"PM Sent!" — Marketing Horses Online Without Losing Your MindNov 07, 2022
Sooner or later, most of us will have to sell a horse. And while a certain well-known social network technically has a ban on animal sales, in reality many horse sales begin on that platform every day. If you’re looking to sell a horse yourself, it’s one of your strongest tools for presenting them to a worldwide audience and easily communicating with buyers.
Here are some hard-won tips on how to make things go as smoothly as possible and help you keep your cool under a barrage of “video please” comments.
Address your photos and videos first.
Your potential buyers are looking at dozens or even hundreds of horses online every day. You need to find a way to break through that noise, and a scroll-stopping photo where your horse looks incredible is the best way to do that.
If you’re selling an experienced show horse, a pro photo of them in competition is great. For younger, green or unstarted horses, you need a GREAT conformation photo. Research the norms in your discipline and look at how top sale barns and breeders are presenting their horses. Then grab some friends, schedule your photo shoot day and take it seriously. Hoof polish, a beautiful halter or bridle, the right background and lighting — it all matters. If you’re struggling, hiring a local equine photographer is money well spent.
Videos are also essential and you must have decent video of the horse doing everything you advertise it will do. You don’t need to send a feature film to potential buyers, but you do need a few minutes of varied footage to demonstrate the horse’s movement, soundness, skills and education. Again, research the norms in your discipline and set aside some time to make it happen. If editing is a challenge, I guarantee you know a couple tech-savvy teens who are geniuses with iMovie.
Collecting, editing and organizing these assets is a big task, but dedicating a weekend or two up front to getting the photo and video you need will make the overall process much easier.
Err on the side of less editing.
Sometimes I see sale videos that are so slickly edited I can’t even get a sense of the horse — which is usually done on purpose. You don’t want your video to be ten minutes long, and no one needs to watch your horse trot six laps of the ring, but you also don’t want it to be a bunch of 6 second clips strung together that only shows your horse’s absolute best moments with no transitions or plain flatwork.
If your finished horse has an uncharacteristic bad moment while you’re filming, obviously edit that out and present them at their best. (If they’re just always weaker to the right or something along those lines… you cannot simply edit out all footage on them tracking right. Sorry!)
For young horses, I will leave a few bobbles in the video so their level of education is clear, as well as how they handle things when they’re tense, tired or unsure of the question being asked. If they are a bit wiggly coming to a jump they’ve never seen before… including that helps people get a correct feel for who your horse is. You don’t have to make your horse look perfect in the video. You just have to make sure he looks like himself.
If you’re selling an amateur horse, and an amateur rider makes a mistake and the horse handles it gracefully, keep it in the video! I know someone who bought a horse off a show video with a clearly very nervous amateur aboard. Was it a picture-perfect hunter round? Not at all, but it really communicated who the horse was — kind, tolerant and good at his job.
And for photo editing, a little tweak of the exposure or brightness is okay. A subtle touch-up to make a dingy sock slightly more white is also fine by me. If you have the skills and want to remove something ugly from the background like a rogue wheelbarrow or car, go to town. But besides that, leave your photos be! If you feel you need to make a ton of changes to contrast and lighting and your horses’ grooming to be able to send your images to people… you need to go take new photos.
Keep video quality, file sizes, and your internet connection in mind.
Before you make a sale video, poke around in your phone settings and change your video settings to record in the highest definition possible. This is a super easy trick many people don’t think about, and it really improves the quality of your video.
However, once you do this, your files are going to be HUGE and hard to send through text and social media messenger apps. A good solution is to upload the video to Youtube and then simply send people the link. If you don’t want to go the Youtube route, remember that WhatsApp tends to do best at preserving the quality of video, so always choose WhatsApp over texting a video.
If you’re at the barn or out and about and you don’t have a strong signal or great wifi, just don’t send any video until you have a better connection. You’re not doing yourself or the horse any favors by sending video that will come through as grainy and unclear on the recipient’s phone - it makes you look unprofessional and doesn’t show off your horse. No one is in such a rush that they can’t wait a few hours until you have a strong Internet connection. And if they ARE in that much of a rush, you probably don’t want to do business with them anyway.
Digital organization is your friend.
Make a folder in your phone or on your computer with your photos and videos at hand, as well as anything else you might want to send potential buyers like a pedigree, medical records, or x-rays. Write out your ad copy and the horses’ key stats — I actually write out a few versions so I have options based on whether the buyer reached out to me initially or if I am making the first contact — and keep that handy in a word processing document or phone note. Now, when you reach out to people you can just copy and paste everything you want to tell them about the horse, drop in your photos and video and you’re set. Save yourself the annoyance of digging through your phone every day for that one great photo you love!
Always send them the key stats.
If you spend a lot of time horse shopping online, this has definitely happened to you: you see a horse you like in a group, you PM the seller, they send you just the video with no other details, and by the time you sit down to really watch the video you’ve lost track of the ad and can’t remember anything about the horse. (Now I screenshot the ads of horses I’m interested in… pro tip.)
To avoid this happening to your potential buyers when they contact you, always send a photo of the horse and their age, height, location, price, and maybe a quick sentence describing the horse along with your video. This should be super easy because you can just copy and paste the text from your handy note where it’s already written, and your photos and videos are in one folder ready to be sent!
Create boundaries and hold yourself to them.
It’s very easy to get sucked into messaging folks back and forth about horses at every hour of the day — and all that communication is time-consuming. Set yourself some ground rules for when you will check and reply to emails, comments, texts, and private messages so you’re not staring at your phone 24/7. Don’t feel rude or guilty about pausing or ending a conversation - “I have to go teach/ride/eat dinner, but let me know if you have any questions and I’ll get back to you tomorrow,” is a perfectly normal thing to say.
I encourage seriously interested buyers to hop on the phone with me, both to get a sense of who they are and because it’s more efficient to have a 20-minute phone call than communicate everything I know about the horse via text. However, a few weeks ago I picked up a phone call without thinking during night check, and ended up in a loooong conversation about a horse while trying to finish my chores and close up the barn at 9 pm, which was not how I wanted to end my day.
Learn from me and screen those calls after business hours. Good luck out there, folks!
Written by Jessie Lochrie for On Course Equestrian.
You can connect with Jessie at www.jessielochrie.com.