Buying, Selling, and Shipping a Horse during COVID-19: Coast to Coast Experiences!
By goneawayfarm, Oct 24 2020 06:20PM
Buying, Selling, and Shipping a Horse during COVID-19: Coast to Coast Experiences!
by Hugo A. Moran-Chavez, M.A.E.E.
Figure 1. L to R: Ernesto Valladares and article co-author, Hugo Moran (both Zamorano University grads and former GAF interns), Jean Fowler; standing: Karen Atala de Espinosa (Honduran Olympic Dressage competitor, friend and owner of La Herradura Stables in Tegucigalpa, Honduras). EQUHS Horse Mission Trip, January 2020.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic started in the US, we have changed our habits and more importantly, how we do business across all industries. The Equine industry is not exception to those changes, sometimes drastic adjustments such us buying a horse without being able to go see it ourselves and make sure is a fit, is the only purchase option.
Breeder, owner, rider and retired international extension specialist, Dr. Jean Fowler recently sold two of her very best farm bred and raised youngsters: 3 year old Trakehner Jakarta (by Apollo Sun *Pb*) and 6yo Zakopane, (by Westphalen: Freedomhall) both out of farm bred Oldenburg/ISR sportpony mare: Sierra de Agalta (named after the beautiful Agalta Valley in Olancho, Honduras where the Fowlers have a ranch in conjunction with Honduras Outreach (HOI.org).
These young and colorful warmblood horses traveled across the US last month to hope for, forever homes of Ms Rachel Akins in Olympia and Ms Cindy Lightfoot in Edmond.
Thanks to the incredible magic-like young horse training and then marketing- matchmaking of Morgan Batton in Aiken, we have these wonderful “happy trails and happy ending” stories to share!”
Morgan Batton, Aiken, South Carolina: Professional trainer (aka “The Matchmaker”)
Morgan is a professional horse trainer and horse trailer business owner in Aiken, South Carolina. When discussing about her experiences of training and selling a horse during COVID-19 times these are some of her responses and great suggestions for other horse loving people that are in the process or thinking about buying or selling a horse during COVID-19.
A mutual connection or mutual friend is key when buying or selling a horse.
Morgan states that during COVID-19 times its better to do the process thru mutual connections or mutual friends. “Selling the horse was a little bit different but we had a mutual connection, her trainer was friend with a friend of mine who recommended me and the horse as a good source to the buyer.”
Send a local professional, friend or trainer to see, inspect, and ride the horse.
During this trouble times that trainers or buyers are not able to travel and see the horse in person, sending a local representative to do a facetime trial is the best way to do it. “Rachel sent a friend of her
to see the horse in person and do a facetime trial. She (Rachel) never actually saw Jakarta before the purchase but she sent the person from Aikin to watch me ride her and ask any questions that came up.”
Relationship of trust because of mutual friends/connections.
Trust is very important when buying or selling a horse. In this purchase, trust played an important role for Jakarta to go to a forever home. “Rachel has been really happy with Jakarta and the other thing about the situation is that there was a relationship of trust because we had mutual friends in common, there was an element of trust that was already established before everything started and that is really valuable.”
Recommendations from Miss Morgan to other horse trainers or horse lovers when buying or selling a horse during these difficult times of the pandemic:
1.Always purchase from reputable sellers
2.doing a facetime video, and sending a local representative is a great way to do it
3.working with your own trainer to find the right fit is importa
Figure 2. Morgan riding 3-year-old trakehner Jakarta after only 30 days under saddle.
Ashley Boyd recommended Morgan to Jean at a conversation last year at the ATA inspection near her farm in Newnan, GA. Morgan now works for Jean as trainer, “I’ve been sending her my young horses this past year since Jan to finish their training (get them going under saddle) and in this case, help market them for sale.”
Rachel Akins: horse lover/buyer from Olympia, Washington
Rachel is from the other side of the continent: the pacific northwest. She is an adult amateur eventer with two children who also love and ride horses together with her.
She tells us that during COVID-19 she has been at home more with her kids and that she was looking for a young horse that was the right fit and that she could train at home. “I was looking for a new eventing match for myself that would be a fun project to bring along in the world of eventing.”
The passion and happiness of searching, buying, training and riding young horses
Rachel tells us that since she now has more time during COVID-19, she felt like she wanted to take on a long-term project of training a young horse and introduce it to the world of eventing. But also, this is not only a project, is a passion, is love for these beautiful creates. Rachel states that training and riding young horses is her passion and makes her happy.
“I wanted to buy a horse that I can train at home and be in a long-term partnership. I was at home more during covid-19 and I had my horses and I had my kids so I wanted to take on a training project of a young horse, which is really what I like to do and what makes me happy.”
Figure 3. Rachel and Jakarta, getting off Brook Ledge van in good shape after 74 hr voyage from Aiken to Olympia.
During COVID-19 the search for a horse is more in dept and thorough
Rachel confirmed us that the search for a horse during COVID-19 times is more complex than before, “ I just had to do more online looking and when I could not find anything in the west coast I did I watched a lot of videos.”
She also said that she was concerned if in the end Jakarta would be a fit “I was a little bit afraid that I was not going to like riding her since I did not go see her in person but I loved her, she is the perfect size for me she is a nice mover and it worked out well.”
A personal connection is key when buying a horse
Rachel also states what Morgan told us that a personal connection, a mutual friend, a mutual trainer, someone who knows a local trainer that can go see the horse in person, that connection that can provide trust to the process, is key when buying a horse during COVID-19.
“My friend in South Carolina was able to see her for me, so I felt that because Mary knows Morgan’s trainer that gave confidence in the process because we trusted this person. We had the personal connection and trust.”
The facetime experiences
Facetiming is emerging as the tool to buy horses and sell horses during COVID-19 since traveling is limited and facetime can provide an excellent idea during the horse buying experience. Rachel had a very good experience using facetime. “We did a facetime trial where I was on the phone on video and we did a video trial so that was really great, I felt I was there in person.”
Fears of buying a horse and recommendations
During these difficult times we cannot avoid encountering fears when buying or selling a horse so we asked Rachel what were her fears during the process and what are some recommendations that she could provide to people looking to buy or sell a horse.
“I think the scariest thing for me was the sight unseen experience”
1.to communicate very frequently and clearly with the seller of the horse
2.Ask for and watch several videos of the horse and do a facetime trial
3.Send someone that you know and trust to see the horse in person
4.To have a qualified veterinarian for a pre-purchase exam for the horse.
5.Ask a lot of questions. No question is too small for the seller to answer
Figure 7. Rachel and Jakarta in Olympia a few days after arrival from Aiken.
Cindy Lightfoot and Her Family’s Journey with Zakopane from Edmond, Oklahoma
Cindy and her family had a very particular experience when buying Dr. Jean Fowlers farm raised Westfalen young 6 year old gelding, Zakopane. She tells us how her daughter was eager to get a horse for herself and the journey they had.
Cindy and her family are first time horse buyers but her story about the sight unseen experience they had when buying Zakopane teach us many lessons about how COVID-19 is changing the equine industry.
Her daughter’s dedication to ride and get her own horse
Cindy tells us the story of how her daughter, Emilia, wanted a horse for herself, from talking to her about it, to research about horses and writing a report to present to her father.
“My family has never been involved in horses at all. My daughter about a 1.5 year ago began taking riding lessons and she just begged for a horse all this time and I thought that we would not get my husband to agree to get a horse there is just no way”
“so she (her daughter) sat down and she made a whole packet she spent days and days researching about horses and what all was involved and what all needed to be purchased she basically wrote a report and she had a several drafts of this report with a cover page of a picture of a horse and all this information and she presented it to her daddy and she said these are the reasons why I want a horse and he agreed to it.”
Throughout the interview, Cindy tells us of her daughter’s hard work learning about horses and taking lessons from a neighbor, “ Luckily during all this time we have a neighbor that is involved in completive trail riding and she has taken Emilia out trail riding all the time and she so she had a horse that was a national champion so she said you can come ride anytime so Emily went over there and learned a lot whole from my neighbor, how to tack him up and ride him.”
The search from local to across state lines
Cindy states that after exhausting all the local resources and horses, she had to open their search to other states because they could not find what they were looking for, “I found that locally there were not a lot of choices, we exhausted everything that was for sale in our area, I did not realize that we were going to open our search to other states.”
The horse buying and shipping experience during COVID-19
We asked Cindy how the buying and the shipping experience during these difficult times was, "sometimes you are not able to go see the horse in person, I found him and based on the videos and he looked like he was going to be a good fit and now my son wants to ride him and he’s never taken lessons before but he’s wanted to start and we thought that he looked like a good temperament based on the video.”
Facetime video communication was the key to make their purchase decision together with sending a local rider to see the horse, “We did not want to go across state and see him but we did this video call with Morgan the facetime call and have the vet come and check him out so we were just able to see him in one little facetime video and that was it and then we were hoping that once he arrived he was going to be all that we thought he was.”
The trust component in the process also is critical. Cindy states that Morgan did such a great job in communicating effectively and clearly that made them feel that the decision they were making was the right one, “ We had a lot of trust in our trainer, Morgan was so wonderful t work with, she answered questions quickly and she was so willing to help us. I feel like she made us feel very comfortable…I think all this things combine together we were able to find comfort idk how because this is all new to us but the response from Morgan made us feel really good about it”
Cindy’s family suggestion to other horse lovers
Find someone that you trust and know what you are looking for, “find someone that you trust to help you thru the process to be able to answer questions, speaking from a first time horse buyer and someone that is not familiar with horses it was really important to me that our trainer here felt it was a good fit. You need to know what you are looking for, know what qualities you are looking for and know what the deal brakers are too.”
Find a horse that is safe and that can create a relationship with the rider, “finding a safe horse with a good brain that would be able to teach my kids how to ride better and also that my kids can develop a relationship with the horse.”
Be ready to act quickly before you miss the opportunity, “I figured out very quickly that if you do not act quickly that you are going to lose the opportunity. So, I called Morgan and I said look we do not want to miss on him so I ended up putting a deposit down on him.”
Find the right shipping company. Cindy’s shipping experience was different due to the shipping companies not being able to directly ship thru Oklahoma, “It was difficult I had a lot of trouble finding a shipper that would go to SC ,they did not want to run the route that direction so it took me several weeks to find a shipper that would drive him off route and bring him so that became a little frustrated.”
Now Zakapone is all settle down and Emile is happier than ever. Cindy tells that her whole family is now in love with Zakopane, “She is so exited she loves him, we love him, and last week she did 6 lessons with him , he is a good fit and also now my son is very excited about him too and we are giving him more time to settle down and then my son can ride and take some lessons.”
Final thoughts, conclusions, and recommendations
The Covid-19 Pandemic has affected all aspects of daily life around the world. The equine industry was also affected and it is important for all horse aspects of the industry to adjust to these new challenges so we can continue to enjoy these beautiful creatures in all the ways that we have loved them for a very long time. We can learn from the experiences of horse lovers such as Morgan, Rachel, Cindy and Dr. Jean Fowler and their journey to make these sales possible during the peak of the pandemic.
It will not be easy but to adjust and make the necessary changes to the industry is imperative so we can continue the great opportunities that the horse industry provides but in a more safer and healthier way than before so we do not put the risks of humans and these lovely animals in danger.
Key findings from the experiences of Morgan, Rachel, Cindy and Jean Fowler are the following:
1.Know what you are looking for before starting your search
2.Ask a lot of questions about everything
3.Do several facetime trials
4.The safety and health of your family and staff and the horses should be first
5.Limit traveling if possible and send local trusted representatives
6.Ask for more videos and more pictures than before
7.Act quickly and be ready to put a deposit
8.Find the right shipping company to protect your new member of your family
Jean Corbett Fowler is a recognized breeder of sport horses out of Gone Away Farms International in Covington, Georgia. For more information contact Dr. Fowler at [email protected],com or visit her website at www.goneawayfarms.net or by cellphone at (678) 895-8869
Hugo A. Moran-Chavez is a Zamorano University grad (2013) and University of Georgia grad (2016). Mr. Moran-Chavez participated in 3 horse internships at Gone Away Farms International where he had the opportunity to learn alongside Dr. Fowler, about horse management, riding, and grooming. Mr. Moran-Chavez participated in USEA, USDF events and GDCTA schooling shows as well as breed inspections across the country. He is now the Bilingual Leasing Consultant at Dwell Communities in Atlanta, GA working with low income housing opportunities for Northwest Atlanta residents. For more information contact Mr. Moran-Chavez at [email protected]
We asked everyone involved in making these sales possible to tell us their story on how the experiences not only with the sale process went but with the current COVID-19 pandemic challenges. After phone interviews, email communication and text messaging below are some of those experiences that made this journey possible.
(Note: Each participant has given consent to record, transcribe, and provide excerpts within this article of each interview and/or communication).