With the Thoroughbred Makeover quickly approaching and summer drawing to an end, I’m seeing dozens of sale ads flash across my social media pages on a daily basis. Sellers are scrambling to find new homes for their horses before buyers hibernate for the winter. From Thoroughbreds fresh off the track to hunter derby champions, if you’re selling horses chances are there are dozens on the market just like yours.
The truth is, social media and classified websites have created a buyer’s market in the work of horse shopping. It’s as easy as point and click, filtering through ads and comparing horses without ever leaving the comfort of your pajamas.
However, it seems a few lucky horsemen have rigged the system and can’t keep sales horses in their stalls, while others are left wondering why Ol’ Faithful who packs around a 3′ course and always comes home with ribbons is still in their barn after a year. What gives?
How do you set yourself apart from all the other sellers out there? How do you make sure your horse’s ad is seen in the sea of bay Thoroughbreds and eventing prospects filling the pages of Facebook and classifieds websites near and far?
The answer is simple: photos.
Buyers have the daunting task of filtering through hundreds, if not thousands, of sales ads and most of them don’t make it past the first photo before they scroll on. You have a fleeting moment to capture the buyer’s attention and first impressions mean everything.
Both of these photos show the exact same thing—a young Thoroughbred mare ridden by me, trotting in an arena at the same point in their stride. Yet, the photos could not be more different. One is a screenshot taken from an iPhone video, the other is a professional photo edited to enhance clarity. Which one will buyers react to?
Both photos are of the same horse and rider, jumping in the same arena over very similar fences. Once was taken with a phone, cropped and edited to the best of my abilities. The other was taken by a professional. Can you tell the difference? Which pony will you contact me about and which will you scroll by (even knowing they are the same horse)?
No matter how cute and adorable Fluffy is, or how many ribbons Fancy brings home, buyers rely on photos to help them decide whether a horse will work for them. What photos you choose to use to represent your horse can make or break your chances of selling them.
What can you do?
The simplest answer: care! You put your time and energy into producing a well-rounded partner, writing an honest and carefully-worded description, don’t sell yourself short by throwing a couple of sloppy photos on your ad.
The easiest thing to do is hire a professional. There are extremely skilled equestrian photographers hiding in plain view if you just take the time to look. Most of them offer a sales package and will come to you and take all the shots you need in one appointment. The cost varies depending on your location and the photographer, but will be well worth the investment if it means selling your horse quickly!
For the photos themselves, present your horse and yourself in the best possible light. Groom your horse until they shine, pull or braid their mane and throw some hoof polish on their toes. Make sure to use appropriate tack for your advertised discipline and ensure that tack is clean and well-fitted.
And in the interest of not selling yourself short, make sure to wear professional-looking attire. That means clean, neutral colored breeches, a well-fitting shirt that has been tucked in and polished boots. Really want people to take you seriously? Put your hair in a hair net and up in your helmet.
This may seem like a lot of work for a few quick photos, but first impressions really are everything. These photos are all the buyer sees before making the decision to click on your ad, which could be the difference between the right buyer contacting you or not even knowing you exist.
Exceptional photos not only grab a buyer’s attention, but by showcasing your horse in the best possible light, can increase demand and your horse’s price tag!
About the Author
Lindsay Gilbert is the owner of Transitions Sport Horses, based in Lexington, KY. She specializes in repurposing OTTBs for careers in eventing, jumping and dressage. She also publishes a blog chronicling her road to the Retired Racehorse Project’s Thoroughbred Makeover.