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Pricing the Complicated Horse (with AA-show record)

Wondering if anyone has any insight into how one might price the following horse to sell:

16.3, 8-year-old imported Dutch WB gelding; great show record in the hunters (Zone Champion in National Derby; Zone Reserve Champion 3’3 Green two years ago; shown up to First Year Green with very solid ribbons; been to WEF, Ocala, etc. Shown him myself in 3’3 A/Os). Imported him as 4-year-old as a sale horse.

Easiest, most affectionate horse on the ground. Impeccable ground manners. Great mover. Goes bareback and bridle-less, hacks out on trails, easy keeper. Jumps a 10+. More than enough scope and step for Intl. Derbies. HOWEVER: He may or may not always jump. When he’s good, he’s really, really good. When he does stop, it happens 2-3 strides away from the jump - never a “dirty stop” - it’s more of a slow-motion spook. And he’s not a particularly “spooky” horse - it’s only triggered by jumps (or stacks of poles that resemble jumps) coupled with any tension or anxiety he senses from the rider.

[Apologies for the long backstory…]

Unfortunately, we think something happened to this this horse during the 4 month period that I was no longer handling/riding/managing him full-time (I left my job as assistant barn manager and moved to a city to pursue a different career path). Horse, nearly 6 years old at the time, was left back home with trainers, who we believe tried to “tune him up” a bit - and he was never quite the same about the jumps. Went through very thorough vet check process to rule out physical causes (eyes, Lyme, ulcers, pain, saddle fit, you name it). Gave him a nice, long break from work.

Then, horse went to a different trainer I trusted, this trainer went through a very gradual process of rebuilding his confidence with the jumps, horse got back on track, became normal self, lovely, showing, winning derbies, etc. for about 2 years. I was involved as much as possible, riding and showing intermittently when I could escape city/job. Horse is always perfect with myself and trainer.

Horse then went on a weeklong trial with a junior rider. Trial did not go well. Liverpool went especially poorly (even though we told them to avoid water). Horse came back nervous again, spooking at ground poles, jumps, random splotches in the footing, even things in the aisle. I took him to barn near my city to figure it out. Horse got better with me, went back to FL for winter circuit. Did really well again with trainer. Had another buyer interested - arranged trial in FL - horse did not appreciate that rider at all; went back to the spooking nonsense. Full vet work-up yet again, all clear. Trainer at this point at a loss for what to do with him.

Horse, now back with me, has had a couple months off in a field. Just getting him back in work. I can flat all day long and he’s lovely, but if I want to test out a jump, I usually start on the lunge line. When we go through the steps of “lunge over flower box” and then “get on and canter over flower box” and then “canter normal 3’ course of hunter jumps” at home, there is no issue, no spooking whatsoever. I’m confident he’d be fine at the horse shows with me since I know all these things about him - I just don’t know if he’s going to want to jump with just any other rider. If I could afford to keep him, I absolutely would. Unfortunately, I can really only hang onto him for another year.

So: Faced with a couple of options, I am thinking about working with a well-regarded dressage trainer for a few months to see if that might be a better path for this horse long-term. However, since that would be a significant financial investment in itself, I’m also wondering what the heck he could be priced at if sold “as is” - with full disclosure of his oddities and jump anxiety.

Appreciate any and all thoughts! Just want him to end up in the best possible home that can give him the same level of care as he’s always received (of course, it would be nice to recoup a bit of the $ spent, but I know it won’t be perfect).

I would be hoping he likes dressage.
A jumper who doesn’t want to jump anymore isn’t worth much, sadly.
I sincerely wish you good luck. It sounds like you’ve put a lot of time and care into this complicated guy. Good for you for trying.


Thinking outside the box, maybe consider connecting with an event trainer and seeing if he’ll event. You say he enjoys riding out. Not to stereotype but an eventer riding at the Intermediate or Advanced level may be more willing to put up with the jumping drama in exchange for the talent level and may have more experience with quirky horses than a lot of hunters. OTOH, if he’s nice and safe on the flat he could be a amateurs dream for the dressage. Good luck.


I would sell this horse with full disclosure that horse will stop with the wrong person. Then it’s going to be a long search for the right person. His price is whatever that person is willing to pay. I imagine this type of horse going to a good riding junior on a budget, probably the kid of a pro. If he jumps with you it’s at least worth a shot to find someone else he will trust… the stars may align.


Ugh that’s really tough. Sorry you’re dealing with that. Maybe sell him to a young pro looking to have some success in the hunters who will be willing to deal with his quirks? Definitely would not try to make him an event horse if he spooks at poles and flower boxes. Those horses need to be very brave. Maybe he would like dressage? If he’s a great mover, get some basic flat video and market him as a dressage prospect. He’s not too old to change jobs. Good luck and sorry you’ve gone through so much with him. I have been there and no how hard and frustrating (and disheartening!) that can be.


A few rhetorical questions to consider. Can you identify why you can get good results from your horse and other riders cannot? Obviously the horse requires a certain ride. What type of ride is that? If he has the right ride does he require a lot of prep?

It might be helpful to mention his bloodlines. Sometimes certain sires are known for producing offspring with certain quirks.

It is hard to price the horse you have on a BB. Zone champion and reserve champion are great accomplishments but the championships will reflect varying levels of achievement depending on the zone.

Based on what you are telling us, it sounds like your horse will perform with the right rider. So the key is to understand how rare those riders might be. If a suitable rider is an ammie that has skills like unto a pro, you could be looking at a discount of 50% or more visa-a-vis a horse of similar talents that can be ridden by an average ammie.

The next year will go by quickly. You might want to spend it determining what type of rider suits him best and when you find a suitable rider, you might have to get creative. Perhaps offering a very attractively priced 6-month lease to allow the horse and rider time to solidify their partnership (all under the supervision of trainers you trust of course) and facilitate a sale.

Your fellow sounds like he has a lot to offer, he just needs to find the right rider.


Very few people are going to want to take that on unless he is very fancy and would be highly competitive. Then some, including pros, may be willing to work though the issue with the idea that it would pay off in the end. Still a case of finding the right person though.

It seems as though he may jump for those he trusts and has a relationship with. That may not mean that he likes it, but will do it due to the partnership established. If this were my horse, I’d be dabbling in some dressage to see if he shows promise there. Then the worry about “will he jump” wouldn’t be a thing if he had talent in the dressage ring.

This also might be a long shot and may not get you a high sales price, but is there any hunting in your area? If he enjoys hacking out, has good stamina, and deals with a group situation well, it could be an option. This would only be possible if he prefers/is better about jumps outside of the ring and is a bit encouraged by the group mentality. If he just really doesn’t like jumping or is that insecure, then it’s not the career for him. I had a horse that was much happier jumping big jumps in the terrain than he was jumping over sticks in the ring. Terrible at stadium, fantastic at hunting and some cross country.

But I really think the easiest approach is to try some dressage training.

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Gosh, to me, it sounds like he just doesn’t want that job anymore. The only reason to force it is money. Yes, you might get a few more bucks if somebody wants to take on the challenge and keep him in the h/j ring. But realistically, it’s going to be a hard sell anyway. If he’s lovely and safe on the flat, I think he’d be a wonderful candidate for low-level dressage. Sounds like he’d be happier, too. Ask yourself if putting him into training is worth it, though. You could easily spend $1200/month on board, shoes, training, vet, supplements, insurance, etc. After six months, you’ve sunk another $7200 into him and he’s still more or less a prospect. I’d sell him as-is as a dressage prospect.

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It kind of sounds like you are having issues with him too, not just other people who ride him. Given you have such an ordinate routine set up just to jump a very simple jump…

Sometimes, it’s hard for us to be honest with ourselves too. Why avoid liver pools? Seems like a pretty standard jump for a horse with his education… so you knew he would have issues – which means this is probably something you’re aware of, but maybe not being 100% reflective of the whole picture here…

Consider it is not a training problem but a physical one.

Lots of things change when a horse moves barn. Management. Feed regime. The tack used. Shoeing/farrier.

Ulcers, saddle fit, improper trimming… all of which may not be detected by a vet if the owner does not ask vet to pursue these diagnostics…

I mention these because on COTH people always claim “oh, ulcers/saddle fit/whatever was ruled out” – but then we learn that the vet just eyeballed (rather than scoped) the condition of the horse to rule out ulcers, or just did a palpitation of the back (rather than bone scan or ultrasound) to rule out back pain. Neither of these ‘diagnostic tools’ are reliably able to rule out ulcers or sore backs any more than using a stethoscope to rule out whether someone has cancer. Nine times out of ten, it wasn’t ruled out – it was just that the vet or owner did not do proper diagnostics.

I wouldn’t be selling him to a jumping home until you completely rule out physical issues. A horse that has a behavioral change like that is textbook for a physical issue – even if he is not obviously limping. Don’t need to be limping to be hurting.


And footing, could be footing related to undiscovered hurting.

$15k, or about what another year of board/care would cost you. I agree a 6-month introductory lease will be best for all parties, including horse.

Sounds like he’s been lied to (probs the junior), or had the game changed up on him too many times (tuning by trainer) without fair warning.

That’s a budget a pro might consider for a known stopper that maaaybe they can fix up for the derby ring (if they click & time is taken to earn his trust) and if not, perhaps he can be some kids fancy 2’ hunter that they can lease out in the barn (if temperament allows).

It’s also a number that will be extraordinarily attractive to anyone shopping for a quality hunter in the low 5s. A good amateur, with loads of time on their hands, no hard set goals, and perhaps their own herd at home, might find that very appealing.

I can’t imagine an 8 y.o. hunter with no real dressage training is going to fetch much money, unless you spend up front to install the dressage training… and still think you will be upside down financially. He’s not going to progress enough in a year to demonstrate whether he will reach the dressage level that actually warrants a decent price tag.

Not saying I wouldn’t start down that road as it sounds like it may be in the best interest of this horse, just saying it’s not an alternative that’s going to result in a better financial ending to this story.

I’d be livid if someone took my quirky fancy hunter with a known stop and pointed them at a liverpool, BTW.


A previous barnmate had a similar situation. Horse had nice record in the jumpers and all was great UNTIL it wasn’t. She eventually sent the horse to an agent to sell, and he made a new life for himself as a field hunter. He REFUSED to go near sticks in the ring, but boy did he love field work! He’s been happy ever since! But she had to drop his price from the $35k or so that she paid to a more realistic $5k. He was a sweet but very traumatized boy. Best of luck finding the right situation for your special horse.


I disagree with those saying a pro will want the horse. Smaller time pros can’t afford to collect projects. Sure, he might perform for them, but then who are they going to sell him to? I’d at least have a dressage trainer evaluate him at this point.

And it doesn’t sound like a 6 month lease would work either if short trials are short circuiting him this much.


Had something similar. Actually this sounds a lot like mine - great on the ground, just a lovebug to have in the barn. Super fancy. I got that one cheap and loved him and tried to make it work. The good days were great - we could do the 3’3" AOs and have a blast and get good ribbons when I found the jumps. Then he had a bad show and pulled the stopping with me when I was 12 weeks pregnant and I decided I was done.

He had no formal dressage training but was super broke, basic lateral work, etc. Sold him to a dressage home for something like $15k, and that was with a disclosed vetting issue (arthritic joint) and he was older than yours (10 if I recall). They love him - he’s athletic and well bred and was schooling crazy movements within a few months.

If you’re just looking to recoup some cash, that might be the way to go. Get someone to take a video of him in dressage tack and show basic gates, extensions, lateral work, a clean lead change. Feel free to PM me and I can share the video of mine that we made.


Yeah, but if you give a junior & coach 7 days to figure out if a horse will work for them 6 months from now they’re going to do stupid things like point a confidence-lacking hunter at liverpools (Let’s see if it can do the USET!!!). With an educated rider thinking about actual long term success, it would give them time to slowly feel out the trust relationship that this horse clearly needs.

I see your other statement but somewhat disagree that it’s universal. Upgrading projects is exactly how the small pro makes his or her name, or ever has anything to ride for themselves in this business, now that the days of patron Ammy Owners are over. They’re certainly not out there paying full price for top-notch green hunters that they can bring along for the derby on their own timelines and without worry that the horse gets moved or sold out from under them.

For $15k allll in + quality & scope as your ranking priorities (because you can ride) and a clean vetting your 2nd, you get a 1-2 y.o. warmblood, which frankly is just as much as a gamble.

Certainly not all pros go this route, some are very happy just coaching. But the ones more serious about pursuing their own riding goals kinda have to go this route, and at the level they want/yearn/need to play at to become anything other than a LSNT, $15k is peanuts.


I had to triple check that this isn’t my friend’s horse that I’ve been riding lately. Hers has probably a few more screws loose and a couple of bumps on his legs that could use investigating, but a very similar situation over all.

So I’m going to say the same to you as I have been to her. If the horse has genuine potential as a dressage prospect send him somewhere ASAP, this is your best bet for a nice moving and pleasant warmblood. If you truly think he could continue to make it in the hunters with the right person you’re going to have to start really seeking out a buyer, not waiting for one to come to you. And you might have to more or less give him away. It sucks but it’s true, better to get out of the bills than hold on to a valuable but valueless horse for another year.

I already had one that was a bit touched in the head but a lovely jumper when he wanted to be and guess what? He never lived up to the good days, and we never made it into a show ring. I adore him dearly but sometimes I wish his previous owner had given him up to an ammy dressage rider, I was quiet and gentle and built trust and I still could only get him around when he felt like it. That’s why I’ve passed on this other one, my friend started the phone call with “hey, do you want another (my horse’s name)?” and I knew I couldn’t do it again.

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Can I just suggest…no more trials. Plenty of horses are sold without them, and it sounds like many of his relapses were triggered by them.

I have a hard time letting an easy and confident horse go on trial because you never know what crazy sh*t someone is going to do that causes irreparable injury or harm to their training or confidence. With a sensitive on and a known problem, just no. They can come ride him at your place, you can trailer him elsewhere (or several places)…but no more trials where some trainer is going to try and “fix” him and ruin his confidence and all the work you’ve done.

I wouldn’t lease him unless you knew and trusted the lessee. But that’s probably the road I’d go down right now. Does the trainer who did such a good job with him have a good riding junior or adult with no money? If so, some arrangement like that may be a good fit and allow the time to figure out if the horse is going to jump for someone else. It could be a good opportunity for that person to end up with a horse at a great price. But I’d only do this with a trainer and rider I trusted implicitly.

Personally, I’d also have a hard time selling him with the issue, because these are the horses that are either entirely ruined or become dangerous in the wrong hands…and there’s lots of people who think they can “fix” anything. So if the above option isn’t doable, perhaps a career change is what you should pursue to make sure he ends up in a safe place.

Dressage could work, and also you could try something like the jumpers. I believe @PNWjumper had one who didn’t like the jumpers but who was perfect in the hunters. You could also go way outside the box and look for a pleasure home. You won’t get much money, but you also wouldn’t have to worry about him being forced to jump, either.


When he’s going well (for him) is there any height at which he’ll go around without issue? Sounds like maybe not, but if he hops around 2’6” without issue and it’s only above 3’ that he stops, you might think about pricing (if not marketing) him like a 2’6” horse. Whatever that means in your area.

Does the trainer who has successfully managed him have anyone for an in-barn lease? That situation might buy you some time, and/or act as a better trial situation.

I absolutely think you should at least get an evaluation from a respected dressage trainer/seller. If you’re going to get $15k for either an iffy junior hunter or a fancy dressage prospect, sounds like he might prefer dressage?


But what is this hypothetical pro going to do with the horse in X years that no one else can ride? Just because he/she may have bought this horse for cheap and could perhaps do well in the show ring (provided there isn’t something latent physical that’s going on), gone are the days where a small time pro owns their own farm, so where is the horse to go? I think it would be a better long term solution to try to find the horse a more suitable job–past success in the hunter ring aside, it does not appear that a hunter job with the majority of other riders is going to be the right home for this horse at this point in time.


I said a pro might, and I even used those asterisks. I can’t even say they’re hypothetical because I know them. Yes, they own their own farms and I’ve seen them make way more questionable purchases than this :lol: But slowly they trade up & trade up & eventually they usually land on some gold… or plated gold at least. If you are concerned with keeping track of the horse this is probably not the route to take.

I also added that this would be more likely if the horse also displayed the temperament to perhaps be a fancy 2’ horse the trainer can lease out and make their money back 5 times over, should all derby plans fail.

The initial description of the horse sounds like the base temperament is pretty great, and as far as I can tell there are no dirty behaviors, just really disappointing ones… for certain people but not others. The horse is either jumping some pretty legit show quality fences, or he’s sitting in a field. And owner can pop on and jump a 3’ course with what is actually less lunging than most of our Pre-Ch/AA Hunters receive.

It just sounds like the horse is either sitting at 0mph or cruisin’ along at 45, and perhaps a low-expectation job in the 15mph School Zone is worth a look. Alongside a solid consideration of a 100% dressage life, though he will still fair better if he learns how to deal with a pile of poles. Dunno. The OP sounds like she’s looking for options, I’m just tossing them out there.

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