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?

Adventures in Horse Shopping: Regrouping

So, you may have known, or guessed it, but last week I did a pre-purchase exam on a horse. And since I’m not overflowing with joyous announcements right now, it should also be somewhat obvious that I decided to pass on the deal.

I feel like the horse market moves in cycles- most days I obsessively casually browse my top horse-sales sites and go through the same “seen it, talked to the seller, watched the video” role call of the horses available. And then all of the sudden there’s an upswing and there will be a lot of good prospects appearing online.

Right now, I’m still trying to assess the financial damage done by the PPE and plan my next move. I hope to meet a local horse sometime this week, weather allowing, and I also have asked a couple of the working-student friends I made in Ocala to check out a prospect there.

I have eyeballs all over the place looking out for that perfect pony, and I am so appreciative for that. Hopefully there will be another surge of horses hitting the market and the right one will be amongst them!

Adventures in Horse Shopping: Post Aiken Discussions

Aiken is my last big horse shopping trip for a little while, and with good reason- it is both mentally and physically exhausting to spend an entire weekend running around in search of the perfect horse, and photographing 5 other horses to boot.

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I am somewhat recovered enough though to provide a little insight into the trip. Overall I sat on 5 of the possible 8 beasties I was there to see. Of the other three, two were sold or pending sale as I arrived, and the other was clearly not the right fit so I opted to focus more on the ones that were. This also gave me a bit more time to meet with Beka of The Owls Approve and enjoy a quick lunch at the Aiken Brewing Company!

And this folks is why you don't do portraits at noon XD though Beka of course looks cute!

And this folks is why you don’t do portraits at noon XD though Beka of course looks cute!

The horses I sat on were all wildly different from one another- a wizened caretaker push-type ride, a fiery little thoroughbred, a green broke baby, and others.

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In the end I was shocked to find not one but two horses that I would happily call mine.

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No more details yet, as I’m still discussing with the A team, but no matter how it turns out in the end I still think Aiken would be considered a success!

Adventures in Horse Shopping: The Aiken Plan

Besides Ocala, Aiken is the next best winter eventing mecca. Soft footing, decent weather, and plenty of horse show activity to introduce young horses or leg up old mounts.

Luckily, I’m hitting horse shopping on the last swing of the winter season, right before all those otherwise snowbirds head back north with their ponies in tow. With this in mind, I made it a priority to get down there while the density of potential horses was still to my advantage.

The drive from Raleigh to Aiken is roughly 5 hours, so I’m making this trip worthwhile. Unlike my Kentucky trip, I won’t be seeing do many horses, but peppering photoshoots in and amongst some strong candidates to offset the cost of hotel and gas.

I’ve lined up 5 contenders to sit on, ranging from 5 to 11 years old and a variety of experience, though all are definitely eventing-inclined. I’m also doing 5 different black background shoots before and after the horsey mania.

Watch instagram for occasional updates, otherwise I will share how it went with you all next week!

Adventures in Horse Shopping: It Takes A Village

When you have a full time job, squeezing in the seemingly-necessary and tedious hours of scouring the web can be difficult. Finding the days to travel to see good candidates is even more difficult. So a lot of what I have come to depend on in my horse hunting is a village of people.

Many of these folks make up my closest friends, and send me appropriate horses, and sometimes wildly inappropriate horses (though adorable- but Fjords generally aren’t seen clearing 3’6″ jumping tracks) that they’ve noticed during their social media wanderings. Others are sweet bloggers, people I have met through sometimes random real-life events, or folks I have connected with along the horse-shopping journey.

This weekend's potential pone.

This weekend’s potential pone.

One of the things I am attempting to reign in is the number of hours I spend traveling to see horses. My reasons are thus- family in the hospital and needing to save those funds spent on plane tickets to go towards the creature itself. I’ve already logged over 10 hours in a car to see two horses in the last week, and next weekend am making a big trip to Aiken, to see 3 good candidates and recoup some of the travel costs with portrait sessions (and bonus- get to meet Beka as well!).

Last year’s KY horse-shopping trip:

Hillary has kindly offered to peak in at a couple horses for me in Lexington, KY, soon, and it got me thinking… What other bloggers out there might be willing to lend their eyes, ears, and bums to see a solid candidate in their area? Because… I don’t know, what’s more fun than horse shopping without the expensive repercussions? Occasionally I see horses in Florida, or Texas, Maryland or New York and wonder… is it worth the trip? Do I really need to take 2 days away from house and home to go see what could easily be a dud?

Realizing that most other bloggers have full time commitments, families, and you know, their own horses to take care of, I wouldn’t want anyone to go out of their way to inconvenience themselves unless it sounded like a fun idea. But if you are into the idea of my obnoxiously crowd sourcing your talent (and video camera) in search of the perfect horse, well, let me know!

 

Next Steps

Thank you all for your supportive words yesterday. I received word that Smitty arrived at his new home and settled in quietly, happily munching hay and being a good boy in turnout this morning.

Photo by Studio in the Stable

Photo by Studio in the Stable

A lot of people have asked me if I’m going to start looking for another horse immediately, and I must have overdosed on my crazy pills last week but the answer is absolutely yes.

Despite how exhausting the last round of searching was, it still doesn’t change the fact that I want to ride- really I need to ride, if my sanity has any hope of staying intact. You know, one of those classic #firstworldproblem scenarios.

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Since making the decision to sell Smitty, I have started looking at horses. I sat on something last weekend, and I have another lined up for this weekend. I’m also planning trips to both Aiken and Virginia to see several horses at a time.

Here we go again.

Let’s Discuss: Horse Auctions

Horse Auctions are one of those things that tends to polarize people- either you are totally on board with buying a horse from an auction (and maybe have even done so), or you would never-in-a-million years buy a horse from an auction and think those that do so belong in the loony bin.

I’ve been to lots of auctions in my time, of all different calibers. Legitimate Haflinger auctions in Ohio, Draft horse [read:Amish central] auctions in Pennsylvania, Canadian sport horse auctions in Ontario, the po-dunk auction up the street, and everything in between.

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As a kid we would frequent a local auction where routinely, between the many horses, saddles, etc, you could also expect to see a herd (flock?) of emus be escorted into the ring to be bid on by lot number. We rarely bought anything there, more attending for the entertainment value and the people watching. But still, the excitement of hearing an auctioneer in full swing and the adrenaline of even a remote chance at adding a 4-legged-member to the family in a matter of 60 seconds or less is intense.

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The family obsession with auctions goes further than horses, though. Both my father and my brother have their auctioneers license, and they’ve ployed this trade occasionally in everything from Alpaca auctions calling the bids, to charity functions and beyond.

I could not find a photo of them in auction mode, so enjoy this image of my brother doing a handstand.

I could not find a photo of them in auction mode, so enjoy this image of my brother doing a handstand.

Despite auctions being exceptionally exciting, there are of course pitfalls to buying horses this way. There was a horse named Strawberry Bill that was described as a kid’s horse, only to come home and attempt to kick my parents’ heads in. There was a pony mare that was not advertised as pregnant and dropped a baby to our surprise just a month after arrival. And in case you haven’t been to an auction, some of them can be dangerous places. Horses crammed into every corner, running up and down aisles, being chased with plastic bags to make them step higher, and carts and trailers and children all running amok. It’s like the worst, busiest horse show you’ve ever been to, on crack.

amok

But there’s been some brilliant horses we’ve had over the years that came from an auction, really too many to list here. Most notable, perhaps, were Blue Boy, the appaloosa gelding my mother purchased for $500 including tack at an auction that became her winning showjumper.

BlueBoy

Ribbons with Blue Boy

Others include the Haflinger stallion I evented, a draft cross named Scrumpy Jack, and even a little donkey weanling.

Hudson

Have any of you ever attended a horse auction before? If so, what were your impressions? If not, would you ever go to one? What are your thoughts on buying a horse (or equid) in this way?

 

Adventures in Horse Shopping: The Changing Face of Buying Horses

In the olden days of horse shopping, if I was in the market for a horse, I had a few different go-to tactics. I’d go pick up my local Stablemates magazine, check out the classified section of the Chronicle, or consider going to an auction. The only online source I checked religiously was dreamhorse.com, which I would check out even if I wasn’t looking in order to stay aware of the market.

Now, buying horses is a whole other ball game. Thanks to social media and the addition of several new search-based horse sales sites, horse shopping has become accessible in a way it never was before. My daily routine for the search started by checking the new ads on warmblood-sales.com, then dreamhorse, then equinenow.com and equine.com, and eventually ended up on facebook.

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Horse shopping on facebook is at once overwhelming and amazing. Amazing, thanks to friends being able to tag and suggest horses in a heartbeat, and thanks to sellers being able to respond directly to search ads. Even more amazing was the response to my tongue-in-check ISO ad, culminating in an article by the Chronicle. The overwhelming aspect of searching on social media is the sheer quantity of responses and horses available. Keeping up with sellers, their horses, the back and forth conversations and the scheduling and rescheduling of appointments kept me mentally hopping, and while exhilarating, was also exhausting.

The other fun side of social media has been sharing some of the horses I’ve looked at with you all, albeit it becomes a tricky balance of sharing and still respecting the seller’s privacy and goals. But getting to sit on nice horses, and so many different types of rides, is an exciting adventure that warrants sharing and social media is the obvious enabler of that.

In the end of course it was also facebook that led me to Smitty. A dressage prospect hiding in a Hunter Jumper group that an eventing DQ just had to snap up. I can’t tell you how satisfying it is to see that ad marked with a big fat SOLD tag, and how much I enjoyed cancelling all my ISO ads thereafter.

Smitty-Sales-Photo

Smitty’s Sales Ad

Social media has changed a lot when it comes to horse shopping, and now, I get to use it to bombard you all with new pony updates!

 

 

 

Adventures in Horse Shopping: The Blind Date

So some of you may know by now that I got caught up in the Delta nonsense caused by a power outage to their mainframe computer, resulting in over 1,000 flights cancelled, including mine finally at 3:45am Tuesday morning. I caught an hour’s worth of sleep before attempting to find one of the few rental cars left and drove over 6 hours back to Raleigh, doing my best to stay between the white lines.

This was my Monday night and Tuesday morning

This was my Monday night and Tuesday morning

The silver lining of getting home during the day light (as opposed to at midnight a day later, or at 8am two days later as Delta wanted me to do), was getting to see my new pony.

The other silver lining being that the bars stayed open beyond normal operating hours in the airport, because I desperately needed this

The other silver lining being that the bars stayed open beyond normal operating hours in the airport, because I desperately needed this

I had been sent some photos and videos of him by my wonderful friends who were there to greet and keep an eye on him after he arrived, and all said he was super cuddly and seemed very chill about his new home. Like a blind date where your friends tell you amazing things about the guy, but you know it’s still going to come down to first impressions and gut feelings, I had some anxiety about how we would get along.

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When I rolled up to the barn, it didn’t take long to search him out, and I immediately saw his bright face and intelligent eyes looking at me over the stall door. He seems absolutely massive despite truly being 16.1 1/2 hands tall, as his long neck comes straight up out of his shoulder. When he looks at something and puts his head up, it’s like standing next to a giraffe.

Smitty

Long necks make for better neck hugs

My first impression is that he is simply a gigantor wamrblood baby. He’s quite narrow, and a bit drawn up from his travels, which makes him look uber gangly. Pair that with wanting to play with everything (love!) and you can see the baby-ness everywhere.

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When I went back to the barn a bit later I just had the intentions of lunging him a little in the covered arena and seeing what he would do. Since he had been cooped up for the majority of the last three days due to traveling and weather, I wasn’t sure what to expect. But the horse on the end of the rope was settled as could be, and actually needed prompting to continue trotting around.

Gangly pony needs some groceries after his adventures

Gangly pony needs some groceries after his adventures

Despite it being dark, and him being a baby horse in a new arena, I decided to climb aboard. Lunging young horses is not my favorite thing to do to them, so I couldn’t find much reason not to sit in the tack instead.

He checked me out too :)

Checking each other out

What a good boy he was! We just wandered about the arena while I marveled at his neck and felt him out.

Seriously, that neck though

Seriously, that neck though

We did a couple laps of trot before I called it a night, but not before marveling at all the suspension beneath me. My abs are going to cry when I start sitting this horse.

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Overall, I am absolutely thrilled. Our “blind date” couldn’t have gone any better. He’s sweet, and sensible, and I think could be a wonderful fit. Hopefully this is the horse I’ve been looking for.

Smitty ride 1

Welcome to the family, Smitty!