The Ultimate Guide to Buying and Selling Horses

Tips for Buying and Selling Horses

Cavalletti has a proud twenty year track record of matching horses and riders. Along the way, we’ve gathered some useful knowledge about the best way to sell your horse. That’s why we’ve put together this guide for representing your horse in a way that will attract the right buyer – including pricing, photographing, and writing an effective sales ad.

We also recognise that as exciting as it is to buy a new horse, it’s important to have a checklist so that you don’t fall in love with an unsuitable mount. So, we’ve also included some rather sensible Tips for Buying Horses below.*

10 Tips for Selling Your Horse

1. Find the Correct Price

Once you’ve decided to sell your horse you need to determine how much you are willing to sell him/her for. You can come up with your asking price by reviewing what similar horses are selling for on Cavalletti. Evaluate his/her experience and training, breed, age, achievements in competition and temperament.

2. Provide a good honest picture

Present your horse the best way possible with quality photographs. Stand your horse square in hand with ears pricked forward for conformation shots. A nicely dressed rider mounted on a well-groomed horse in motion will attract potential buyers. Remember – a picture says 1000 words.

Including photographs when advertising your horse is highly recommended because it will increase the likelihood of you making a quick sale to the right buyer. If your horse is being advertised as a show jumper, for example, then the picture should show the horse’s technique over a fence, while a photo of a dressage horse should show its paces. Equally, a child’s first pony could be pictured being ridden by a small child. Fine weather always helps a picture look good, but make sure the sun is behind the photographer, to avoid shadows appearing across the horse.

You can also use the services of a professional photographer on your Cavalletti ad. This must only be done with the photographer’s permission, and the photographer must be credited. If you intend to use a professional photo with your ad and you are not sure of the copyright requirements, please contact the photographer and ask for their permission to use the photo.

If you are having difficulties uploading photos or need any photo resizing or cropping you can always send the pictures to us at [email protected].

3. Outline positive and negative traits

It’s always best to be honest about your horse’s positive and negative traits. The potential buyer will then have the opportunity to assess their suitability and you will be regarded as a reliable person. Remember, horses are large animals and we should do our best to ensure the safety of prospective purchasers by disclosing everything we know about the horse.

4. Include background information

For example, who was the horse bred by? Was it trained by anyone of interest? Who has been riding it? If a mare – has she had any foals?

5. Keep your horse clean and groomed

First impressions count. When selling a horse, it’s a good idea to;

  • Rug your horse
  • Provide supplementary feeding
  • Keep you horse fit
  • Ride regularly if selling as a riding horse

Remember there are often dozens of other horses for sale out there. Having a well presented horse could make all the difference.

6. List what your horse is suitable for

The Cavalletti horse classified listing includes a section where you can indicate which discipline the horse is suitable for. This will improve the chances of the right buyer seeing your ad. Consider mentioning in the text whether the horse is suitable for children and beginners. Does it have what it takes for competition or shows? Suitable for breeding?

7. Why are you selling the horse?

This is a common question, especially when you have great horse for sale – why would you want to sell it?

Some examples include (but are not limited to):

  • Current rider outgrown
  • Not enough time
  • Unsuitable for riding aspiration/change in discipline
  • Personality clash

8. Be prepared to answer any questions

Once you have placed your ad you may well receive many queries from prospective buyers. Often people would like to see more photos if available. Be honest and polite in your answers. Emails are a common communication tool used these days but very rarely a sale is made with just emails. Be aware that in this technological world that scammers are out there. Cavalletti suggests if you think you have been contacted by a scam email to just delete it and ignore. If they are actually a serious buyer they will eventually ring you and organise a time to come out and look at the horse.

9. Don’t be afraid to make sure the prospective buyer is right for the horse

If you think that the horse and rider combination is unsuitable don’t be afraid to suggest this politely, you may be saving someone a lot of grief later on. Be patient, the right buyer is out there!

10. Contracts

Cavalletti recommends that all horse buying, selling and leasing transactions should be facilitated by a written contract.

Tips for showing your horse to potential buyers

Here are some tips from Cavalletti that we find are helpful once you have an appointment (or several) set up for people to view your horse.

  •  Organise only one appointment at a time. It is much more polite to do so and you can communicate with the potential buyer better.
  • Show up at least 30mins prior to your appointment to give yourself time to get organised. You should be dressed to ride, a neat appearance will give a good first impression. Also, have all the horse’s relevant documents ready – contacts, pedigree, registration papers and vet notes. Have your mobile handy in case they need directions or assistance.
  • Have your horse groomed and presentable when they show up (this is where rugs come in handy). Brushing manes and tails is highly advised. Make sure you don’t have any bell boots or bandages on your horse so they can see your horse’s conformation.
  • When the buyer shows up greet them politely and introduce yourself and any others who are there for moral support. It is recommended that the owner go catch the horse and to have him/her easily accessible. It a good idea to not have your horse already tied up because then you can show that the horse is easy to catch and this will make a good impression.
  • Allow the buyer to watch you tack up the horse and unless the buyer says differently, you should always ride your horse first. Ride in an enclosed area at first and insist that safety gear is worn.
  • If you are uncomfortable or concerned with how the ride is going and feel there may be a safety issue, give the rider a few tips on how to ride your horse. Explain that it is purely for safety’s sake.
  • Sometimes potential buyers like to come and view horses a few times, especially if they are looking at a few for sale. Little extras you can offer are; to go for a trail ride with you on a borrowed horse, set up another appointment and allow them to have a riding lesson on your horse with either their instructor or someone you know.
  • As the seller, you can also provide references of reputable horse people who know your horse to provide further information. This could be handy for performance horses.
  • If they like your horse the process will eventually evolve to the point where you discuss money.  The buyer may ask if you are firm or negotiable on your asking price.  They may make you an offer close to your asking price and you may either accept this or you can ask to think about it. You may discuss back and forth several times before a final price is agreed. Or you may decide that you have a minimum price and will not accept offers below that. Sometimes final agreements are subject to vet assessments and this is recommended for performance horses however this is not mandatory if both parties are ok without it.
  • You should not allow your horse to leave the property until all money has been deposited in your bank account or you have a signed agreement stating terms for payment plans. Transport arrangement are the responsibility of the buyer, however it is polite if the seller helps to load the horse on the final day.

Here we have also outlined a few different scenarios that buyers and sellers may encounter.


When selling your horse a prospective buyer may ask to take the horse on trial. This option is totally up to the seller and is not mandatory. The length of the trial should be discussed between both parties but ultimately the owner of the horse has the final say. Generally between 1-4 weeks is enough time for a prospective buyer to determine if the horse is going to be suitable or not. Be aware that an agreement should be written up outlining the terms and conditions of the trial just in case.  Make sure to cover things like where the horse will be kept/agisted, who will pay bills incurred in that time such as feed, vet fees etc.


If someone looks at a horse and likes it but is not sure whether to buy the horse or not, the seller might be asked to accept a ‘holding deposit’. This payment is supposed to stop the seller selling the horse to someone else. How long the seller is to hold the horse and whether the payment is forfeited to the seller if the person does not decide to buy the horse should be put in writing. A ‘holding deposit’ is not a true deposit and is something of a misnomer so it is very important that everyone’s expectations are understood and agreed.

A true deposit is a payment, normally 10% of the purchase price, paid to show the buyer’s genuineness to buy the horse.  A true deposit is normally forfeited to the seller if the buyer does not proceed with the transaction through no fault of the seller.  If the sale is conditional, for example on a satisfactory vet check, a deposit is refundable to the buyer if the vet check is unsatisfactory.

Payments in Instalments

Many sellers realise in these economic times that funding your passion for horses is sometimes hard, therefore it helps to give the option to pay the price by instalments. The amount and timing of the instalments and the consequences for the buyer if an instalment is missed or late are some of the matters that must be agreed.


Leasing a horse is an alternative to selling or buying a horse. Leases can be for different time periods and the terms of the lease must be written down so both parties are clear on expectations for the horse’s care. For example, up front disclosure of pre-existing injuries and vices; special requirements for the horse’s care; options for managing costs including veterinary treatment; liability for harm to the horse and the nominated rider; and breaches of the lease and their consequences.

The lessee is not responsible for harm to the horse unless it was caused by gross negligence. The lessor needs to consider taking out insurance for the risk of harm and passing on the cost to the lessee. In so called ‘free’ leases, the owner does not expect any payment from the lessee.

Tips for Buying Horses

Buying a horse is a bit like buying a car except it has a mind of its own and a personality! The same questions you ask yourself when buying a car can be applied to buying horses, and having a checklist created by asking yourself these sorts of questions will help you find what you are looking for.

Some questions you could ask yourself are; who is going to ride it, what do I want it to do, how long do I want it to last, what features do I want it to have, where will I keep it and how much do I want to spend?

What is my budget?

Horses can range from $100 to $100,000 so it’s important you don’t fall in love with the most expensive horse even though he may be ‘perfect’. Setting yourself a realistic budget for a horse you can afford will be much more enjoyable in the long run.

What is my level of riding ability?

Are you, or your child, an absolute beginner? In that case you will be looking for a bombproof older pony or horse who can teach you the ropes.

Riding levels can be categorised in a number of different ways across horse disciplines.  Novice, intermediate and advanced are the terms most often used and you can assess your ability by the number of years you have been riding or the level of competition you are competing in. If you are unsure ask your instructor if you are having lessons or a reputable horseman or woman in your discipline. By having a realistic assessment of what your riding ability is you can then narrow your search for a horse.

What do I want to do with my horse?

Owning a horse is not a one size fits all.  Whilst some people love going to shows and competitions others feel it is just as rewarding going for a nice trail ride with friends. You may not have decided what it is that you love to do but either way most sellers will outline what they think their horse is suitable for and if it has already demonstrated some ability for a certain discipline.

Keep in mind that unless you are looking specifically for a competitive horse in a high-level discipline, it is often better to buy for temperament over talent. Look out for horses described as bombproof, willing, quiet and sensible if you are looking for a safe pleasure ride.

What Height?

A horse and rider should, where possible, match each other i.e. small, short person with small, lighter framed horse and large, tall people with tall stronger horses. Otherwise mismatching horse and riders in size can lead to a number of riding and behavioural problems that could have been avoided. Ever seen a really short person trying to put a bridle on a really tall horse? Of course certain equine disciplines prefer horses of certain heights such as eventing and dressage. You can filter your search on Cavalletti to search horses for sale by height.

What age?

The saying goes that the less experienced a rider is, the older the horse should be. Buying a young horse for a young rider to let them grow together is not a good idea! When starting out in a new equine discipline or advancing in levels of competition, a mature age horse to show you how it’s done can be invaluable even if you have been riding for a long time. Don’t underestimate the benefit of older horses — in this day and age we have learnt to look after our equine friends better and improve their longevity. Young horses are best left to the experts, and some people just seem to have a ‘knack’ for educating a young horse whilst others don’t.  

What Breed?

Certain breeds of horses are valued in different disciplines for desirable characteristics and traits.  For example campdrafting and cutting require a horse with natural ‘cow sense’ and Quarter Horses and Australian Stock Horses have this. There are some good all-round breeds too such as Thoroughbreds who seem suited to many disciplines and ponies can turn their hand to almost anything as well. At Cavalletti you can search for horses for sale by breed. Check out our blog category ‘Breeds We Love’ for more information on specific horse breeds


Good conformation is essential for soundness, and desirable traits vary from breed to breed. It is advisable to take a good reputable breeder or instructor with good knowledge of a certain breed to see a horse and they can identify any poor conformation to you.

Mares vs. Geldings

Do you want a mare or a gelding? Some people don’t mind if they are looking for a horse with certain skills. For everyone else it’s just personal preference. Here are some points for and against.

For Against For Against
Can breed from later When in season can be difficult to handle Often laid back natures and gentle Lazy
‘Give’ that little bit extra in competition If you do want to breed from them it shorten their competition life Long riding careers Love their food and are prone to getting overweight
Sweet natured Can be sensitive to changes Generally easier for people to handle Can’t breed from them later
Great for children

At Cavalletti you can search for mares, geldings, colts, fillies and stallions for sale.


Colour is definitely a personal preference. Many prefer the solid traditional colours of black, brown, bay and chestnut in the competition arena, however ‘coloured’ horses are increasing in popularity. Coloured horses such as Palominos, Buckskins, Paints, Appaloosas and Taffy coloured horses are much rarer to find and can sometimes be more expensive because of this. Keep in mind that if you’re looking for something specific, that waiting to find one the right colour and height, age, experience etc can take a while.


When going to look at horses, bring a checklist of what you’re looking for to refer back to and have a list of questions to ask owners. If you can, get second and third opinions – take a trusted horsey friend/family member or vet, farrier, instructor or mentor along to see the horse. Vet checks are advisable for competition horses, stallions and mares for breeding or any horse you are unsure about.

*These are guidelines only and should not be used in reference to legal disputes. 


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