Good horsemanship is built on solid basics…so is good business!

Posted by Lisa Derby Oden
Lisa Derby Oden
I've been fortunate to be involved with horses throughout my life... so far that
User is currently offline
on Thursday, 27 March 2014
in Marketing

Is Selling Horses Like Selling Houses?


What an odd question you might think, so let’s break this apart a little. A facility owner asked about marketing ideas for horse sales because old techniques aren’t working. Digging a little deeper I learn that horse sales represent 8% of their business though it used to be much larger. The horses are everything from Cleveland Bay, Quarter Horse, Andalusian, Hanoverian to any cross breed, ranging in price from $500 to $20,000, and sold to the local dressage community, boarders and local barns.


It’s true that many facilities offer a variety of services as well as horse sales so they have a diversified revenue stream. If one stream takes a dip the impact can be painful. It’s also true that technology has taken quantum leaps forward with all the social media, smart phones, QR codes, the cloud, YouTube….and to keep up with ALL of it can be daunting. I think there are other nuances to this situation beyond needing updated marketing techniques however.


It’s a buyer’s market these days and has been for a while, just like it is with houses. This shift from seller’s market to buyer’s market did not happen overnight, but rather incrementally. Certainly the change in the economy in 2008 had a significant impact, as the horse industry relies on discretionary income and so many people lost theirs. Many people have gotten their feet back under themselves, but the economy continues to cast a shadow over the horse industry. The market for horses priced at $30,000 and above has remained good. Those that are in this market may have a little more financial padding than others in the price brackets below that.


There is also the impact of the backyard breeder. During the last 30 years we have seen recreational horses “mainstreamed” in a way like never before. Along with that came the backyard breeder who had a mare and wanted a baby so produced one. This person does not necessarily need to see the financial return of their efforts, and so is able to undercut the market.


Youth are a big part of the horse industry, and girls and their love for horses is legendary. People that do really well with horses usually focus on this activity, or rather are possessed by it. Today’s youth are different than past generations. They do everything, rather than pick one or two activities to perhaps excel in. This has also impacted the pipeline for lessons, showing, leasing and eventually owning a horse.


So here’s the question: Are you still in touch with market? How has your target market changed? Is it a sluggish market, requiring a longer time to sell? Is the market glutted with other options? Will changing marketing techniques change if the target market has changed? And is selling horses like selling houses?


Here are some tips that realtors make use of:


1) Be prepared for the marathon, not the sprint. Just like houses, putting a horse on the market now requires patience and the knowledge that horses aren’t selling overnight.


2) Facebook your horses. Sooooo…..that means you should be on Facebook and have lots of followers. In this age of technology, underneath it all the technology relies on building relationships. Before technology, relationships and networks were key to selling. They still are, just with an online twist.


3) Take short video clips for prospective buyers to view. Include time under saddle, showing if appropriate, grooming, at turn out, and any special characteristics the horse may have. Post the clips on your website and Facebook.


4) Offer a roadmap to success. Can you offer a limited-time trial (read short-term lease) on the horse so the potential buyer can start to get to know the horse, and hopefully fall in love? Can you bundle lessons, coaching or training with the sale to help the new owner get established?


5) Consider financing the sale. Do a credit check first. If you finance the sale, get the sale set up so that the payment is automatic each month.


6) Consider low offers – and negotiate. This is already a common practice in the horse industry. Probe a little more to find out why the prospective buyer thinks the horse is not worth your selling price. You’ll discover what their “values” are and can potentially speak to meeting that need.


7) Make use of “co-brokers.” Instructors and trainers typically get a commission when they are involved in selling a horse. But can you turn your other clients in sales people for you too by offering some kind of incentive to them if they bring someone to you that buys the horse?



Now it’s your turn. Share your stories and ideas here about selling horses in a buyer’s market.

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About the author

Lisa Derby Oden

I've been fortunate to be involved with horses throughout my life... so far that is! Early in my career I owned and operated Derby Farm, a riding stable in Buxton, Maine. I have also worked as a freelance riding instructor and bring all this practical experience to my consulting work. Blue Ribbon Consulting focuses on business and nonprofit development in the equine industry. I provide evaluation, planning, research, marketing and problem-solving services to take you successfully through all your horse business transitions. I've worked with clients around the world, and have received state and national honors for my work in the equine industry. Since I love this industry and believe in it, I've also been a nonprofit founder, board member, and executive officer for local, state and national organizations. I've worked with nonprofits in strategic planning, program development, corporate development, fundraising, grant writing and grant administration. Part of this wonderful journey has also allowed me to serve as adjunct faculty and guest lecturer at several universities, and to deliver business development, marketing, and leadership seminars throughout the United States. I also developed and oversaw the Entrepreneurs Resource Center for a community college. I've published two books, have been a columnist and freelance writer for many trade publications, and am a partner in the CD series “Inventing Your Horse Career.”


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