I’ll never buy a horse strictly from viewing a video. Nor do I expect to sell one only by providing a video clip. However, I recognize that good video is a solid starting point when I want to buy or sell a horse. With a critical eye, I can get an idea of what I’m looking at or give a shopper insight into what I’m selling—without anyone stepping foot on a plane or driving a great distance.
Here, I’ll offer points to keep in mind when filming a horse for sale to best market it to buyers. If you’re horse shopping, arm yourself with these insights the next time you sit down to watch a prospect on film.
Let’s Make a Movie
I’ll be honest: I don’t like making videos of for-sale horses. But I recognize that they’re necessary tools. If I have to do it, you can bet I’m going to do it right. Here are eight key things I’ve learned in my experience.
Don’t over-edit. If I get a video that has a bunch of clips and starts and stops, I won’t watch it. Keep the video running and show the real deal. If you have to stop and fix something, do it on camera. If the potential buyer comes to your place to see the horse, he’ll also see you fixing the horse, so you might as well show it all.
Keep it short. By “show it all,” I don’t mean make a long video. The point is to give the buyer an idea of what the horse is like. Keep it just long enough to get the buyer’s interest, show the horse’s strengths, and leave a good impression.
Know that everyone will see the video. When you film a horse, you’re not just making a video for one person. You’re making it for the person who requests it, their family members, their trainer/vet/farrier, their neighbors, their friends. You might as well assume that everyone the buyer crosses paths with will see the video. They’ll watch it backward and forward, over and over. They’ll pick it apart and offer opinions. That’s why keeping it short and to the point will do the best job of marketing your horse.
Show what matters. I get a lot of videos of reiners and cow horses. You wouldn’t believe how many times the seller will show the horse changing leads in one direction but not the other, or leaves out some essential skill for the performance disciplines. That’s a red flag. It tells me the horse has a problem when the video doesn’t show all the maneuvers.
Keep it clean. I’m a neat freak. When I’m presenting a show horse for sale or watching a video of one I’m considering buying, I want that horse to look like a show horse. So I prepare him as if he’s entering the arena to compete—because he essentially is competing with every other for-sale show horse out there. I clip and bathe him, take his tail down, and outfit him in suitable tack. I do cut slack for young prospects. I’ll present a 2-year-old in working tack, but I still make sure the horse is clean and looks his best.
Sell yourself, too. As I noted, everyone in the potential buyer’s circle will see the video, so be sure to represent yourself well. Tuck your shirt in, at the very least. For the best presentation, wear a hat and long-sleeve shirt. You’re presenting yourself and your reputation as well as the horse. Every once in a while I’ll come upon an old sale video with former assistants of mine who are now famous trainers. I made sure those guys looked presentable in the videos, so even many years later they’re not embarrassed by how they look. These videos never go away, especially in today’s digital age, so do yourself a favor and dress the part.
Plan ahead. I can’t tell you how many videos I’ve seen that were such bad quality that I turned them off. I saw one where the wife was filming the husband riding in a dark indoor arena, holding a crying toddler in one arm, and kicking a dog that was biting at her leg. It doesn’t take a lot of work to figure out when light is best in your arena (whether it’s indoors or outdoors), find someone to help with the kids and dogs, and plan what you want to show. You can do this with any level of resources—it doesn’t have to be the perfect arena on the perfect day with a professional videographer. Make the most of what you have.
Send the entire package at once. Make it easy for the potential buyer by providing the video clip, a copy of the horse’s papers, and any other information that might need to be discussed. If the horse has had an extensive prepurchase exam and you’re allowed to share the information, that can make selling the horse even easier. The fewer surprises a buyer has when he actually goes to look at the horse, the more likely the horse will sell. Additionally, being honest elevates your reputation.
A multiple AQHA world champion, Avila has also won three NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurities, the NRHA Futurity, and two World’s Greatest Horseman titles. He received the AQHA Professional Horseman of the Year honor. His Avila Training Stables, Inc., is in Temecula, California. Learn more at bobavila.net.