Tucked within a previous post on a different topic, I mentioned that I have been looking for a third horse to add to my herd.
For about a year, I have been regularly looking at adoption and rescue websites. I also view Craigslist, Dream Horse, EquineNow and HorseClicks ads.
With the popularity of Facebook, you may wonder why I didn’t include it in my list above? Technically, Facebook banned animal-for-sale ads although I am well aware that those ads still regularly appear.
In addition, I am not a Facebook member. I can still view public pages, but most Facebook ads don’t include alternative contact information like an email or phone number so I can’t communicate with the sellers even if I am otherwise interested.
But Facebook aside, I’ve likely viewed a thousand ads during my search. I use the information in ads to try to figure out if a horse matches enough of my criteria to warrant a trip to go meet said creature. Horse-shopping trips are exciting, but they can also be potentially time consuming and costly when they involve travel.
I don’t expect to read an entire novel about the horse or to see professional photos. But I unfortunately find myself frequently stymied by the lack of information in a sizable number of ads.
I get the sense that many folks are not sure what to put in an ad. They end up leaving out a lot of critical information that might otherwise help sell their horse.
I understand there can be legitimate reasons that certain information is not provided. But if I see an ad that lacks critical details, a red flag goes up for me. I am likely to keep scrolling or clicking. The seller misses out on a potential sale.
For those folks who may wonder how they can design an ad that is more likely to attract a buyer like me, here are my suggestions from the perspective of someone who is currently horse searching. In all your horse ads, please include the following:
- Skills and highlights
- Location (with contact info)
- Photos (and video)
Numbers 1 to 4: Age, breed, gender, height
The first four (age, breed, gender, height) are especially critical (if the horse is unregistered, even an estimated age and the notation that the horse is “grade” is helpful).
Having those first four basic criteria at the start of your ad is a big help to the potential buyer who is likely to be looking for a specific type of horse, say a small-gaited- teenage-gelding. It may also cut down on fifty people texting you asking your horse’s age because you forgot to include your horse’s basic statistics.
I didn’t include it in the above list, but you may also want to throw in your horse’s color. Especially if a photo does not accompany your ad. I am a fan of the adage “a good horse is never a bad color.” Even so, many of us do have coat-color preferences. Listing the color may be helpful to catch a buyer’s eye who happens to be looking for a particular shade of horse.
Number 5: Skills and highlights
The skills and highlights that you list should correspond with how you are marketing your horse. Is your horse an unstarted prospect, kid’s horse, companion-only horse? Think about what traits the typical buyer might be looking for in your horse’s chosen category.
For example, let’s say you are selling old Dobbin as a trail horse. List something about the horse’s specific training or experience or demeanor in that area. Maybe “trailer loads without drama, has experience staying tied all night to a high-line while camping or rides quietly in a group whether in the back, middle or lead.”
What about the companion-only horse who can’t be ridden? It can be helpful to talk about the horse’s manners and demeanor. Maybe “stands well for farrier, gets along quietly with other horses at pasture or loves to be groomed and fussed over.”
More general highlights that can apply to horses across the board are also helpful. Statements like “healthy and sound”, “stands like a rock at the mounting block” or “smooth and slow lope” can add nicely to the picture you are trying to paint of your horse.
Paint as attractive a picture as you can of your horse based on current skills that your horse demonstrates, not based on what you think your horse could be with more time, training or attention. This isn’t to say that your ideas of your horse’s potential certainly don’t have merit. You might include a sentence about what you think the horse could be suited for in the future. But mostly, tell me what kind of horse I will be encountering when I show up for a meet and greet this week.
Number 6: Location
Location (as in where the horse is so the buyer can arrange a “meet and greet”) is super helpful. Some folks are comfortable buying site unseen, but many still want to arrange an in person test-drive before buying.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten really excited about an ad, only to email the buyer and find out the horse is five States away and I can’t get there. I wouldn’t have disturbed the seller if that information had been included in the ad.
Don’t forget your contact info! Most ad websites require the seller to include one form of contact, but more is helpful. When you can, include both a phone number and an email. Let folks know if you can receive texts at your phone number too.
Number 7: Price
Listing the price is really important! Even a price range (mid-four figures, for example) is more helpful than nothing. If I have a maximum of $2,000 to spend, I will know not to bother contacting you if your horse is listed for $3,000. Saves time for everybody.
Number 8: Photos and Video
Not all for sale ads include photos, much less videos, but when they are an option, use them to show off your horse’s skills!
A photo of a horse grazing in a pasture doesn’t tell me much. But even a single photo of a horse haltered and tied up with a saddle on its back shows me that the horse accepts a tack and ties at least long enough for someone to take a photo. Use the photos to show me what your horse knows and what he or she can do!
Keep in mind that especially if the actual sale ad doesn’t include room for media, most buyers will still want to be emailed or texted more than one photo of the horse. Video too.
If you don’t already have a ton of photos and video clips of the horse you are selling, get friends or family to come out and do a multi-media shoot. Then you’ll be able to easily show off your horse’s skills when all those emails and text requests for photos and videos arrive.
Everything from picking out all four hooves, to standing for mounting to heading down the trail or trotting around the arena can be documented with photos and short video segments. Those to-the-point video clips can be very powerful in generating interest in your horse.
I understand from others that selling can be just as frustrating an experience as buying, perhaps even more so.
Folks asking a hundred questions and then deciding they are no longer interested. No-showing on the day of the “meet and greet”. Messages not returned. I’ve heard multiple sellers describe such difficulties. It can be awkward and exasperating on both sides of the equation apparently.
In closing I will say that I know a great sale ad is no guarantee of a sale. But a seller has the power to get the ball rolling in the right direction with an ad that includes the eight items above. And when that sale finally happens, with both sides feeling like they got a fair deal and the horse going to a suitable home, everyone can finally breath a sigh of relief.