Each time I’m asked what I do for a living, I pause to find the long-winded answer that explains I’m a horse dealer. But why, when the term horse dealer provides perfect clarity to someone who asks what my career involves? It’s not illegal; I don’t sell drugs, commit fraud or do anything that involves harming people or animals. The opposite is closer to the truth. My job is to help people and animals in the best way I know how to, by matching horse and rider as a professional horse dealer.
When did being a horse dealer become synonymous with a person who can’t be trusted?
Different types of customers horse dealers run into
I chose to become a horse dealer based on my love for horses, looking after horses, riding horses and being around horses all day. I even get an odd satisfaction from all the bits in between from picking out their feet to scraping poo off the wall.
What can be difficult at times is the people side of things. Spending hours speaking to one potential customer who wants to know every detail of the horse you have in for sale but has no intention of buying. They haven’t said they aren’t really interested; they don’t need to; you can spot a time waster a mile away. But it’s your job, so you smile and answer all their questions, including whether Star prefers her carrots from Tesco or Waitrose.
The people that have no intention of buying a horse are a little annoying but bearable – they’re typically always pleasant and seem nice.
The tricky customers are those that organise a viewing and are looking to catch you out from the first moment they step onto your yard. You are perceived guilty of a crime that you haven’t committed. They have most likely checked your name on various Facebook groups and although nothing bad was found in the results, you’re assumed dodgy because all horse dealers are the same – out to get everyone and pull a fast one, that’s why we have so many repeat customers.
I try to avoid any dealings with these types of people. I’ll let them try one horse so they don’t feel like they’ve wasted their time and politely explain that I don’t think any of my horses will be suitable.
Most customers I deal with however aren’t time wasters or trying to catch you out. They are coming to you as an expert, open minded and looking for help. Matching those customers with horses is fun and usually straightforward. They take on your advice, buy the horse you suggest and when you hear from them later down the road, it’s either to say thank you or because they are looking for another horse.
Sigh – yes, I am hoping to make money from selling this horse
Of course I am trying to earn a living from selling you this horse, that’s my job. Wouldn’t it feel dodgier if I was selling you a horse and not intending to make anything in return? Someone needs to pay for my early retirement, spending winters in the Alpes and summers travelling by yacht around the coast of Europe. In reality most horse dealers are lucky to break even when all costs are factored in.
So yes, I am trying to earn a living by selling this horse and many other horses, but that’s not dodgy, it’s being transparent about how I make a living.
My typical day as a horse dealer
Day to day life as a horse dealer begins at 7am for feeding. Whilst the horses are having their breakfast, I go back inside, settle down at my kitchen table with a coffee and go through my business accounts, catch up on messages I may have missed, and speak with customers on the phone about the horses I have in for sale.
It’s usually back on the yard for between 9.00am and 10.00am to finish mucking out, tidy the yard, and poo pick the fields and the school ready for the day ahead.
From 11.30am it is exercise time for all the horses in work unless they’re having a rest day or viewings are booked in for that day.
After exercising the horses, around 3.30pm each horse is checked over, groomed, feet picked out again, and handled on the ground to check overall ease of doing general horse management routines potential buyers are likely to carry out.
Between 4.30pm and 6.00pm, I will skip out, refill hay nets, top up water buckets and give the horses their night time feed. After a bite to eat and a quick shower, I spend at least an hour most evenings posting horses for sale on Facebook and Whickr, replying to messages and answering phone calls. The next day, it starts all over again.
As you can tell from my typical week of between 60-to-80-hour weeks, working for what is probably less than minimal wage, outside during Winter when it is ice cold – my con is working out great so far, I can almost smell fresh croissants being baked down in the south of France.
Horse dealers are people too
As a horse dealer dealing with horses and people, it is an everlasting challenge to pair horse and rider perfectly each time. While I can assess and aim to find the type of horse that might suit the customer. Sometimes when we think we have made a suitable match, the horses don’t feel the same way. They start behaving in ways not previously seen or noted.
It’s upsetting when it doesn’t go to plan, and hard not to take it personally or feel like a failure. Sadly when it does go wrong, buyers rarely if ever want to take any responsibility for their contribution to the problem. It is easier to blame someone else, so the horse dealer bears the brunt of the blame and is then described as a dodgy dealer.
With social media there are now groups dedicated to upset buyers outing horse dealers. In this new era of public shaming often without the full facts disclosed, we have seen a steady decline in the number of horse dealers in the UK.
The decline in horse dealers will continue unless the stigma towards horse dealers is addressed. Yes, there are always going to be a few bad apples in any industry, but that shouldn’t tarnish the reputation of the honest, hardworking types. I predict horse prices over the longer term have the potential to rise as more horse dealers stop dealing because it isn’t worth the headache they endure when it goes wrong.
One misinformed comment can be enough to crumble a good business that has spent years building up its reputation. Why would future would be horse dealers take that type of risk? Being labelled a dodgy horse dealer before even selling one horse.
Horse dealers are people you should be able to trust. Most of us are doing this for the love of the horses not for the money.
Next time you see a horse dealer being named and shamed on Facebook, take a second to think about the other side of the story. Our name is out there in the world for anyone to slander and accuse of the smallest of things. But we are still here, trying to provide a service for those that are looking for a new horse, working tirelessly to ensure the horses in our care are looked after to high standards with the aim to find each horse the perfect new home.
I love my job and I love the horses that I am lucky enough to have walk through my yard and whilst I am but a mere chapter in their story, I’m proud to play a part.
Sounds dodgy, right?
Amelia Wilkinson is a professional horse dealer helping equestrians to buy and sell horses from her private yard based in Lincolnshire. As well as running a successful dealing yard, Amelia also coaches riders in and around the Lincolnshire area. To find out more please visit her Facebook Page or her website, copperfieldequestrian.com.