Flipping a horse: what's the biggest trouble and how do you deal with it?

I know there are a lot of people out there who buy horses cheap and turn around a sell them for a profit. Sometimes these horses are obtained through auction or sometimes the horse is just a free horse found by happenstance.
I’d like to see peoples’ opinions on flipping horses and what the troubles are and how various people deal with those troubles. I’m inquiring about horses in general, but specifically the hunter/jumper discipline.
I can guess that the biggest problem would be soundness (I had constant soundness issues with my own horse), but I’d like to hear other opinions!

I never buy from auctions. Get them vetted at the track if you are worried about that. It helps to have them vetted for when you are ready to sell them. You need to have a good eye for leg injuries and overall conformation to recognize faults on a horse that will interfere with it’s soundness. One big thing, if you do have one that happens to not be sound, disclose that at the sale. Advertise the horse with the issues. Don’t ever try to sell one that is not sound and lie about it. It will ruin your reputation. I had a “friend” that would make up lies about where the horse come from and would lie about soundness issues. She was a good talker so people believed her. I cut all ties with her because I didn’t need her ruining my good reputation.

I get most of mine off the track or from private owners. I make it known to the sellers that I am buying as a resale project. I never tell anyone that I will keep the horse forever. Auction horses tend to be sick and you have to quarantine them.

The biggest problem is that horses are expensive to keep, especially if you have to pay board. It’s easy to buy one cheap, keep it for a while, put some miles on it and sell it for more than you paid.

What’s hard is actually making a PROFIT. Making more than the cost of the horse, as well as its care, farrier, vet, etc. for the time you’ve had it. That’s the biggest problem, and I never found a way to deal with it. So I don’t do it anymore. :wink:

If you are trying to buy/sell small scale, then you need to

  1. Get the best temperament in an attractive package.
    A horse that is in work, is handsome, safe, and has paperwork will most likely sell.

  2. Keep costs down. Unless you own a farm or live/work at one, then look for a super cheapo field-ish board situation.

  3. DO NOT hold onto a horse that is not a relatively easy keeper. If that skinny rescue prospect does not blossom with good food and decent care, then you have to have the guts to unload it and NOT invest more in it.

  4. You have to increase the value of the horse significantly with training, etc.
    Buy an unbroken 2-4 year old and start it.

  5. Horse has to be offered for sale where people are shopping. If you live in the middle of nowhere, you are going to have a hard time persuading people to come try the horse.

  6. Be honest about what buyers WANT in a horse. Do not buy a horse for yourself. Buy a horse for your target market.

A lot of people TRY to flip horses, very few do it well.

First: stay HONEST and retain your character and integrity throughout every sale. Even if you don’t sell the horse, give everyone that inquires a pleasant experience and tell the truth. They will remember that and respect it.

The hunter/jumper world is not one that is easy or even practical for the regular person to flip horses in. Ponies, yes. Horses, no. The majority of people that can spend + $10k (which is basically the price range you’d generally try to target for a successful flip) are going to want a warmblood. This is a problem for you, because in order for you to get a horse to flip, it will have to be cheap. You can find a lovely TB with no issues cheap. A cheap warmblood however, usually has problems. Sometimes lack of soundness of body, usually lack of soundness of its mind.

In my experience, eventers are much more pleasant to deal with, they don’t care what breed it is as long as it is a usable horse.

If you aren’t too big, I HIGHLY suggest trying ponies. A good pony is relatively easy to find, and they don’t have to be so fancy as long as they have a good temperment. The pony moms pay. It’s a market where cute does sell. It is a fairly steady demand with fewer “trends”.

I hope you were able to wade through my terribly unorganized post without too much trouble, I apologize for the choppiness.

Thank you all for your input and opinions on this subject! It’s helpful and really interesting to see what people think.

My .02 when flipping is watch for cribbers. There are people out there that won’t even consider a cribber regardless of how fancy,sound, kind etc.

You’ve gotten some excellent advice already. I just want to add one thing. As you know, horses can get hurt very easily (some worse than others!) and sometimes you end up with an injury that makes a horse less sound/valuable than when you started. You need to have a plan before you buy about what you would do/how you would handle this if it happens. Can you deal with taking a loss if something goes wrong? Can you euthanize a basically healthy horse? Do you have room to keep it for the next 20+ years? Can you afford surgery if it comes down to that? Can you afford to get the horse insured?

Finding a home for a marginally sound horse is almost impossible these days so you really need to think that part through before you jump into getting a horse to flip.

Be clear on the difference between a project and a flip. Time is money and to really call it a flip? It’s a 3 month window if you board out, maybe 6 if you can keep at home.

So, if you are looking for a flip, you look for already w-t-c and if you are talking H/J? It needs to be jumping. Buy out of distress sales(bankruptcy, divorce, seizure, sometimes private dispersal sales dissolving an estate). Might be able to convert a lesson horse to a private one pretty quick. Some people with good contacts at the track basically “pick” them, quick let down and restart with some groceries. But they need to be sold ASAP or there is no profit. Generally, if you flip, you have an idea who your buyer el be, often a pre existing relationship with somebody who will take it farther polish wise and resell.

Project horses have a longer resale time frame and involve youngsters, bad neglect cases and total ground up training. You can get more money with a finished project but will have thousands more into it, not even counting your time. Much harder to be a buy/ sell business if you can’t sell them so, even with more of a project, you can’t waste time or afford big vet bills and/or lay ups. You need to stay on schedule with specific goals in mind- and it needs to have a price on it from day 1.

it takes a certain amount of emotional detachment to successfully flip or turn a project around and make anything at all over your costs. Some are better at that then others. Many end up spending too much and keeping them for a year or more eating up any chance at actual profit.

Years ago I flipped a few in South Texas. Had ranch contacts, bought young broke ranch horses under 1k, had a cheap place to keep them at a friends small chicken farm, corral with run in. Selected color, size, geldings only, AQHA reg. Fed them up,groomed the hide off of them, clipped, mane shaped, w-t-c, leads, trotting over poles, canter low jump. Western or not, that’s basic training. Sold them around 2k in 60 days- but I had buyers I knew wanted them ahead of time. They continued the process and resold within a year. I made a little but we are talking a little here, maybe 200-300 each but in 1980 that wasn’t too bad.

Did about 6 of them in about 18 months and was getting cocky- then the local economy tanked…lost every cent I made and went in the hole with the last one. Even with that, I think it could be done. But not so much with H/J a d the additional training over fences unless you got the time, tent and facilities to get it well started over jumps 2’6"+ in a hurry. It’s doable though if you have the buyer contacts.

Very good advice so far, thank you! :slight_smile:

Don’t fall in love no matter how talented you think the horse may be. I bought a mare cheaper that had minimal show experience and thought I would flip her and then I thought she might be a nice horse for me and then I waffled between the two constantly. I still have her…lol. She’s a nice mare but a bit above my pay grade ride wise. At this point even though I bought her at a price where she was a good potential resale project I will never get my money out of her.

Beware the free horse. The reason it’s free may end up being the same reason you can’t sell it either. Don’t be afraid to be picky with vices. If there’s something about it you wouldn’t be willing to live with, odds are it won’t be so attractive to others either.


If you aren’t too big, I HIGHLY suggest trying ponies. A good pony is relatively easy to find, and they don’t have to be so fancy as long as they have a good temperment. The pony moms pay. It’s a market where cute does sell. It is a fairly steady demand with fewer “trends”. [/QUOTE]

I would be interested to find out where a not so fancy but cute pony can be sold for big money can be located. From what I can see, fancy is what brings the decent prices and fancy costs you more up front. :slight_smile:

The only folks I see making money flipping show hunters have the skills and facilites to train and show them at the AA level. Less than that and you aren’t making your money back. The other sucessful flip scenarios are those who have an eye for track horses and can turn them into fox hunters or sell to eventers.

I would be interested to find out where a not so fancy but cute pony can be sold for big money can be located. From what I can see, fancy is what brings the decent prices and fancy costs you more up front. :)[/QUOTE]

I assume the OP is looking for a quick resale, not a $50k+ pony. A good pony in the $5-$10k range can get away with a not so great trot but a steady disposition and a cute jump.

I would be interested to find out where a not so fancy but cute pony can be sold for big money can be located. From what I can see, fancy is what brings the decent prices and fancy costs you more up front. :)[/QUOTE]
I know somebody (in NC) who buys young ponies (mostly yearlings, some 2 year olds I think) really cheap from pony breeders in the midwest and sells them as 3-4 year olds. Not sure if she really makes a profit but she’s been doing it for a while so I guess she’s not losing too much money.

You have to go into it knowing you are taking a risk that:
a.) the horse wont make you a profit
b.) you could lose money
c.) you could fall in love and keep it
d.) you could make a profit

Like a previous poster mentioned, there is the “Flip” >90 days, and the “Project.” To flip, you have to get a horse in under 1k on minimal expense, groom them up, put a little flatwork on them, canter a few X’s and sell them for maybe 2-4k… QUICKLY.

Part of the risk is that some horses take longer. You could buy thinking you are going to flip and get something that could be fancy and need a longer time line. You are risking that the additional time and expense will add value. This horse needs more than a good groom, you want a round, well muscled horse with a nice topline who is learning a job. This horse you want to get off the property and do some local shows and become a well rounded individual. That gets expensive!

If you are okay with breaking even (if you are lucky) for the experience, go for it. It’s hard to make a significant profit.

Timely thread. Great advice everyone, thanks!

Something else…you need to know people who would buy from you. That requires being established in the area and a good reputation plus knowing somebody that actually buys in your price range.

One of the biggest problems with a short term flip many have is they really don’t know anybody who buys in their sale price range…I mean, taking the pony example, do you know anybody who would buy that nice mannered but not fancy pony for 7500-10k? Can you call contacts and let them know it’s available? Or would you run a CL ad and post on the websites…and wait…and wait…every day eats your profit up once it’s sale ready.

Even the projects, you read what some you think are like yours go for and assume yours will too…but you never met anybody who would pay that price and would never pay it yourself…not much of a marketing campaign for the higher price you need for a project there.

In the case of my little business way back when, I was on the regional board of directors for a breed organization, worked and exhibited at the shows so I had the contacts, knew what would sell and where to price it so one of my trainer contacts could take it farther then resell again. Not a case of holding out for the forever home here, just a step in getting them suited for a better job. Kind of like pinhooking at the track, they buy weanling and sell yearling sales, buy yearling and sell along to a 2 year old in training venue…where it will sell again or buy right off the track and flip within 90 days-often to another pro who will polish and resell in a short time frame.

It’s all business and best kept separate from personal horses.