on selling your horse.  There are ways you can become more comfortable with a prospective purchaser.  Ask them lots of questions: where will they keep the horse, what is their experience level, what do they plan on doing with the horse.  If they are local, you could even ask to see their facilities where the horse would be staying.

The day your horse leaves may be a very sad and emotional one for you.  For some people it is easier to say goodbye the day before when the have plenty of time to spend loving on their horse.  For others, they prefer to be there as the horse leaves.  Focus on the happy times you have had with your horse and realize that, as painful as this may be for you, you are acting in the long-term best interest of your equine friend.


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