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Horse purchase saga - would you trial lease or walk?

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    Repeat after me: Do not buy other people's problems. Do. Not. Buy. Other. People's. Problems. Tell seller you're sorry, but you're not willing to buy a horse that is currently lame. Should she happen to get the lameness resolved, please give you a call. You'd love to come back and look at him again at that point (even if it's at a sale barn).


      I'm going to side with the pessimists (realists?) and say do not pass GO, do not collect $200 dollars, proceed directly to a horse currently devoid of mystery problems.

      Even if he's a saint, and honest as the day is long, unless he's virtually free, you have extra space, time, and something else to ride, an NQR horse is a real crapshoot.

      On a side note, I wish MY husband's involvement in horses extended beyond grudging groom and emergency truck/trailer mechanic.


        I don't think the owner is shady - I think she is cheap and clueless. If she doesn't want to pay for shoes wait until the lease is up and she is paying board at the sales barn. I agree with the other posters - it is highly unlikely the horse will live there free while it is on the market. Maybe she can recoup the bills from sales proceeds but a novice level 12 year old prospect with not much show experience is not going to be gaining in value that much unless it gets out, shows and does well. That won't be cheap.

        It is a cute horse but it looks off in both videos. Maybe the reason it is hard to get going is because its feet hurt. I would keep looking. If they get it sound go back and look at it but I wouldn't spend hundreds more trying to diagnose another person's horse.


          If the horse is saintly and tall and those are things you need that you are having trouble finding, then it might be worth trying this lease thing. BUT, I still do not think I would expect him to go training with the slow warm-ups and likely mild soundness issues. I'd prepare for that to be be something you can live with.

          And please do not pay 7500.


            Originally posted by Risuena View Post

            Except he's lame in the video from February. I'm sorry, he does seem like a kind horse.
            Jesus, I just got around to watching that video. He's not just a little lame in that indoor video either. He's a LOT lame. Like head bobbing. I'm stunned anyone there thought it was acceptable to jump him. Good lord.


              Originally posted by jcc813 View Post
              Just to clarify, buying him out right is definitely off the table. The only thing we'd consider is a trial lease to own. And we'd only do the lease if he passes a lameness exam. But as someone alluded to earlier about getting out of leases being difficult, that's kind of my concern. How would we best protect ourselves?
              There is no way I'd lease this horse for the purchase price. From what the OP has commented about the owner, I would really question how you could protect yourself should the OP decide not to purchase the horse. Sure you can have a contract stating you get your money back but if the owner spends it or says she doesn't have it, sure you go to court a judgement in the OP's favor but does she ever get the $ back. Now if the owner would lease the horse for a prorated amount from the purchase price, or for an amount in addition to purchase price, maybe I'd consider it. Otherwise I'd walk.

              I don't know that I would balk too much at 20 minute warm-up, I've watched plenty of horses warm up for dressage at horse trials and some take quite a bit of time.. but that's for a competition and means warm-up first, then get in dressage mode, school in dressage mode, and enter at X.


                Originally posted by Risuena View Post

                Except he's lame in the video from February. I'm sorry, he does seem like a kind horse.
                I see the same thing you do.

                OP, I understand why this horse is appealing. He is big, attractive and seems sensible. But, to my eye, he wasn't sound behind in February, and he doesn't look sound behind with the trainer in the outdoor video, either.

                I think you should walk away.


                  Horses don’t warm up out of sore feet so it is definitely something in addition to sore feet
                  McDowell Racing Stables

                  Home Away From Home


                    Also consider that he might be less saintly when his feet don’t hurt. Some horses act out when in pain and others shut down.
                    Building and Managing the Small Horse Farm:


                      Run, don't walk, away. Run away.

                      I do sympathize, because he does seem like a lovely, kind soul. But I couldn't even finish watching the videos.

                      I would be tempted to take this horse on a 6 month care lease as a husband horse, IF, and that's a big IF, he can be made comfortable and sound with shoes and other, inexpensive maintenence.

                      The fact that the horse's owner is not willing to take these steps tells you everything you need to know.

                      BTW, in the first video, in an indoor, with good footing, the horse was quite lame behind, and it looks to be high up, ie, probably not shoeing related.

                      The plural of anecdote is not data.


                        Here's another helpful tip:

                        Imagine that you buy the horse, and several months later, after trying shoes, body work, more turnout, previcoxx and a lot of diagnostics, you discover that the horse is not suitably sound, and never was going to be suitably sound for your purposes.

                        Does the seller have plausible deniability? Can the seller say she had no idea of the horses underlying problems because she never had them worked up? And the leasor didn't complain?

                        Do you have any recourse other than retiring the horse?

                        Last edited by McGurk; Jul. 8, 2020, 08:30 PM.
                        The plural of anecdote is not data.


                          Why would the owner offer this horse for sale while it is lame? Why wouldn't the owner wait a bit longer to get the horse sound first?

                          Of course the lameness is going to make it hard to sell, and it's going to hurt the price people are willing to offer.

                          A little money spent to do get the horse right would make a *big* difference in getting it sold, and for a better price, that would probably more than pay the farrier cost. And no need to disclose anything if the horse will vet sound.

                          There is no way to know this answer. But one reason could be that after already having had considerable time off, this is as good as it gets with this horse. To shoe it would just make that point ever further if it's going to be lame even with shoes.


                            Originally posted by jcc813 View Post

                            If you don't mind my asking, how old was your TB and how long would he typically stay tender footed if he didn't have shoes?

                            My horse was 5 when I got him. He had a low-bow from the track and that's when I got him. He was tender-footed as soon as the shoes came off.

                            Can someone give me the 101 on how a sale farm works? I think that would give me a better idea of how much bargaining power we have. Does the owner pay board until the horse is sold and the farm takes a commission? Or does the owner sell the horse to the farm and they keep all sale proceeds? If the former, does the sale farm reset the price if they don't agree with owner's list price?
                            I see Findeight gave you the scoop on sales barns. When I had a boarding stable a trainer would have a sale horse with me, paid me my board price then, the trainer put what they wanted out of the sale onto the price, someone else who had something in the horse also added their price onto the price and a <5,000 horse suddenly ended up as a 10,000 horse (which didn't sell).

                            I think your best advice came from Jleegriffith (as that's a buyer/seller of OTTB's) Perhaps JudyBigRedPony(?) will see this and chime in.

                            Ultimately it's your and your husband's decision. Sorry it's so hard.
                            Last edited by swmorse; Jul. 10, 2020, 08:58 AM. Reason: Meant JudyBigRedPony, not FairJudy


                              Originally posted by jcc813 View Post

                              For one thing he's quite a handsome horse that's put together nicely. 17+ hands, which husband prefers b/c he's a taller guy. Very calm, quiet demeanor. Has 3 good gaits (though his trot can be bouncy and take some getting used to), has some of the training experience we're looking for--just needs someone to continue working with him so he continues to get more exposure to XC obstacles like banks and ditches, but he's shown a willingness to try to work through things he's not familiar with. While he doesn't have much HT experience, on the plus side he hasn't been raced or jumped off his legs, and he's been getting a lot of foundational dressage work. Also he and my husband seem to pair really well--something you can't always explain on paper. I think that's all pretty good for $7500 (if the only issue was needing shoes).

                              Here are a few videos: The indoor ones are from Feb and the outdoor is from early June.
                              It sounds like he ticks a lot of boxes for you and your husband really likes him. I am not going to comment on the price because that is variable per region and may be "the going rate" in your neck of the woods.

                              As far as being prepared for the worst - well, we should do that with any horse, right? I know someone who bred her mare and had to put he foal down at 4 years old due to so many lameness issues. I know other horses that look all wonky but never took a lame step.

                              My mare had brittle, flat feet and was hard to shoe. So we would put shoes on at the beginning of the show season and pull them for the winter to give her feet a break and chance to heal/grow back from shoeing. I bred that mare and got my lovely filly but she also decided to get EPM at 4, and had a pasture injury at 5 or 6 that cut our show season in half. Other than that she's ready for the Olympics. Another horse went on trial, took a misstep coming out of the stall to get vetted and the vet said he would be no good for a beginner novice packer type - that horse later sold as a foxhunter for the same amount the amateur was going to pay (he was competing successfully at Training level). Horses and people are weird.

                              So, I say, if you kept coming back to this horse and your husband really likes him, then take him on trial - just make sure there is clear language in the contract that you get that deposit back if you decide he isn't for you.


                                Originally posted by swmorse View Post
                                I think your best advice came from Jleegriffith (as that's a buyer/seller of OTTB's) Perhaps FairJudy will see this and chime in.
                                But this isn’t a fresh-off-the-track TB who is expected to have some physical baggage and need some downtime and TLC to reach maximum soundness. This is a 12-year-old horse that isn’t even sound doing less than the job OP wants him for.

                                Also, many OTTB resellers only have their sales horses for weeks or even days and don’t have to deal with the long-term consequences if the horses don’t stay sound.
                                Building and Managing the Small Horse Farm:


                                  I will chime in as someone who has 5 OTTBs currently and has had plenty in the past. Some I have had for years and others are relatively new off the track.

                                  In your situation I would certainly walk.

                                  If you were in my shoes, with a farm and room and time to let him sit and see what happens, maybe, and thats a maybe if the horse was free or say $500. Anything above that is just ridiculous at this point. Has this horse ever been truly sound?

                                  I bought a mare off the track over a year ago, (October 2018). She is 7 this year. She was extremely underweight and her feet were awful. It has taken until now, to be able to put her into work. I have been able to ride and lunge her here and there but abscesses, sore feet and a resulting sore back from the sore feet have plagued her during her let down after the track. I am lucky that I am set up to allow the horse to just sit and heal over time (still being cared for like my other horses mind you).

                                  The point is foot issues take YEARS to heal over time without extreme vet intervention. Even then, without x rays you don't really know what is going on. Many of the TBs I have had have required something in the time after the track. Another we have now requires dental surgery to remove 2 dead teeth, costing about $3k. Again, needing lots of time off and vet care, but she is a nice mare and worth the time and money. But if she was my only riding horse? Wouldnt be the best buy would it.

                                  When buying Tbs it is such a gamble on a good day, with a nice sound looking horse. Why would you even consider starting with something that doesn't even have the basic soundness as a baseline.

                                  As others have said, run, and run far. For every good TB, there are 5 others waiting for homes.

                                  I know of a solid Novice TB, schooling Prelim, 8 year old gelding in Ontario for sale around that price. Plenty of options out there.
                                  Boss Mare Eventing Blog


                                    Originally posted by McGurk View Post
                                    Run, don't walk, away. Run away.

                                    I do sympathize, because he does seem like a lovely, kind soul. But I couldn't even finish watching the videos.

                                    I would be tempted to take this horse on a 6 month care lease as a husband horse, IF, and that's a big IF, he can be made comfortable and sound with shoes and other, inexpensive maintenence.

                                    The fact that the horse's owner is not willing to take these steps tells you everything you need to know.

                                    BTW, in the first video, in an indoor, with good footing, the horse was quite lame behind, and it looks to be high up, ie, probably not shoeing related.
                                    Also bilaterally lame up front. I thought the RH was worse, IIRC - I watched yesterday and remembered thinking one was worse than the other.

                                    I generally hate to critique the soundness of a horse for sale because sometimes I worry it might impact whether or not they get a soft landing... I genuinely think this horse needs an upgrade. He is moving bilaterally lame up front and I remember seeing him throw the RF in particular over fences to avoid landing on it too much.

                                    That being said I would only take this (clearly wonderful, saintly, classy) horse on a care trial, and wouldn't pay more than $1500. I think he is very nice otherwise, more impressed with how he is not resenting work despite being lame - but that is a problem too, a too stoic horse is sometimes very hard to gauge when an injury is serious or not.

                                    That's just me; I work with OTTBs on the side and see enough track/foot-generated lameness to get a feel for what is farrier-related and what isn't.. so I tend to take risks others won't -- but this is not what I classify as a $7500 or even $5000 risk. The thing about farriery-related unsoundnesses is that by the time you start to see foot-generated gait abnormality, the damage to the structures is already there - which means it's never as simple as just throwing shoes on the horse.. It takes months, multiple cycles, sometimes years, to reverse the damage done by bad trimming or a horse being barefoot when they need shoes. Being sore up front quickly becomes systemic; their back starts to hurt, their shoulders, their suspensories -- takes a long time for all of those posture-related grievances to go away.

                                    This lovely horse needs an owner upgrade, since it does sound like she doesn't have the means or interests in making him 100% comfortable.
                                    AETERNUM VALE, INVICTUS - 7/10/2012


                                      Yup. OP, read beowulf 's post many many times.

                                      Before watching the videos, I felt that it might be reasonable to pin a sudden soreness on a change in hoof management and therefore (with rads and eyes wide open) it might be something to go forward on, but those "before" videos do not show a sound horse, so there's been an issue (or multiple issues) for a long time. The issues may indeed all stem from poor hoof management, and/or they may all be solvable - but those are BIG "ifs" and there will be a significant investment of time and likely money to see if this guy will come sound.

                                      He is handsome and obviously VERY sweet. My absolute sucker heart wants you to negotiate a low price tag and spend the balance in diagnostics and giving this lovely guy a chance. And you could do that - I am known to do it, and I am not a farm owner (please, see again, I am a massive sucker). But I get a lot of joy out of the project process, and in the sloooooow progress of a sore horse feeling better, and, TBH, in the peace of mind when it becomes clear that a horse isn't going to be sound for work and I know they aren't going to be sold down the river and end up busted, miserable, and in pain because I will pay for them to hang out in a field and live their best little pasture ornament life.

                                      If that ^^ doesn't sound like your jam, don't buy this horse. If you aren't ok with pouring a bunch of $$ into diagnostics and maybe still not getting a clear prognosis, then don't trial this horse. If you are counting on at least starting out (because god knows, we're all in the hands of the fates when it comes to long term success in that area!) with a sound, useable horse that you (or your husband) can hop on and ride and have fun with, then do not buy this horse.

                                      If you truly really like him and have a connection with him and feel more invested in seeing what kind of progress you can make with his comfort and soundness and are TRULY ok with the fact that that progress might not intersect with your goals, then buy him for whatever you feel comfortable paying and enjoy the journey. The horse certainly deserves it - but it is not your responsibility to provide him with this kind of home: it's his current owner's. Sometimes taking this kind of chance pans out - my 100% written off guy is looking like he might be an absolute diamond - but often it doesn't. I've got a REALLY cute TB mare hanging out on my feed/board/vet tab to illustrate the fact.

                                      Buying this horse isn't the wrong thing to do in some cosmic, objective sense, but it's absolutely the wrong thing to do if you will be gutted, disappointed, unhappy, and unable to continue your chosen discipline if this guy doesn't come sound enough to do the work you want him to do.


                                        Just wanted to add that watching the videos, a horse that lame would go for 'free to a good home' in my parts, and yes, that's even with the confirmation, movement, and attitude. A lame horse with minimal record is simply not worth the $7500.


                                          Original Poster

                                          Thanks to all who watched the videos and commented. I recall that in Feb our trainer noted something about the trot when watching one of the videos. He didn't explicitly say the horse looked lame but noted it as something to look into. He probably saw the same thing our vet did when she initially noted that he was short in that hind.

                                          OverandOnward asked "Why would the owner offer this horse for sale while it is lame? Why wouldn't the owner wait a bit longer to get the horse sound first?"

                                          Honestly I think it's because she doesn't believe it's actually a big deal, and that's being reinforced by the trainer and leasee. They all just keep saying this is the way this horse is, he's a bigger guy who needs time to warm up, etc. The owner even said your eye is naturally drawn to the right hind because of his white pastern. And when I used the word "lame" with the leasee she insisted "he's not lame, he's just sore." Okaayy...except that's the word both vets used with me.

                                          I can halfway forgive the owner only because she's not present, doesn't see the horse very often, and never talked to the vet herself. The leasee probably just lacks experience and if he was already like this when she started the lease, it's been her "normal" experience with him. I'll admit I didn't pick up on the lameness during the first visit but I can kind of see it now.

                                          I'm most surprised that the trainer has not taken it more seriously. By the time my husband got on the horse in the Feb videos he had been rigorously warmed up by the trainer for at least 10-15 mins. Those jumps were the last thing they did after a nearly 1 hour lesson.

                                          Based on all this I'm pretty much convinced we should walk away unless the horse miraculously looks 110% when our trainer views him next week. To others' points, he's not really being worked that hard right now--mostly doing dressage in sand arenas--so I do worry what might happen once he's in regular novice- then training-level work.

                                          On a separate note, we found out last night that our senior cat likely has mid-stage kidney disease. We were treating another cat who passed away from cancer a few months ago, so now the thought of treating multiple animals for ailments at the same time is not something I relish.