* Please note that this document was written over 10 years ago and some information and prices may no longer be valid. Don't hesitate to email us with corrections or suggestions.

How should I pay for a horse?

There are many ways that a buyer and seller can agree to complete a transaction. The buyer can ask for special terms such as a trial period or installment payments, some sellers will agree, the vast majority will want cash up front.

The ideal situation is for the buyer to meet the horse and seller in person and give the seller cash at the time of taking possession of the horse. If the buyer pays with a personal check, the seller will generally not release the horse until the check clears.

Before shipping a horse, the seller should verify with the bank that the buyer's check has "cleared", even if it is a bank certified "cashier's check" or money order.

Obviously since the buyer must pay for the horse before taking possession, and generally horses are sold without warranty or guarantee of any kind, the buyer must inspect the horse carefully before paying for it.

Whether you hand cash to the seller or mail a check, we recommend that the buyer request a bill of sale from the seller that documents the date and amount of the transaction, what horse was purchased, and the names and addresses of buyer and seller with signatures of both parties. Keep it very short and simple, if the seller doesn't know how to make up a bill of sale or doesn't want to, the buyer can make one up and ask the seller to sign it. You don't necessarily need to sign original documents, in most cases a signed and faxed document will be just fine. For more expensive purchases, signing in the presence of a Notary Public is a good idea.

click here for a sample BILL OF SALE

We also recommend that the buyer make it clear to the seller if signed registration papers are expected to be delivered along with the horse.

How can I get the horse home?

Go to http://www.horsesales.com/howto.htm#shipping for a list of shipping companies. Some shippers go nationwide, some export horses to other countries, some are small regional shippers. Shipping costs vary widely depending on the origin and destination points, including how far from the main roads the van will need to go, how many horses are on a particular load, and how large a space the horse requires in the van. It is best to call around, and also ask the seller for a recommendation. In our experience, for most places in the US, shipping for one horse ranges from about $500-$1500.

Make sure that the seller has a current Coggins certificate for the horse to be shipped, and ask the shipper what their requirements are for dating of the Coggins and if a health certificate other any other certificate is also required. If the shipper requires a health certificate, you or the seller must make arrangements for a veterinarian to inspect the horse before shipping. If you do a pre-purchase vet exam, that vet can probably write a health certificate for you and fax it to the shipper or the seller before the horse ships. Just be sure to tell the vet before the pre-purchase exam that you will need a health certificate if the horse "passes the exam" and you decide to complete a sale.

How do I go about finding and buying an ex-racehorse for pleasure or sport?

It's probably not a good idea to buy an ex-racer without seeing him in person, sight unseen based on photos or a video, unless it's a real bargain and you have the facilities to keep the horse if he doesn't measure up to your expectations. For some people this would be fine because a horse that is unsuitable for one person may be perfect for another, and in many parts of the country you may even make a profit on the resale. We have several ex-racers listed for sale or adoption on this web site.

If you can make a trip to look at some horses in person, and you're not an experienced trainer yourself, please bring your instructor or a trainer who has experience training a green horse or an ex-racehorse. If you're not an experienced trainer or you don't take regular lessons from an instructor who can help you train a green horse, it might not be a good idea to buy an ex-racehorse or any green horse for that matter. At least make sure that you have access to a professional who can help you over any rough spots that may come up occasionally. If you don't know what I mean by "rough spots", please look over the forum on Re-Training Ex-Racers.

If you're buying a horse sight unseen based on photos or a video, a vet check is definately in order. Try not to use the seller's vet because it will be a conflict of interest for the vet. If the horse is inexpensive, then you don't necessarily need to do xrays. Have the vet first do a general check and then decide if xrays or an ultrasound are advisable. This will help keep your costs down. Try to keep an open mind. Vets will usually point out things that MAY cause a problem down the road. Consider this information carefully but also remember that a perfect horse does not exist.

Many buyers just bring a trailer when they come to look at horses, but commercial shipping can be a lot less hassle and is usually worth the cost. There are many professional shippers all over the country, we have a small list at http://www.horsesales.com/howto.htm#shipping. We have found that shipping in the United States is usually between $500 and $1500, but it can vary greatly depending on where you are and which shipper you use. Also remember that you need an up to date "Coggins", health certificate and possibly other certificates for additional vaccinations to ship a horse across state lines. Ask your local vet what your state's requirements are to make sure you have the necessary paperwork. You may want to get that taken care of when you have a vet check done. Ask the seller first if the horse has an up to date "Coggins" or any other certificates - most ex-racers do since they need proof of vaccinations to be on race track grounds.

Although we try to encourage sellers to get a good video of their horse, often it's just not practical, so buyers shouldn't expect it from sellers of ex-racers. Often these are horses that the seller may have paid tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars for originally. If the seller is taking a big loss, there's no motivation to go to a lot of trouble to sell the horse. The seller may have other horses that are making money and take priority, so the "loser" gets turned out to pasture until someone comes along to give him a new home. Adoption organizations like Second Stride do a great job of filling this gap and giving retired racers a second chance for a productive career.

It's up to the buyer to do the work to find out if the horse is right for them. That usually means making a trip to see the horse and being prepared with tack and a rider to try him out, or take a chance on waiting to ride him once you purchase him and get him home. Be aware that a "trial" period is usually not possible with these bargain horses. If you find a seller willing to let you take a horse on trial, then you are very lucky. Money back guarantees and trial periods are common in show barns, but not around the race track.

If we haven't scared you off yet, just remember that many ex-racehorses are very well bred, athletic, and beautiful horses. To get something similar that was bred to be a jumper, hunter, eventer, or dressage horse, you may have to spend A LOT MORE MONEY. And you will be helping a thoroughbred who just ended up with the wrong career, or early retirement due to injury, through no fault of his own. So with a little effort and an adventurous spirit, a buyer can find a dream show or companion horse off the race track.

What is the best way to sell an ex-racehorse as a pleasure or sport horse prospect?

If you are the owner or trainer of a racer who needs to be retired from racing due to poor performance or an injury, there are a few things you can do to expedite the sale of your horse to a good home.

If the horse is sound, try to get a video of him with a rider at walk, trot (jog), and canter (gallop/lope), preferably with the horse as relaxed as possible and preferably on a loose rein. If the horse is too high strung while still at the race track to make a decent video possible, wait until you can get the horse to the farm and turned out for a week or so. If it's not feasible to get a rider on the horse once he's back at the farm, then get a video of him at all three gaits in the pasture. If you can get him to jump a small obstacle in a round pen or even while he's still at the race track (in the barn area), this will help tremendously in speeding the sale of your horse, and you might get a lot more money than you expect if he shows willingness and good form over even a small jump (straw bales laid end to end make good jumps). Then get your video onto YouTube or give the video to your sales agent to include in your internet ad.

Sport horse buyers are looking not only for flashy looks and size, but more importantly they look for big gaits with "suspension", looseness in the shoulder, an overstep at the walk (hind foot falls in front of the front foot print), and in general the right conformation for the buyer's intended sport. Disposition is also extremely important and can make up for less than spectacular gaits, imperfect conformation, and small size. Many buyers do require that a prospect be 16 hands or taller, but some are more flexible, especially upper level event riders and polo players, who care more about the athletic ability and attitude of the horse. Often a nicely bred thoroughbred who confounds an owner by his poor racing performance is better suited to the long, slow, cross country gallops in eventing. If he is athletic but slow, he might be an upper level jumping prospect!

Don't try to cover up any flaws, history of injury or illness, or current physical problems. It pays to tell the truth. If your horse has a problem, discount the price accordingly. If he's not gelded, go ahead and geld him as soon as you decide to sell him as a sport horse. Most buyers can't board a stallion at a public stable or don't have enough paddock space to separate a stallion from other horses, or don't want to deal with gelding them. A gelding will sell much faster than a stallion or colt, in general.

If you have a horse you think is probably 16 hands or taller, please try to measure him before telling the potential buyer his height. It's easier to go to the trouble of measuring him before the buyer asks if he's really 16 hands, so you can say "I measured him and he was exactly 16.1 hands by the stick". And remember, although it seems sometimes like everybody is looking for a horse that is 16+ hands, there are buyers who are flexible about height, and some who are specifically looking for horses under 16 hands. Many trainers have found that smaller horses are easier to keep sound and can be more "handy" in the tight quarters of some combination jumps, especially some of the cross country jumps that course designers are coming up with these days. Polo players always look for horses under 16 hands and many prefer mares. Thank goodness for polo players since otherwise it's difficult to sell small mares!

Finally, if your horse is injured, please consider giving him away to someone who is willing to nurse him back to soundness, or donate him to one of the charitable organizations who specialize in ex-racehorses. The donation is usually tax deductible.

PRICE GUIDE FOR BUYERS AND SELLERS OF "GREEN" EX-RACEHORSES
(This is a GENERAL guideline, and by "GREEN" we mean they don't know anything but racing)
16 hands or taller, quiet disposition, no blemishes, completely sound, outstanding mover, 3-7 years old $1500-$1700
Less than 16 hands, quiet disposition, no blemishes, completely sound, outstanding mover, 3-7 years old $1300-$1500
16 hands or taller, quiet disposition, no blemishes, completely sound, outstanding mover, over 7 years old $1100-$1300
16 hands or taller, quiet disposition, sound but has blemish from old injury, outstanding mover, 3-7 years old $900-$1100
Less than 16 hands, quiet disposition, sound but has blemish from old injury, outstanding mover, 3-7 years old $700-$900
16 hands or taller, quiet disposition, no blemishes, sound, average mover, 3-7 years old $500-$700
Less than 16 hands, quiet disposition, sound but has blemish from old injury, outstanding mover, over 7 years old $300-$500
Less than 16 hands, quiet disposition, sound but has blemish from old injury, average mover, over 7 years old $100-$300
Unsound, unwilling disposition, major blemish like a bowed tendon, 10 years or older $0

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