Bargain Horse

There are so many sale ads displaying over-priced, over-prospected, poorly muscled, poorly conformed, poorly trained horses that imagine my pleasant surprise when the first ad I came across yesterday was the one below.

Experienced ranch/cow and trail horse. $2,750

11 yr. old AQHA Registered Gelding. Experienced ranch/cow and trail horse.


Buster is a 2002 Bay gelding, 15.2 hh, 1,200 lbs. He has been used for gathering, sorting working cattle. Rope and drag calves and trail riding.  He is calm, gentle and an easy keeper. Anyone can ride him.

There are so many things to like about this ad and this horse.  The ad contains almost all the information a buyer would need to know in just a few short sentences.  And while there is no reference to tying, trailering, bathing, or if this horse is UTD on shots, I’m confident by what is written and what is shown that those things are likely a given.

Buster is a quality Quarter Horse, there’s no doubt.  The biggest riding fault is the downhill build, but I suspect he might be standing on a bit of a downhill slope.  But even if he is as downhill as the picture shows, it can be forgiven because everything else is so good.


He could do with a bit more muscle conditioning in terms of freeing up his topline and strengthening his abdominals.  He’s got some rough muscling in the neck and shoulder that has created a dip in front of the withers and there’s a bit too much bottom neck muscling.  I suspect he’s worn a tie down in his ranch/cattle work, and frankly there’s just no need for it as his neck is structured superbly and set on high.  There’s also a bit of tightness along the length of his back, but that’s easily fixed with a little ‘Dressage’ work.  He’s got excellent substance, feet look good, and a classic head structure.  He’s got a big hip with lots of power potential, and a strong, deep loin.  


When you consider his solid conformation, obvious experience, calm temperament, strong constitution, age and size, this horse is an absolute steal at the listed price.  Props to the owners for a great ad from picture to information content to pricing. 


17 thoughts on “Bargain Horse

  1. given his breeding and his job experience, he’s a great horse, if sound. And not so down hill to be an all around horse at lower levels for hunter or jumper or dressage.

  2. This is a timely post as I spent a few months perusing horses for sale, looking to find one to ‘steal’ as a project to cure the winter blues. I searched all the big name horse classified sites, the free ad sites, type specific 5-figure & up sites and finally, Craigslist. I settled on a horse, bought site unseen and traveled almost 750 miles round trip to get him. Nuts? Perhaps. My decision was made solely on instinct that the seller was a man of his word with character (he certainly had plenty), integrity and actually liked horses. The pictures weren’t so hot, certainly not worthy to give a fair conformation analysis on. Yet nothing jumped out to me as suspect, the horse was unstarted, bred & raised by the seller. Less chance of chronic soundness issues, though no guarantee. The owner agreed to meet me part way (extending trust) and I drove the bulk of the journey (giving trust). Entirely a gut decision and the horse was everything the owner claimed. Stated he was 15-15.2 hands, never measured him. I expected he’d be 14.3 – people love to stretch the height of a horse! But no, he measures just a touch over 15.1, after a well deserved hoof trim. He’d never been hauled but arrived cool and calm. He’s respectful and extremely friendly, clips, ties, wore his first saddle without the flick of an eye….basically, it’s easy to know that he was loved and taught appropriate boundaries. This purchase has restored some of my faith in humanity and sometimes people really do want the best for their horses and struggle to say goodbye. Even 60-something men.

    On the flip side were the ignorant, the careless, the clueless, the game-players and name droppers. Did you know that the word “Imported” guarantees and additional 5-figure jump in horse value? This is the catch-phrase of the sport horse world….while I think, dam, if I could find the same horse here I could save thousands in flight/quarantine/middle man costs. And an imported horse that is less than 16 hands becomes a 4-figure horse immediately. Most are 5 or older…owners holding out praying for just one more growth spurt. Then dump it and call it a loss.

    And American Warmbloods are worth about 25% of what a European WB is. Even when the AW has confo to die for and the EW has a 28% hip, zero loin power and hocks a foot behind the horse. Some of the AW breeders are actually doing a nice job. Though they were the minority. Apparently, anything crossed on a poorly conformed draft is the norm. And what is with the Arab/craft crosses? Am I missing something or is that just the oddest cross in the world?

    Or the gal with the Paint gelding….who couldn’t tell me if the horse was HYPP tested but KNEW he didn’t trace to Impressive. A couple of keystrokes later, confirmed that on his dam’s side, there were TWO crosses to a n/h stallion. So I messaged her this information….gulp, ummm, err. Buh bye. Get a message a couple weeks later stating that if I would pick up the horse that weekend, she’d give him to me for an incredible discount! Buh bye again. And yes. The last contact (or second, lost track) was a mare she had that I might like but golly gee, there were no papers for her. Picture looked like a hereford with a mane and tail. HYPP deluxe on that ‘grade’ mare. Buh bye, for good.

    It was quite an adventure and fortunately, it turned out well for me and though we have much work to do, I have my bargain horse. But the hundreds of ads that I had to laugh my way through were both amusing and sad. And people certainly love to sling it trying to find a horse lover with a lower IQ than their own.

  3. I have to say that on my local CL, for backyard trail horses, I often find real nice horses, maybe not the best photos, but good enough, and the ad is structured so that you know you are dealing with someone who knows a little bit about horses.

  4. You must mean the ads that contain “soreal phillys, 14.50 gildings and “great-with-kids yearling studs””. 🙂

    • Not Mercedes, but maybe he is a little straight behind, a little long in the back, but still nice. How tall is he? Given the preference for behemoths in sport dressage, he may be on the small side, ie, not going to finish out near 17 hands.

      • J, his ad lists him as 16.2 (probably projected height) but certainly not small by any means. He’s 4 figures while most in his height/age range are low to mid 5 figures. He’s an Oldenburg too, not an American WB which would dip his price considerably. I’m not seeing what’s missing on this one, the only suspect I see is a possible club foot left front, but not convinced of that either. The whole WB, sporthorse world baffles me. 15.3 with near perfect confo – $7500. 17.2 with a laundry list of faults – $25,000.

        • 16.2 is on the small side. It is an absurd preference, but that is the way it is. There’s a 16.3 trakehner at our barn who was very ‘low’ priced compared to some of her herd mates from the same breeder as she was ‘small.’

          • That’s insane. 16.2 is now small? My biggest horse is 15.2. To me, she’s big. Guess they’d laugh me right out of your barn! 🙂

      • I also thought he had quite a bit of length to his neck for his age. He’s quite ‘TBish’ to me and I’d have preferred he be more compact at this age.

  5. I think there’s a reason it’s called horse-trading. In a lot of our local horse ads, it looks to me like people price their horses quite optimisitcally 🙂 and then bargain down from there: start at $15,000, drop the price to $10,000, then take $5,000. The final price isn’t made public, though, so the illusion is sustained that horses are “worth” more than they are. Because “worth” for a luxury good is only what someone will pay. We’re in a middling kind of market here, anyways: no call-the-SPCA-now train wrecks on Craigslit, but not much market for the real high end either, and no big breeders (land is too expensive and it’s not the best climate for horses). I agree, the word “warmblood” seems to add a few figures to the starting price. What I’m seeing here are not that many draft crosses, but very small scale or backyard breeders, who put more stock into the names on the pedigree (back into the great grandparents) rather than the actual conformation and performance of the parents — or the offspring. The reuslting horses do invariably have a bigger trot step than, for instance, a quarter horse, and a big trot step is considered the key talent that makes a dressage horse 🙂 , but it’s hit and miss as far as the quality of the total horse.

    • If my conscience didn’t prevent me from wasting peoples’ time, I’d love to inquire on some of the ‘private treaty’ ads. What exactly is the purpose of that? To reel ’em in and baffle them with bs about how great the horse is, terms of long term payment options? Or to sell the horse under market while flying under the radar? I want to know the ballpark I’m playing in or I don’t even bother.

      • private treaty can be a sham to hide pricing, but it can also be because breedings or foals are added in, agreements as to trainers/showing and minimum commitments for advertising, etc. Private treaty covers the ball park.

  6. Any chance that I could submit a photo of a Choctaw Indian Pony I am about to buy? I’ve been studying the confo posts; I suspect myself of bias, though, and don’t trust my own evaluation. She might be fun to look at since she is an unusual breed.Her sire came from the group at Blackjack Mountain.

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