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There is an excellent four part series of blog posts happening over at Citizen Horse at the moment. It's so good I thought I'd bring it to your attention, especially as it's related to the post here a week or so back on buying a horse. This series is on a different aspect of horse buying - price.

"Horse prices are entirely dependent on spenders." By this she means, "A horse is worth as much as a buyer is willing to spend. Yes, it’s true. That $500 plug of a horse could sell for $25,000 if a buyer with the money and the lack of experience is found and is looking for something close to what that $500 plug has to offer."

How does this happen?
"At least with buying a used car, the Kelly Blue Book gives a general idea of what cars should be worth. Of course, there is much background behind each car completely foreign to potential buyers, but a title search allows prospectors to determine vehicle accidents, number of owners, and hopefully, accurate mileage. Horses have no such guidebook or history lookup and there are so many variables to buying a horse."

Now I know not everyone has that sort of cash spare to throw at a horse, but some people do, and plenty of people are sucked into the 'you get what you pay for' mentality. With horses, it's not so cut and dried. Some horses are worth their weight in gold. Some simply are not. As Citizen Horse explains, big barns can have a vested interest in inflating horse prices. When it comes to private buyers:

"The private seller has a difficult time putting a value on their horse. Most people over-value their own animals because it is personal. It’s fair; you put your time, sweat, money, and emotions into this animal. You want to see your horse get a good home, you also think the time and money put into the horse is going to pay off. There is nothing wrong with this - unless you actually want to sell your horse."

A lot of private sellers believe that they should be able to recoup what they paid plus training fees spent on the horse (or something similar). This is simply not realistic. What is realistic is the horse's level of training, history, injuries, potential, useful years left, and for the rider;

"Before even thinking about wants, a buyer must assess their goals and riding situation. Realistically, what does a buyer want to do with their future horse? How long do they anticipate riding, realistically? And are they looking for re-sale value or a horse for life?"

Answering these questions will help a rider determine what a reasonable price would be to cover their needs.

"A first time horse buyer purchasing a six figure horse is completely ridiculous. There is no reason, outside of having money to lose, that a newcomer to the sport should by buying a horse worth as much as a house."

"A made 14-17 year old horse (depending on the level the horse can continue to train/compete) should not be selling for six figures. Sure, if the horse could pack ANYONE around a 4'6? course AND stay sound AND do it for a few years…maybe…MAYBE…I could see the value in that. But if it is a horse to take lessons on, to be “social” with out at the barn, to continue learning, and to show in long stirrup or AA hunters/jumpers, forget it.

A schoolmaster dressage horse shouldn’t sell for six figures. Most likely any horse that made has been pounded into the ground leaving very few jumps or tests left in them physically. In this instance of horse valuation, the level of training and accomplishments by said horse should be discounted by the amount of possible remaining use."

"Can a horse REALLY be worth $125,000?
Very few. A handful of extremely talented sport horses can be worth six figures. These six figure sport horses all have the talent, the brain, and the physical soundness to compete at the very upper levels of their sport. Most likely, these are professional’s horses. Horses with incredible talent aren’t usually easy to ride. That doesn’t mean they are crazy, psycho horses; just that talented mounts often need very good, very accurate piloting in order to reach their potential and often STAY at their potential."

And so on to some of the soundest advice on buying a horse that is out there:

"If you call a big barn and say “I’m looking for a hunter to show long stirrup” and the trainer asks you what your price range is…DO NOT TELL THEM HOW MUCH MONEY YOU HAVE TO SPEND ON A HORSE UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES. Let them tell you about the horses they have for sale and the price for those sale horses. You can determine from there if there is anything you want to look at.

Do NOT buy a horse for $100,000 unless you are riding at a very high level and the horse is proven to perform at a very high level. If you are looking for a first horse, a safe horse, a pretty horse, a horse you can show—even at the upper levels, I can promise you there is a horse out there perfectly priced between $4000-$10,000."

And all I would add is that there are plenty of great starter horses out there for way, way less than $4000.

Photo by ireallylovecake


I don't know where the writer of the article lives, but in the world the rest of us live in, a good horse can be had for a lot less than $4000.00. Of course, potential use has to be factored in. So the question really is, what IS a good horse?

I have a Reg. TN Walker,a daughter of Generator's My Papa, a NICE horse, I got for $700.00. I have a beautiful Morgan mare someone gave to me free. Now, would a profes-sional ride mine? Probably not. But I expect your site is not intended just for pros.

Bottom line: the question of what someone is willing to pay is only one factor of the price equation. Just as important is, "To what use is the horse to be put?" A horse for pleasure and trail riding, in today's equine /economic environ-ment, can be had for a LOT less than $4000.00.

There are plenty of $500.00 horses out there and they are NOT all plugs.

9:50 PM  

My first reaction to the lady on the phone is “How did you get this rich and be this dumb?” but actually here in Wyoming the story is frequently the same, the numbers are just much much lower. I get calls everyday from people, usually women, who have bought a horse that is out of their control level. These ladies want me to take this horse and train it to be the horse they thought they bought. I often tell them that 'I can ride that horse now, but they can’t' and they will not be able to much better after I have smoothed him out. The problem is not the horse but the rider and the same goes for the deal when they bought the horse. The problems are not generally with the horse but with the buyer.

Good article Phil; who I think would agree that the first thing these buyers need (before a horse) are some classes or training. Hang around some horse people, find someone you trust and listen to them. If one of them tells you they have a $2000 lead rope that will make your bronc into Flicka do what this lady did, call a reputable trainer.

11:00 PM  

My experience has been: PATIENCE!
DO NOT rush into buying a horse. Chances are, you'll end up with something too expensive and not at all suited to your needs. And guess what? When you turn around to sell it, you'll lose big time. My Husband and I waited two years before we hit the jackpot. We wanted two trail horses for pleasure riding. We found two very level-headed, not over-trained, sound geldings with LOTS of fun years left in them. Guess what we paid? $1800.00 for Cam, and $900.00 for Dusty.
When you look at a horse, if your gut feeling is that something isn't right, WALK AWAY. If you're not sure what to look for, bring an experienced horse person along with you. You'll save yourself a lot of frustration in the end.

1:19 AM  

good article, practical and sane. i do agree with anonymous that taking an experienced horse person along is important. now, if we can just get the "newbies" to read this BEFORE they buy the horse!

1:31 AM  

Good "Start" for the article to help people have an idea...but TOOOO many people buy horses...heck dogs for that matter...and they have no IDEA what they bought no matter what the just seemed like a good idea at the time...I have been helping with horse and dog rescue for over 30 years...and there are many TOP level and easy level horses out there that are FREE or for an adoption price...and not only that...there are MANY MANY barns that owners have LEFT their horses behind never to return and the stable will sell you the horse for the amount of board owed...bottom line DON'T GET A HORSE IF YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING...they live a long time....and you NEVER get back the money you put in unless like he wrote "HIGH LEVEL SHOWING" and even then I see so many parents buying their children horses for a hobby to show and think they will get all their money back...NO...VERY anything you have to take care of ...price and cost of taking care of the animal!!! Like one person said TAKE YOUR TIME...many many good beautiful horses out there....I bought one of mine for $2000.00 and he had won at the World who knows....the horse world can take you for a ride when it comes to TAKING YOUR MONEY!!....Be careful...too many people in the horse world LIE and medicate the horse before you come to see visit the horse many different times and just show up if you can to REALLY SEE what the horse is like....good luck! I guess I went into too many directions...sorry...horses loss there value most of the time so you can't price it for more unless you have taken it to a higher level of showing or training.

6:36 AM  

I agree I think pricing and putting a value on a horse is really tricky. It's so arbituary and often it comes down to what someone is willing to pay and we all have different slighly different criteria of needs when buying a horse. I am in the process of buying a horse myself and I stumbled across this website that publishes the average advertised prices of the horses advertised (they have about 20,000 ads), based on height, breed, age and gender. Whilst it's only a guide I have found it really interesting. The also have an article on pricing horses.

10:03 PM  

I know by experiance that the prices of horses depend on the area you are looking to buy. In Spain, eventing horses and ponies are very expensive because they are so rare.

2:50 AM  

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