Marketing Sale Horses: Social Media 101

Marketing Sale Horses: Social Media 101

When world and futurity champions are discovered via Facebook, clearly the horse industry is onto something. We examine what works in social media sales.

A Vintage Smoke makes a sliding stop en route to winning the 2018 NRHA Futurity with Jason Vanlandingham (Credit: Waltenberry)

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The American Quarter Horse Journal logo

By Katie Navarra 

Did you know the reining industry’s most recent Triple Crown winner was discovered via a Facebook post?

In 2015, Diane Mesmer began an energetic search for a colt by A Sparkling Vintage, but they were hard to find. One morning at 5 a.m., she saw a listing for a weanling named A Vintage Smoke. The Facebook post had been made just minutes before she saw it. She reached out to breeder Karl Hapcic and bought the prospect within a few hours. 

A Vintage Smoke is the ultimate Facebook discovery success story. With trainer Jason Vanlandingham in the saddle, A Vintage Smoke’s $400,000 in career earnings and accomplishments include:

  • 2018 National Reining Horse Association Futurity Level 4 open championship, $150,000

  • 2019 National Reining Breeders Classic Level 4 open co-championship, $63,000

  • 2019 NRHA Derby Level 4 open third (tie), $26,093

  • 2019 Run for a Million invitational fifth place, $60,000

  • 2020 NRHA Derby Level 4 open championship, $60,000

  • 2020 reining Triple Crown

Marketing Horses on Social Media for Private-Treaty Sales

Internet and online sale listings have easily been facilitating transactions for two decades. Using social media has been the next evolution of the digital age. It’s anyone’s best guess as to what the sales platforms will look like in the next 10 years, but for now, these tools are an efficient way of connecting horses with new owners. 

We’ve asked breeders and trainers to share their secrets to success for using social media to market horses for private-treaty sales. 

1. Know the rules of the platform you’re using.

Facebook’s official commerce policy includes animals as a prohibited item for sale listing. Yet it’s an important tool for people marketing horses. There are even specialty groups dedicated to horses for specific disciplines and countless listings on personal pages.

On the site’s FAQ page, a Facebook team member clarifies the policy, saying ads cannot be created to promote the sale of animals, but that a page can provide information about an animal that is for sale. 

2. Facebook is the preferred social platform for horse people, which makes it the most competitive marketplace.

“The sheer volume of people selling stock (on Facebook) is mind boggling,” says Karl Hapcic, breeder of A Vintage Smoke. “It’s not unusual to see someone post an ISO (in search of) message on Facebook and receive 300 to  400 comments with pictures of horses and their pedigrees.” 

Facebook has become Karl’s go-to platform for selling the horses he breeds. The tool not only provides a lot of exposure, it makes his horses a bit more competitive. These posts dovetail with listings he has on WhoaZone, Sky Mizze and Performance Alley. 

“The reality is that one can see a few hundred head of well-bred babies and yearlings in a weekend off I-35 in Texas and Oklahoma. That’s one disadvantage to living in the ‘last great place,’ ” he says of his native Montana. “People don’t often say, ‘Let’s go to Montana to look at horses.’ Advertising them on Facebook has put our horses on a level playing field.” 

Darleen Wood and Cat Walks Into A Bar make a fence turn in working cow horse at the 2018 AQHA Select World Championship Show

Darleen Wood will attest that technology isn’t her thing. Yet three days after joining Facebook, she stumbled upon Cat Walks Into A Bar. Less than eight months later, she and “Grasshopper” won the 2018 Adequan® Select working cow horse world championship. (Credit: Alexis J. O’Boyle)

3. Instagram allows you to reach a new audience for marketing sale horses.

Professional barrel racer Lindsey McLeod, 24, is located in the I-35 corridor and relies primarily on Facebook to promote and sell horses for clients. In one year, she sold about 10 horses through Facebook through a personal page and a business page.  

While Facebook may be the most popular social media platform for selling horses, Lindsey has also started using Instagram to promote sale horses.  

“My sister is a social media expert and suggested we start advertising sale horses there,” Lindsey says. “I include my email in the post and I’ve had several people email about horses listed there.” 

4. Quality photos are the key to eye-catching sale horse posts.

The key for marketing horses through social media platforms, or any online listing, is creating posts that attract a viewer’s attention and pique their interest enough to comment, private message or otherwise contact the seller. 

Outside of the horse industry, Karl is a plastic surgeon and he knows the power of pictures. A well-designed photo gallery is the best sales tool he has. It’s a marketing strategy he has carried over into his breeding business. 

“It’s human tendency to be attracted to the shiny object, so a great picture of a prospect with a sire’s name either plastered on the belly or mentioned somewhere in the picture is the shiny object,” he says. “It hooks the prospective buyer and the rest is up to me to throw my best sales pitch.” 

Marketing Sale Horse Prospects on Facebook: Karl Hapcic’s Tips

Every weekend – weather permitting – Karl heads out to the pasture to take updated photos of his reining-bred weanlings in their natural habitat. 

  1. Photograph babies off a lead rope to give a truer image of what the youngster looks like.

  2. Shoot traditional side and front shots, as well.

  3. Keep the accompanying post text short. Too much type in the post can be overwhelming.

  4. Prominently showcase the sire’s name. 

  5. Wait for inquiries in the comments, then reply with more information. This engagement increases post reach, meaning the post will show up in more news feeds.  

palomino foal stands next to gray mare in pasture of green grass

Photographing babies while they’re turned out gives a truer image of what the youngster looks like. (Credit: Tara Matsler)

Marketing Sale Horse Prospects on Instagram: Lindsey McLeod’s Tips

Lindsey has found that for her business of marketing and selling barrel horses, including as much information as possible facilitates faster sales. She includes:

  1. The horse’s height.

  2. Relevant statistics.

  3. Current times the horse is clocking.

  4. Details about its habits or running style. 

  5. A video and a picture

  6. If possible, a photo of the horse’s registration certificate and pedigree. (Get a free download of a horse's pedigree here, then visit AQHA's robinglennpedigrees.com for a $5 performance report.)

Tips for Shooting Videos to Share on Social Media

“Posting video of a horse’s run tells buyers a lot about the horse,” Lindsey says. “I use video on both Facebook and Instagram.” 

  • The background shouldn’t distract the viewer from the horse.

  • At shows, shoot at an angle with the least clutter in the background. 

  • Consider lighting in covered pens or indoor arenas: Shoot the video with the sun behind you for the best outcome.

  • Remember to turn the phone sideways so that the video fills a computer or television screen for viewing.  

Read on for more horse-sale video tips.

woman videos a horse showing on an iPad

Cutline: Posting video of a horse’s run tells buyers a lot about the horse, Lindsey says. She uses video on both Facebook and Instagram. (Credit: Tara Matsler)

Protecting Your Investment

Whether you’re selling a horse or buying a horse, the transaction represents a serious investment. AQHA Corporate Partner Markel. is here to help protect that investment. Markel is “the insurance company with horse sense” and can fully protect your horses, home, barn, tack and equipment. Learn more at www.aqha.com/markel.