Advice, opinions on sales horse marketing

Hi, everyone! I’m a younger industry professional (mid twenties) who is starting her own horse sales business, and I wanted to get advice on selling and marketing, especially what people look for in a good sales ad. I want it all - the good, the bad, the ugly.

About me: I’ve had trouble finding my “niche” in the horse world - have dabbled in giving lessons, taking client horses, problem horses, colt-starting, assistant trainer/coach positions, etc etc, - and finally flourished the past year working at a consignment sales barn in which I was given a lot of freedom in designing the tune-up regimen and training program for each horse. The business owner was really impressed with my work and even gave me a raise on my hourly wage after 90 days and bonuses on certain horses, without me ever bringing up money to her. I really got the hang of the training process, even designed a rubric for evaluating incoming horses and an objectives checklist for determining if a horse was ready to be videoed. After the last horse I trained for that barn came out particularly well (we pulled off some neat bridleless stunts for the video) I landed a private investor who wants to help finance me starting my own sales business…

Excellence and honesty are everything, and I want to represent the horses I train and sell as best as possible, in order for them to find the right homes. This is where you guys come in. I want to know what you love in a horse ad, what you hate in a horse ad, what makes you want to come back and buy from that seller again, what turns you off.

Here are some prompts:

How long should a sales video be? What do you want to see in it? What annoys you in a video? Do you like compilation videos that show an overview of the horse’s skills and attributes?

What makes an ad stand out as professional? What gives you the feeling of “they’re trying too hard?”

How do you feel about attire, polo wraps, saddle pad color, etc? What enhances the horse to you, and what do you find distracting?

Where is the line between showing that a horse has breadth and versatility in its training vs. giving the sense of “jack of all trades, master of none?”

What sort of horse do you wish you would see more of on the market?

How do you feel about seeing tricks in a sales video? Desensitization? Bridleless riding? Do you think seeing a horse tolerating traffic, water, tarps, other stimulus, etc, shows evidence of solid training or temperament, or do you think it looks tacky or somehow disingenuous?

What information do you wish sellers in general would make more accessible or readily available?

What are your best and worst buying experiences?

What budget/price bracket do you tend to buy/sell in? (If you feel comfortable disclosing that)

Do you like seeing groundwork? Lunging? Free lunging? Loose movement in the pasture?

What are some ideas for conveying personality and temperament of the horse through visual footage?

Obviously conformation photos are a must, but - do you like professional photos and “glamour shots” of the horse, or is that a turnoff?

Etc. Anything else you can think of.

And of course - business advice unrelated specifically to marketing? Give it to me. Warnings, advice, opinions, comments, critique - I want it all. Be blunt. Be direct. Don’t sugarcoat your thoughts on this subject. My goal is to pick great horses, train them to the best of my ability, and match them with the best fit possible. I want buyers to be satisfied and confident that they’ve been fully informed about exactly what it is they’re purchasing, I want provide truly awesome horses, and I want to attract quality homes for the horses I’m selling.

Scroll through the various threads where people complain about buying and selling horses :slight_smile:

In general experienced horse people on COTH say they want short videos that show all the gaits and the transitions. About 3 minutes. If you have a competition video thats a nice extra. People want to see the horse doing what he’s marketed as doing. Also video that zooms and tracks the horse not a tiny dim flicker at the far end of the arena. Clean and workmanlike gear, neutral colors.

We also want good stood up conformation photos from the side in particular and also front and back. No saddle or leg wraps, hooves visible on paving or hard pack gravel.

As far as other things, it depends on the job. If you are selling a bomb proof Western Trail horse, then yes walking over tarps is appropriate. If it’s a jumper show him jumping his advertised height. If the horse is not broke to ride then obviously longeing.

If I were shopping for a green dressage horse I would like to see a video under saddle but then some free longeing at liberty because I know that in the early stages of training you don’t see the horses full movement potential under saddle. But if the horse can already do extended trot under saddle that isn’t necessary. Likewise with a green horse, free jumping can show scope. But if the horse is under saddle, we want to see he can jump with a rider, and preferably related distances, not just one rail in the center of the arena.

We tend to assume that a horse broke to ride can be brushed, hand walked, longed, and saddled, so we don’t need video of that.

If you are selling childrens horses try to get a good obviously junior rider for the sales videos.

Now all of what I’ve just said is about selling to experienced horse people. We want the core information, we don’t want fluff, we aren’t impressed by glamor shots. We don’t want to wade through piles of cutesy or pretty pictures. For experienced horse people, most of the ads on the website Warmbloods for Sale, which no doubt you are familiar with, approach the ideal. Good professional conformation shots, succintly edited video, a shot showing excellent form over fences.

However, your market may not be experienced horse people. Your market may be children with non horsey parents or wannabe returning riders or other folks who buy off flash and novelty. These buyers may be impressed by pasture photos and brightly colored polo wraps and smiling on cue for the camera, etc. I can’t speak to that.

So you need to know your market.

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Further to my last post. I assume your market here is flipping lower price project horses in a timely fashion. That’s fine, it’s a needed service.

What we really want in this case is honesty and no exaggeration. A 13 year old greenbroke horse is not “an amazing Grand Prix prospect!” in either jumping or dressage.

By and large, a sales ad is a bit like online dating. You want enough information to know the horse is within your parameters, and worth going to see.

People get very upset if the horse they go to see has been badly misrepresented as to height, age, soundness or training. It’s a wasted day.

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I suggest you contact the SBA and enroll in one of their programs… there is a LOT of well founded advise they can and will provide

https://www.sba.gov/offices/headquarters/oed/resources/5448

and find a Great attorney and Better CPA both who know farm/ranch laws/taxes

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my then Ten year old daughter spent her summer in Kentucky doing catch rides for trainers who had junior exhibitor horses, usually it was a horse that needed the rail time owned by a family whose child either was unavailable or lacked the ability. One trainer pulled me aside to tell me she rode much better than what I could afford to buy. And he was correct. Oldest daughter was a natural at riding (was glade later that she and her brother became interested in photography)

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I personally like seeing a horse being caught and saddled. I’ve had experiences where there are issues that lie here, but aren’t seen once the horse is under saddle.

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we have one that it has taken Two Years to undo prior “training” so we can halter him without it being an upsetting adventure

So many great suggestions already. I will toss in a few.

I cannot tell you what a huge turn off it is to have ridiculous music. Actually, any music at all is problematic me and I generally turn off sound. There are some fairly innocuous pieces that fit well… But the music can be a Generational reference, and distract from the horse.

I have experienced several sales barns who have an initial video that shows literally several seconds of all of the various things that Horse does. It’s more of a compilation. That way I don’t have to wade through 25 minutes of watching the horse load into trailers blah blah blah if what I really need to see first and quickly, is how they can pack a 10-year-old over jumps.
So I think it’s a super smart idea to have a compilation video, and reference longer videos showing specific skills more in depth.

Instead of putting specific prices on the videos, you can reference to price categories. That way you’re not locked in to a price that’s already on the video, you do not have to edit the video to change price, which is a pain in the butt, and you are free to increase the price of the horse as the training or market merits. I’ve seen various categories: A) up to $10,000, B) 11-18k, etc… Whatever price points work for you in your market.

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As above, depends on the market. If it’s a competition horse, I wanna see it do it’s job.

My background is hunters so I want to see a good proper conformation shot from the side, a pic over fences, and then a short video. I want to see it trot a lap each way, canter each way with flying changes if it has them, or a neat simple if not. Then a course of the height it’s advertised as jumping, or a line if it’s super green. If it’s a childrens horse or a pony, I want to see it go with a kid, not the trainer. I also want minimal cuts (makes me think the horse misbehaved or something happened), but a cut from flat to jumping is fine. If you have a show video over fences, I’d want that posted separately but immediately available.
That is plenty to determine if I’d want to come see the horse, or set up PPE!

Nothing I hate more than music, a bunch of cutesy useless pictures, or a 20 minute video of horse being caught, tacked, lunged, mounted, etc. I DO however, want to see all that when I go try the horse.

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You’ve gotten some great advice already, but since I’m involved right now at my barn with several sales videos, I’ll add— or echo— these points:

  1. When planning your video, consider the targeted buyer for each horse and then ask yourself, “What will the buyer do with this horse on a regular basis?” While I guess there are some of us who plan on riding a horse without a bridle, or jumping through a hoop of fire (saw that on one video) or making it hop into the bed of a truck, most of us are not going to do that. Ever. Same for standing upright on the back of the horse. Tricks are not what most of us are doing. Spend time focusing on the horse’s talents that will specifically appeal to your buyer.

  2. A video is an appetizer. Not the whole enchilada. A length of 3 minutes is plenty to interest a buyer into asking to either see more (like something specific) or to come try the horse in person. In other words, don’t make an entire movie.

  3. When writing the text for your ads, don’t over promise or make guarantees like “future champion” or “never spooks” or “anyone can ride” or “should grow to 17 hands.” And on that subject, don’t ever estimate a horse’s height; measure!

  4. Make sure you know what you’re getting into with your investor. While it could be a dream partnership, you could also end up in a financial mess. You’re quite young and there are some Harsh Lessons to be Learned in the horse world. Please be careful. :wink:

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This 100%! I can’t tell you how many horses I’ve looked at that were either lame or totally misrepresented.

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Misrepresenting is the worst. Even if it’s a simple oversight on something small that YOU wouldn’t care about, a buyer definitely will. Height is one for me - MEASURE! I’ve left a trial without even touching a horse since it was obvious the seller guessed and the horse was much shorter. I’m tall and like tall horses - I tend to like 16.3+ I’ll go look at 16.2 if it’s otherwise stellar and chunky but to show up to a dainty 16 hands isn’t worth my time to even ride it. Biggest pet peeve!!

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I would add:

I would want to see and participate in horse being caught tacked groomed handled when I come for my trial ride. I don’t need to see that on video.

I train tricks for fun. So I know tricks are just tricks. I also trail ride and know arena manners don’t translate always to trail. I know a horse that’s been ridden in a neck rope in the arena that can turn into an anxious jigging mess on trails. I know a horse that free longes like a dream and is totally in sync with you but has a panic buck under saddle. I know a person who is taking clinics to compete in Mountain Trail but is afraid to ride out of the arena.

If I wanted a horse to trail ride part of my trial ride would need to be trails. Alone and in company. I know someone that bought an older horse off a dude string and he’s so herd bound she csn barely ride him.

So this is a round about way of saying that random stuff on a video doesn’t answer my basic question of what the horse can do and is often covering up other gaps on his resume.

The only exception is the Brookby Heights sales barn in New Zealand, which I’m sure you’ve seen. They have apparently solid kids horses, advertised with both correct videos and some very fun bombproof extras with a sense of humpe.

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There has been some excellent suggestions here. The only thing I would add is when you do a video make sure you show all three gaits both directions and all the transitions and not be edited to the hilt.
It just drives me crazy when a 3 minute video has been edited about 20 times.

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My husband once sold a horse on the basis of one picture. It showed the horse crossing a bridge on a trail while ponying another horse. The buyer never even tried her out, said the horse is doing everything the seller says it can do.

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I’ve been horse shopping for a couple of months and have many opinions on useful horse sale videos and ads. :rofl:

Make short videos. I would rather go through several short videos showing different things than one long, continuously filmed video.

I do not need to see a horse trotting around and around an arena. Show me the transition into the trot, a pass down the long side of the arena, a nice circle at the short end and the transition back to a walk. Ditto for the canter, one video for each direction.

Side note: I started asking for videos of circling after driving 5 hours - 5 HOURS - to try a horse that didn’t steer, just worked along the arena fence. Seriously, seller?

If the horse has any more advanced skills (e.g., lateral work) make a short video showing that. Short. Just enough to show that he can leg yield, side pass, or whatever.

I want to see the horse working on both a loose rein and also with some contact and maintaining his pace. If the horse will change his pace, show me.

Side note: I started asking for loose rein videos after driving 3 hours to look at a horse who interpreted a loose rein at the trot as “you should pick up speed like a freight train pulling out of the station.”

Whatever you’re marketing the horse for, show videos of him doing that job. If you’re marketing it as a crossrail-2 ft horse, then you need to show me a video of the horse babysitting a kid or adult beginner around a crossrail course. Videos showing the horse jumping around a 2’6" course with a pro are not sufficient.

Finally, if the horse has a vetting issue or a vice, for dog’s sake, disclose it. I flew, yes, FLEW, 4 states away to try a horse. I liked him. I indicated that I wanted to vet him. Only at that point did they disclose that they had a full set of x-rays on the horse and offered to share those images. And admitted that the x-rays showed potential problems with X, Y, and Z. Again, seriously, seller?

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Adding:
PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, DO NOT VIDEO OR PHOTOGRAPH SOMEONE STANDING ON THE HORSE’S BACK.

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One of the best bits of horse buying advice I’ve read here is, vet the seller. If you know the seller is straight up honest, you can go in with more confidence. Many folks have established relationships with breeders or track trainers or other sources of green horses that they trust to send them quality prospects. If you are brand new to the game and hyping yourself, you need to build a track record.

Also have a look at the pitfalls of selling. You will get lookyloos and tire kickers online and IRL. You will get folks not reading the ads and asking dumb questions and horse ignorant folks wanting to buy an 17 hand green OTTB for their 8 year old beginner child. You will want folks asking for tryout leases, you will have people refusing after PPE, etc.

Walk through all eventualities of stupid or obnoxious customers in advance and decide your policies so you aren’t back on COTH after 6 months with a horror story and a lawsuit asking advice.

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I agree with @OfCourseItsAnAlter here. No reason for one long painful video.

No music, no slow motion, no special affects, no still photos.

Standing on a horses back for 10 seconds is a terrific testament to the balance and strength of the human. It tells us very little about the actual horse. A friend stood on my horses back when maresy was sleepy in turnout. I could never do that because I don’t have the balance. Maresy can still explode in hand on a frosty night and land you in the hospital.

I don’t know why riding bridle less or in a cordero is such a huge Life Goal to so many beginner riders. On most well broke horses, you can drop the reins to the buckle and ride off seat and leg aids when horse is feeling compliant. I’m much more interested in how horse takes contact, how adjustable the gaits are, how the horse balances under you, than whether you can ride for 5 minutes with no head tack as a stunt.

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