*Selling horses is really rough, primarily, I think, because there is so much passion involved. And where there is an over abundance of passion, there is sin. Maybe all seven of them!
Attempting to sell my young horse after three years of care and development has been tough. More than educational, it has simply been emotional. Today, I am confident that I’ve made the RIGHT and best decisions, but I also feel a bit battered from the gauntlet of emotions I've felt since making the decision to sell my gorgeous, kind mare nearly 8 months ago. I purchased her as a long yearling with the dream of creating my next upper level mount, so there was a tremendous amount of grief when I first realized that she was not the one for me. Along the way there’s been fear, frustrations, triumphs, patience and humility….lots of humility. Now as Montana winter presses upon us and opportunities to keep her fit cease, I pause and review the steps along this emotional journey. I feel like I've passed through each of the seven sins! For those of us that need a review, they include pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath and sloth.
PRIDE: satisfaction in one's own qualities, possessions, or achievements.
Pride is often referred to the "deadliest of sins", and it was certainly the first sin to override my decision making early on. I can not speak of pride without acknowledging the ego within myself and the equestrian industry at large. Ego is EVERYWHERE in horses. Ego was present when I decided that this was not the horse for me. I had to face the fact that I had gambled and lost and that process took months! I chose this horse for a specific task and she was not going to get me there. I had chosen wrong.
Pride was also the major hurdle when I thought that I might need help. Let me tell you…reaching out to a more advanced rider/trainer with more experience selling horses was NOT easy for me. I had to swallow a lot of pride. I had to admit to my own weaknesses and literally hand over the reins to someone else. I did end up putting her in training and consignment for several months in a location where I knew she would get more exposure. I’m 50:50 on whether or not that was the right choice, mostly because she didn’t sell while she was there, but it’s done and I can’t take it back. Is that pride talking? Yea, probably.
Pride was also present in the price. Setting a high price for a horse that you chose, nurtured and developed is validation of your work. It’s “proof” that YOU are worthy of that price. It’s ridiculous, but you and I know it to be true.
GREED: a selfish and excessive desire for more.
Pride and greed are entangled together like twin snakes inside the ego. I suppose that I was being greedy when I decided that this horse wasn’t going to fulfill my dreams. There’s nothing wrong with her except the fact that she does not have upper level eventing ambitions, and I do. This is my selfish act.
And, yes, greed is in the price too. Selling this horse at top dollar in a crazy horse market means a new arena, a payment on the house, a tractor. I reached out to many people when setting my young horse’s price. I reached out to trusted trainers, breeders and buyers, and they all had similar ranges. I considered how quickly I needed or wanted to sell her and the many sunk costs and opportunity costs. I tried to be mostly rational, but I’m sure that some sin has snuck in somewhere.
LUST: strong desire for something; craving
I am very proud of the fact that my horses live on pastures in herd groups, and I want this for my horses beyond their time with me. Craving X, Y, and Z for my horses’ next life is NOT helpful when trying to sell them, however. I want her to continue to develop in the hands of a skilled rider. I want to see her reach her potential. I want her to have sunny warm days in green pastures, and herd mates to scratch her itches, and warm blankets in stormy weather. I want her to have the exact same life that she has with me, because OF COURSE, only I can give her the perfect life. HA! I think that I echo the sentiment of every single horse owner on the planet, so let’s just acknowledge that, release our nervous chuckle, and move on.
ENVY: resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another
I envy the gold reputation of riders and trainers that are successful selling horses. I’ve known from a very young age that I did not want to be a horse trainer or a veterinarian, but in times like these I feel that I could benefit from their time, experience and location. The antidote to envy is simply realizing my limitations and working with them for the future wellbeing of my horse. Again, ask for help.
GLUTTONY: excessive indulgence
I have four horses. This feels gluttonous considering that I do not have kids to ride them or a lesson program. Nor do I intend or want to sell any of them. I buy them to ride them myself. However, I’ve realized that four is too many even when you own and run your own business from home. One needs to go.
WRATH: strong anger or indignation
This is perhaps one of the hardest sins to talk about, because it involves other real life people. I have experienced some strong indignation towards individuals that have inquired about my horse. I’m just going to say it…there are a LOT of people looking at five year olds that should not be looking at five year olds. This makes me angry at the whole of the equine industry, because we have collectively created a marketplace where 4-6 year olds are heavily valued for beginner/intermediate riders and 10-14 year olds are not. I can’t believe the number of people who say they want a “forever horse” and use this as an excuse to search for an unproven young horse. They disregard the middle aged appendix who doesn't win every time, but makes the sport FUN. I feel strongly about this, because I've lived it. I wasted ten years of riding on a horse that was not appropriate for me. I wish I knew then what I know now. My next horse will be a half retired, very high maintenance senior who will teach ME something about dressage.
I know many people before me have criticized this system, but I’m living it. My horse is in the dreaded “middle sink”- she’s too young and sensitive for an amateur but does not have the pizazz and flair that would interest a professional. She is beyond the baby years when all we have is grand visions, yet not old enough that her future is certain. I’ve probably turned away 2 out of every 3 people that inquired about my horse over the phone or by text message. For the handful that I allowed the next step, my heart sunk when I saw them ride. I refuse to quiet the voice inside my head that says “this person is not a good fit”. I will listen to it every time until I find the right unicorn human. If that takes more time, it takes more time.
SLOTH: disinclination to action
Winter time in Montana is for inactivity. There can be no selling process between the months of November and April, so for now I’m giving up. Perhaps another year to make my horse into the “amateur ride” everyone is looking for is the right move. I’m lucky in that I have this option.
Selling horses is infinitely more than transactions. It's about letting go of a loved one. It's about stepping over your own emotions for the welfare of a living being. Within all this love and passion is the opportunity for so much sin, and I’m not immune to any of the seven. Again, I'm not sure that I've really learned anything or that anyone else has something to learn from me, but I do have more resolve. Resolve to do the right thing by my horse. Heck, she's been a blast to ride! She won her very first recognized event this fall with me aboard, and we've been galloping around the local hills and fields with friends like she's an old experienced hunter. Like I keep saying...she'll be an amateur's horse someday, but not today, not at five.
For those of you interested or in the middle of the buying and selling process, I found this article by Anne-Sophie Milette very good.