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Buying a horse without a trainer

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  • Buying a horse without a trainer

    Just a story I would like to share regarding buying my horse. I am younger (early 20's) and show in the 3'6" hunters and 4' jumpers. I consider myself a good rider, however, most trainers would not consider me to be a person with enough experience to go out and find a horse all on my own...However, that is exactly what I did and it was the best decision I have made in regards to horses. Furthermore, the horse that I found was at a large show barn in New York, a place where they are used to selling a horse to a person with a trainer or agent. Yes, they were surprised that I didn't choose to use a trainer or agent, however, they were nothing but helpful and completely professional throughout the process. In fact, I found the experience to work out much better because I was able to speak with the seller directly from start to end, plus I never had to pay a commission! After I decided upon the horse, I had him vetted out by my own vet and have had nothing but great luck with him. After this experience, I know that I will horse shop in the future by myself. And yes, while it took more work on my part, I think it was much more worth it in the end.

    Have other people had similar experiences?

  • #2
    Glad to hear your experience went so well!

    I did that also and I am currently doing that now! My old eq horse and current jumper were bought without assistance from the trainers. The eq horse was amazing, my coach would have never found him for me if I had relied on her, or even a comparable horse (considering everything we saw with the coach was green as grass, lame, crazy, out of budget or not suited for what we wanted). My jumper we just picked out of a field and he turned out to be great!

    Now were out looking for horses we have tried a few, I haven't really found anything here yet. But I have not been looking too hard.


    • #3
      Hi, congrats on your horse!

      Earlier this year I bought a horse on my own as well. After a fairly successful junior carrier I didn't have my "own" horse for almost 8 years, during which time I barely rode (just rode the retired horses on my family's farm from time to time). This year, life changed for me and I was able to get back into it but not at the same level ($$$) as before so I saw no reason to work with a trainer or agent since I didn't have big bucks to spend.

      I went and looked at a bunch of horses that I found on the internet but ended up buying a horse from a trainer who I had known as a junior. I called her and told her what I was looking for and at what price, thinking she might be able to point me in the right direction but as it turned out she had a client who needed to get rid of a horse fast (ie cheap) and he was perfect for me.

      And while I recommend vetting I didn't even bother. I wasn't going to spend $2,500+ on a thorough vetting for an OTTB who wasn't expensive in the first place. Plus the trainer I bought him from had known the horse for over a year and he had never been lame, and right or wrong, I trusted her. Additionally in the past I've had horses pass those expensive vettings only to go permanently lame shortly after purchase.

      Anyway, I love my new horse and while I have had many horses over the years this is the first one I picked out totally on my own and that makes him extra special.


      • #4
        I think it depends what your competition level and goals are.

        Edit...I just remembered I'm known. Darn. No comment on how trainers have done for me

        I've seen friends buy horses without a trainer that did not work out very well. I've also seen people do just fine. I think it depends first and foremost on your level of honesty with yourself and then your skill level at judging talent, conformation, soundness, training, etc.

        Selling horses, I really like it when a trainer IS involved. I like having someone else make the judgement call on whether or not an animal is appropriate. I once consigned a jumper to be sold through a trainer (I wasn't even present) that when I heard about the buyer, after-the-fact, I'm sure wasn't a good fit. I think he was too much horse for her. I wish she had a trainer along or someone to point that out to her.

        It bugs me to this day, wondering whatever happened to him. I never heard from her again and the horse went out west somewhere.
        DIY Journey of Remodeling the Farmette: http://weownblackacre.blogspot.com/


        • #5
          I've owned 5 horses and all horses were bought without a trainer. Mostly because I was either in-between trainers, changing disciplines, getting back into riding or moving barns – not because I didn’t want a trainers help. I went to new trainers with new horse and never had a problem or regret. I will definitely do it again in the future if I have to.

          I know what I want pretty well. I seem to underestimate my riding skills so maybe that's why its always worked out. I have never been over-horsed. I like the quiet, mellow, been there, done that, confidence building horses even though I been riding for over 10+ years. No projects for me. Not yet at least!
          Owned by an Oldenburg


          • #6
            I used a trainer to buy my first two, and both were utter disasters, and continue to be a fiscal drain to this day. The third I found on my own, and I love him to pieces. He's sound, he's sane, he was in my price range and fulfilled all of my criteria. I even managed to score a continuing relationship with the seller, can't beat that.
            "Rock n' roll's not through, yeah, I'm sewing wings on this thing." --Destroyer


            • #7
              I have two home-bred/raised horses so obviously no purchase necessary there, and the last 4 purchases I have made in the last 3 years were horses off the track whose histories I knew (for the most part).

              I did not bother with a PPE on the first one, though he was slightly lame at the time, since we bought him for meat price (literally a steal!!!), and I knew his history and had a pretty good idea of why he was lame (over-run). No PPE on the second, though he was in the mid-four-figures (knew his history for the most part, he had been racing sound the past two years, and I was willing to take the risk - turns out he desperately needed some chiro work done hence the reason he was no longer doing well at the track, but that's it). No PPE on the most recent purchases this year - one I bought cheap so I have had the chance to work her and see if she'll hold up (good history as far as I know), and the other I bought for a reasonable price just to be a pasture ornament to prevent him going to meat because he was a horse I was pretty attached to. The latter horse had so many injuries and was an 8yo OTT so I wasn't even counting on being able to use him - turns out he's sane and sound to pleasure ride (which was my hope), so bonus!

              Bought all the above without a trainer obviously, but the prices and histories indicated no PPE necessary nor trainer involvement. I bought my upper-level show jumping prospect this spring in the 5-figure range without a trainer and without a PPE as well. She is unstarted and is a June baby 3yo - pasture her entire life with minimal handling, no work. So I feel my risk was pretty minimal. Not to mention I do know the sellers (husband is a long-time family friend), so I trust them. I did, however, email photos and videos to my trainer to garner her opinion before I made a final decision.

              I will likely always do the same - I like to pick my own horses. I have the experience and only I know exactly what I am looking for. However I do put out feelers to help me look, and I will obtain my coach's opinion before sealing the deal if the prospect is in the upper price range and represents a larger risk to my wallet - her eye is MUCH more trained than mine, especially in regards to minute lameness or minute conformation faults I might not notice.

              As far as PPE's go, my coach's rule of thumb is anything in and around or over $10,000. I like the rule and will probably stick to it in the future if I am looking at a horse I do not know and whose owners I am not familiar with. My line of thinking though (and hers as well), is that as thorough as a PPE may be, you are still likely to miss something. And you had might as well go big or go home as far as the PPE goes - any idiot can do the very minimal PPE that tells you the horse is breathing and can walk. So if you are going to do something extensive, the horse had better be worth it (ie. say over 10K). For the most part, I would just rather buy reputable (if possible) and if the horse is in the low-four-figures or is simply a pleasure horse, I'll just take the risk that it is fine. Also, I like to buy young and unstarted - less of a risk there are previous injuries I will not find or such. I searched high and low for my mare last fall/this spring, to find an unstarted 3yo warmblood filly. Most were started at 2 or at least 3, and I find the risk of an injury (esp one I won't find) to be greater since they are doing more high-risk activities and are, in my mind, possibly pushed.
              ....horses should be trained in such a way that they not only love their riders, but look forward to the time they are with them.
              ~ Xenophon, 350 B.C.


              • #8
                Well, it sounds like OP has the experience level and contacts to know where the better horses are and try/evaluate them without help. And she seems quite experienced on the more advanced levels.

                IMO, it's not fair to infer because some deals with trainers of lord knows what ability and skill match their clients up with horses that do not work out, everybody should go look on their own.

                In fact, if a trainer of a 3'6" Hunter/1.2+m Jumper rider has done a decent job? That person ought to know enough people and have enough knowledge to go find their own.

                Oh, there are shysters out there as well as the less then ethical. But an advanced rider like OP seems to be can skip them. A less experienced rider unaware of past reputations may step in the muck trying to find their own without an extensive background and knowledge of who is doing the selling.

                Comparing that level of knowledge with a more locally oriented, lower level rider with limited experience and who has a trainer to match? Bogus and unfair comparison.
                When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.


                • #9
                  The 3 horses I've bought sans trainer all worked out gloriously. Perfect horses for me.

                  The 3 I bought WITH a trainer... #1 had huge problems, #2 was neurotic and insane, and jury's still out on #3 - I like him so far, though!

                  Sometimes you have to trust yourself... or find a trainer that really, really gets you.


                  • #10
                    Like many things, it depends.

                    I've bought several horses on my own, or found them first and then brought a trainer to help me evaluate them for a "day fee."

                    If I don't bring a trainer with me, I try to include a friend with a good eye. It's easy to get caught up and emotional with horse purchases and I find it helpful to have someone who is neutral about the horse evaluate it.

                    My trainers have known ME and my goals very well. They have helped me figure out what type of horse will work best for me and they've given me good advice.

                    I've seen people make some very serious mistakes buying horses on their own . . . and others who did just fine.

                    Oh, and I ALWAYS do a PPE. It's not the cost of the horse, it's the cost of fixing the horse that's the issue. Lame horses cost more to keep than sound horses. More than with trainers I've seen people regret not doing a full exam on the horses they buy.
                    Equine Ink - My soapbox for equestrian writings & reviews.
                    EquestrianHow2 - Operating instructions for your horse.


                    • #11
                      I'm not sure that's the important part, although it's a great story. If you're going to encourage people to go shopping on their own, you need to finish the story.
                      What did you do with the horse once you had bought it? Who helps you with it at the ring and at home? Do you board in a trainer program? Did you move to a new program after buying the horse, or did you return to your former program? In most cases you would need to find a new program, or pay a commission on the horse in order to remain in your same program, even if you found and purchased it "on your own". Whatever you choose to do is fine if you can live with the results, but there's more to think about beyond whether you can find the right horse and broker a good deal all on your own.
                      And there is also the consideration that if things do go wrong after a purchase, a seller is usually more willing to make amends when they're dealing with a professional (who may bring more clients to the table) on the other side.


                      • #12
                        I, too, am curious about the rest of the story. What did your trainer say when you showed up with a new horse that he/she didn't help you with?
                        ~ Citizens for a Kinder, Gentler COTH...our mantra: Be nice. ~


                        • #13

                          I know there are a lot of H/J trainers out there who would get rid of a client who wouldn't pay them a commission on every new horse bought regardless of whether or not the trainer had anything to do with it, but (a) I really hope that's a minority and (b) wow, talk about greed.

                          I hope the OP's congratulates her on her new horse and continues to provide the services for which she is paid.


                          • #14
                            Unbelievable, why on earth should someone get a commission on a horse purchase they had nothing to do with? And why would they be anything other than happy about training someone who pays their bills? Some trainers are just way into the control thing. I bought my most recent horse using a trainer, so I am not averse to paying someone a commission for their expertise, but if you feel confident and want to go it on your own, why would someone begrudge you that?
                            Whether you involve a trainer or not, it is REALLY important to talk directly to the person who is selling the horse, so you are all clear on what the actual sale/purchase price is. It is an unfortunate fact that in many horse deals there are all kinds of shenanigans, where person selling horse sells it for Price A, then their dealer takes a cut, the person buying it's dealer takes a cut, and the person buying it believes the purchase price is Price B, so pays commission on higher price as well as the (very substantial) difference between B and A. Scandalous, but true, even with very well known, supposedly reputable people. So buyer beware. It is embarrassing and awkward to not be blindly trusting, but it's a cruel world out there. One example I personally witnessed. good trainer sold good horse for $80,000, person who bought it (rich Chicago lady) thought it was a $250,000 horse. So dealer/trainer in between (2 of them) not only took their commission, they took it on the overinflated price, as well as taking the difference between "supposed" price and actual price. Quite sickening.


                            • #15
                              Many people do not have "trainers, full time coaches" whatever and many (gasp) actually only get lessons on an occasional basis when needed. Even those that show competively on the A circuits.

                              I see no reason why an experienced horseperson cannot find their own horses to purchase. The internet is a wonderful thing!

                              I agree that if you have the luxury of a coach or someone that you totally trust in their opinion of a suitable animal or not then why not take advantage but to say that you absolutely HAVE to have a professional with you and make that decision for you is ludicrous. And expensive to boot.....

                              As a breeder and seller of young horses I thinks its great when the prospective purchaser contacts me directly sans trainer. Seems to make the transactions all that much easier (and certainly cheaper) from the buyers perspective. No hidden mark up costs, no under the table commissions. And becoming a much more common practice to boot


                              • #16
                                I know it is out there but I cannot imagine a trainer saying that I'd have to pay a commission on a horse I bought or not take lessons any more. If that were the case yes, I'd leave the program. I don't pay people for doing nothing. The horse mafia is not going to blackmail me.

                                Comments like that make me so glad I'm not the victim of a "program."


                                • #17
                                  I did exactly the same thing, albeit I found the horse I was looking for in Ireland. I knew what I was looking for (an upper level jumper prospect) and I also didn't use a local dealer. Instead my fiance and I made our own appointments, spent time at shows, talked to people and in the end there was no question that the final decision was the right one. We scheduled our own vetting and even made the shipping arrangements. In the end the horse we purchased was from a top breeder and I would do it again in a heartbeat. For those who wonder, its no different overseas if you take the time to search and do the legwork.

                                  If you have ridden enough horses and have developed the skillset in your lifetime there is no reason you should have to rely upon a trainer. It does require you to have an eye, know what type of horse suits you, and be willing to do the legwork (patiently). If you do you most certainly can find the right horse. Not everyone is capable to be sure, but it is possible by all means.

                                  I have no problem paying commission if I went the trainer route, but there is absolutely no way I would pay a commission to any trainer that had nothing to do with the search or purchase. If that's the case, then its time to find another barn!


                                  • #18
                                    And from the other side...

                                    I won't let clients just buy a horse themselves and assume I will welcome it into my barn with open arms. Did that twice this year, and learnt my lesson.

                                    it is not about the commission...it is about reputation and having a horse that is a good match for my program; I know what types of horses will fit in with my training/lessons.

                                    Horse #1; I swear was bought because he had a lovely mane and tail. Actually not a bad horse to ride, but not good for his owner due to her own physical issues (too wide for her previously injured hips), and she ignored the sellers warning that he had some serious barn issues; so now I have two stall walls that need complete replacing, and he was very stressful to have around for the first few months due to extreme food agression.

                                    Horse #2. Bought on a whim, sight unseen...because he looked like the type of horse she wanted to ride. Too green and not built (or mentally suited) for the job=a horse that bucks...and bucks well. I did try to help her with the horse, but felt my safety was in danger.

                                    So now if I client buys a horse without my knowledge/advice, then I have to see it and approve it before it can come in. There is no way I am dealing with the above issues again or having horses like that represent my training/care.

                                    That is not to say all the horses I have bought have been gems. I did find one for a client that ended up being sore 4 months later...but I did my best to help them out to find a solution.
                                    Freeing worms from cans everywhere!


                                    • #19
                                      (a) I really hope that's a minority
                                      No. Majority. Most clients would consider it standard and would know ahead of time that they had to factor in the commission regardless of their trainer's involvement. But that's clients who are directly involved in the trainer's program, who would be boarding said horse with said trainer. A trainer isn't going to expect the same of their ship-in clients or clients that meet them at shows, because they don't have the same involvement with the horse's program and resulting association with the horse and its public impression.
                                      I don't see it as greed, but as insurance to make sure shopping alone isn't more financially attractive than shopping with help. Would you really want to have a barn full of horses to train that you didn't have a hand in choosing as appropriate for your client and appropriately competitive for their intended use? Would you want to take on the headache of a problem purchased from a problematic program that your client didn't recognize? And, frankly, most professionals make their money on sales. If your barn is full of horses that didn't make you money coming in, and/or are unlikely to make you money going out, then they're taking up all the room that could be making you money. That only works for a short period of time, because lessons and board might cover the bills, but they don't bring in enough to support someone long-term.


                                      • #20
                                        I've done it both ways in the past. My most recent horse is one I bought as a youngster after doing a lot of research. I got exactly what I was looking for. In that sense I thought I did a pretty good job, although I sold him 5 years later when I began traveling way too much.

                                        After a hiatus of a year or so, I've moved cross country, started riding again and have found a great trainer. Although I had good luck buying on my own last time, I will probably enlist my new trainer's help when I'm ready to buy again (perhaps in a year). She's an R judge with a great eye. I think she also understands my personality and that I'll be on a stricter budget carrying a mortgage along with the horse and its training (i.e. I won't have an unlimited pocketbook). I think I can trust her not only to find a good match for my riding style and level but also one that is a fair price. While I think a lot of trainers could do the former, I know far too many who aren't good at the latter or who choose not to be.

                                        I think my approach next time around will involve me scouring through ads, talking to friends and colleagues at other barns, possibly visiting some horses to see them in action at home or at shows. Then after screening some, I would invite my trainer to look at a short list. I'd also have her keep here eyes and ears open at the shows or with fellow trainers to find out about good possibilities.