I think I am over-reacting, but I just gotta know....
I have outgrown the horse I have had for over 6 years, so she is for sale. I was contacted by This Stable wondering if I would be interested in selling her to them. They want to take her on a 2 week trial, and if it works out, just keep her.
I have always been really really resistant to sell a horse into a school string. She would only be used for beginner lessons (so no jumping). I just fear that whenever she doesn't earn her keep anymore they will ship her away. Maybe not, I know, but I have known some stables that have (By 'ship her away' I mean sell her to someone else or to slaughter/auction).
Maybe I am over-reacting? Someone tell me there are lesson barns out there that keep their old geezers! I could get references, write a buy back into the contract, etc but we all know those arn't always binding.
The barn where I learned to ride still has its schoolies that I rode 20 some years ago. Two are in their 30s, two are late 20s. They are retired now and they have younger school horses but I always found it refreshing that they hung on to their horses and gave them the retirements they deserved.
Those kinds of places may be few and far between but they are out there.
Private owners are always nice, but who's to say the private owner won't just turn around and sell the horse anyway....
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Like others have said, it depends on the program. We have a pony that was used in the school pretty much her whole life (she is 40 now) and she still calls our barn home. We had a fundraiser for her which raised money to help with her expenses, along with a "Pennies for Ponies" bucket in the barn that we throw our spare change in-it adds up after a while! Can you find out what they have done with their older schoolies after they werent used in the program anymore? Or can you put in the contract that you have the first right of buyback when and if they go to sell?
I have put a call into two of the people I know who know the 'insides' of the barn and am putting one into the barn itself tomorrow. Hopefully I can get a little more info from them. It just happened so fast, you know. Like 'Hey we want your horse. Can we take her tomorrow?'
Another vote for "it depends." I work part-time for a lady who has a few "unuseables" on her property and they aren't going anywhere. If a horse in her string can work, s/he does what s/he can. Most horses only work once a day, five days a week. Some may do a second lesson if one is an up-downer doing lots of walk and no jumping. They have a good life and she has plenty of family property on which to retire them when they can no longer work at all. Other operations may not have that luxury. Still others may not care to try on-site retirement for their oldies; these may have various plans for what they do with a no-longer-workable horse.
When you sell your horse, you have to accept that he might be sold on again, perhaps repeatedly. That's a risk whether you sell to a lesson barn or a private owner. You can try to add a right-of-first-refusal clause to your sales contract, but there is no guarantee that will be honored.
My advice would be to go ahead with the research you have planned, find out all you can about how the lesson horses live day-to-day and how their retirement is handled. If you are comfortable with it, great. If you are not, also great. I will strongly advise against allowing a trial, though. If you do a search here, you will find copious arguments against that practice. (From a buyer's perspective, I think it's a nice idea; but from a seller's, I wouldn't do it and fully understand and respect other sellers who say "no trials.")
I don't think you're over-reacting, but you have that "forever home" philosophy, which is way, way common here at COTH.
I mean, you can't/won't provide this horse with a "forever home," but that's one of your requirements if you sell it to this lesson barn. As FlashGordon and coloredhorse have pointed out, even a sale to a private owner might result in the horse being sold. And sold again. So why would a lesson barn be any different? It goes without saying that sometimes neither private owners--such as yourself--nor lesson barns have the means to keep aged and/or retired horses. That's not a moral failing, although here at COTH it's treated as such.
I'm not heartless, and I understand your attachment to your horse. But once you sell, you don't get a vote. So the best you can do is vet the prospective buyer, as it appears you're doing, and go with your gut.
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If worse comes to worse and you are worried what will become of horse if it lost it's usefullness to the barn would be to put a right to first refusal in the contract so if they get rid of it they have to call you first.
Lesson horses have to come from somewhere, and the ones at my barn are well taken care of. Vet the place out first if you can visit.. check out their schoolies.. get the opinions of local vets and farriers that's more than you can do in some private sale situations.
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we tried it with a hunter pony that had been out of work for a year - so she was a bit chubby and we thought it would get her in shape - a year lease with them also trying to sell her.
Very reputable bnt and while I am sure she was fine - it didn't work out as she was a bit too forward for the lesson program.
In any event she was so unhappy there - when we picked her up she practically ran into the trailer and was so happy to come home - Never again will I do that - she was only there 10 days and still when my son first got on her you could tell that she wasn't handled right.
She was so happy to see my son and so happy to come home I couldn't bear doing that again.
It's either sell or no sell - no offence to the bnt that had her but I just wouldn't do it again.
I have a lesson barn and when I die, I want to come back as one of my lesson horses. Really. They are the first to see the vet, farrier, and get more treats than my own horses and are fat, happy, and shiny. My point is just because it's a lesson barn doesn't mean that your horse won't be taken care of or discarded when it's no longer useful. I try to keep all of mine until the end or find them nice retirement homes where I can keep an eye on them. It really just depends upon the barn itself. So my advice is ask a lot of questions and investigate all you can. That way you'll feel better about your decision no matter what you choose.
If you are concerned, why not do a lease instead of sale? That way, if it doesn't work out down the road (or even short term) your horse can't be sold but will be returned to you. First right of refusal clauses in sale contracts don't seem to be worth much, but if you own the horse, that will be honored.
It all depends is right. My barn retires old schoolies and keeps them until a forever home is found, or the original owners reclaim their horses.
Recently an old retiree, (uncertain balance behind, constant foot issues) was returned to "concerned original owners". We found out that they kept the horse about two weeks and sold him on.................dang!!! he could have stayed at the barn! I am concerned because the school barn did not want to use him in lessons because of balance issues and the original owners sold him for what I dont know.
OUr barn takes insanely good care of our lessons horses but then agian, we just have a smaller side program. We have certain horses that only jump to a certain level and we try to alternate them around to have a month off in the back runs so they can rest. We have one horse right now that we don't feel is good for the program anymore so he'll go to just walk/trot lessons and a couple that goes for nothing but trail rides will take him on and he'll stay at our barn.
Go check it out and see what you think. If your gut still tells you no, then don't do it. Listen to your instincts.
Find out more about the barn! I had a youngish gelding with arthritis in his hocks - he was much sounder when ridden most days - which I couldn't do at home. I sold him to a wonderful barn where he gets the best of everything - lightly ridden, all the latest injections for his arthritis etc. He looks fabulous, and she keeps them forever, even when retired. I couldn't be happier with the decision. He is the barn favorite, and seeing young kids, and older women ride him is heart warming.
As someone who has rescued 2 horses from lesson programs dumping them for slaughter value, I would never knowingly sell mine into one. Most horses don't do well with so many different riders - it frys their brains. The work is hard, and it's about the rider, so the horses are not valued as individuals. Probably you know by now not to believe anything a horse trainer tells you unless you have seen it with your own eyes. Ask to meet their old lesson horses if they say they keep them. 8 of 10 barns can't produce those horses because they've been "auctioned".
If a lesson barn is persuing him, he's right for a childrens hunter or a pony clubber, and you can get more money in that sale and have a shot at a "forever" home.
There are lesson barns and then there are lesson barns.
I know some where the horses are lightly worked, receive the best of care, and retire on the place. I know others that I'd shoot a horse before I'd sell it there. Is this place close enough to visit? If not, can they provide you with references?
But I have to agree with some of the other posters - no matter whether you sell her to a lesson barn or a private individual, you lose control over what happens to her. Buy-back clauses are no guarantee.