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