“Not just difficult, impossible”, is how Swansea dealer Karl Richards describes the current horses for sale market. After weeks of advertising his sport horses with “hardly a call” he says he’s ready to take what he can for stock before the winter.

“But to negotiate, you need buyers to make an offer and that’s just not happening. Part of it is travelling — with diesel costs, people don’t want to drive any distance.”

Equine agent Natalia Thorpe concurs: “A sensible price is essential, and greener horses are more difficult to sell.”

But she has found that some types still move quickly from her Surrey yard.

“Experienced Pony Club ponies come in and go straight back out, but we have built a good reputation with our local branches,” says Natalia.

“Quality Irish youngstock also still sells. Generally, though, we’re carrying less stock and getting those we have out and about to maintain our margins.”

While prices have slipped, many dealers are maintaining profit margins as the price of stock coming in, particularly from Ireland, has dropped.

Showing producer Wayne Thorneycroft says there’s still client money for top-end animals, but good deals are still to be found.

“I’ve recently sold a nice horse at reasonable money, which is now doing well with [top showing rider] Rob Walker,” says Wayne, who admits to halving the price of another to move it on.

A straw poll of sellers indicates strong demand and a corresponding lack of animals — particularly experienced “>jumping ponies — in the south-east.

But those based in the north and Scotland are finding it harder to sell similar types. One vendor based in the Borders said that even dropping the price of her pony by 20% had not helped to sell it.

“Ironically, I had buyers saying the pony looked perfect, but they didn’t want to travel more than two hours because of cost — yet the price drop of £1,600 would have more than covered their travelling costs,” she says.

More than one dealer H&H spoke to felt the current conditions benefit established dealers.

Jane Beswick, whose Pebbly prefix horses and ponies regularly appear in H&H reports, said: “I think people are finally coming round to seeing the sense in buying quality young horses from a reputable source rather than older horses with baggage.”

This news story was first published in Horse & Hound (18 August, 2011)