“Private Treaty”: Scam or Savvy Seller?


One of the most hotly-debated topics we see online related to horse sales, is the notion of “Private Treaty”, where a seller or agent does not publicly divulge the sale price of a horse.

Potential buyers frequently grumble that they won’t bother to message a seller on private treaty ads, but choose to scroll on by. They favour ads that note the price outright.

On sales sites, we see both types of ads and thought it might be helpful to shed some light on the most common reasons an agent may choose to keep the sale price close to her vest.

Photo by Grace Salmon

The price increases with training: For a quick and easy sale, an agent may have one sale price, but it may change as more money is invested in the animal. For many trainers, that means continued competition. Horse show expenses need to be recouped. Plus, if a horse comes home with tri-color ribbons, it appreciates in value.

The price decreases: If a horse is listed for sale, but has a few bad shows or an issue shows up on a PPE, the trainer may want the ability to adjust the horse’s asking price accordingly. Or maybe circumstances change, and a once-patient owner wants to speed up the sale process. Often, the price of a horse is affected by how willing an owner is to take less because they found another horse. Many times, a price drop says nothing about the quality of a horse, but is only about selling speedily. Not divulging price in an ad allows the agent flexibility.

Expediency and efficiency: Some horses are listed for sale on several websites and Facebook groups for quite a long time. If an agent needs to adjust the price, doing so would take a lot of time. And we all know that ONE ad you forget to change is the one that will catch a buyer’s eye and cause you a giant headache.

Consideration for future owners: It wasn’t so long ago that people would never divulge how much they bought or sold a horse for. In today’s social media climate of sharing more and sharing again, that has fallen largely by the wayside. In some circles, it is still considered indelicate. More often, however, a trainer likes to keep sale prices private, out of professional consideration, so future sellers of the same horse are afforded privacy as well.

Yes, sometimes it depends who you are: Often, a seller or agent does care who a horse is sold to and may give some prospective buyers a preferred price. Sometimes the owner is sentimental. Sometimes the trainer wants to see a special animal go to a particular barn to create a stronger business relationship. Other times a breeder wants offspring to go to a specific program where a broodmare or stallion’s progeny will have a successful competitive career.

Photo by Emily Lucibello

There are a lot of reasons why an agent may choose to list a horse as “Private Treaty” and many of them are about being fair and honest. At the end of the day, we won’t find any universal agreement on the subject, but should choose to focus on all of the other things an agent does that demonstrate they are reputable.

In selling, as well as buying, the biggest indicator of quality is a positive attitude, commitment to a clean industry and love of the animals.

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