The Fear of Honesty: Pitfalls in Selling Horses
Friday 20 January 2012
When trying to sell a horse, it can be terribly difficult to know what to say to potential clients. Sellers are terrified of saying the wrong thing and scaring off a buyer before they even see the horse. Because of this, horse selling has become a tangled web of truths and untruths.
You hear it all the time: buyers bemoaning the lack of honest sellers. They go to look at a horse advertised as 16.2hh only to discover that the horse is only 15.3hh. They try a horse that is supposed to be well trained over fences only to discover that the horse stops at anything bigger than a cross-rail. How can any buyer trust a horse seller if this is what they encounter?
On the other hand, how many buyers turn away as soon as they hear that a horse is only 16hh? They refuse to look at anything advertised as less than 16.2hh because they know that everything will in fact be around 16hh – which is just what they are looking for. And yet, the honest seller who has measured his horse is penalized by the buyers who won’t even go see the horse.
As you look around at message boards or horsy joke sites you see lists of cliché statements that sellers make and what they “really” mean. Statements like “needs an experienced rider” are taken to mean that the horse is a maniac, or “free jumps over 4’” means that the horse is an escape artist and jumps out if his paddock. So, what can you say that will not be taken as exaggeration, or even as fiction?
It has come to the point where sellers have no idea what to say. On top of this there is the difficulty of pricing a horse. If a horse is well trained, easy to ride and otherwise a great animal, how do you price it? If you price it too low, everyone wonders what is wrong with it that you are not telling them. If you price it too high, buyers compare it to horses selling at half the price with the same claims to fame. Strangely enough, the same price can have totally opposite reactions from different buyers, one feeling it is far too little, and the other feeling it is far too much.
Buyers feel that the honest horse seller no longer exists. The seller feels that it doesn’t matter what he says – no one will believe him. How can these two ends meet?
There isn’t an easy solution. Ideally a seller should be honest about his horse, telling potential buyers the truth about the size, type, training, personality and even vices that a horse may have. Buyers should take this at face value and be willing to look at a horse even if it might fall slightly short of what they are looking for.
Far too many buyers ignore perfectly good animals that are honestly presented by their owners only to go out and spend thousands of dollars buying a horse that turns out to have serious issues. Add to this the escalated prices demanded by coaches and trainers on the take, and neither the buyer nor the seller have a fair shake at things.
Buying a horse isn’t easy, and neither is selling one. With buyers complaining of not being able to find a good horse, and sellers complaining of not having a market, somehow both ends need to meet. What can we do to fix this critical fault in the system? How can we make horse buying and selling honest?