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Investment Horses

I am interested in importing horses from Europe. I have a trainer who has contacts, etc, but I am trying to do some independent research. Specifically I am looking to import one horse at a time, so training and board is not an issue as I do this already. I would then like to sell the horse for a profit. I am defining profit as (sell price - sell commission - import costs - - purchase commission - purchase price)

What i need more info on is the purchase and sell prices. I would focus on 3’ and 3’6" hunters. Anyone have averages or some examples of what they paid and what they sold for?


Are you planning on taking it to a bunch of rated shows to increase the value? That may very well eat up all the profit.

I show anyway, but seeing what the margins are will determine if it is feasible.

I think it’s pretty hard to make a profit the way you’re going about it. The people who do this frequently buy and sell on their own, so no commissions to pay. I think many of them also have horses at home or own their own farm, so board/training isn’t really a cost–just feed/bedding/farrier/vet. And I do think you’d have to take the horse to some rated shows to increase its value.

PNWjumper imports and sells horses horses for a profit, so she might have some more insight.

I totally get what you are saying. I am just looking for a starting point until maybe I build my own connections, and could move out some of the commission. All depends though on what the reality is of the buy/sell prices.

Some of this is going to depend quite frankly on how good a rider you are too. I assume that your plan is for this to be your personal horse in between the buying and selling. You may find that to get the horse sold, it will need more time with a trainer in the irons than you have done with your personal horse.

And if you are working with a professional at all, you probably can’t escape the commission.

That doesn’t make it a bad plan as a way to enjoy your personal riding if you have the cash flow.

I agree with Poltroon that it’s a good way to enjoy the horses at less of a loss if you have the money to play with. I don’t think there is any way out of the commissions–it takes years and a lot of business to build the kind of connections that get expensive horses sold. Unless you are a pro, I wouldn’t expect to make money, I would focus on your personal enjoyment.

You ask about the “margins” but the fact is that ideal circumstances rarely happen. Sure, if everything goes perfectly, the numbers might look decent. OTOH, the horse could have soundness or medical problems (despite a perfect vetting), or turn out to some mental/training quirks that are going to take a long time to work through.

I totally get what you are saying. I am just looking for a starting point until maybe I build my own connections, and could move out some of the commission. All depends though on what the reality is of the buy/sell prices.[/QUOTE]

Do a spreadsheet with your cost structure and input various purchase prices to see what range you would have to shop in, and what you would have to then sell for, in order for your personal cost structure to work. Not sure people are going to want to publicly post what they are buying and selling for if they are in the importing business!! And if you are relying on your trainer’s contacts, he/she should be able to tell you what to expect on prices.

The major challenge with your plan is that there are so many variables – what quality can YOUR contact give you at what price, how does the horse adjust when it gets here, how much work to help it understand the hunter job and be show ring ready, do you have the contacts/right environment to get the top dollar price for it when you are ready to sell it, can you absorb the loss if it gets here and gets injured or can’t do the job you thought it could. Commissions on both purchase and sale are potentially a big profit killer – imagine this scenario and you can see how slim the margins get at these assumptions:
purchase $20k US (hard to assume you could get top quality for less, unless your contact can find you a bargain off the beaten path)
15% commission $3k
Import costs $8k
At that point you have $31k in the horse before board, training or showing.
If you sell for $50k, and have a 15% commission on that sale, you net $42,500. So with those assumptions, you are looking at netting $11,500 less whatever board, vet, farrier, training and showing costs you put in it in the months that you own it before you sell it. That level of profit would not seem worth the risk to me, so ideally you would really need to know that you could buy lower and/or sell higher, and cut the cost structure for it to really be a profitable venture.

How much money do you have? It’s a serious question, actually, particularly since (not to be rude) it doesn’t seem like you have the knowledge base to understand the basics of investment horses, importing, and the market. Which is fine, you can learn those things, but that could come at a cost, which is why I ask how much money you have.

If money isn’t a concern and you don’t need the profits to live on, here’s what you need to know:

Investments are unreliable. Investments in the horse world are incredibly unreliable. Don’t invest what you can’t live without. You must consider all aspects of the investment and that you could potentially lose all of it. That risk concept defines how much you are willing to invest.

Your profit is maximized by investing the least amount of money possible, improving the horse greatly for the least amount of money possible, and selling the horse at an exponentially greater price than you purchased it for. Unfortunately, that is a textbook ideal situation and rarely works, but let’s look at each element.

Buying Low. You have to factor in import costs when considering buying low in Europe. Is that $10k steal of a deal 4 year old gelding still a steal when factoring in another $10k in import and transportation costs? Now you have $22k invested in purchase, commission and import of your 4 year old.

Let’s say you hang onto it for a year. Training & board are let’s say $1200 a month (which could be low or high depending on the program you’re in). That’s $14,400, with a total investment of $36,400. Now you could be tempted to skip including this in the investment scenario because you’d be boarding/training anyway, but still - it’s a factor into the horse’s cost.

Now how much you show the horse and how well it does will significantly impact it’s value, and this is where you don’t have a crystal ball. Does the easy as pie 4 year old you bought stay easy as pie in an different environment and program with new expectations and new strength built? They rarely do, but some can, and those will make you lots of money. Does the 4 year old need two years in the ring to really be saleable? Let’s say you show it once a month for 1 years with a pro ride + your ride…at $2k a show (again, that could be on the low end depending on your trainer’s program) that’s another $24k a year. So after keeping him for 1 years, you’d be at 60,400.

Let’s say he’s saleable now. Is he worth at least $75k as a 5 year old? That’s only your break even point, after a 20% commission to your trainer)?

What if you had to keep him two years? That’s another year of boarding, training and showing.

This is an oversimplified example and leaves out incidental costs like insurance, veterinary and farriery costs, tack, etc. and also assumes he doesn’t get hurt.

You can see it’s impossible to really determine how much you’ll make because so much is variable. It really depends on how easy the horse is, how quickly you can improve him enough to sell him for a profit, how much you have to campaign him to improve his value, and how saleable he ends up being.

Which is why I started with the question of how much money you have. Most people who make money off investment horses do so over a long period of time over many, many horses, some of which they’ve taken losses on and some of which they’ve made more than they should’ve.

I know PNWJumper has personal experience in doing this and hopefully weigh in, but I know she keeps the horses at home and does all the riding, training and showing herself, which drastically changes the profit dynamic.

My recommendation would be do start investing in some horse in the states first. Try to find the diamond in the rough. Try to make a few grand off a horse before you try to make a ton. Even do this as a second horse, and don’t limit yourself to the big fancy ones. Find the pony who with two months on him could make a perfect children’s hunter pony that you can make a few grand off. Invest that into an Appendix that’ll make the perfect 2’6 local hunter that you can make $7k off of. Flip a few, get the feel for it, make sure you like it and can do it before risking a significant investment. Then again, that’s coming from someone who has limited resources, so if you’re blessed with a chunk of change to play with, hey, go for it! Just know that there really isn’t a magic formula to determine what you could make.

It really all depends on what you bought it for, how long you hold it, what you put into it, and how much you can sell it for. And since all of those are variable and undeterminable, you need to be comfortable with your risk of loss should things go south.

Good luck!

ETA - if you’re not really considering things like boarding, training, vet/farrier/showing costs because you’d be doing that anyway with a horse you’d be keeping, you aren’t really looking at this as an investment opportunity. Investments are calculated on sales - all costs associated = profit. If you’re just looking to import, keep for a while, and sell (hopefully for more than you paid for it) and not factor in all costs, you’re not really looking at investments, just at having sale horses instead of a horse you want to keep for several years. Which is fine! But it’s not the same way of thinking as when you’re truly trying to invest and make money off of show horses.

Here are my thoughts having shopped in Europe and showing Adult Amateur and A/O hunters at A shows.

Honestly, i think to find anything decent enough to buy, assume you will pay 35k Euro min. Probably will be pretty green and young. I sat on a great one for 30K Euro that had gone to the Young jumpers finals there as a 6 year old but it was gone the day after I saw it :(.
Here is a gross generalization of horses that are sound and decent size and not overly complicated:
A decent A circuit 3’ horse with good miles (and is just a 3’ horse) could probably go for 75k USD if you are winning often enough that people don’t have a question mark. Could be a lot more if you win all the time in competitive company, and the horse has enough scope to save an Amateur’s behind when it makes mistakes at the jumps.

A decent 3’6 horse would be 100K+ but also depends on many variables.

I’m not talking Welly world prices, because I don’t exist in that world. But that said, getting one ready and in time to sell in Florida is a good strategy because people going down to those circuits to shop have checks to write.

I suggest to get one that will get a piece of the hack. makes it easier to sell faster. Adds value to both sides of equation.

Good luck with you endeavor!

I totally get what you are saying. I am just looking for a starting point until maybe I build my own connections, and could move out some of the commission. All depends though on what the reality is of the buy/sell prices.[/QUOTE]

You speak of this as if it’s a math equation. It is not! If you are turning a profit in horses, it’s called Magic!!
Seriously, the value increase is what you can make it. Period, that’s it! Only you know (or don’t know) the answer to that question. You have to add value to the horse.

Hi All,

Thanks for your input! To provide some context, I work in finance and have studied project analysis, so in order for me to continue said analysis I was hoping for the buy/sell numbers. The money used for this investment is of course not needed for living off of, and this is not intended to become a full time import business. My initial thought was 30K for the purchase of the horse, plus expenses. Again, I am not factoring in board and training as these are fixed costs for me whether I import for a flip sale or buy something finished. The program my horse is currently in is applicable based on how it is structured.

Mac123 - I like the idea of ponies, there always seems to be a need for them as well and I can certainly show ponies myself or have my trainer do so. We do not go to week long shows every month, so I don’t think the showing would amount to 24K a year. I am lucky being in NJ, we have top notch shows that we can go to a day at a time. It is helpful!

The idea here is to always be able to enjoy whatever I purchase. For instance, I’m not going to import a GP horse and just pay someone to ride it all the time. That to me seems crazy, and only for those who like to say they own GP horses.

I also do not have a “sell by” date if you will.

So I guess what I’m asking is can you take a 30K horse and sell him for 60k? Is that a possibility or is the margin more like 30 to 45? I will always own a horse and show, so those costs do not matter in valuing this project.

And really at the end of the day if I like the horse and decide to keep it, that’s the cherry on top.

Maybe. You could buy it for 30 and sell it for 100. Or 10. Or 35. Or 72. Or have to donate it to a college program.

The horse business is different than traditional investments and financial analysis.

If you have a background in project analysis, you should be putting together a spreadsheet of all your numbers and all the variables based on your particular expectations and realities. But that’s if you’re looking at it as an investment.

Since you aren’t truly, your question needs to be this:

If I buy a [green 4 year old] horse for $30k with the intention of making it a [pregreen/adult hunter] and will plan on showing it [12] times per year with [mid-range] results, in the [northeast] region, [without] showing the big circuits (Florida, Tryon, Devon, etc), within a [mid range] A circuit program, how much do you guys think it would be worth?

If you fill in the [–], we can give you a guesstimate on what the horse might be worth, and you can decide if that makes sense for you.

Thank you!

Mac123 has excellent advice and valid points. I would suggest you educate yourself more on the US sales market before getting into this – you need to know what the sales price points are for various experience and quality levels, and even internet research as if you were buying in the US will help you with that. Sure, you could sell that $30k horse for $60k but only if it is either uber-fancy and you have the right sales contacts, OR you put a solid 3’ show record on it and it is ready to do the 3’ job reliably for a child or adult. And with the costs you are mentally taking out of the equation and deeming not relevant, it realistically is not an investment/profit proposition, it is more of a question can you recoup enough to put into the next one.

Try a pony project if you want to dip your toes in the water – if you beat the bushes and dig around, you can find fancy green pony projects in the US pretty easily without having to import.

Investment Horses is an oxymoron.

bought one stateside for 750 - sold him for 65,000
bought one for 10,000 - lost him on the table after a sizeable vet bill
bought another for 10,000 - gave him away last year
bought one for 1,000 - fingers crossed

Another factor to consider along with the other excellent comments is, how good is your eye? Some people are good at looking beyond the superficial and spotting an good horse currently undervalued. Other people get sucked in by the flash and chrome and over pay.

How good your eye is for prospects will help determine if you can buy a 30k horse and sell it for 50k or more (all other stars aligned as has been pointed out). We can not answer that for you over the internet.

Regardless of the paragraphs posted above, the question you need to ask yourself is:

Does your trainer (or other contacts who will work with you) have a demonstrated and repeated track record of selling horses for $75k+?
As in, do they do this several times per year?

If they don’t you could have the next Rox Dene and they won’t be able to get it done for you. You don’t want to be the first guinea pig, you want to get in line with everyone else on the conveyor belt.

Also ask them if they have a demonstrated and repeatable record of finding and bringing over horses for $30k or less.

If I were going to get an investment horse I wouldn’t want to spend more than $30k and I would expect it to be marketable for $75+ within 6 months. This does not mean it will get done in 6 months, but it should lope around like a $75k horse by then.

If your pro has this kind of program, hop on the conveyor belt and let them help you.

If they don’t, find someone who does first.

The importance of the having the right contacts when you go to sell has been touched on, but I wanted to call it our specifically. Although I am not a player in that world and am not in an especially h/j dense area, my observation is that among the top echelon of hunter trainers, who their clients buy from is often as important as the actual horses being bought and sold.