Purchasing an equine in Ireland

Purchasing an equine in Ireland.

There are many different ways to purhase an equine, almost as many ways as there are breeds. You can buy anything from a Falabella to a Shire, first pony to Grand Prix dynamo, with many people specialising in their favourite breeds.
Horse sales specialists and the traditional fair, are still seen as viable means of selling and buying a quality horse. Some horse fairs in Ireland have a history dating back as far as the 18th century and the largest and oldest in Europe. Ballinasloe horse fair held annually in Co. Galway in October attracts up to 100,000 people to the event. This festival is one of the most important social and economic events in the life of the town. I should know as my family have visited this fair yearly to view, buy and sell horses. I purchased one of my best horses ever at the Ballinasloe fair. I was able to do this because of our family knowledge of how to buy a horse and I knew as I would be the rider of this animal what kind of horse I wanted – a hunting horse big and bold. It just so happened that the biggest and most robust of the animals I saw was a two year old gelding which, after seeing his papers, movement and conformation put a price on. The man that was leading him seemed a genuine sort and we tangled but no deal was made. “Not enough money,” he said ! I gave him my phone number right there and then I walked away and further down the road, looked at a few more. None took my fancy. Then out of the blue thirty minutes after our conversation I got a call from the man that had the horse I was interested in. He asked for more money. I split the difference of where he was at and what price I had settled on but I added a condition. I told the man I had no trailer to bring him home, which I hadn’t, and for the deal to go through he needed to deliver the horse to my yard. He asked one further question. He asked if it were a cash deal I dutifully exclaimed it was and within an hour this fine animal was delivered. I was never so happy. Once the man saw the yard and where the horse would be kept he was happy too, because the horse was his daughter’s pride and joy. She had bucket fed it from a foal. The man’s family, wife, daughter and the farmer himself have since visited our yard on many occasions and we have developed a lasting relationship often sending his friends my way with potential deals.
As one can imagine. the fairs have been hit hard throughout the years with the recession. Ireland, a proud horse nation, finds itself struggling to deal with the casualties of the recession. Fairs are over run with poor quality animals, fewer buyers and more hoof kickers. Horses, even your run of the mill, kind cob horse are proving harder and harder to sell at fairs. Finding that rough diamond with the potential you require is more difficult as we have to navigate through the surplus animals no one wants. A buyer has to be more determined and have a steely focus on what it is they want. Sales may be harder to come by at the fair but quality will always sell, and the buyer will always have the money somewhere for the right horse.
Still the pinch is felt by sellers. We all know that the buyer has the better end of the stick in the current climate. This can translate to sellers losing a few potential buyers, and being reduced to finding other outlets to sell their animals. Many traditional types of sellers and buyers have chosen to turn to the mart with a new set of rules and regulations which are not present when selling at the fair. Books, chips and vetting is not sought at the fair – rather you take the animal and seller at face value.
Understanding the psychology of the seller and knowing he must be desperate to go to a mart can result in low priced animals and animals that really have no place at mart sales. The price can be reasonable to the buyer but the animal may not. It may not be exactly what you want but it might do because it’s cheap. A common error made by many and rued by many more. The mart sales tend to deal with the unbroken or for example a mare in foal and foal at foot. Not what one would really want to go competing at the next gymkhana or cross country in the upcoming year.
At marts all animals must have a book and personal ID chip and there are fees to be paid by the seller and often a commission too. Most of the mart transactions are done by cheque and this can be extremely off putting for the seller and often seen as a last resort for selling an equine.
There are many disadvantages of the mart and one is that you don’t get a true look at the animal because there are obstacles to its movement everywhere, unlike fairs, or horse sales where special matting is laid out to judge the movement and conformation of the animal. Many large specialist horse sales like Goffs have an arena which is very helpful in order to view the animal jump. The sales themselves unless you are local tend to be a big financial undertaking for the seller. Financial considerations such as entry fees, sales commission, transport and stabling costs are inhibiting factors preventing many horse owners from attending. These factors tend to dissuade many sellers of the reasonably priced animals between the €3,500 – €5000 range and tend to favour the €10,000 – €20,000 sale.
The “modern” horse trader may be considered the more astute seller, because they are using other means like the internet to sell their animals. We at Coopers Hill Livery find merit in Facebook, and the followers of our page come to buy horses from us. They travel from the US, UK, Northern Ireland and may other far flung locations. For internet advertising there is very little regulation apart from having the correct phone number sell an equine on line. You can add video and photos of the equine to most paid adverts. The opportunities for equine sales and purchases on the internet are limitless.
A seller if clever and wily enough knows where to go to reach the maximum number of potential clients without having to spend a small fortune. In this respect, the horse trader hasn’t evolved much from the prehistoric days before the internet. You still have to go to the places that many people congregate and can see your horse be it mart, fair or sales. The benefits of advertising online are that even the least tech savvy of dealers can advertise their animal for thousands of people to see in the click of a button. Relatively speaking the seller doesn’t need great IT skills to post an advert. The skill is in developing the relationship. Letting people know how you treat your animal, showing how they perform and often letting people into the funny side, the “cute” aspect of life at a working horse yard. Posting and showing real life at a yard and the animals as they work helps in the developing the relationship with the follower. This is where the skill is needed – Facebook, social media sites, chat rooms and forums answering questions that are troubling people with equines.
We at Coopers Hill Livery have tried all means of sales and have had good results with everything but the mart and horse sale specialists. The latter tends to be commission based and often favours neither party. The internet sales on the other hand, at best may have video and pictures. But this is akin to an electronic book. There is an absence of tactile senses and other information you pick up from having the real thing in your hand, ready to view and inspect. We try to nurture the senses by providing lots of video at Coopers Hill and by inviting people that follow us on Facebook to ride and enjoy the animal for themselves. We love it when people inquire and then come and get their hands dirty by riding and tending to the horses with us. There is never an obligation to buy, only a desire on Coopers Hills’ part to demonstrate what we show on video with our horses. Many of our fans take holidays with us, do our cross country boot camp, take beach rides, trail rides or come hunt in the winter months with us. All of this activity showcases the animals and often results in sales. Experiencing the equine in the flesh is best, at least from my point of view it is. The internet is a good avenue to look for the type of equine you want and opens one up to all sorts of potential purchases. It offers buyers the time, and comfort to root out exactly what they require and the ability to disregard horses as unsuitable without ever leaving their home.
Once you find the animal that may suit you. Find out where the individual resides and if any contacts of yours know the seller. Failing that, show up unannounced, an old buying trick, and see what the seller does for the animal on the days someone is not there to buy. Previous experience has taught me that a buyer must always be cunning, and a seller must always be honest. I once answered an internet advert for a horse, travelled 50 miles with children in tow, only to be shown a different horse, while the one advertised was being groomed in a different stall. Needless to say there was an angry exchange only to be abused by the seller. This was just one negative encounter out of dozens of happier occasions. On the flipside, I went to see a horse advertised on the same site and wasn’t that pushed about the horse when I saw him. I then asked if the seller had a more commanding animal. He did and let me trial the animal for a week and I ended up buying both animals, the original horse I went to view and the horse I was allowed to trial. The seller was willing to deal, trade and more to the point bargain. We developed a relationship and trust and I’m delighted to report out of the many animals we have at Coopers Hill livery the two I bought rank up there with the best horses we have ever bought. It is said that when you strike a deal everyone must be happy, I am and he was too. It goes to show that rough diamonds are there to be found. Time and patience will always serve a buyer and indeed a seller well.
Our first foray into the world of internet sales was quite an interesting affair. We are lucky enough to have people around us who are snap happy with cameras and videos. All our horses, from the moment they arrive in the yard are photographed, documented, recorded doing all sorts of activities, from breaking them, to riding and jumping them or simple being shod or cutting loose in the fields. This snap happy activity was beneficial for us and potential buyers enquiring about our horses over the internet. It allows potential purchasers a feel for the horse they are interested in without physically being in the animals’ presence. We decided that an 18hh gelding called Business was going to be our guinea pig and was the first horse we ever advertised online. He was sold based on the pictures and video we had used to promote him. The client never came to ride or stand in the animal’s presence. Within an hour of the phone call being made about Business and a little more information provided to the buyer, he was sold. He was a super horse that I hunted with the local packs, and he always took his jump well. A gentle giant that had proved himself well, honest and trustworthy with children, adults, and nervous riders. Within a week, we were loading him onto the transport company’s truck and watching him disappear up our laneway exit. He was our first horse sold using the internet and thankfully not our last.
We have been lucky at Coopers Hill Livery to have sold horses to many different regions of North America and Europe. Since our success with our first internet sale, we took the chance and started advertising more on the internet and it has opened a whole new world of possibilities.
We sold a coloured cob similarly to Germany. The client never was in the animal’s presence and wanted only the cob’s main quality – that he wouldn’t hurt a fly – “Bomb proof.” Others come on vacation to ride the animal they have been following on our Facebook page on the net to buy shortly thereafter often their first horse.
The first horse purchase for a family is precious because the whole family gets so excited. This is without doubt the hardest sale. There are a lot of questions and what ifs. Is it safe? Will it do this or do that? I always say that the only way to figure all that out is to come see and ride the animal for yourself.
When clients from foreign countries are involved, the purchasers want assurances. They want to know every detail of the medical history of the animal, and their insurance policy is to conduct a full vetting before making a price and transporting the horse. A condition to the sale, it must pass the vetting before the animal is purchased. The US market generally takes the most x-rays and tend to go all out with vetting. Booking a vet that can send electronic data quickly is very important so that the purchasers vet can take a look at the x-rays. General vetting costs €100, which involves an exercise test, joint and movement test, breathing, cardiovascular and lung scope tests. The vet will also check the reproductive organs for any abnormalities. These tests will show anything up that may require further study and the purchaser is then informed of possible issues by the vet. A vet cert is not issued unless there is a clean bill of health and this test is done at the purchaser’s expense. Most animals will need a clean vet cert in order to be transported, especially if the horse is moving outside the UK and Ireland. The more extensive test with the most x-rays cost €500 and again the same procedure is followed, no cert unless there is a clean bill of health.
So how do you know what animal works best for you. The hardest animal to buy is the all-rounder. You have show jumping specialists who you couldn’t trust to walk on a road, they can only work well in an arena. You have cobs that won’t jump and those that will – trekking cobs verses hunting cobs. So it’s down to the buyer to know what they want.
So what type of animal are you looking for? One needs to consider; mares versus geldings, a kind eye, colour, feather to the leg, breeding, the animals carriage, and age of the equine. Remember, an aged animal doesn’t necessarily mean steadier. The buyer must know what they want. If the buyer doesn’t know what they want, how can sellers know if they have a horse to suit.
Equines with a lot of work done tend to be more expensive and if you are keen and able at bringing a horse to its potential then you can consider younger animals. Horses with a lot of work done are best suited to the more novice rider. The work done, experience and age of a horse are not interrelated. A good all-rounder i.e. experienced horses need not be aged. A young horse can have a lot of work done in dressage, show jumping, hunting and XC. But this is down to the man you are dealing with. What does he do with his animals? Is he an active rider? Is he a member of a hunt or club? Does the individual get involved in hunter trials or pony camps. As a buyer this is the information that is most valuable and at Coopers Hill Livery we back up what we say with video and pictures. We have a five year old pony that show jumps, competes in hunter trials, hunts and lots more. We can let potential customer see all this with the touch of a button over the internet.
So how do you decide how to find the horse of your dreams? You have been to marts and not impressed, to the annual fairs and are unsure and are apprehensive about the horse sales. Well like any good buyer develop a relationship, an understanding with whom you are buying the horse from. Schedule a few rides on your potential purchase. If you are after a happy hacker, take the horse on hack. If you require a safe hunter, ask the seller if it is possible to try the animal over a few walls. Good sellers will accommodate buyers in their requests. If it’s your first time dealing with a particular seller, do a back ground check on the seller. The internet is a fountain of knowledge in this regard, but sometimes nothing beats local knowledge. Go to a local pub and ask if they know of the person you are about to deal with and what he does with his animals. How he feeds them and what exercise they get. Then make your mind up. Would I be happy dealing with this individual and will he sell me what I am looking for?
Purchasing an equine should never be an overly stressful ordeal. If it is pull out and calm yourself and see what options you the buyer have. Talk to the seller, will he trial the horse for a week, will they let you come ride at their yard, can you take it on a cross country ride or through a town in traffic or to the beach and into the water? A confident seller will allow this but buyers beware. Always protect yourself have someone ride the horse first or wear a body protector. You can never be too sure of an equine or how it was treated.
Now that you are satisfied with the animal you need to consider the deal. You (the buyer) try to get the best deal as possible. Haggle and don’t be shy. Once the deal is done and the horse is purchased, how do I get it to the UK or elsewhere? The seller usually has a number of contacts that you can consider and once the vetting is done and the animal is well then it’s a mere formality. Call the numbers given, get a quote and schedule the transport. From Ireland to the UK the transport costs are usually between £300 – £400. There is good value to be had out there and if not in your area jump on the internet, look at the Irish market, set your sights on an animal here, develop a relationship through Facebook or with holiday visits, or horse rides at the horse farm and get yourself the animal you have always wanted. Have the horse delivered to your door step as you wrap up your vacation in Ireland. Let’s just say I like to kill two birds with one stone. Happy hunting folks!