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Buying and Selling a Horse

Prepare Your Horse for a Safe Landing

Photo by Shelley Paulson

The decision to sell a horse can be a difficult one, part of which is making sure that your horse reaches a safe landing spot. But there are steps you can take to make sure that happens so you can rest easy knowing your horse is in responsible care.

Teach Essential Skills



Possessing a basic set of skills can create a greater likelihood that your horse will enjoy a wonderful new home, even if his next stop isn’t his permanent one.

Standing tied and loading calmly into a trailer are important basic skills that most horse buyers and adopters are looking for. Photo by Elizabeth Moyer



The Basic Behaviors Profile, created by The Right Horse Initiative, was developed with the idea that the key to a successful placement for a horse in transition is matching the right horse to the right person. Because it assesses such skills as catching, haltering, leading, and tying, it can be used by any horse owner or potential horse owner as one of several tools in evaluating a prospective new horse.

“The Basic Behaviors Profile gives great confidence to the potential adopter or buyer of the animal that the seller really knows and understands that horse,” says Emily Weiss, Ph.D., vice president of ASPCA Equine Welfare. The ASPCA is the parent organization of The Right Horse Initiative.

While not all-inclusive, the BBP covers the following skills:

◆ Can the horse be approached when loose in turnout?
◆ Is he calm when haltered?
◆ Does he lead, turn, stop, and back?
◆ Can he be led through a gate?
◆ Can he stand calmly tied?
◆ Does he move his hindquarters away from pressure of the hand?
◆ Does he stand calmly while his body is brushed or while his legs are sprayed with water?
◆ Does he allow all feet to be picked up and stand calmly while each foot is held?
◆ Does he stand calmly for: blanket/fly sheet, oral administration of fluid from a syringe or tube, rectal temperature, fly spray?
◆ Does he calmly load and trailer?

Allowing all four feet to be easily picked up and haltering and leading calmly are important basic behaviors. Photos by Patricia Barker/Shutterstock and CCTM/Shutterstock

When in place, these behaviors help to reduce risk during interactions between horses and humans while on the ground. While the lack of a skill should not automatically disqualify a horse from consideration, it can indicate an area in which a horse needs more work. The profile is key, because within its framework it provides a clear definition of calm exhibition of behaviors. To ensure a reasonable opportunity for success, it also specifies ideal locations for where the assessment should be performed.

Jen Roytz is executive director of the Retired Racehorse Project, an industry partner of The Right Horse Initiative. Roytz further expands on those simple skills.

“By putting a basic foundation of skills on a horse, such as teaching him to stand at a mounting block or in cross-ties, or to walk, trot, and canter without getting too quick or behind the leg, [you] will make a horse more marketable and essentially more appealing to potential buyers or adopters,” says Roytz. “To me, it’s like an insurance policy for that horse. In addition, if the horse isn’t in regular work, that is an investment of time, skill, and money the potential buyer/adopter will have to invest in the horse beyond the purchase price.”

Registration for All

Beyond skills, for some prospective buyers, an individual horse’s registration status may play an important role when deciding whether to purchase him. Feeling connected to a greater organization and the ability to show and participate in that organization’s programs are all part of the bigger picture. In the past, particularly for those horses with unknown backgrounds, registration wasn’t always possible. But times are changing.

Registration with the Pinto Horse Association of America allows you to earn prizes for time spent riding, and their Solid Registry means even non-patterned horses can participate. Photo by Shelley Paulson

The Right Horse Initiative industry partner, the Pinto Horse Association of America, Inc. (PtHA), now makes enjoying the benefits of horse registration available to all horses, regardless of background. Emily Wolf, corporate partner and special events coordinator with the PtHA, helps explain the program, also available on the association’s website.

The organization maintains multiple registries, most notably the Color and the Solid registries. Horses registered with the Color Registry must meet the association’s white marking requirements, with underlying pink skin in the qualifying zone requirement, but do not have to be of documented parentage. These horses may also hold dual registration with an approved outcross breed. Certain characteristics, however, such as those associated with Appaloosas, are excluded from registration in the Color Registry. But non-characteristic Appaloosas with qualifying, eligible white may be registered in the Color Registry, according to Wolf.

Like the Color Registry, the Solid Registry accepts horses without documented parentage. Horses registered in this division do not meet the Color Registry requirements. Characteristic Appaloosa horses and colored POAs can also be registered here.

Almost any non-colored horse fits into the Solid Registry, and the registration process for both divisions is easy. Simply fill out the Solid Registry form and submit the required paperwork and fees. While membership is not required to register a horse with the association, an additional fee is assessed to non-members.

Registered horses and current members can enjoy full privileges, including showing and participation in the organization’s Select Opportunities and Rewards (SOAR) program. SOAR includes opportunities to earn prizes for time spent riding, driving, or working in-hand with your registered horse.

By necessity, other registries have stricter requirements, but still work with owners in support of registration. For example, Debbie Fuentes, registrar and senior director of Registry Services with the Arabian Horse Association (AHA), says that a key area of focus is keeping registration and transfer fees affordable to encourage current owners to register their horses and new owners to transfer ownership.

The AHA also works in partnership with owners to bring lapsed registration papers current. Registration allows owners to join the horse with his history, along with the ability to participate in shows and other incentive programs, such as the AHA’s Frequent Rider Program.

Regardless of your chosen registry, deciding to register a horse can also be an invaluable way to keep track of his show record, especially when he competes in a breed association’s recognized events. It’s a relatively inexpensive option that improves a horse’s overall marketability.

Keeping in Touch

Beyond training and registration, there are other steps you can take to ensure that your horse lands in the best possible situation.

◆ Recordkeeping: Keeping updated records on vaccination, deworming, dental exams, hoof care, and other health issues can help a potential buyer feel safe in the knowledge you are being transparent and that the animal has been well taken care of and is, therefore, a sound investment of their time and money.

◆ Microchips: Another industry partner of The Right Horse Initiative, Microchip ID Equine, is a company that allows you to attach your contact information to an individual horse. This provides a safety net for a previous owner to purchase a horse, should he end up in an auction-type situation that may lead to the horse being purchased by a kill pen buyer. (For more on microchipping, see “Chips Ahoy!” in the Nov./Dec. 2021 issue of Horse Illustrated). However, it’s worth noting that if a buyer plans to compete with the horse at sanctioned shows, they should check with their discipline governing bodies to see what microchips are accepted so as to avoid inserting multiple chips.

◆ Minimum sale price: Weiss recommends doing your research and setting a price for the animal that is above the current meat price, therefore discouraging potential kill pen buyers from considering the animal for purchase.

While it’s important not to make the sale of a horse so difficult that a potential buyer chooses to pass on a horse and continue their search, Weiss recommends these additional approaches when feasible.

◆ Right of first refusal agreement: Sometimes even the best situations just don’t work out. Having a formal right of first refusal agreement in place so that you can have the option to buy the horse back should he come up for sale under his new owner can help ensure that he finds a safe landing.

◆ Keeping track of your horse once he’s sold: One thing you can do is ensure your continued availability to answer questions should the horse develop a training problem, or even simply check in at regular intervals post-sale. Or you can ask the new owner to share pictures via email or social media so that you can keep track of his progress. While it can be rewarding to watch success stories unfold, it can also provide a window of opportunity for you to reach out should something go wrong.

“The option to buy that horse back, and then staying in touch, is imperative,” Weiss says. “When that horse sells five or six years down the road, [the new owner] may not remember there is a contract they were supposed to honor. Staying in touch is important from that perspective. Relationships are vital.”

One of the many benefits of adopting a horse is the relationships built and support systems established between the adoption organization and the adopter, which will ensure your adopted horse always has a safe place to land. The same guardrails can also be applied whenever a horse is sold.

Plan to be available to your horse’s new owner to answer questions should any training problems arise. Photo by Anna Elizabeth Photography/Shutterstock

By taking these steps, you can help ensure that you reap the satisfaction of watching your sales horse enjoy a good life beyond the one he once enjoyed with you.

This article about safe landings for horses appeared in the January/February 2022 issue of Horse Illustrated magazine. Click here to subscribe!

Hope Ellis-Ashburn

Hope Ellis-Ashburn lives with her family on a century farm in the Sequatchie Valley of southeast Tennessee. Her latest book is Kimbrook Arabians: How an Unlikely Midwestern Couple Influenced an Ancient Breed.

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