For almost a couple of decades, I thought my dream life included retiring and spending my golden years (curious terminology for growing old and decrepit) at the farm.
About five years ago, I broke my leg in a very bad way with a bed rest layup that lasted close to three months. Getting back into shape and into gear took a whole lot longer.
I literally turned five trucks around headed to the farm with winter client horses coming in for starting under saddle training. By the first week, I was shelling out thousands in vet bills for a mare that had managed to pound a four-inch nail almost all the way into her hoof (poor girl). This went unnoticed by the emergency help hired until she was in so much pain and distress, she couldn’t get up. We did manage to save her, but it wasn’t easy. I felt helpless and powerless as I blacked-out struggling to get to the barn to diagnose and treat.
That was the beginning of a realization I wasn’t indestructible. I always believed my bones were too big and too hard to break (sans fingers, of course).
Selling the horse farm
After the long and hard rehab required to get me sound enough to resume horse training activities (albeit at a lesser level), I realized I needed consistent and permanent help. My goal was to staff the farm with horse care and training support. The first was a delightful young gal who misrepresented her horse experience, but relished instruction and quickly absorbed new lessons learned. I donated a lot of time (while paying her to learn) with the expectation she would stay. She left after eight months to ‘find herself’. The last was a mature woman that quit via e-mail as horses stood tacked in the barn for her scheduled arrival time (two hours earlier). I figured wrong that maturity would bring responsibility.
Gatsby’s death last year (and our combined inability to school Remi as a suitable replacement) served as the final proverbial nail in the coffin. He was the best assistant horse trainer anyone could ever hope for. With him gone, I felt vulnerable schooling these young horses on the 117-acres of Halcyon Acres®.
I was perfectly capable of hanging on and holding on, but it begged the question – why? Horses had been my lifeblood for most of my living years. Sadly, I realized that unparalleled joy wasn’t there anymore. I was burnt out by too much of a good thing. Farm horse demands, client projects and galloping had me often riding 20 horses or more a day. Injuries were starting to catch up. I was tired.
So, I made the hard decision to leave the next 20 – or 50 years – to another as caretaker of this beautiful place. This was just recently finalized (and it took every waking minute I had that wasn’t already committed elsewhere to orchestrate the move).
Seven tips for finding horse buyers in a bad economy
There’s virtually no market for horses in this area of New York State. Many are choosing to euthanize – the irresponsible are simply abandoning (news stories are rife with tales of breeders walking away from a herd they created, leaving them to fend for themselves – very sad).
My first plan was to take care of re-homing horses before listing. Eventually, I decided to do both at the same time. I was shocked when offers started coming in immediately on the farm (I figured I’d have a couple of years).
It was time to get creative fast to ensure these horses found great and appropriate new (mostly lifetime) homes. The quality confirmation, bloodlines and temperament helped along with my reputation. What hurt was these horses were mostly young (the oldest Irish Draught Sport Horse was six) and hadn’t been campaigned. Here’s how I did it:
- The search for horse buyers went national (the kids trucked to buyers as far south as Oklahoma and west to Minnesota – with peer pairs sold together when possible).
- Horses were priced low enough to not only justify additional trucking expenses, but also permit serious vetting from me to ensure each match was the best possible fit for horse and human (multiple interested buyers for each horse) with housing accommodations, buyer personality and equine career intent.
- I encouraged people to check me out with equine professionals in their state – and talk to recent buyers of other horses from the farm. Amazingly, most were bought sight-unseen.
- HorseClicks proved to be the most effective venue (I had never heard of this site prior to this year – but found almost all inquiries from here were from serious buyers – and there were a lot of them).
- I offered some buyers a second horse (those that might have been hard to place) with the purchase of their primary desire. Of course, a great home, good fit and herd member buddy placement were big considerations here.
- Full disclosure always – conversations included discussions about any quirks or issues that might arise if/when the horse came to them. This ensured every buyer was a good fit (at least the ones that were honest – only one wasn’t and while I’m sickened to have ignored my gut on this one, the horses had already shipped out of state when I realized that pang was trying to tell me something I wasn’t hearing).
- Some horses were sold to a better home for less than what other buyers were eager to pay. These decisions were not only good for the soul, but netted extremely appreciative and vocal buyers whose word-of-mouth has been priceless.
It’s been wonderful to hear how easily and happily the horses are settling into their new lives and homes. I’ve become friends with most of the buyers and relish the updates, pictures and opportunity to live vicariously through their stories and joy. I’ve been lucky to find such perfect new lifetime homes for most. All are enjoying being pampered by a human that’s theirs alone and are stepping up to exceed expectations in appreciation.
What’s next with Horse Sense and Cents®?
Don’t worry – you’ll still be getting a lot of valuable horse training content, care tips, resources and creative ideas along with help with your equine challenges through this blog, our products and services. In fact, I’ll likely be able to gain some great new insight from perspectives and experiences gleaned from a remote approach to training that will likely require including the horse owner every step of the way. This will be a great learning opportunity for me and a way to give in more meaningful ways as I move forward with an aim to keep both the horse and the human in the conversation.
We’re launching some exciting new initiatives (some are already out there) that I’ll update you on in a later post.
Stick around to have some laughs, find new ways to reach your horse and Enjoy the Ride!