Throughout the horse community, many horse owners categorize folks who buy and sell several horses a year as “horse traders.” The term is always used in a derogatory and negative way. Often, news travels fast and gossip out-weighs facts and a person can be categorized as a horse trader pretty easily. Due to the negative connotations of the term, a person can easily have their reputation damaged and sales or business influenced negatively.
I myself have a history of buying and selling many horses, but I do not consider myself a horse trader — at least not in a negative sense. Horse sales and purchases have even been more active than usual at my barn this past year. I say I’m stimulating the equine economy, but my family has even been teasing me. They accuse me of owning a revolving barn door, and they often laugh and ask me not to sell my newest equine addition until they have had a chance to visit and see the horse. They have gone as far as to suggest farm names like “Tradin’ Acres” for my place.
I just laugh at their teasing, but the increasing power of the Internet, Twitter and Facebook have me worried. All it takes it one unhappy customer or a little bit of misinformation or miscommunication and I could easily be accused of being a horse trader. These days it seems that all it takes is an accusation spread through a community to ruin a person’s reputation or business. Facts are not usually even considered and the damage is done.
I don’t buy and sell these horses for money. Horses are my hobby and buying horses may in fact be an addiction for me. I buy and sell horses in pursuit of finding the perfect horses for me. (Note: Not the perfect horse, but the perfect horse for me.)
I have lost much money buying horse through the years. I have sold a few select horses for amounts above their purchase prices but when the care of the horse plus the purchase price is figured into the selling price, I doubt I have EVER made money selling a horse. I take good care of all my horses and spend much time, effort and money ensuring they are well cared for even if they do not find a long-term home at my barn.
Horses come and go at my house not because they are unsound or unhealthy or have other problems, but because they don’t work for me. I’m not an especially patient person, plus I have limited acreage and pasture area. Horses that make the cut at my house have to have perfect ground manners and be willing to acclimate themselves to the setting and routines already in place at my house. Plus they have to get along well with their pasture mates. I don’t have much space to be running horses separately on a regular basis.
Further, I like to drive so most of my horses are driving horses. Not only do they have to drive and drive well, but also they have to be comfortable driving on the road and be so steady that if they aren’t driven regularly they are still safe. I’m also not the best driver so they have to be fairly forgiving.
As you can see, I have a mighty long list of requirements for my horses. It becomes clear pretty quickly that some very nice horses don’t make the cut at my house for one reason or another. I have even sold some horses that do fit my program simply because I can’t resist pursuing what seems to be an upgrade. I just really like to buy horses, and if I’m going to buy horses, due to my limited budget and space, some horses have to be sold.
I’m always afraid that the public will start worrying that I’m a horse trader because of the amount of buying and selling I do. My family calls me a horse trader, and they laugh about it, but I have often failed to see why so many people consider horse-trading a bad thing, so I conducted a little research. I wanted to find out why and how calling someone a horse trader became such a derogatory term.
I quickly found that according to Wikipedia, “Horse trading is the buying and selling of horses. Due to the difficulties in evaluating the merits of a horse offered for sale, the selling of horses offer(s) great opportunities for dishonesty. It (is) expected that horse sellers (will) capitalize on these opportunities and so those who deal in horses gain a reputation for underhanded business practices.”
To me, this definition seems a little harsh. I do agree that horse-trading is buying and selling horses, but just because a person likes to buy and sell horses doesn’t mean they are dishonest. Rarely in life does one general term or definition describe all individuals in a chosen field of business or trade.
At thefreedictionary.com, horse-trading is described as “Negotiation characterized by hard bargaining and shrewd exchange.” Well that doesn’t seem so bad to me. I really believe everyone should be looking for a good deal on a great horse.
Most horse folks have, at one time or another, purchased a horse that didn’t work for them. I don’t believe that you know what a horse is really like until you get it home and deal with it on a daily basis for awhile. My recent and most successful purchases have been through the Internet. My experience has taught me that for me personally I have just as much of a chance of buying the wrong horse if I see it in person as I do if I see it on the Internet through photos and video.
Buying horses is a risk. I choose to participate in the horse industry so I automatically assume the rick. Some people will choose to keep a horse that doesn’t work for them because they have become emotionally attached to the horse or don’t have the skills to properly sell the horse. I tend to look at things a little differently.
If the horse doesn’t work for me, that doesn’t mean that the horse won’t work for someone else. Every horse person has their own way of doing things and set of needs and jobs for a horse. Horses that don’t work for me are sold in the hope that they will find a home that is more suited to their disposition and skills.
If I buy a horse that is unhealthy or unsound or has other problems, no matter what the seller promised, I believe it is really my own fault. I assumed the risk of the horse at the purchase point, and it is my responsibility to rehome or otherwise dispose of the horse if it doesn’t work for me.
I learned this lesson the hard way on the first horse I purchased as an adult. He was a lovely 7-year-old Quarter Horse gelding that was going to be great for my riding lesson program. He was blind in one eye, but that didn’t matter to me. He was still a great and safe riding horse.
Two weeks after the purchase, complications developed and I had to have the horse euthanized. Was I sad? You bet. Was I mad? Absolutely. Did I have the money to purchase a replacement horse? No. Did I contact the previous owners and complain? No way.
I do suspect that the previous owners had an idea that the horse had some ongoing health issues. I also think they knew those health issues could become a major problem in the future, but they sold the horse at low price and told me what they claimed to know about his heath issues. It was my job to put the pieces of the puzzle together and do some research to see if everything was adding up. I was excited about a good deal but we all know that sometimes good deals are too good to be true.
I made the mistake of purchasing the horse so I had to deal with the consequences that in this instance were financial as well as emotional. It is clear that I have been on both the winning and losing end of horse sales and purchases. My experiences have taught me to grow a thick skin and be realistic about my needs and expectations when I purchase a horse.
Like anything in life, there is often more to people and their stories than is often known to the general public. So before you cast a stone at someone who buys and sells a lot horses, do some research. They may more harmless than they seem.
Although in some ways, I fit the definition of a horse trader, I don’t consider myself one. I really believe I’m just a horse dreamer. Somewhere out there the perfect horse is waiting for me — I have already found the perfect draft horse (go to ocj.com and search gift horse Julie). I just have to keep looking for the perfect horses to join her.
Make sure you check out the companion column to this: Buying horses: Try it before you buy it.