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What to consider when buying or selling a horse? 

by kerstin schmidt photo canva pro
Photo Canva Pro

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Buying or selling a horse is often a difficult and emotional decision. The reason for selling is not always a bad economic situation. It can be the conclusion that there is certainly someone better suitable for the horse than oneself. Or life circumstances change. In the case of breeders and dealers, it is to secure the living. No matter what the reason is for parting with a horse or taking on a new partner, there are a few things to keep in mind to make the transaction a success in whatever direction it goes. We talked to the company that is the most important platform for horse trading in Germany and Europe.

Ehorses is a familiar name to just about everyone who is involved in the horse industry. With a total trading volume of more than 800 million euros, buyers and sellers are successfully brought together on the platform. Ehorses was founded in 1999 as the first horse market on the internet. In 2011, the NOZ (Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung) took over and in 2012 Ulrich Kasselmann joined the company. Today, the headquarters is based at Rittergut Osthoff near Osnabrück and the start-up has become Europe's leading horse market.

The numbers are impressive: In the last few years, an average of 250 horses per day were newly entered into the portal. About every 18 minutes a horse is sold via ehorses, which is about 70 horses per day. "In the peak of Corona, we observed that people were quite willing to spend more money on a horse than before. In 2020, horses were sold through us for a total of 683 million euros, and in 2021 it was 844 million euros. The days until a successful sale also shortened from 57 days in 2020 to 35 days in 2021," explains Lena Büker, Managing Director of ehorses since 2011. "In the last few months, we can see that about 100 more horses come onto the market every day than before. The demand, however, remains constant." However, Lena Büker is not able to tell for sure whether this is due to the fact of increasing economic pressure on households.

About 80% of the sellers are private, 20% "commercial". Meanwhile, the buyer and seller structure is very international. More than half of the advertisements that are posted come from abroad. "The trend of foreign page views has risen sharply in recent years. In the meantime, more than 50% of the approximately 4.9 million monthly hits on our site come from abroad," says Katja Möllerherm, Head of Customer Care & Service at ehorses. "This actually makes us the strongest equestrian internet platform in Germany and we notice that the market is becoming more and more European."

Even though you can find representatives of (almost) all breeds among the horses on offer, the warmblood is in leading position. And it turns out that horses with potential also find their new owners online. "State premium mare Schöne Scarlett, who is highly successful in dressage with Helen Langenhanenberg, was sold through us when she was two years old," Lena Büker remembers. In the meantime, marketing places such as the German and international breeding associations, also the ANCCE (breeding association for Spanish horses) and many well-known breeders place their horses for sale using ehorses. The great advantage for the buyer is that he can browse and compare at his leisure. With the detailed search, the desired horse can be filtered of the masses quite precisely and contacting the buyer is easy and uncomplicated.

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Tips for buying a horse

Let's assume that you know where you are going to put your new horse and what it costs, including farrier, vet, trainer, equipment, and so on, so you know how much you will regularly have to pay and how much time you will need daily to care for the horse and exercise it. Then you need to determine further basic conditions. Here are a few tips you should consider.

  1. Be brutally honest in judging your own riding ability. It won't do you any good if you can't grow together with your new partner because you are both over- or underchallenged. Seek advice from an experienced person if you are not sure.
  2. Think about your own physical requirements. If you are only 1.60 metres tall, a horse with a height of 1.75 metres is probably not the ideal match (although this does not mean that there are no such couples who are happy and successful). The same applies vice versa - with a height of 1.80 metres, a pony is probably not the right match either.
  3. Define your goals. Do you want to go for safe and comfortable rides in nature or rather spend your weekends on the showground? If you choose your horse after good consideration, you will save yourself a lot of frustration. Because no matter how much you fall in love at first sight, if your partner doesn't fulfil your expectations on the long run because he simply can't, dissatisfaction is pre-programmed.
  4. Assess your ambitions correctly. Are you ready to go the long way of schooling your horse (with the help of a trainer) for years or do you lack the patience (and perhaps the ability) to do so? Then you have to decide whether you will be happy with a youngster or if you would prefer a more educated horse.
  5. Do not base everything on the selling price. The running costs are much more important than the costs of buying the horse. Of course, everyone has a certain budget in mind, what he/she is willing to pay. But you should know no horse that has been carefully reared over many years, has been professionally trained by experts and is perfectly healthy can be bought at a bargain price. Such a horse is more costly.
  6. When you have found your potential dream horse, contact the seller. A serious seller will always answer your questions, send additional videos or photos if necessary and take time for your interest. It is also possible to arrange an appointment to get to know the horse, although it should be noted that some sellers charge money for a tryout.

    This is quite understandable, too many "fake buyers" use the ride as a free riding lesson. If a purchase is made, the price will certainly be refunded.
  7. Take someone with you who knows horses. Even if you are not a novice - four eyes see more than two. Of course, it is best if you are accompanied by your trainer. He or she is usually the best judge of whether the pairing is a good fit and may even be able to ride the horse himself/herself. Try the horse as you would like to use it. Go for a hack if you are looking for a cross-country horse and jump with a show jumper.
  8. Be sure to have the horse thoroughly examined. Don't skip out on the purchase examination. No one can see inside a horse, so it is even more important to find out as much as possible about its health. Health restrictions does not always mean the end of the deal. There are health deficiencies that one can definitely live with. Here it is necessary to have a trusted veterinarian by your side and to seek advice.
  9. The costs for the purchase examination are always covered by the initiator. It is advisable to commission the purchase examination, as this gives you the choice of the veterinarian.
  10. Once the decision to buy the horse has been made, you should conclude a secure purchase contract with the seller. Even if today the handshake is still considered to seal the deal, you are definitely better off with a contract of sale. The purchase contract also clearly regulates the payment modalities and the handing over of documents such as the equine passport and ownership certificate.
  11. When everything has been clarified, there is nothing standing in the way of transferring the horse to the new stable. Whether you pick up the horse yourself, the seller brings it or a transport company is hired depends on the distance and availability of a suitable trailer and driving licence.
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Tips for selling a horse

In these economically uncertain times, you may be forced to sell your horse. To make this work as well as possible, there are a few things you should keep in mind.

  1. First step, if you want to sell a horse online, is to create an appealing ad with meaningful text, good photos and videos. The photos should be clear and focused, and the horse should be easily recognized. The videos should ideally show all the gaits of the horse. The text should be as detailed as possible and include all relevant data (size, age, pedigree, training status, competition successes, and so on).
  2. When using photos and videos, pay attention to copyright and personal rights. You may only use people’s photos or show them if they agree. In case of complaints, internet platform operators are legally obliged to remove the pictures immediately and without checking.
  3. Provide your contact details, preferably with telephone number (where you can be reached most often) and your e-mail-address. If you did not hear the phone, call back. It may have been a potential buyer.
  4. Be open and honest. Give detailed information, and do not conceal any peculiarities, difficulties or flaws of the horse. In this way, the potential buyer can adjust to the horse and if he/she comes to try it out or to see it, you have definitely created trust.
  5. Allow for a second or third visit. Unfortunately, it is becoming more and more "fashionable", especially with the better dressage horses, to pretend to be a buyer in order to obtain free riding time. You can counteract this by taking money for the trial, which you will of course credit to the purchase.
  6. In any case, leave the buyer free to choose a veterinarian for the purchase examination, just make sure that the buyer also commissions the veterinarian, because the initiator pays.
  7. Conclude a written contract of sale. This secures both sides. Include any flaws in the contract to avoid later claims. If you are unsure, the platform ehorses, for example, offers a service through a partner where you can have a legally secure contract drawn up for little money.
  8. Do not accept cheques. If they are forged or not covered and your horse is already gone, you have no recourse.
  9. Keep copies of all documents - just in case there are complaints later. 
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Other marketplaces

Apart from the internet, there are still a number of possibilities to buy or sell horses.

Horse markets

Many horse markets no longer exist and there is a reason for that. Anyone looking for a new stable companion at a horse market is taking a risk. Although there are often a lot of different horses of all breeds and ages on sale here at low prices, the buying process is pretty much taking a step in the dark. There is no opportunity to try out the horse in an indoor arena, in the riding arena or in the countryside. No chance of a reliable purchase inspection. And no guarantee that the horse has not “been helped” to behave so well. Of course, there are also honest sellers and buyers who have actually found their horse at a horse market, but nonetheless you should still be careful.

Auction places

Breeding associations, stud farms, professional riders - there are countless auctions throughout the year for the most diverse target groups. Foals, pregnant mares, stallions, sport horses of all disciplines, leisure horses, ponies, special breeds, whatever are offered. The advantage of the auction is that in almost all cases the horses are health-checked and a selection of horses is offered that suits a certain target group. One can usually try out the riding horses beforehand and is already offered horses that have been selected by experts. The disadvantage is the additional costs due to the auction or commission fees, insurance if applicable and the respective taxes if it was not a private sale, as the auction prices are net prices.

Intermediary

If you don't have the time or nerve to organize a horse purchase or sale from beginning to end yourself, intermediaries are the right people for you. Agents bring buyers and sellers together in a targeted manner. They usually know where good horses are located that may not even be offered to the public. A careful selection is then made according to the individual wishes of the buyer. Especially if you are interested in well-trained horses or young horses with potential and a certain pedigree, this can be a good (and time-saving) way. It is also worthwhile for sellers of high-quality horses to make contact, as agents are often networked all over the world.

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If you don't have the time or nerve to organize a horse purchase or sale from beginning to end yourself, intermediaries are the right people for you. Agents bring buyers and sellers together in a targeted manner. They usually know where good horses are located that may not even be offered to the public. A careful selection is then made according to the individual wishes of the buyer. Especially if you are interested in well-trained horses or young horses with potential and a certain pedigree, this can be a good (and time-saving) way. It is also worthwhile for sellers of high-quality horses to make contact, as agents are often networked all over the world.

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