Friday, November 13, 2009


Who just loves buying a car? No one? What a shock! Well, the car-buying process is a hand me down from the horse days. You'd negotiate prices on horses just like you do cars today. Some folks were honest traders and others were snail oil salesmen. You couldn't really tell the good from the bad. Cars never became strictly commodotized like just about everything you buy in a store. You go into Target and pick out a of pants. The guy next to you buys the same pants. Guess what you both pay? What's on the price tag, of course. Another shocker. Such is not the case with cars. You and the couple four tables over may both be buying a Honda Accord but there is a damn good chance that you two aren't paying the same price. By the time all the double talk, delivery fees, dealer prep and other crapola are negotiated out of the deal, you finally get your brand new car. Instead of going home and showing off though, you have to go home and take a shower!

Now the horse business is not that bad. Check that. MY EXPERIENCE in the horse business has not been like that. I should avoid the sweeping generalization because I'm bound to get comments and e-mails from any person that ever got ripped off buying a horse. I have individuals I trust and have earned that trust over time. David Miller, Bernell Rhone, Russ Rhone, Royal Roland and others have been tremendously honest and helpful when it comes to evaluating horse flesh. To them I am grateful.

Right now I am in the process of shopping for our next horse. With the economy the way it is, there is one thing you're never short of: horses to buy. There may be a shortage of buyers (and partners, so drop me a line if your interested - we have a bit more room!), but everyone coast to coast seems to have a horse for sale and getting an accurate read on one for a private sale is brutal.

Here are a couple of horse buying stories for you among the many I have collected over the past few months. No names or locations, but the meat of the stories are what they are. Neither of these stories take place in Minnesota, thank goodness, that's not to say they could not have, but they didn't so "yay" for us.

Both horses were two year olds: one filly and one colt. The filly had some issues, but was one for one racing. A friend turned me on to her and told me what he had paid for a share of her. I went ahead and contacted the owner and inquired. I mentioned my friend (his partner!) had sent me, but not how much he had paid. It was my way of vetting the seller. How much could I trust the guy? His price to me was 66% higher than what he sold to my friend just a week before!! I worked on bargaining him down a bit, but he wasn't going to budge. I sorely wanted to tell him what I knew, even though I DID tell him that my friend had sent me, I hadn't cleared it with him to spill the beans on the price. He called me later about another colt he wanted to sell. I didn't return the call.

The second story is more of a cautionary tale rather than any chicanery on anyones part. This horse is a two year old that showed some real speed in workouts this past summer. After some extensive digging, the horse had developed some nagging injuries and, while the recent layoff probably did it a world of good, there may be some lasting damage - maybe not, but it was enough of a warning to make me pass. You can't expect perfection, but why knowingly start yourself behind the eight ball right away? Even at a low price, it makes no sense making a tough business any tougher!

So we keep looking and keep vetting. It takes an awful lot of time and research to try and get this right - and then there are still no guarantees. We'll get our horse(s) eventually. I'd rather wait a bit longer than leaping before we've had enough time to really look!


Valerie said...

Ted, something about your post reminded me of this painting by William Sidney Mount, "Bargaining for a Horse" 1835 (indeed, things never change):

PEM said...

You know Ted I often think of everybody working in any capacity on the backside as the "carnies" and we owners as the "marks".

Yeah I have met more than a couple of honest people in the business-but those are the ones you have to almost pound information out of--the ones who come right out and say "hey I got a real nice horse here you ought to see!" generally also have a 72 Skylark "driven by an old lady only to church on Sunday" to sell as well.

Ted Grevelis said...

Thanks for stopping y!

Val - excellent reference picture! Very, very cool!

Gino - too funny, but sometimes it sure does feel that way! Glad you're back!