Experienced industry professionals offer tips for trying, buying and selling finished barrel horses.

Article by Savanna Escobar
Photos courtesy Scamper Cole and Ivy Hurst

You’ve got a budget set and a list of what you’re looking for to find your next partner in the arena, or you have a patterned horse you are ready to part ways with. Whichever end of the spectrum you’re on, it can be an exciting but nerve-wracking process. Accomplished competitors and brokers Ivy Hurst and Scamper Cole weighed in with their advice for smooth sales.

Advice For Prospective Buyers

  1. Know your needs.

Ivy Hurst: “Know what you are looking for, whether that is free- or push-style, demeanor and what type of maintenance you can live with. If there are certain buttons you need, you need to get on and find out if they have them. It’s also not a bad idea sometimes to watch the owner or agent ride the horse first. If you love it, ride it; but if you don’t, then don’t. At the end of the day, the horse needs to fit you. There’s a horse for everyone. That’s the cool part, you can keep shopping. It’s like buying a wedding dress; you just zip it up and that’s the one. You don’t have to alter it; it just feels right.”

Scamper Cole: “The No. 1 thing I tell people is that there is no such thing as a magical unicorn. It’s like finding the perfect man or perfect partner; they don’t exist. Get perfect out of your mind, and focus on the things that are most important to you. For example, if you are a green rider, stay within your limits and don’t ride a horse that you’re not ready for. Ask yourself, ‘Does this horse take care of me, is it forgiving, will it compensate for my mistakes?’ Take small steps and move up as you’re ready.”

—> Read more: Buying a Beginner Barrel Horse

2. Be prepared.

Hurst: “Be respectful of the seller’s time. It’s a lot easier to cancel a vet check than it is to schedule one last minute. Don’t spread the process out over a three-week period. Try to plan ahead and have all your ducks in a row before you go try a horse.”

Cole: “Ask the horse’s current history, especially within the last six months. Where have they been running, where have they been placing? Don’t worry so much about what the horse was five years ago; look at the horse for what it is today. Go with an open mind to try a horse and be receptive, don’t just go and try to find something wrong with it.”

3. Be decisive.

Hurst: “If you are really interested in a horse, it speaks volumes to the seller if you pick up the phone and call. Texting can be a pain, but if you call, I know you’re serious about it. Alternatively, if you go try a horse and you know in your heart that you have zero interest in it, then just tell me. A seller can lose out on another buyer just because they are waiting for you. People can be intimidated to say they don’t like the horse, and they may waste a run on a horse they aren’t going to buy. It’s totally acceptable to say, ‘This horse isn’t for me.’”

Cole: “People sometimes think they have to try X amount of horses before they buy one. In reality, the right horse for you might be the first horse or the 50th horse you sit on. People think that because they just started shopping, they should keep going. You might love the first dress you see, but you think you need to keep going through the store. Then you come back two hours later, and someone else already bought it.”

Tips For Sellers

  1. Create a professional advertisement.

Hurst: “Try to get the very best pictures you can. A good picture will help you sell a horse no matter what. Get current videos; nobody cares what the horse did five years ago. Disclose things like if they are mare-ish or on Regumate; if they kick in the trailer or are bad at the gate. A pretty big quirk somewhere will rule out a lot of people if they read the ad in its entirety.”

Cole: “When you are representing a horse to sell, make sure you get professional, presentable pictures and good videos. Put down all the information that somebody could need. If you make a vague ad, people can get upset. If you have all the information in the ad already, then you won’t have to worry so much about answering all those questions. Be as honest as you can, and disclose as much as you can. Something that may not be a big deal to you might be a problem for someone else. A horse that chews on its lead rope or unties itself is maybe not a big deal to you if you ride lots of horses, but if a person buys it and that’s their only horse, it may be a big problem to them.”

2. Price appropriately.

Hurst: “Be comparable. There are plenty of horses listed online. Ask some experts, have them watch the horse run. I don’t like putting a price tag on other people’s horses, but I’ll give them a ballpark. If it’s priced right, it will sell. If it’s not, it won’t.”

Cole: “Good horses will always bring good money; that will never change. Study the market. Don’t just look at what they’re priced at, but pay attention to the horses that are actually selling. Right now a lot of horses are priced high, so other people do it too, but not a lot of those horses are actually moving. Your horse’s price should be based on its breeding, age, and accomplishments (record, lifetime earnings). It’s very easy nowadays to educate yourself. If you don’t have time for all that, consider putting your horse with a reputable broker who does.”

3. Utilize social media.

Hurst: “Social media, especially Facebook, has been my go-to [for advertising]. I can go in and edit and do things really quickly. It reaches a broad spectrum of people, especially with all of the group pages you can share to. I don’t have the best of luck when I pay for ads. Some sites charge you to go back in and edit an ad; or if you have a horse sold but the ad is still going around, you’ll still be getting calls a month later.”

Cole: “Facebook is a great place to advertise. It’s free, and you can share as much as you want. Barrel Horse World used to be the place, but personally I don’t use it anymore. Social media has really become the place to advertise.”

Happy shopping!


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