Safety adjectives influence price in advertisements for Thoroughbreds

Safety adjectives influence price in advertisements for Thoroughbreds
07 Apr 2015

A study by researchers at the University of Sydney found that Thoroughbreds sell for less and are valued for different attributes compared to other breeds sold for adult recreational riding in Australia.

The researchers found that safety-related terms significantly correlated with the asking prices for Thoroughbred horses more so than other breeds, suggesting that perhaps people are more concerned about the potential difficulty of handling for Thoroughbreds.

A previous study with non-Thoroughbreds did not find safety-related terms mentioned in the advertisement to be a significant contributor to asking price.

Thoroughbreds are bred for speed and reactivity with a higher percentage of high-twitch muscle fibres compared to other breeds, previous studies have found them to be more easily spooked when exposed to novel objects.

Other factors found to contribute postively to Thoroughbred asking prices were competition experience and dressage training. Surprisingly, the mention of “trail riding” in an ad was negatively correlated with asking price. The researchers speculate that this is because horses with trail riding experience often had not done much else (e.g. competition) and were not as well educated.

Height and colour had no significant effect on listed price.

The study was conducted by surveying advertisements in 6 issues of Horse Deals in 2009, including horses in the “Allrounder” and “Adult Riding Club” sections only. It was considered these sections best targeted the recreational rider market. In total the sample consisted of 220 advertisements of Thoroughbreds. To be included in the study, horses had be advertised as broken in, at least 14 hands high and three years or older. Preliminary unpublished research for the study revealed that the average price for a Thoroughbred was $3,286 while the average price of a non-Thoroughbred was $7,384.

The researchers concluded that safety-related terms appear to be relevant to the pricing of Thoroughbreds for recreation riding but were  not significant for other breeds. The researchers hypothesise that this may be due to their anecdotal reputation to be more reactive and less quiet than other breeds.

Interestingly the researchers did not publish data or comment on why Thoroughbreds are cheaper. Quite possibly Thoroughbreds are cheaper because of the economics of supply and demand: there are tens of thousands of Thoroughbreds bred in Australia each year for racing. As a result compared to other breeds, Thoroughbreds might be in over supply.

The researchers did mention this idea in a previous study with regards to Standardbreds. In that study, it was found that Standardbreds were advertised for on average $1,408 less than other breeds (not including Thoroughbreds.) They noted that:

“If the steady supply of ex-racing animals at reduced or even no cost meets or exceeds demand, then the price for Standardbreds may be reduced in Australia overall.”

The researchers do note that asking price does not reflect sale price, but it was easier to attain and allowed for a greater sample size.

Finally, the researchers suggest that the primary aim of the vendor when setting a price is to recoup money on their investment (i.e. money spent on training, travelling around to competitions, etc.)


McGreevy, P. D., Oddie, C. F., Hawson, L. A., McLean, A. N., & Evans, D. L. (2014). Do vendors value safety in Thoroughbred horses in the Australian recreational riding horse market?. Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research.

Previous study

Oddie, C. F., Hawson, L. A., McLean, A. N., & McGreevy, P. D. (2014). Do vendors value safety in the Australian recreational (non-thoroughbred) riding horse market?. Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, 9(6), 375-381.


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