The Carriage MarketBy Jeff Morse
Crafting successful advertising requires an understanding of the market you are trying to reach. In this case, it’s the market for carriage driving horses. The average buyer is going to be a woman in their mid fifties who does not want a problem horse. Sure men and children enjoy carriage horses, but they are not the bull’s eye of the carriage market. Most buyers likely do not have a ‘staff’ at home to help them hook and drive their horse. Recognize (and price accordingly) that the market for horses that have never been hooked is a LOT smaller than for horses who have been successfully hooked to a carriage and driven. These buyers really want to know the horse can be driven. So, present them that way with photos and video. Show records of any kind help demonstrate that at least the horse has been off the farm, in company, and made it home in one piece. If they have been demonstrably successful with wins, so much the better. List a few highlights.
Your buyer may have a trainer involved and may board their horse with their trainer or at a boarding facility. They will want their life with their horse to be simple and rewarding. They are likely more interested in improving their own driving than they are at teaching their horse how to be a better driving horse. They likely want a horse that grooms, clips, bathes, loads onto a trailer and ships without issue. They want a horse that remains calm and pays attention when it steps into a new environment at the end of the trailer ride. They want a horse that is safe and uncomplicated. With anything less than the above, the risk for the buyer goes up and the market for your horse gets smaller. Not impossible, just smaller.
You’d better be selling a stellar youngster if it’s had no training. The market for the young, untested prospect is almost invisible. There are those looking for good quality ‘blank slates’, but not nearly as many as those looking for already driveable horses. If your horse is a teenager that has never been driven, you are asking for anyone, even experienced trainer types, to take huge leap of faith to plunk down cold hard cash for your horse. It had better be a special horse that is worth the risk that it won’t work out.
Your horse’s pedigree may help somewhat. If there are illustrious ancestors, noting them can help. But remember, your buyer is an amateur and may not be a student of pedigrees. I’d even go so far as to say reminding them that your horse’s great grandparents were champion park horses may actually help unsell your horse. In other words, it may sound great to you who maybe knew of these great horses, but the buyer is going to be driving a grandson or great grandson, not the World Champion. It’s not likely to sway the buyer all that much.
A decent ‘at home” photo suitable for an ad. Driver is casual mode, not show dress. This is an acceptable photo of a young prospect, just starting her driving career. Sure, she could be in a more advanced frame but she’s green and this is a very acceptable frame for a training or entry level horses. But the equipment is clean and fits well. The driver is neat and the background is uncluttered. Note the driver is wearing a helmet! Very advisable for an advertisement. Contrary to what some people think, this does not indicate the horse is particularly dangerous to drive. Instead, it illustrates very good common sense on the part of the driver. Also note the horse is shown trotting on level ground. The photo is not tilted in such a way as to create the illusion of greater ‘action’.
An example of a more finished carriage horse in a show turnout. Driver is dressed for pleasure driving competition, good movement by the horse, minimal background, equipment clean and fitting well. The horse is also being driven by the demographic of the primary target audience (mid-fifties amateur female), making it easy for a buyer to imagine they could be driving this very nice horse. About the only thing that might improve this photo is a smile on her face!
This photo of this pretty young Morgan might be used to sell her as a carriage prospect. But the halter has a big buckle on her pretty delicate head, the background is too busy and distracts from the horse. The photo is cropped badly, cutting off her front feet, leaving too much empty space to the left and to the right and she has electric wires right in back of her ears. It’s not in focus. There is probably a better position for this horse regarding the lighting where there would not be distracting shadows on the ground. The handler could be wearing cleaner jeans but at least the clothes are not ripped.
It might be hard to believe that pretty little yearling above grew up to be this dynamic driving mare on the cover of The Morgan Horse Magazine. This would be a terrific photo to use to sell her as a mature, proven carriage horse. It is a great action photo that would be sure to catch someone’s eye. As distracting as fence boards in the background usually are in horse ad photos because they are such harsh geometric shapes, in this case it works as well they blend color-wise with the trees. Imagine how distracting they would be if they were white.
The primary interests in the carriage world are combined driving, pleasure driving and recreational driving. Fortunately, Morgans are wonderful at all three and often there is some overlap of a buyer’s interests. The point here is that if you focus your ad on just one of these interests, you may have in effect reduced the pool of potential buyers for your horse. Let buyers decide what direction they want to pursue with your horse. Chances are very good that while you think you have a good pleasure driving horse, he or she will also be pretty good at the other disciplines.
You might use both photos like these above to show that your horse can perform both as a pleasure driving horse and as a combined driving horse. And use the shot below on the left to show he can win for young driver! The shot on the right has a terrible background and is out of focus. You’d be much better off simply not using it! It will tend to unsell your horse.