I wrote this article for my GMO last fall, and since the USDF Convention is this weekend, I thought it would be fun to resurrect it! This article won me my first USDF award for a GMO newsletter article :)
At some point or another, most of us have probably purchased a horse.
Many of us have also sold horses. Few would describe either process as
enjoyable. Buyers complain there is not enough information in an ad,
while sellers find that even if they include information, they’re still
stuck answering the same questions over and over.
As a buyer, I’ve had the fun experience of wading through ads that
are missing basic information, or have so much information that they’re
overwhelming. As a professional writer/editor, I’ve also helped out many
friends by “polishing” sale ads to help convey information in the most
succinct way possible.
The best rule of thumb for sale ads is to keep it simple! There will
be plenty of opportunities to share further details with potential
buyers once they’ve initiated contact, so you don’t need to write a
novel for a sale ad. But take care that you don’t simplify too much; you
need to ensure that your ad includes certain necessary information.
Start with the basics – breed, registry, age, sex, color, and height.
If the horse is registered with a breed that requires genetic testing
(for example, HYPP in Quarter Horses or SCID in Arabians), include the
results. If the horse is an unusual color, listing the official results
of color testing may also be appropriate.
Training – be honest about the level of training (and showing, if
applicable). If the horse has a show record, include some results. For
example, “consistently scores in the mid-60s at First Level”, or “point
and shoot jumper competing through 1.3M at rated shows.”
Around the barn – include basic information about how the horse is to handle for bathing, clipping, farrier, vet, etc.
Temperament – is the horse quirky? Is it “husband-safe?” Accurately
assessing the horse’s temperament can be useful in weeding out
potentially unsuitable matches.
Price – in about a quarter of the sale ads I see, there is no price.
Even if you don’t want to list a dollar amount, it can be helpful to
include something like “priced in the low 5 figures.”
If you’re advertising a horse as breeding stock (stallion or mare), include any relevant reproductive information.
And last but not least, my favorite part – sales photos! A good photo
can make a $1,000 horse look like a $10,000 horse, and vice versa.
Include at least one good conformation photo, and several “action” shots
of the horse performing in the discipline you are marketing them for.
For conformation photos, make sure the horse is neat and tidy (clean
at an absolute minimum, bathed and clipped if at all possible!) and
wearing a nice halter or bridle. Pick a pleasant background with no
distracting clutter. Conformation shots are a two-person job at minimum,
sometimes three! Besides the photographer, you need to have someone
holding the horse and keeping their attention – a bored, disinterested
horse doesn’t photograph well.
The most appropriate type of “action” shot will vary from discipline
to discipline. Marketing a horse as a dressage horse, jumper, eventer,
etc., will require some knowledge of the kind of shots that show the
horse to its’ best advantage for each particular discipline, and then
the ability to duplicate the shot. As with conformation photos, a neat
and tidy horse (and rider!) and uncluttered background are vital.
If the horse has a show record, include show photos – however, do not use show proofs. Advertising with proofs that you haven’t purchased is illegal and considered theft.
While it can be tempting to include fun candid shots of horses from
their daily routine, these often detract from a sale ad. Some examples
of photos that shouldn’t be used include photos of a horse out grazing
in a field, shots with cluttered backgrounds, photos of people in unsafe
situations (standing on a horse’s back), partial body shots, etc.
Using digital cameras over film has many perks – one being that you
can take plenty of photos to get that perfect shot! When choosing photos
for your sale ad, three or four stellar shots is infinitely preferable
to 10 mediocre shots.
Consider a sales ad like an elevator pitch – in this digital age,
people have short attention spans. A brief ad covering the most basic
questions will get you more targeted interest than an ad lacking
pertinent details, or an ad that includes so much information that it
overwhelms the buyer. The right sales ad can significantly decrease the
amount of time you spend answering questions (as a seller) or asking
questions (as a buyer), and the less time you spend on that, the more
time you can spend in the barn!