Let’s Discuss: Putting in an Offer

Since retiring Foster, I’ve put in offers on four different horses. The financial decision that goes along with purchasing a horse is a big one, and I may have a way that is different from others in regards to making an offer on a horse.

When I first go see a horse, I am as much assessing the horse for its value as well as for it being a good fit. Just like when shopping for a house, the horse should feel right, but if you can’t afford it, you’re wasting everyone’s time- including your own.

Smitty’s sales photo

With that in mind, if I see a horse that is slightly above budget, I like to reach out and contact the seller. I respectfully (and that is key!) share my interest, describe what I am looking for and mention my budget. Sometimes the response is “sorry, the price is firm at X”, but most times I’m told to come see the horse anyways and we can go from there. To me, being on the same page about realistic expectations for payment is key- I don’t want to waste the seller’s time if I can’t possibly afford the price they want, and I certainly don’t want to waste my time either. So far, sellers have been appreciative of a more candid discussion about this up front, and I appreciate not being toyed with as a buyer.

So far for me, the pre-purchase side of things has been more of a pass/fail type scenario. Having agreed to a price, the assumption is that barring any surprises in the exam, that is the price I pay. If the vet finds something awry with the horse, we can of course have a discussion about how that could affect the price, but typically for me it’s more of a decision about whether or not I can accept the horse as-is altogether as a suitable partner.

Price can be a sensitive issue when horse shopping. I try to be cognitive of the time, emotions, and finances the seller has put into the horse, but prefer to be frank with both the seller and myself about what investment I’m willing to put into the horse as well. There have been several times in my search that a seller values their horse as solid first/second/third level when the training is obviously not there, or that the horse is described as an upper level prospect when the conformation or ability simply isn’t present, and I choose to not engage these sellers as a rule. Let someone else be the bearer of bad news, or let the market speak for itself when that horse doesn’t spark interest at the price they are asking.

Luckily, in general the folks that I work with when I go to see a prospect are familiar with the process of buying and selling and are not offended by someone talking money before the deal is done, or even before someone has sat on their animal. But I’d love to know- what are your experiences with this? Do you have strong opinions about the money-aspect of buying horses? Do you plan to pay full price, or how did you evaluate the horse you currently own before bringing him home?

15 thoughts on “Let’s Discuss: Putting in an Offer

  1. I paid asking for Copper. I was 18 and didn’t know how to haggle and he was $750 bucks. Had I know then that he had torn his plantar ligament in his hind leg, I probably would’ve skipped on him, but I didn’t think a weanling needed a PPE (or the responsible horse “professionals” who connected me to the breeders didn’t; I didn’t know what a PPE was…). I’m glad I didn’t PPE him because his breeders have developed a tendency to sell horses to just anyone for basically nothing if they aren’t of interest to them and who knows where the goober would’ve ended up.

    Robin was purchased at auction, so price was pretty obvious. lol Paige was $2500 (half of my budget) when I tried her out, then when I went to pay for her, she was 2k…not sure if that was a miscommunication between the owner and trainer who’s barn I bought her out of, but I rolled with it and didn’t do a PPE on her either. The way I look at it, she was in heavier work than I’d ever have her in and was sound and not on any supplements or drugs. She was also 14, and I knew I was committing to an aging horse and all that comes with it. 😉

    • That totally makes sense! I definitely grew up in a family of professional hagglers, so while I will pay full price if I think it’s fair (I paid the asking price for Smitty for instance), typically I think there’s a little wiggle room.

      • Agreed. I felt like their prices were fair for what they were (and I’ve been proven right in the long run I think) and outside of Copper’s secret jacked up leg, it worked out well! I totally haggle on other purchases, but haven’t had to on horses. With the ones I’ve sold, no one has tried to haggle with me either…which I thought was weird because I was prepared to take somewhat less! haha

  2. I’ve never actually gone through the traditional route of looking at horses, trying them, making offers, and vetting them. Literally never, and I’ve owned 14 horses LOL. Sold a bunch that way, but never bought one. My “make an offer” process is usually more of an email/text message/fb message that says “Would you take $XXX?”. Period. I’m so ghetto.

  3. All I know is that it drives me damn crazy when someone comes to try my horse, hold up my trainer’s time for hours and then has NO INTENTION of paying the listed sale price.


    • A kid in my area did that for a while last year. She made a big deal about how her parents were buying her next prospect and she was responsible for making all the appointments and trying the horses. She even tried a few horses a second time. She’d take a billion pictures of their legs and feet afterward, find something magically “wrong” with them that put her “on the fence” and then ghost you. It didn’t last long as she got a reputation REAL fast.

  4. Haha yeah… I’ve never horse shopped, am terrible at selling. and don’t care to improve. I’ve also never done a PPE, but I’ve had extensive experience/trial periods on each of my three so I wasn’t concerned about it. I kinda of don’t think C would pass a PPE, but he was sound in work at the track when I met him and he’s been fine for 3.5 years since, so?

  5. I have extremely limited experience in this realm, and my trainer did most of the negotiating for me. I told her when we started to look what my budget was, and Miles didn’t come on trial until that was agreed upon, pending PPE. We ended up negotiating slightly from there, because he had to travel for a special test that cost me much more than I had expected to pay for a PPE.

  6. I paid a commission to my trainer to handle all this for me (worth every penny for me OMG), but there was no negotiation on Frankie. They told us his price, I fell in love, asked if there was any wiggle room on price, they said no. And honestly, the price was really fair for his age/ability/brain/etc. Both the seller and the buyer’s agent (my trainer) were very upfront with each other and it went very smoothly because of that communication on the front end.

  7. I think being up front with a seller about your price range makes you a great buyer.
    I’ve never sold a horse before but I can’t think of much worse for a seller than to have people come ride your horse when they have no intention of following through on a purchase because it’s out of budget.

  8. Way back 8 years ago my mom paid below asking for Ries on the basis that we wouldn’t do a PPE. Also the seller really liked Ries’s reaction to me and she wanted to see him go to a good home. I think when someone makes an offer and it is accepted the horse should be considered sold unless freak accident/bad PPE. I hate people that are like “will you take x?” and then show up, ride horse, and say no thanks.

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