Article and Photos by Abigail Boatwright
If you’re looking to expand your sphere of potential buyers for your horses, you may find that thinking outside the box can yield successful results. Barrel racing is popular all over the world, and there are strong and growing markets in many countries outside the U.S. Learn from the experiences of these sellers and shippers to international countries as they share tips to sell your horse abroad.
Connections help, but aren’t mandatory
Most of our experts got their start selling internationally by having a contact from another country, being able to speak another language, or by building connections through their travels. However, you don’t necessarily have to know someone from a foreign country to sell your horse abroad. Jessica O’Neal from DJ Quarter Horses in Commerce, Texas, has forged a long-term buyer-seller relationship with several clients in Europe, all because one buyer found the horses she’d advertised on her website.
“They are now repeat customers, and bring their own customers every year,” O’Neal said. “So it’s been absolutely wonderful for us, because they like what we have, and they keep coming back.”
O’Neal also advertises through other websites, but she says all of their ranch’s international traffic goes to their own website. The ranch includes bloodline info on every horse, which helps buyers on their search for mare and stallion prospects.
Debbi Trubee of North Farm in North Lawrence, Ohio, has sold 5-10 horses annually to European countries during the last decade. She says good photos and videos are mandatory for selling horses internationally. In addition to advertising her horses on the farm website, she also posts on social media such as Facebook.
“With social media and websites now, you don’t have to have an ‘in’ to sell horses overseas anymore,” Trubee said. “If a friend of a friend sees your horse’s photos, the exposure is going to happen. So if it’s a quality horse with good photos and a good video, the market is open to everybody.”
Other methods used by our experts include websites such as dreamhorse.com, equine.com, barrelhorseworld.com and publications such as Barrel Horse News and The American Quarter Horse Journal.
Accomplishments can sell themselves
JD Yates of Pueblo, Colorado, sells many horses internationally, mainly to Brazil. His buyers often find his horses through their accomplishments, whether they are listed in a publication or online.
“Most of the horses I’ve sold abroad have either won a lot at the barrel racing futurities with my sister [Kelly] and have earned a reputation that way, or they have been shown in AQHA competition and earned a lot of points, with their names published in leading standings in the magazines,” Yates said. “My buyers look the horses up by their stats.”
Identify the needs of your clients
Once you’ve found an interested buyer, you’ll want to commence thorough communication to make sure your horse is a good fit. Dale Rankin of Tuscola, Texas, sells barrel racing horses to Brazilian buyers on a regular basis. He stresses the importance of scoping out the needs of potential clients early on in the process.
“Try to find out their price range,” Rankin said. “It’s helpful to find out how serious they are—I’ve had some buyers that just want to ride a horse, not necessarily purchase. And find out the entry standards for the country to which you are exporting.”
In Brazil, for example, Quarter Horses have to have either earned a certain amount of money, points or accomplishments; or if they are younger than four—racehorses younger than three, have been produced by eligible parents. If a buyer purchases a horse that lacks enough accomplishments to be exported, they may have to arrange for the horse to stay in the United States until that horse has gained “Brazil-eligible” status. Yates says you can find out the export requirements—both performance-based and health-wise—from quarantine stations that ship to other countries.
Laurie Deleu of Collisville, Texas, owns a isolation station, as well as sells and exports performance horses to Brazil. She says while hot bloodlines are the biggest draw for buyers, qualifying for international export can be a selling point.
“If you really want to sell your horse internationally, find out what those regulations are,” Deleu said. “If you know your horse has qualified, then when you advertise, be sure you put ‘Brazil-eligible’ in that horse’s information. It will help a lot.”
Pre-purchase exam is crucial
No matter where your buyer is from, your horse’s pre-purcase exam will make or break your sale. Some foreign countries have stricter export rules than others, and some international buyers may consider seemingly small problems as big issues, so be prepared for your horse to be examined with a fine-toothed comb.
O’Neal always draws up full blood work for horses she sells, and she understands a clear vet-check is mandatory. In some countries, horses must be insured and in order to be insured, they have to have a clean bill of health.
“Several of the genetic diseases that we might accept here in the States are just not tolerated in some other countries,” O’Neal said. “They also have to have good x-rays and flexion tests. If the horse is not 100 percent sound and 100 percent disease-free, it doesn’t matter how much the buyer likes the horse, they still won’t take it.”
Katie Schroeder owns Equiflight, an isolation and export company located in Collinsville, Texas. She advises Quarter Horse sellers to order AQHA’s five-panel test, which determines if the horse is a carrier or has one of the following five genetic diseases: glycogen branching enzyme deficiency (GBED), hereditary equine regional dermal asthenia (HERDA), hyperkalemic periodic paralysis (HYPP), malignant hyperthermia (MH) and polysaccharide storage myopathy (PSSM1).
“The European buyers always require the five-panel test,” Schroeder said. “So if you haven’t already had it done, I would get it done, just in case.”
Schroeder also recommends gathering and keeping your records on your horse, including medical treatments, vaccinations, deworming and even farrier visits, because many buyers like to have that information—and it is helpful for the quarantine station and export.
In-person transactions can ease potential problems
While some buyers may never see the horse in person, some of our experts say sales tend to go smoother when you can meet the buyer face-to-face. Rankin says unlike his domestic sales, most of his international buyers want to ride his horses through a barrel pattern, even if it’s a highly decorated open horse, so be prepared for this scenario.
O’Neal has found that meeting with clients in-person, even though she only sells prospects that aren’t going to be ridden yet, allows a solid relationship to develop between both parties and often results in a more satisfactory sale because communication is easier.
“All of our buyers have come to the farm to look at horses,” O’Neal said. “I would be a little leery if they didn’t because I wouldn’t know who I was dealing with. Now our buyers come over repeatedly every year.”
Find a good shipping company
Once your sale is complete,you’ll want to work with a reputable isolation station and shipping company to transport your horse to its new home. Some stations ship to multiple countries, and others may specialize in shipping to one or two. Some of our seller sources refer the buyer to the shipping company to begin the export process, and others contact the company themselves.
Equiflight handles transport to the isolation facility in Valley View, all necessary paperwork, quarantine time, shipping to the airport, the flight and even transport to the horse’s final destination. Services vary by company, so make sure to inquire about the process when you are researching an export company.
Scams can happen, but so can great sales
It can feel risky selling a horse to a buyer in another country with another language and currency, but if you take precautions, you can reduce the chances of a poor transaction.
Rankin says sometimes using an intermediary can be helpful for international purchases, especially when there are language barriers. Similar to a real estate agent, an intermediary can work with the buyer and seller to ensure a successful transaction.
“Usually, an intermediary finds the owner first,” Rankin said. “But if you have a prospect, for example, you can often find agents at horse sales.”
It might seem common sense, but Rankin also says to be sure you have the purchase money in your possession before you let the horse out of your hands. Wire transfers are usually the method preferred for these kinds of transactions.
“The potential pitfalls associated with selling a horse can be multiplied when the buyer is international,” Rankin said. “But there’s such a tremendous amount of paperwork involved, that it’s usually not an issue.”
Schroeder recommends talking to the buyer on multiple platforms such as email, phone and video chat before making a transaction. She also warns against buyers that ask for account info before things are signed, money of any kind or make unusual requests such as wanting to purchase 75 horses at one time.
“Always ask for a contact number, and if they don’t have anybody that can speak your language find someone that can translate,” Schroeder said. “If a buyer tries to include you in a transaction or hire you, put you on a payroll, you want to really watch out.”
But just because the email correspondence has strange word choices, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a scam. Schroeder says Google Translate can be a great tool, but can also get the meaning wrong.
“You need to protect yourself, but don’t just automatically shoot it down for bad wording, because sometimes it is legit,” Schroeder said.
O’Neal uses WhatsApp to communicate with her buyers. Whatsapp is a cross-platform messaging application that allows users to send texts, voice messages, photos and videos internationally.
Several sources recommend feeling out buyers by talking to references and mutual acquaintances prior to completing a sale. Overall, these sources have had mostly positive encounters with international buyers. So if you feel you have a horse that may appeal to an overseas market, don’t be afraid to dip your toes in the water.
“I just do business with international buyers like I do with buyers in the States,” Yates said. “I have found the people to be great to deal with, and I’ve met buyers from all over the world. It’s been fun getting to meet people from a lot of different countries and spend time with them. I’m still really good friends with may of them, and that has been the best part of my international experiences of selling horses.”
Meet the experts
JD Yates is a performance horse trainer and competitor located in Pueblo, Colorado. With 33 AQHA World Championships, three Super Horse Titles, 22 times qualifying for the National Finals Rodeo earnings in excess of $1.3 Million in the PRCA, Yates had cemented his place as a legend. He has sold many horses internationally, mainly to Brazil, and he travels to South America several times a year to attend horse shows and other events.
Laurie Deleu and her husband, Carlos, own Deleu Ranch in Collinsville, Texas. The couple spent the first eight years of their business operation located in Brazil before moving to Texas. The ranch is an official Export Quarantine Facility for South America, and often sells United States-bred performance horses to South American clients. deleuranch.com
Dale Rankin has sold barrel horses to international buyers for more than a decade. Based in Tuscola, Texas, he also co-owns Rancho Colina Real in Brazil with Fernando Costa, where they sell barrel horses, stud fees, embryos and breeding rights to mares. Rankin has also sold horses to buyers in Italy.
Katie Schroeder is the owner of Equiflight, an international equine shipping company. Based in Valley View, Texas, Equiflight is a full service quarantine and export company that ships worldwide. equiflight.com
Jessica O’Neal and her mother Diana Fleek own DJ Quarter Horses in Commerce, Texas. They have sold a handful of Quarter Horse all-around horses to regular European clients over the last five years.
Debbi Trubee co-owns North Farm Quarter Horses in North Lawrence, Ohio, with Roger Landis. The farm breeds all-around horses and sells prospects. In the last decade, she has sold 5-10 horses each year to buyers in Europe and Australia.
Abigail Boatwright is an award-winning journalist based out of Texas. Email comments on this article to [email protected].