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The Ultimate Guide To Selling A Horse Online - Everything You Need To Know!

There are many reasons why one might wish to sell a horse. Plenty of reputable people make a living from taking on horses and training them up with the intention of being sold on. Others may simply have to face the fact that their trusty steed is no longer suitable for the job they need them for or that due to a change in circumstance, keeping them is no longer viable.

Whatever the reason for selling a horse, it is essential that the horse’s long term welfare be considered in all aspects of the sale. This makes finding the right buyer imperative in order to secure a safe future for your horse.

With that in mind, we have created this extensive guide to selling your horse, so as to equip you with the knowledge and information you need to sell successfully online.

How to use this guide…

There are 8 main sections to this selling guide. We’ve broken it down so as to ensure that you can quickly and easily find the section most relevant to your stage in the selling process. Simply click on one of the titles below;

  • Preparing your horse for sale - Tips on what you can do to maximise your horse’s sale potential, before placing your ‘for sale’ advert
  • Constructing your advert - Advice on creating an informative and appealing online listing for your horse to attract interest from buyers
  • Communicating with potential buyers - How to keep buyers interested whilst assessing the best match for your horse
  • Preparing for a viewing - What to do in advance of a buyer visiting your horse, in order to ensure it goes as smoothly as possible
  • During a viewing - Guidance on how to increase the chances of making a sale and check that the buyer is right for your horse
  • Pre-sale considerations - Some final points to think about once you’ve found a buyer, before making the sale final
  • Making the sale - Details on negotiating a fair price and providing the relevant legal documentation
  • Post-sale reassurance - Pointers on ensuring the ongoing care of your horse within their new home

Preparing your horse for sale

It’s easy to assume that the first logical step in selling a horse is to create your advert listing in order to get your horse seen by potential buyers. However, there is some important work you can do first to ensure your horse sells for a great price and finds a suitable home.

Check what they are comfortable with

It’s important to expose your horse or pony to the kinds of things that may take place during the buying process. If they’ve only ever been in contact with a small number of riders or handlers, getting them used to different, unfamiliar people can be a great way to ensure they don’t react unexpectedly on a viewing. If you’re selling a youngster, make sure they will lead happily and quietly in hand for a range of people, and are ok with having their legs and feet stroked or touched.

Establish what else they are happy doing, such as being lunged, trotted in hand, and loaded into a horsebox or trailer (make sure to check both as you never know what size vehicle a potential buyer could arrive to collect in!), and then work on any areas in which they seem to have difficulty.

Check the horse’s reactions to various activities and stimuli, such as clipping and shoeing, and note down anything that appears to be distracting or frightening whilst out hacking (traffic, other animals, noises, etc) so you can write the most accurate ad description possible.

We also recommend keeping the horse in regular work until their sale, so they can be seen at their best by potential buyers.

Doing all of this before advertising your horse for sale allows you to get to know the horse well in all areas, work on any weaknesses and ensure they are fit for the purpose for which you are selling them, without the time pressure of queries and viewings.

Constructing your advert

The best way to sell your horse, whilst retaining full control over who they are sold to, is to sell online using one of the many equine classified sites available. Some sites will cater more to specific disciplines or breeds of horse, while others will accept listings irrelevant of the type of horse being sold. Here at Horsemart, we have seen thousands of users successfully buy and sell horses of any type, breed, level or price, so placing an ad with us is a great place to start - our testimonials speak for themselves!

When constructing your advert, there are plenty of things you can do to ensure it gets the attention it deserves, so here are a few of our top tips for creating a successful ad for your horse or pony.

The power of a good title

All too often we see ‘horses for sale’ adverts with very generic titles that don’t describe the unique qualities of the horse being sold. The title of your advert is the first piece of written information that the buyer will see, therefore, writing an engaging and informative title is key to making your ad stand out against the rest, and getting that crucial click through to your ad details. Instead of simply writing “7yr Old All-Rounder For Sale”, try something like “Beautifully Produced 7yo Gelding - Potential In All Disciplines”.

Always cover the basics

When listing your horse for sale, make sure you fill out any details you are prompted to, even if they aren’t mandatory for your listing. Even if you plan to mention the horse’s height, breed, age, etc in the description, by leaving these fields empty in the listing process, you are potentially restricting browsing customers from viewing this information from the category page, or you may even find your ad is no longer visible once filters have been applied to their search.

Whilst filling out all available fields is a great start, there are often further basic details that a buyer would require before even making an enquiry. The best way to make sure you’ve covered all the vital information is to imagine yourself as the buyer and ask yourself what you would want to know as a bare minimum.

Keep your description factual

While we all want to make sure that any potential buyer understands how much we love or cherish the horse we are selling, overdoing it on these points within your description won’t help a buyer to make an informed decision. It can also mean that the important bits get overlooked. Keep your description as factual as possible, focusing on breeding, temperament, training/show record, condition and potential. It’s best to ensure you also disclose any quirks or vices at this stage, so they don’t come as a surprise to the buyer later on in the buying process.

It’s also worth mentioning the type of rider you feel your horse would suit, as although this is not necessarily factual information, it goes a long way to helping a potential buyer get an idea of whether your horse is suited to them. This also reduces the number of unsuitable enquiries or viewings you might have, and therefore ensures there is no wasted time and effort on both parts.

Pick a price point

Although it might be tempting to leave your options open by putting ‘POA’ on your ad, this can deter a lot of buyers from even enquiring, as they have no idea at all what you might be looking for. Putting an actual price on your listing gives potential buyers a ballpark figure, and you can always use your top-end/ideal price but state that you are open to sensible offers. This also leaves you room to drop the price slightly, if you find you don't get as much interest as you were initially hoping. Be aware, however, that drastically overpricing will mean you risk losing time and credibility. If you don’t feel comfortable or experienced enough to price your horse fairly yourself, we recommend asking the advice of a yard owner or trainer who has recently been involved in selling horses of the same breed or discipline.

It’s also helpful to state whether there are any added extras included in the price, such as tack, rugs and equipment. Often, the tack and equipment used for a specific horse is not going to be that useful to you after their sale, so this can also be a handy bargaining chip for agreeing a slightly higher final price with your buyer.

Picture perfect

They say a picture speaks a thousand words, and when it comes to selling a horse, this couldn’t be more true! We can’t stress how important it is to accompany your description with high quality, clear and descriptive photos… and lots of them! They should be in focus, with good contrast (not too dark, not too light). If you don’t have any existing shots that fit the bill, then we advise taking them fresh for the purposes of sale, focussing on what a buyer would want to see. They should also aim to show your horse in their best light, so give them a good groom and tidy up before embarking on a photo-taking session.

Ideally, you’ll want to use a proper DSLR camera or equivalent to avoid distortion of the images, which can end up making a horse look a very funny shape! If a camera phone is your only option, be sure to take the shots from a distance of at least 6 or 7 metres away and hold the phone horizontally (in landscape mode), parallel to the horse; do not shoot from below or above and ensure one side of the phone isn’t closer to the horse than the other. It’s best to take pictures outside with the sun behind you so as to avoid glare and light the horse well.

Popular and effective ads often feature at least one headshot, one side-on confirmation shot and several photos of the horse in action / being ridden. Make sure the full-body shots are exactly that (don’t crop parts of the horse out of the image) and that the photos are an accurate representation of the horse and their abilities. Professionally taken images are great, but try to avoid using any with watermarks as they will not be accepted by many sites.

Go one step further...

Want to really maximise your ad listing? Then we recommend including a video as well as photos. This will allow you to show off the horse to their full potential and give the buyer an idea of how the horse works in each gait and its level of training. If the horse in question is particularly skilled in one discipline, make sure to include examples of this in the video. Try to keep it fairly short and sweet to avoid losing the viewers’ attention; 2-3 minutes or less should be enough to demonstrate their movement in each gait and their extra talents.

Communicating with potential buyers

This is a crucial stage in the success of your sale, as without the necessary information, buyers are unlikely to arrange a viewing to come and see your horse in person. However, this shouldn’t be seen as a one-way street for them to quiz you - communicating with interested parties also allows you to ask any questions you might have about the suitability of a potential buyer, so this should be approached as a helpful process for all involved.

Be responsive

It can be tricky to stay on top of communications, especially if you’re getting a lot of enquiries, but taking the time to properly and punctually respond to a potential buyer can be the difference between making the sale or not. Despite how quickly horses often sell on Horsemart (just check out our testimonials!), it can often be a much more drawn-out process, so don’t limit your options by dismissing interest too early due to lack of response, or putting all your eggs in one basket with a potential buyer you ‘think’ should convert into a buyer.

Be honest

When in communications with an interested party, keep your answers to their questions factual and honest, and don’t fall foul to claiming something you are not 100% sure about - you’re better off telling them you’re not sure than meeting an issue with it down the line.

Legally, you should disclose information about any health or training/behavioural issues, and we advise doing this as early on as possible. This could include providing the buyer with anything from their lameness history or details of any maintenance required to keep them sound, to stable vices or dangerous behaviours, such as bucking, rearing, kicking or biting. For the sake of your horse, be truthful about the reasons you are selling them. There’s no point in hiding things about them that are going to come out down the line, only for them to be deemed unsuitable for their intended purpose, as they will likely be sold on very quickly, at which point you won’t have a say in who they are sold to.

If you have any doubts about any existing or potential issues, then we recommend disclosing whatever it is and recording it in writing. Freely providing this information - along with authorising your vet to release the horse’s records to the buyer - not only covers your back as a seller, but also instills trust in your potential buyer, as any issues are likely to be discovered at some point in the buying process anyway. It’s also a great way to discourage price negotiations, as buyers often want to use unexpected results of pre-purchase vet checks to leverage a lower price. Buyers are much more likely to pay the price stated if there are no unexpected issues that crop up.

Under consumer protection regulations, a buyer can return the horse if not fit for the intended purpose, in which case you would be required to issue them with a full refund as well as cover the cost of any expenses incurred in their purchase. So honesty is always the best policy.

Put your horse’s welfare first

Asking the right questions of anyone enquiring about your horse will put you in a much better position when it comes to finding them a suitable home. Find out what their intended use for the horse is, their level of experience and what facilities they have, before even offering them a viewing. Establishing early on whether a buyer could be the right match for your horse can save precious time and money in viewings and vettings, both for yourself and the buyer.

Encourage a viewing and a vetting

The best way to ensure a potential buyer is the best match for your horse is to meet them on a viewing. We would always encourage a buyer not to commit to the purchase of any horse before having at least seen, if not ridden, the horse in question. This allows the buyer to check that everything you have stated in your advert is accurate, and allows you to check that the buyer is legitimate.

We also advise all buyers to arrange a pre-purchase vetting of the horse in question, either with their own vet or with an independent party that has no relation to you as the seller, to ensure that there is no conflict of interest. This provides evidential documentation of the condition and health of the horse prior to sale, which is in the best interests of both parties should an issue arise further down the line.

Be wary of any buyer that seems willing to part with their cash without having been for a visit or requested a vetting. There are circumstances in which this could be a legitimate purchase, however, you are best to get all of the relevant information before making any commitment, and never allow your horse to leave without having received the money first and checking with your bank that it’s cleared.

Preparing for a viewing

Holding a viewing for your horse can be a stressful process, as not only are you keen to make a sale, you’ll also be wary that it needs to be to the right person. With this in mind, there are a few things you can do in preparation to ensure it goes as smoothly as possible.

Research the buyer

Once you sell your horse, you waive any rights or legal interest in their welfare. Therefore, it’s a good idea to vet any potential buyers carefully and carry out some preliminary checks in advance of a viewing. Search for the buyer online, checking social media channels and any other online resources that might give you adequate information about them to establish that their plans for your horse are genuine.

If anything doesn’t look quite right, you have the right not to offer a viewing and walk away from any potential sale.

Get papers and legal documentation in order

If you haven’t done so already, now’s the time to make sure you locate and organise the horse’s paperwork. This could include registration papers, DNA test results, show results, veterinary records and most importantly, their passport. It is illegal for a horse to be sold without a valid passport, which needs to have been issued by a recognised horse passport issuing body (IB) - also known as a passport-issuing organisation (PIO) - by 30th November of the year of their birth, or within six months of their birth, whichever is later. For reference, the full list of approved IBs/PIOs can be found here.

If you’re selling in England and your horse was born after 2009, you should have already had your horse microchipped to meet with the UK’s legal guidelines. Not having done so is an offence which could result in a fine. If you’re based in Wales, you still have until 12th February 2021 to ensure your horse is microchipped, and in Scotland, you have until 28th March 2021. This process ensures maximum transparency for both buyers and sellers, as once chipped, the details of your horse’s passport will be uploaded to the Central Equine Database and available for potential buyers to view using the National ChipChecker.

Make sure all the details on your horse’s passport are correct and check that you have all relevant documents in one place, ready for your prospective buyer to see.

Find a location

It may be that you have a suitable location at home or on your yard in which to hold viewings, but if this is not the case then look for somewhere with better facilities, such as an indoor school or cross-country course. Having access to an enclosed space is ideal for those buyers wanting to ride the horse themselves, which we recommend for a more successful sale.

If the chosen venue will involve travel away from your home or yard, make sure your horse is familiar with the surroundings before taking them there for a viewing, so as they can perform to their best ability. It’s also worth getting there well in advance of any prospective buyers on the day of a viewing, so your horse has time to settle into the environment first.

Preen to perfection!

During a viewing is the most important time for the horse to shine and first impressions really do count. Bathe them the night before a viewing, then on the day, groom them thoroughly, pick out their feet and tidy their mane/tail. Make sure they have also been shod or trimmed recently. If they regularly compete, imagine you are preparing them for the ring to dazzle the judges.

Although the photos you used on your ad will hopefully have done some of the hard work for you in this area, no buyer wants to turn up to a viewing expecting a beautifully turned out horse, only to find that the reality doesn’t match the image they were sold. So don’t let the hard work you’ve already done on them in preparation for sale go to waste.

Space viewings out

Where possible, try not to have more than one viewing on any one day. Remember, a viewing can be tiring and stressful for your horse too, so giving them some time in between allows to recover. It’s a lot of pressure to expect the horse to go well for several people in one day. Having only one viewing a day also means you are not rushed in the time you have to spend with each prospective buyer, and they have the rest of the day to think and contact you with an offer if they wish.

During a viewing

So your horse is looking fabulous and you’re waiting for your prospective buyer to arrive for a viewing. We take a look at what you can do during their visit to increase the chances of sale, ensure your horse is shown in its best light and check that the buyer is a suitable pairing for your horse.

Don’t tack up before they arrive

Although it might seem sensible to have your horse tacked up and ready to go, the process of tacking up in front of the buyer can be beneficial in showing how good to handle your horse is, and will reassure them that there are no visible underlying health issues, such as back pain.

Warm them up

While tacking up isn’t necessary, it’s a good idea to get your horse ready to ride in all other ways. A quick session on the lunge or some in hand work is a great way to ensure they are supple and moving freely. Another option is to tack up in front of the potential buyer and then ride your horse yourself, so they can see what your horse is capable of with a familiar rider in the saddle. The likelihood is that the buyer will want to see them ridden first anyway, before having a go themselves, so this approach can be beneficial for instilling trust in the buyer - they get to see them tacked up before watching them warm up gradually.

Check with the vet

If your buyer has organised a pre-purchase vetting, this can be an opportunity for you to verify what the intended use for the horse will be and how much experience the potential buyer has. Whether or not the vet used is the buyer's regular vet, they will have the welfare of the horse in mind, so should be able to give you a clearer picture of the buyer you are dealing with.

Remember, you have the power

If, on a viewing, you feel a prospective buyer has not ridden your horse for long enough, or even ridden for too long, then say so. There is a fine balance between taking the time to get to know your horse well enough to make a decision, and simply working your horse too hard. While the horse is still in your care, it is your responsibility to ensure their welfare, so you have the right to mention anything you feel isn’t appropriate.

If you feel a prospective buyer is not handling your horse well, they are a danger to themselves or the horse, or they are not using techniques that you feel comfortable with, you have the right to bring the meeting to a close and inform the buyer that you don’t think they are quite the right match. Try to be tactful in the way you go about this, and make it clear that your advice is as much for their benefit as that of the horse.

Pre-sale considerations

You’ve had a successful viewing; from what you’ve seen, the buyer seems to be a potential match for your horse and they’re happy with the results of the vetting. So, what now?

Encourage multiple viewings

Before agreeing a sale with a prospective buyer, make sure that you feel they have spent enough time getting to know your horse. If feasible, encourage them to visit your horse several times over the course of a week or more, in order to reassure you both that they are going to the right home and to allow the buyer to see them in their current routine.

Consider offering a trial period

Although the idea of someone ‘trying your horse’ may initially sound unappealing, plenty of sellers chose to offer a trial period, in which the potential buyer takes responsibility for the daily care of your horse, for a set period of time. This can be a good way for both buyer and seller to verify that they are a suitable match. Some sellers feel uncomfortable offering a trial where the horse is taken away from their current yard or stabling. If this is something you’d rather not do - and distance isn’t too much of a barrier - you could offer the buyer the option of taking over the responsibilities for your horse at your current yard.

If you choose to offer a trial period of any form, you should ensure you get the terms of such agreement in writing; try to cover as many eventualities as possible, in as much detail as you can. Make sure this is then read, understood, signed and dated by both parties.

Petplan Equine has some useful information about protecting your horse on loan, which highlights the important points for consideration when looking to loan a horse out on trial.

Taking a deposit

An interested buyer might ask you to take the horse off the market and refrain from taking further viewings until they are able to arrange a vetting or collection, or have time to put insurance in place. It is at your discretion as to whether you are happy to take a deposit for your horse and you are entitled to decline such an offer and encourage the buyer simply to proceed with their arrangements for the horse with as much speed as possible.

If, however, you do choose to take a deposit to secure the potential sale of your horse, we advise that this should be a non-refundable deposit to discourage those who are not serious about buying your horse to reconsider. The terms of this deposit should be clearly stated in writing and you should provide the buyer with a receipt for the amount paid and detail the amount outstanding to cover full payment for the horse.

It might be that you agree to refund the deposit, based only on something unexpected coming up at the vetting (if this has not already taken place) and this should also be stated clearly. You may also wish to include terms relating to the cost of the horse’s care in the interim period between the deposit being given and the remaining balance being paid.

Making the sale

Once you’ve found a suitable buyer for your horse - and vetted them extensively! - it’s time to make the sale. Here’s some advice, for both new and experienced horse sellers, on what to expect from the sale process and how to handle payment.

Getting the right price

Unless you have clearly stated “no offers” on your advert listing, you should be prepared to negotiate with your buyer over the final price. It may be that something that was discovered in the course of the viewing or vetting process has meant your buyer is less willing to pay the initial price stated. Or it could be that you are willing to offer the horse at a lower price, simply to secure the sale and ensure it goes to a good home with the buyer, as intended.

As discussed above, including tack and rugs in the deal can be a good bargaining chip when it comes to getting a fair final price for your horse. 

Get it in writing

Whatever price and agreement you come to with the buyer, once you have verbally agreed on the terms and conditions of sale, it is incredibly important that you get them in writing. While the equine industry does operate largely on the basis of verbal contracts (and these are also legally binding), it is worth having everything stated clearly in writing so that in the event of a problem down the line, you have evidence of the terms under which the horse was bought. Without this, it would be difficult to prove that you are not at fault, and it is within the buyer’s rights to return the horse to you for a full refund, inclusive of any extra costs they have incurred.

The written agreement you have drawn up should include the details of both parties (including their full names and addresses etc), as well as a range of details about the horse itself and the purpose for which it’s intended. This should then be signed and dated by both the buyer and seller before the horse is paid for in full. For more suggestions on what to include in the sale contract, take a look at this article on the BHS (British Horse Society) website.

If you have a Gold Membership with the BHS, you have access to their ‘Sale Agreement’ service, designed to help you sell your horse in line with legal requirements and ensure they go to a loving home. This is particularly good for ensuring the interests of you and your horse are protected in the process of a sale. More information about the service can be found here.

Issue a receipt

Whether your buyer pays in cash or via bank transfer, you should issue them with a written receipt for the full purchase price of the horse. You should include details of the horse on the receipt so that it is clear it’s for the same horse as all the other documentation provided along with it.

Keep record of communications

In addition to getting a written contract and issuing the buyer with a receipt of purchase, it can be useful to keep a record of any contact exchanged with the buyer during the buying process. If any disputes were to arise in the future, this can be another effective way of providing evidence to indicate who is at fault.

Post-sale reassurance

It can be sad and nerve-wracking to have your much-loved horse go to a new home, where you can no longer monitor their progress or check on their wellbeing. Many buyers will be more than happy to keep in touch and would be more than happy for you to do the following;

Ask for updates

Why not request a regular update from the buyer, detailing how the horse is getting on with settling into their new environment and any progress reports they might have with respect to their training, etc. Keeping in touch via phone or social media is also a great way to ensure that if your buyer has questions post-purchase, you are easily contactable and on hand to help.

Arrange a visit

It can be nice to pay your horse a visit in their new home to see for yourself how they’re getting on. Be sure to arrange this on the buyer’s terms and try not to be too critical if you are not 100% happy with what you see when you get there. If the buyer is new to horse ownership or runs things a different way from the way you choose to, it can take a bit of time for the horse to settle and feel comfortable. This can be a worrying time for the buyer too, so try to discuss any suggestions you have with them and make it clear you are on hand for advice and guidance. After all, you both want the very best for the horse and you can usually work together to achieve that.

Hopefully, your visit will confirm that you made the right choice of buyer, and give you peace of mind that your horse is being cared for as well as possible by them.

We hope that this guide has been informative and helpful in your selling process, and that it has given you the knowledge required to sell safely and successfully online. Selling a horse can be a frustrating process, especially if you are bombarded with enquiries from buyers that don’t seem serious about their intent to purchase. Make sure you list your advert somewhere that gets lots of genuine enquiries from interested buyers, such as here on Horsemart (as our testimonials attest to!) and keep your horse’s welfare at the forefront of your mind at all times. Stick with it, follow the advice in this guide, and we’re sure you’ll find the perfect buyer for your horse!

Why not place an ad for your horse now on Horsemart?

Genevieve de Lande Long - Horsemart
Horsemart Marketing Team
Published on 23-10-2020
Genevieve is the marketing manager for Horsemart. She'll keep you up to date with all the latest industry news and provide you with helpful guides and advice.