Few dressage horse buyers have countless hours and unlimited funds for their horse search.
For the vast majority of people buying dressage horses, finding the right horse is taken on by the buyer or at most a few people who have a dozen other tasks on their plate. And yet, finding the right horse in a time and cost effective way is as important as ever, because while a lengthly search is expensive for any buyer, it can exhaust the budget.
So how do you do it? How do you effectively find your dressage horse match, with minimal support and a limited budget?
To answer the question, we examined ten years of Impulsion Unlimited's client data to understand what separates those finding excellent matches in under 3 months and those who are unsuccessful after 91 days to over a year!
Here are seven actionable takeaways any dressage horse buyer can use:
1. Work with an actively participating dressage professional
First off, our data shows an inherent benefit of representation by an actively participating equine professional. After analyzing every sale in our database, we found buyers are nearly 10 times more likely to find success in under 90 days if a trainer or compensated professional represents them.
Even more interesting, people working with a professional spend less of their budget, even after compensating the professional. They find their match in less time, try fewer horses, report lower total travel expenses, spend less on vet examinations, and negotiate better terms. They are more likely to describe a positive overall experience finding their dream horse.
Buyers working with an professional have leverage. Other professionals selling dressage horses are more likely to see you as a serious buyer. This can have a major impact on responsiveness when you contact them about a horse.
2. Be prepared to act quickly
Quality, dressage horses sell quickly. We hear from buyers about a horse selling before they could see it. Buyers forget any horse for sale costs someone a lot of money every day. It should come as no surprise why sellers won't wait weeks while travel and schedules are coordinated by a prospective buyer.
If a buyer is ready to act fast - ideally with a professional - to evaluate the suitability, most sellers will work with them.
Yes, the airline tickets are going to cost more. Consider refundable tickets in case plans change.
Some people offer deposits to entice a seller to not sell the horse. Most sellers reject this because deposit terms are so loose that the buyer will usually request a full refund if there is no match.
Instead, consider entering into an agreement to pay the seller for some or all expenses incurred while they are waiting for you. Example: The seller's cost of training, board etc. is $2,100 a month and you can't get there for 10 days, offer up to a $700.00 non-refundable payment for a first right of refusal with the amount deducted from the selling price.
“While most of your competitors are still in the scheduling process, you are offering a contract.”
3. Be strategic in your horse search
Over 25 years experience shows buyers lacking a strategy are the first to complain about the process, and often make decisions they regret. These "flexible" buyers look for months at video's, send countless emails, and waste a lot of time besides their own.
A strategic buyer knows the exact horse they are looking for. They evaluate only candidates meeting a minimum set of established criteria. They usually have a professional who knows how they ride. They know their goals, abilities, strengths and weaknesses. They can carry on a conversation with a seller. They ask specific questions to confirm the horse is a solid candidate on the phone. Trainer to trainer phone calls take place. They use all available resources at the appropriate time ensuring the best outcome. Our statistics show they try only 2-5 horses to find a match and travel twice.
Do you need a strategy? This guide on how buyers their match in 90 days or less can may help.
4. Tactics - Focus on a few candidates; instead of many
Our research shows a HUGE benefit to focusing a narrow set of criteria then, relaxing criteria just enough to hit the pricing sweet spot. Keeping with that philosophy, rather than posting "flexible" ISO on Facebook to get a hundred or so likes and inappropriate applicants, we suggest using a well defined set of criteria to focus on only a subset of horses for sale.
Rather than starting with a large list and narrowing it down, focus on only those that are the very best fit within the budget and expand out. Get to a phone call as quickly as possible to complete the picture of a candidate and determine appropriate next steps.
6. A well written buyer profile serves you well.
Amplifying the power of a strategic process, a profile can bring candidates to you! The profile building process serves 4 distinct purposes:
- It forces a buyer and possibly the trainer to write and rewrite an ad addressing hard and soft criteria until they get it just right.
- Sellers can concisely evaluate their horse against a buyer's needs, saving valuable time and improving the quality conversations.
- Buyer's who complete the process will be able to easily describe their dream horse to others and enlist them to help in the search.
- It will serve as your primary advertising piece.
The members only website Dressage Horse Match allows both buyers and sellers to search profiles in a matchmaking capacity. Think match.com for horses! Like dating, a great profile gets results.
One of our next posts will address the key elements of a creating powerful profile!
7. Turn all your interactions into better opportunities
Research shows that referrals – often cited as the most reliable source for finding horses – are critical to reducing time and search costs, particularly when uncovering horses not actively on the market. ASK for referrals when talking to anyone about a horse search.
Pass along your buying profile or a or slink to it for others to share and encourage referrals. Use it like a business card!
Ask for referrals anytime you or a seller determine that a horse is not the best candidate. Assuming you had a focused, friendly, conversation, ask if they know anyone who may have a horse fitting your criteria. They may even help with an introduction!
Smart buyers send a follow-up email with a profile link thanking the seller for their time.