Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Value of Horses

by Linda Benson

I'm a lifelong reader of horse classified ads. Even though I'm not in the market for a horse, it's still a pastime that I enjoy. In fact, I've enjoyed perusing horses for sale ever since I was old enough to read and dream about horses, and I see no reason to quit now. I enjoy looking at horses, trying to imagine their stories, and seeing what people are trying to sell them for.

Gypsy Vanner Horse - one of the cool breeds that seem to go for big bucks right now.

Of course, those of us who own horses know that their "value" goes far beyond monetary: as companions, peace-of-mind givers, pets, friends, as well as their recreational value. But as to "value" in this post, I'm talking about how much actual money a horse is worth. What determines that?

Is it breeding? Color? Temperament? Training? Or just dumb luck?

We've probably all read horror stories about great horses (thousands of them, folks) that end up at auctions, and many get shipped off to slaughter. This is a horrible state of affairs, and makes me sick at heart. But what can we do to make sure this doesn't happen? How do we place a monetary value or our horses, and make sure that someone actually wants to keep them?

I look at Craigslist a lot, and try to compare the horses I see on that site, and what people are asking for them. (I look at a lot of dogs and puppies on there, too, but let's not go there right now *grin*) Anyway, I often see the same sort of quality horse (fairly nice conformation, possible papers or not but obviously out of registered stock, good flesh, good age) advertised from $0.00 (zero) dollars to oh, perhaps $2500.00 - $3000.00 in our part of the country (Pacific Northwest.) And all sorts of prices in between those figures.

And you know what I see? What makes a horse valuable, at least around here, is rideability. Which is a little bit different than training.

If a young horse has been ridden a little, even if its started right, and then sits for awhile, or is turned out to pasture, or bought by an owner that doesn't keep up its training, then it often forgets what it knows, gets a little sour, or just isn't in the habit of being used as a riding animal, and therefore resents it. And I see so, so many of these horses out there, and their value continues to decline.

There are multitudes of gorgeous, fat and shiny beautiful horses around the country here, that no one is riding. And after months of standing, they might throw a little crow-hop when first saddled and then asked for a canter - which scares the owner and they get off. So of course the horse will try it next time, and next time, and by then you have a horse that is 1) hard to ride 2) sits in the pasture/corral for another few months, and eventually is 3) very difficult to sell.

These are the kind of horses that sometimes end up for free (or offered as a trade for something more gentle) on Craigslist. On the other hand, I see horses that have had some recent riding (maybe a trainer/cowboy/cowgirl has acquired said horse) and given it lots of recent works or use, until the horse is performing well, and advertised for quite a bit of money. Will the horse continue to perform well? Probably. If it is ridden.

So let me ask you readers - because I know you come from everywhere - in your part of the world, what determines monetary value in a horse? Color? Breeding? Training? Temperament? Rideability? Or dumb luck?

I'd love to hear your views, so chime in!


lytha said...

If you're in Germany, it's a Quarter Horse of any training level that demands big money. Also, there's no craigslist, sad for me: (

Linda Benson said...

That's so interesting, lytha. Germany is experiencing a bit of a cowboy craze, huh? I've heard reining is big over there. In the U.S. I'm sorry to say, there are a glut of well-bred quarter horses, who don't always find good homes. Perhaps we could send you some!

lytha said...

Oh yes, reining is in. The funny thing is the way they pronounce "Quarter Horse" - they say the t like a t.

Alison said...


Have you ever seen a real Gypsy Vanner horse? They seem the stuff of fairytales.

I haven't bought a horse in so long--15 years--that I have no clue what is selling and why. And I am glad I will never have to buy another.