I said "depends". I would let a prospect ride the horse on my own property, but would not allow the horse to be taken off site. Not negotiable. The prospect could come every day if s/he liked for a reasonable period of time--a week?
I bought my horse last year and I have never been so uncomfortable in my life with my trainer pushing for a trial. I don't want responsibility for an animal that is not mine. I don't think I slept for the 5 days we had one horse on trial and I never rested easy until she went home.
No trial on the horse I eventually bought. Great PPE and she is amazing. I will never ever ask for a horse on trial again. It takes a long time for everyone to settle. I really don't think you learn much over a trial because it takes a lot longer than 5-10 days to gain trust and a routine. You can determine suitability with several rides at the home barn.
Generally, I'm in the "no trials" camp, but I do offer a 14 day money back guarantee for any reason (except colic). But to get to that point, I'm usually pretty certain that the horse and rider are matched and I've never had a horse returned.
When I was looking for a new horse I asked for a trial to make sure the newbie would blend in with the established herd of 5 who have been together for years. The first two horses were not a good fit and were returned. The third time was a charm and all worked out nicely. Obviously, based on these responses, I was lucky to have found owners who were agreeable to this trial prospect.
I did have a trial as a buyer for a very specific reason. I had actually ridden the horse for months and done a couple of LD endurance rides on him (with owner) so I knew he suited me mentally and physically. And then just as the sale was to go through he got hurt in a pasture accident at her place, left rear. She kept him for another month in small pen, hand walking only and her vet passed him. But since I knew I wanted him for a distance horse I wanted to be sure that there would be no long-term effect when he got back into root-y, rocky, regular trail work. We had a one-month contract limited to that leg only, so that if lameness reappeared I could return him within the 30 days. Her vet put together what she thought was a fair riding schedule for the month considering his downtime and I followed it. He passed an overall PPE with me (which I would have done anyway) and the lameness did not recur and so all ended up good. If he hadn't gotten hurt right near the sale date I wouldn't have asked for a trial but under the circumstances it seemed like a fair way to handle for both me and the seller.
It's just grass and water till it hits the ground.
I'm always amazed at how many sellers allow an off-property trial. I'd never do it. I see trial horses used like rented mules, because why not? Free horse! BTW, the same folks who use the trial horses would have cats if anyone wanted a trial on one of their horses.
Now, the three horses I've bought in my life (yes, I know, I am the voice of limited experience) I knew well before I bought them. Two of them were actually my lesson horses - they were only my lesson horses, as they really didn't work out as schoolies but the BO let me use them and I liked them enough to buy them after a couple of months. Both have worked out great.
I never rode a broke horse but then maybe I'm a sorry hand. - Ray Hunt
I let Snidely go out on trial. Mostly because he could be a difficult horse on the ground. As in I still have the scar on my back from his teeth. It has been 15 or so years. He was wonderful to ride, and fine if you had a leadrope on him.
He was great for low level hunters, jumpers, eventing, foxhunting, supposedly he drove, too. Jack of all trades. He was just very territorial about his stall and field. He was sold to a 13 year old girl at one point. About a week after her parents bought he he started chasing her out of his stall. The owner was nice enough to take him back and I eventually bought him.
I had him briefly boarded at a friend's- until he tried to run her down in the field- with his teeth bared. He had to be in the right situation or he would hurt somebody.
I eventually sold him to a 14 year old girl but wanted to make sure he would work out for her. He loved her and would canter to meet her bus and never tried to bite her or run her down in the field.
For Snidely, I felt that it was safer for him that if it didn't work out I would take him back. I felt he could hold his own mentally and physically while on trial. By allowing the trial I felt he was less likely to get quickly shuttled down the line through a series of inappropriate homes. With his ground manners history there was a higher likely-hood that he would start out fine but wind up being more than the buyer could deal with.
If I ever sell Finnegan he would not go on trial. He can be a bit of an anxious horse and I feel if he was handled wrong you could really screw him up mentally.
Oh, well, clearly you're not thoroughly indoctrinated to COTH yet, because finger pointing and drawing conclusions are the cornerstones of this great online community. (Tidy Rabbit)
When I bought my first horse I was extremely nervous about buying a horse. The sellers really needed to sell the horse because of the cost of board. I rode him twice at the barn he was boarded at, which was about 1.5 hours away. The first time I went by myself, the second time my trainer came. She arranged for a trial period, which lasted for only a few days. During that time, he was not ridden or turned out. I went to the barn to groom and hand walk him, and tried not to get attached. The purpose of the trial was only to get him checked by my vet as I'd already ridden him. I found it very reassuring as an acquaintance had recently gone through a horrible experience in which she bought a horse that the seller lied about and drugged before she tried him out. I still have my first horse, and it certainly made it easier.
My other horse I bought without a trial, but I'd known him for several years before the purchase and knew quite a bit about him.
I've known quite a few people who have done the same trial period in order to have their own vet check the horse, which I think is reassuring. I would worry much more now about some injury or something happening to the horse while awaiting the vet check, and how that would all be sorted out. That would certainly give me more pause now than the first time around.
As an amateur rider, my horses are more pets to me than anything. Honestly if I did have to sell one, I would probably be open to a trial because I wouldn't want someone to buy one of mine and be unhappy with the horse and sell him on right after the purchase, as I would think someone trying to sell a horse right after buying him probably wouldn't be too picky about the buyer. I can definitely see how trials could be problematic, though, and a contract would definitely have limitations as far as protecting all parties.
I have had one horse on formal "trial" as a buyer. Horse was a terribly head shy eventing prospect and I was a young teen. Seller allowed me to keep the horse at my farm for two weeks to see if horse and I would be a good fit. Although horse made progress and I enjoyed riding him, I decided that he was too much horse for me in the end and did not continue with the purchase. Seller was very thankful for the time and work put into the horse and took him back home. I was thankful that she offered the time to determine if we would be a good fit.
Another horse was boarded at my trainer's barn and was a pasture puff. Trainer encouraged me to start riding the cute little horse while I was horse shopping. I really liked him and rode him for a few months before doing a vet check. Vet check determined that horse would not hold up to UL eventing (which was my goal at the time.) I continued to keep horse in shape until he was purchased by a re-rider. A few months after being purchased by new owner, horse had an eye infection and the eye had to be removed.
My latest horse purchase was very ideal. Young and very unhandled horse came into my trainers barn. I immediately fell in love with the hairy beast, even though he was much greener than I had ever handled. Trainer allowed me to work with the horse for the first month of his training before scheduling vet check to make sure that I was ready for the ups and downs of young horses.
Although I have bought without a trial (3 of my horses were bought right after the first ride and without vet checks), it can be beneficial for both seller and buyer if the circumstances allow a trial.
It will be a dealbreaker for some people. They're not your buyers. All KINDS of things are dealbreakers for all KINDS of people. You do what you're comfortable with and the people who can accept that are your buyers.
I've never taken a horse on trial but I've also never bought from a 100% TOTAL STRANGER (who I didn't have at least some wildly tangential friend of a friend) before except a greenbroke horse a distance away where there was nothing to trial.
I voted it depends because I've done a trial both as a seller and a buyer but I still think its wise to try to avoid trials. As a buyer I was interested in a mare that was so far in 'the sticks' there wasn't a horse vet to do a PPE any closer than 3 hrs away. The mare was in someone's backyard basically, there was no arena, jumps or trails. I rode her in her grass paddock and could only try her that one time. Seller was firm on a price that I felt was too high for me to simply buy without PPE or proper ridden evaluation. We arranged it so I bought the horse, shipped it to my area for PPE and I could return her in 10 days. Horse was everything seller said, passed PPE and I met her price so worked out for all involved.
As a seller I had this nice 4 yr old OTTB I had to sell due to taking a job overseas. A woman in her twenties, same as me, came along and really liked this horse and rode him well. I had met a lot if tire kickers previously and had a good gut feeling about her. She had previously bought a horse that had not worked out, she wanted her vet 2 hrs away to do PPE and so wanted to take this gelding on trial for 1 week. We drew up contract that she was basically buying him if he passed PPE and had to return him in his current condition.
She took him on trial, at the start of vetting she said she was asked to hand walk him in tight circles and he dragged his hind legs a bit. Her vet stopped the exam, said he probably had EPM and advised her not to buy him! She returned him but was heart broken and out a lot of money for transport and partial vetting costs. I was surprised as horse had never shown any signs of EPM nor dragged his toes. I invited her to come to a yearly exam I was doing with my vet soon.
My gelding showed no lameness, prospective buyer came along and decided to buy him against her vets recommendation. I kept in touch with them for two years and she never had any lameness issues with him. He was simply a growing 4 yr old who was destined to finish 17h and may have had a lazy day at her vetting. It was a drama as it happened but it also worked out well in the end for everyone.
I voted that it depends. If the horse is already at a barn with an arena and decent footing and a few fences, and can be seen off site for a trail ride/school/lesson, then no trial needed. But sometimes people are selling a horse where there's only a small, muddy/rocky paddock to try the horse, or a horse that's out of work and could use a week of training to see if they'll come around. I wouldn't buy that type of horse without a trial. More because you want to give the horse a fair try, and not let the circumstances hinder the potential sale.
I've bought three horses with a trial and two without. The two I bought without were very straight forward quality horses, and one of them I was able to ride several times in a variety of environments, and the second I rode at a horse show and also watched him go at the show with a kid, so I felt pretty comfortable with both. The three with trials were ones where the owners were quite interested in selling and offered to let me do a trial. Interestingly, I've never had one on trial that I haven't bought, although in retrospect there's one I wish I hadn't kept. I don't want them on trial unless I think there's a good chance they'll work out, it's too much of a risk that they'll get hurt or that someone will get attached. For at least two of them I might not have bought them unless I could do a trial, especially for the first pony for my daughter. I do have a good eye for soundness issues and if they pass my fairly rigorous criteria they pass the vet. I have looked at many horses/ponies that I ruled out and did not want to do a trial, even when the seller offered it. For whatever combination of reasons most sellers seem to want to sell to me, so maybe they are more willing to do a trial if they like the prospective buyer.
Depends. If I had the means to buy a $$$$$ show horse, I would want a trial...with the horse going to my trainer's barn for evaluation. For a lower end "play" horse that I intended to keep at home, I wouldn't worry about it so much.
I strongly prefer a trial with an insurance binder in my name covering the horse while he's in my care and a vet appointment scheduled for the end of the trial, but it's different if I know the horse or the sellers.
Had I not had a trial period on the ones I looked at before buying Tip, I'd have gotten stuck with a chronic rearer or a screw-loose bolter being deliberately misrepresented. When shopping on a budget and the horse doesn't seem to have a veterinary "hole" accounting for his price, I assume it's got a behavioral one.
"I'm not always sarcastic. Sometimes I'm asleep."
- Harry Dresden