Finding the ideal equine partner- and selling the unwanted one
Each spring receive inquiries from people wanting to sell their current inappropriate horse, and how they can find a better suited one. I could write a book on the things that should be considered when buying a horse, but I'll leave it for now at the below synopsis.
The "ideal" safe, reasonable, sane, sound, fun, experienced, confident and not-too-aged horse has become the most sought after horse. So they are really, really hard to find. In a limited location such as north Idaho, they are near impossible to find. I'm currently searching the entire USA looking for two of them for clients of mine.
Horses are not what they were 25 years ago; between backyard breeding and a lack of quality exposure to a multitude of locations, activities, disciplines, riders, etc. horses nowadays don't have the confidence and experience most things pleasure riders will ask of them. Riders also have a limited skill set and cannot positively support their horse through troubling or worrisome experiences. It can become the blind leading the blind, which does not build confidence in the partnership.
Is it possible to find a great horse? Yes, but it requires a LOT of effort, research, energy and time. Folks imposing a time pressure upon themselves when buying a new horse leads to an inappropriate match. If the wrong horse is purchased, there are new issues in both the daily handling of the horse and then trying to re-sell it, often costing the person more money. Another factor in people buying an inappropriate horse is by allowing their emotional "hopefulness" to take over, versus believing what their initial rational assessment of the horse is.
When searching for a new horse, a person needs to "educate" themself on specific questions to ask, and how to interpret what is or isn't being said by the seller. Have a list of scenarios to expose the potential new horse to; this can help assess his mental and emotional state in new situations. Unless you're a "horse trainer" and this is your lifestyle, the horse's current attitude, experience, emotional state, etc. TODAY needs to be the horse you want. DO NOT maintain hopefulness that he will evolve into the horse you want "someday, further down the road.
The value of horses has dropped significantly and most "pleasure" horses aren't worth much, but the well broke, happy horse is highly sought after, so rarely will you find him under $4,000 US, because people realize they are worth their weight in gold.
Pleasure riders without the time, education, experience or clarity to independently help an unfamiliar or newly bought troubled horse, can lead to dramatic and sometimes dangerous outcomes, inducing fear in the human for a very long time. I also warn folks the most dangerous rides are often when trying out a new horse. Always watch the owner first do EVERYTHING you might ask when trying out the potential new horse.
As for attempting to sell a difficult horse, if they don't have exposure, miles, or enough "quality" traits, often the price has to be low enough that whomever takes him on as a project horse, can justify the amount of time and effort they will have to "invest" in him for him to evolve into an ideal horse. The problem with pricing him low, is that it brings two groups of unwanted buyers- the "horse poor" buyers who are the ultimate hopeful horse folks who often lack the skills and abilities and therefor can get hurt by a horse like that, if they fixate that he needs "saving"- and then there's the kill buyers.
Putting the word out to those who see and know a lot of people within the horse community, vets and farriers are usually best, is a good place to start. If in a remote location, it is hard for people to find out about a horse. The problem with online horse sale listings is there are many time wasters who will contact you. It can be an emotional rollercoaster every time someone sounds "good" and then shows up and turns out to be different than what they had implied in their knowledge, abilities, etc. Remember people "hear" what they want to. So even if you as the seller are morally and ethical honest and direct and disclose all of the faults, flaws, etc. about the horse, as soon as potential, hopeful, buyer sees a "pretty" horse, most of what you say isn't "heard" because they are too busy falling in love with horse in an ideal version of him in their head.
I wish more equine professionals were really honest about all the effort it takes to find a quality match in finding an equine partner, to prevent folks from ending up with a less than ideal horse and learning the "hard" way. The illusion that if someone follows a DVD, magazine article or TV program on how to “train” a horse, that the average working full-time/have a family/life, etc. equine enthusiasts can "train" a horse for what they want is troublesome to me.
Please ask for help in assessing and buying a potential horse. My basic rule of thumb is to have people go seeing at least 20 horses before they say “yes” to anything.
The "honest" answers aren't always the ones we want to hear, but they do tend to be the ones we NEED to hear.