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off-farm trials?

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  • off-farm trials?

    Would you even consider it?

    I have someone interested (via only pics and videos) in one of my project OTTBs. She lives about 2 hours away. She hasn't seen the mare in person yet but is asking if we might consider an off-farm trial. She does train with someone I know and would trust, but I'm still leary. Obviously I'd insist that she come here to look at the mare first, but after that...


    FWIW, we're not talking a super expensive horse here... asking price is only $2500 OBO. So on one hand, I keep thinking "just make up your mind"...
    "Of course it's hard. It's supposed to be hard. It's the Hard that makes it great."

    "Get up... Get out... Get Drunk. Repeat as needed." -- Spike

  • #2
    Had to learn the hard way, but it's amazing how much can go wrong on just a weekend's trial.
    2 hrs isn't that far--let her come and try him on several weekends, or do whatever she needs to do (trail ride, x-c, etc.) under your supervision.


    • #3
      I have mixed feelings about this one. As a seller, I can see why you wouldn't want to do an off-farm trial. Even with the most considerate of horse people, a horse can still get injured. Plus, then you have to worry about whether the potential buyer is honest, etc.

      As a buyer, however, I wish that more sellers would consider off-farm trials. For most of us, buying a horse is a HUGE investment. The purchase price is usually the cheapest part. As a buyer, I'm concerned about whether the horse is drugged (hopefully not, but everyone's heard the horror stories), whether our personalities will mesh, whether the horse will have a nervous breakdown moving from a quiet farm to a bustling show barn (or vice-versa), and whether the horse is everything the seller represents that it is. In my experience, years ago, most sellers assumed you would want a week or two to try the horse at your farm. I bought numerous horses this way, and it was never a point of contention. These days, most sellers seem appalled when you mention the word "trial."

      I think there's got to be some compromise to address both parties' concerns. Recently, I have asked several sellers about the possibility of a trial, and the response I have received has been, "no, no, it's too dangerous." Maybe so, but I've even offered to take out insurance and pay 10% of the purchase price as a non-refundable deposit (should I opt not to purchase the horse). I've also offered to board the horse at barns closer to my location that the seller is comfortable with in order to give myself the opportunity to ride the horse more than once or twice before making a decision. I understand the concerns of sellers, but I also wish that sellers would recognize the concerns of buyers, as well.


      • #4
        I often let mine go on trial to reputable barns with references. I recently did this with one that Courtney Cooper was handling the sale on. It was easy, and Courtney's contract requires the seller to pay the full amount if the horse is not returned in the condition it left her farm. In this case, he didn't come back , but for a novice rider getting their first horse, I think it made a big difference for them to be able to see him in their home environment and have easy access for their vet to do the PPE.
        OTTBs rule, but spots are good too!


        • #5
          If there was paperwork and a hefty deposit, I would certainly consider it IF the person was not very obviously flaky or a tire-kicker. I'd ask for references. In a buyer's market, one's motivation to sell also factors in heavily.
          Click here before you buy.


          • #6
            I would only consider it if I had an iron clad contract, insurance with me as beneficiary, 10% nonrefundable deposit, payment in full on a post dated check and it would be going to someone I know and trust as trainer/care-giver. I've gotten burned before...


            • #7
              I'm not keen on it....but if I allowed it, I would want them to do the PPE first and agree that if the horse is not returned in the same condition, they pay the full price. I would also make it a limited time.
              ** Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. ~Winston Churchill? **


              • #8
                What about offering a right of return?

                I've done it (once) with two week return period. So they had to pay in full and the horse had to be returned in the same condition. If they'd wanted a vet check it would have had to be before he went to their farm. They didn't want to vet, horse stayed, everyone happy. He was cheap, 12yrs and very straightforward to ride, so I was confident he'd be what she wanted. Not sure I'd do it with a young green horse.


                • #9
                  I worked out a right of return deal similar to what Feliz described when I bought my green TB-- basically he was unbroken and there was nowhere suitable to really watch him go even on the lunge line. I paid cash for him with the understanding I could bring him back within 6 weeks as long as he was uninjured, and get a full refund. He was very cheap, obviously, being an unbroke 5 year old.


                  • #10
                    I allow mine off the farm for trials. It's been successful and always with insurance and agreements. I never liked trying to figure out in maybe 2 hours of riding if a horse was right for me. I much preferred taking them on trial. So I give the buyers back that luxury.

                    "Courage is not the absence of fear but rather the judgment that something is more important than fear. The brave may not live forever but the cautious do not live at all." ~2001 The Princess Diaries


                    • #11

                      Originally posted by tle View Post
                      Would you even consider it?

                      I have someone interested (via only pics and videos) in one of my project OTTBs. She lives about 2 hours away. She hasn't seen the mare in person yet but is asking if we might consider an off-farm trial. She does train with someone I know and would trust, but I'm still leary. Obviously I'd insist that she come here to look at the mare first, but after that...


                      FWIW, we're not talking a super expensive horse here... asking price is only $2500 OBO. So on one hand, I keep thinking "just make up your mind"...


                      • #12
                        I could possibly do this. I've been burned (or the horses have been burned) twice with trials. But I recently let a horse go to a pro who I knew VERY well for a week, but I knew her and her excellent reputation. It did turn out fine. But with a stranger... like I said, I've had two bad experiences where the horses were seriously set back, and one injured.

                        Originally posted by LAZ View Post
                        I would only consider it if I had an iron clad contract, insurance with me as beneficiary, 10% nonrefundable deposit, payment in full on a post dated check and it would be going to someone I know and trust as trainer/care-giver. I've gotten burned before...


                        • #13
                          As a buyer I've had a trial on one horse. The sellers representative was a former student of my coach and barn owner. Horse went to my coach's barn, cared for by her and etc and I got to ride. So the seller was comfortable doing all this with an insurance policy taken out by me. Turned out that the horse didn't work out for me. Hated the ride I gave her. But we needed 4 rides to figure that out.

                          So as a buyer I can see the benefit of the trial. I often ask for a trial on a horse that I am interested in, but still on the fence about. But I would never insist on one. I certainly understand the owners reservation about letting an animal go out on trial.

                          If I were a seller, I'd be very reluctant to let my horse go to anyone that I did't know. And 2 hours is totally doable to drive up and ride a horse on different days. So in your case, if you don't feel comfortable doing it then don't. Listen to your gut.


                          • #14
                            Not unless we have a working relationship with the individuals involved, in particular the responsible coach.

                            Many times, if the horse comes back you've got 6 months of retraining to do.

                            That said, we did sell a Saddlebred 20 years or so ago ($2K price) to a reputable trainer with certificate of insurance.

                            So, it's not only caveat emptor, but caveat (what's the Latin for seller?).


                            • #15
                              For what it is worth, here is a different thought from a buyer. I would feel uncomfortable asking for a trial unless I knew there was a relationship between myself or my trainer and the seller. Murphy's Law, the horse would probably manage to do something that it had never, ever done before!

                              I don't think 2 hours is that far to make even a couple of trips to try the horse. I agree with having her try the horse in different situations with you. If she really liked the horse and you felt comfortable with her after all that, then you could make a better decision if she still felt that she wanted a trial.

                              Buying a horse long distance last year, (Illinois to Delaware) from Canter MidAtlantic I was able to try him in a ring and the next day on a long trail ride. That was enough to know I wanted him. The only problem was also falling in love with a second horse from MidAtlantic Horse Rescue and only being able to bring home one!


                              • #16
                                Maybe. I have sent a horse out on trial and had it work out. I understand that sometimes people cannot make a decision about a horse in just one or two rides. I have also heard horror stories of horses that came back broken.

                                As a seller I would only let it happen under very controlled circumstances with a contract that is similar to a lease agreement.
                                - Vetted before horse leaves property
                                - Non refundable deposit
                                - Fully insured
                                - Only going to a barn with a reputable trainer
                                - No more than 1 week trial
                                - Very specific list of how the horse must be handled/ridden/etc. For example, horse could only be jumped under the supervision of the trainer, no one except the potential buyer and trainer could ride the horse, horse was not to leave the property or be trailered.
                                - Horse could only be ridden in the tack provided.
                                - Close enough so that I could make unannounced visits to check on horse

                                If someone does not agree to the terms, they are not serious about buying the horse and they don't understand that letting your horse go on trial is a risk to the seller.

                                As a buyer I am very reluctant to take a horse on trial because of the liability. I, personally, would ride someone else's horse on their property and under their control. Horses do stupid things, especially when taken to new barns when they are anxious.
                                Equine Ink - My soapbox for equestrian writings & reviews.
                                EquestrianHow2 - Operating instructions for your horse.


                                • #17
                                  This is so timely!!! I went and tried a 7yo OTTB last weekend at a training facility. The owner is super nice and I feel very comfortable with her- she is the kind of person I would be friends with even if this horse buying thing doesn't pan out.

                                  Anyhow, I like the horse but he hasn't been in work consistently in months and I don't want to take him and vet him with out having him working a little bit first. He was well-raced (47 races)and did pretty well at the track as well. I told the owner this and she agreed to let me take him on trial and at the end of the trial vet him.

                                  I want to do right by all three of us- owner/buyer/horse. She requested that the horse (OBVIOUSLY!) come home in serviceably sound condition, but what happens if after being in work for a week he starts showing signs of say arthritis and is lame? Which is the point of me taking the trial and putting him into work but then he is techinically non-serviceably sound, right? I don't intend to ride the hide off him by any strech of the imigaination...

                                  Do you all think I'm doing right by taking a trial? What pitfalls am I potentially walking into? Does anyone have a contract that they wouldn't mind sharing? Like I said, I want to do right by all of us and I want to own a good/sound horse in the end.

                                  Horse buying stinks... almost as bad as searching for the perfect saddle. I need a drink...

                                  Thank you for all your advice!!!!


                                  • #18
                                    I always feel more comfortable having a vet assess the soundness of a horse before it leaves my barn. You might not need to do films but I think having a third party professional assess a horse up front can save a lot of "discussion" if the horse starts to become more obviously unsound.

                                    The tricky part about buying a horse that is not currently doing the same job as you want is you need to figure out if it can stay sound and comfortable when it goes back to work.

                                    I have nothing against TBs with lots of starts. I owned a mare who ran 55 times who was very sound and had clean legs. But if you do decide to buy a horse like that I suggest films of feet, ankles, and hocks. Maybe knees.

                                    As for an agreement. Try to think of anything that could go wrong and address it up front. What should you do if the horse looks like it is going to colic? Should you always contact the owner before medical treatment? Does the owner have a preferred vet? Who can ride the horse? What can you do while riding the horse? What turnout requirements does the owner have?

                                    Make sure the owner sends enough grain for the horse to eat during the trial and maybe a bale of hay to get the horse started.

                                    When I sent my mare (the one who raced 55 times) off on trial, it all went well and the woman bought her but I was impressed by how seriously she and the trainer took the process and felt she didn't abuse it at all.
                                    Equine Ink - My soapbox for equestrian writings & reviews.
                                    EquestrianHow2 - Operating instructions for your horse.


                                    • #19
                                      For me, NEVER.

                                      It doesn't matter if they take out insurance on the horse, it doesn't matter what liability forms they sign, if the horse causes damage, injury or death, EVERYONE is going to get sued. For example, if the horse gets loose at their place, runs into the road and causes an accident, the insurance companies can go after everyone that has anything to do with the horse. Including you, the owner, even though you didn't have the horse in your custody. You may end up coming away "clean", but only after major hassles.

                                      Also, I'm pretty sure they can only take insurance on the horse if it's not currently insured. So if you have it insured, you'll have to cancel your insurance in order for them to get insurance. And if they bring the horse back, the whole process gets done again.

                                      And, as others have said, a couple days is more than enough to set training back significantly, even if no physical damage is done. Also, in order to avoid arguments as to whether a horse returned from trial is in the same condition/soundness as when it left, you'd need to have a vet exam before it left and after it returned.

                                      I know people let horses go on trial all the time. But for me, the risk just isn't worth it.
                                      Yvonne Lucas
                                      Red Moon Farm

                                      "Practice doesn't make perfect. PERFECT practice makes perfect." - Jim Wofford

                                      "Some days you're the dog, some days the hydrant." - Jim Wofford


                                      • #20
                                        No. Iunderstand wanting to, and understand it makes it that much harder to sell, but never again! Sent out, to someone we trusted a great horse. I got back one that was angry, bitting, hard, andran away with us first time back on xc. Never again!!
                                        May the sun shine on you daily, and your worries be gone with the wind.