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Trying horses without a trainer? How much does your trainer charge?

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  • Trying horses without a trainer? How much does your trainer charge?


    I was curious how you felt about a reasonably experienced (can ride young, silly, etc. without scaring anyone) young adult rider trying horses (Under $25k) alone first, and bringing a trainer along for the horses that make the "final cut"? Also, how much do you pay your trainer (relatively BNT) to come along on these sorts of buying missions (I'm asking mostly so I can make a preliminary budget. I know they will be beyond fair.)?

    “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” -Howard Thurman

  • #2
    Originally posted by Cacique View Post

    I was curious how you felt about a reasonably experienced (can ride young, silly, etc. without scaring anyone) young adult rider trying horses (Under $25k) alone first, and bringing a trainer along for the horses that make the "final cut"? Also, how much do you pay your trainer (relatively BNT) to come along on these sorts of buying missions (I'm asking mostly so I can make a preliminary budget. I know they will be beyond fair.)?


    My horse. My time. I bring a friend along who can ride so I can watch the horse goes. If you are a competent rider who knows what they want and how you ride, why bring the trainer? My new horse I rode for 15 minutes and bought him without anybody around.

    I say no worries and go for it. Just be sure you know what you want so when you hop on you can feel if it is the right horse for you or not.


    • #3
      Originally posted by RAyers View Post
      My horse. My time. I bring a friend along who can ride so I can watch the horse goes. If you are a competent rider who knows what they want and how you ride, why bring the trainer? My new horse I rode for 15 minutes and bought him without anybody around.

      I say no worries and go for it. Just be sure you know what you want so when you hop on you can feel if it is the right horse for you or not.
      Follow us on facebook - https://www.facebook.com/pages/River...ref=ts&fref=ts


      • #4
        To the OP: I think what you are proposing is fine, particularly if it saves your trainer some time and you some money. You may want to run your plan by the trainer first though. Some are very particular about how their clients go about trying horses. Others are very flexible. Just make sure you aren't doing anything that would frustrate the working relationship.

        I know some trainers who micromanage their clients' training. Others are happy to have the client be proactive. Find out where your trainer is within this spectrum. I also think it would be totally fine to go forward and tell him/her that you are thinking of X, Y, and Z approach and what do they think of it. If they have a problem with it, they will let you know.

        You may also want to discuss the commission structure as well. If you are going to do some of the work, then that should be figured in to what you are paying. Most trainers I know will charge 10-15% of the purchase price of the horse assuming they are going to be pinging their contacts, looking through ads, making calls on your behalf. The same folks will then bill for travel costs if they have to go see a horse in person. Some will say it's included in the commission fee if the travel is less than X miles, others will bill for time and expenses on all trips. I've seen as many commission structures as they are buyers and sellers. Make sure you are on the same page before you start so that there are no surprises later on.


        • Original Poster

          Thanks, that was very helpful! It seems silly to spend as much or more than the purchase price to shop around, but I didn't want to put off potential sellers.
          “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” -Howard Thurman


          • #6
            I see nothing wrong with what you want to do. As Snicklefritz suggests, I think it is wise to include you trainer in your plan if you are expecting them to participate, and also I think it is wise to figure out how the commission would be priced ahead of time. Do not be embarrassed to discuss commission specifics ahead of time!

            I certainly don't think any seller would be bothered by you coming out to see horses without a trainer. However, I think it is wise to bring a second set of trained eyeballs with you when horse shopping. Sometimes there are a lot of great things about a particular horse, but then also some subtle flaw or issue that could end up being a bigger deal down the road.


            • #7
              Originally posted by RAyers View Post
              My horse. My time. I bring a friend along who can ride so I can watch the horse goes. If you are a competent rider who knows what they want and how you ride, why bring the trainer? My new horse I rode for 15 minutes and bought him without anybody around.

              I say no worries and go for it. Just be sure you know what you want so when you hop on you can feel if it is the right horse for you or not.
              Agreed. However, a trainer can be very helpful in spotting subtle things in a horse's conformation, movement, or jumping style that might cause problems down the road. I had a trainer look at a horse before we made the final call and she raised a couple of red flags I hadn't noticed. We passed on the horse, a year later it was no longer sound. She had seen something similar in the past, and I'm so glad we got her input. An experienced trainer can be especially valuable at the final stages of an evaluation.


              • #8
                This is personally how I would approach horse shopping if I were in the market. As long as your trainer is in the know and you have an agreement in advance for billing that you are both comfortable with I say go for it. I would definitely not buy without my trainer but I would probably go out first to weed out the ones I don't want. If you are spending a resonable amount I am sure you will be taking horsie on trial anyway.


                • #9
                  I was in a similar situation to you a few years back. I was part way through college and my heart horse tragically died. I had purchased her off the track for literally a couple thousand dollars and didn't bother to insure her because I didn't have a whole lot in her besides my time. She turned out to be quite a nice eq horse. The thought of insuring her never really crossed my mind (now I wish it had).

                  When we had her put down, I was really in no position to spend much over 15K on a horse. I knew this was going to be my one opportunity to own a nice horse, so I devised a plan to look young, very young. I was initially planning to look for a 2 or 3 year old. My trainer was not completely on board with this. Her reasoning was that I would get bored with waiting for a young horse to be show ready.

                  Having a young, green horse was really a better option for me at this point. I have ridden for over 25 years, so it wasn't an experience issue. Again, I was still in college (and paying for it), so owning a show ready horse was not financially feasable at this point. I could pay my horse expenses, but there wouldn't be much left over to show with. I also wanted something that had the potential to be very nice, and not have a rap sheet of human inflicted problems, mentally or physically. The only way I could afford a horse like this was to buy young.

                  My trainer (who wasn't a whole lot older than me, and definitely not BNT) REFUSED to help me. She wouldn't come out and say it directly to me, but it was because she wanted all of her clients in the show ring, not working with or waiting for a young horse to grow up. She actually told another client that she wouldn't horse shop with me because I wasn't looking at an expensive enough horse that would warrant a high enough commission for her to waste her time.

                  So, there I was, horse shopping sans trainer. In the end, I ended up with exactly what I wanted. (Okay, maybe a lot younger than I had planned, but wouldn't trade her for the world now). I didn't find anything in the 2-3 yo range that I really fell in love with. I purchased a yearling filly, out of a field, in a state 7 hours away. The time it took her to grow up and be ridable was the time I needed to finish college and get established in a career before she came home. (I actually left her with the breeder until she turned 3.)

                  I now ride with a different trainer (previous trainer exited the horse industry a year or so ago due to alck of business), and I have thoroughly enjoyed working with my now 3 year old (she will be 4 in April), and watching her grow up.

                  I looked at A LOT of crap, and I looked at some really cool horses too. Looking back, it was a great experience that really helped to increase my confidence in my abilities of looking at young horses. Whatever you do, make sure you do your homework. Research the people you purchase from. Ask for references. I am so happy I did not skip this step. The seller I purchased from sells everything from young horses to six-figure imports read to show grand prix. They were extremely accepting of the fact that I was horse hunting without a trainer. They never questioned it once.

                  As was said earlier, my horse, my money, and I think I should add to that, my time. Take a friend with you, and make sure you take lots of videos and pictures that you can reflect upon before you make a final decision.

                  If you don't have confidence in your horse hunting abilities, you will find horse hunting on your own to be a daunting task.

                  Best of luck!!! Happy horse hunting!


                  • #10
                    It is entirely true that it is your horse, your money, and your time, but do be aware that some trainers are very particular about how clients shop for horses and want to be more "in control" of the situation and they might be put off by a buyer who takes the reins so to speak more than they would like. Over the years I have had trainers that encouraged me to shop completely independently with zero input to those who wanted to be present at every horse I tried. I've had trainers charge no commission whatsoever all the way up to 15% of the purchase price.

                    I would sit down with your trainer and tell her what you are thinking. Ask how she handles commissions. It may be that she is very happy to let you weed out the horses that are a definite "no" on your own, or it may be that she wants to take a more active role. You can't be sure until you sit down and have a conversation with her. I would do this sooner than later... you don't want to be surprised when you get a hefty commission bill you hadn't budgeted for!

                    Good luck


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by BeeHoney View Post
                      I certainly don't think any seller would be bothered by you coming out to see horses without a trainer.
                      One of my old trainers said he would not show horses to potential buyers who did not bring their trainers -- His explanation was that they never bought w/o bringing the trainer out to see the horse, and he didn't want to waste time showing horses twice -- He reschooled OTTBs and sold them locally, and his policy seemed to work for him --

                      I've bought on my own -- Always brought along a video camera and when possible a friend -- I believe in involving my trainer before bringing a new horse into their program -- My trainers have understood my budget limitations and have been supportive of my efforts -- When I brought a trainer to see a horse or had a horse shipped in for my trainer and me to ride I compensated trainers at their private lesson rates --
                      "I never mind if an adult uses safety stirrups." GM


                      • #12
                        If you don't bring a trainer (agree w/ above posters regarding discussing your plan with your current trainer first, to make sure it doesn't generate hard feelings later on...) bring a *video camera* and helper. When I was younger, and looking at prospects, my back-yard trainer didn't want to get dragged all over 4 states. My mom and I would go out, watch/video the owner demo the horse. If it looked like something I was interested in, I'd hop on. Mom would loyally video every moment, for better or worse (a prime expample of how your helper doesn't have to be a horse-person). After the ride, I'd jot down notes about how the ride felt. (eg: wanted to be quick, heavy on the hands, bouncy trot, etc). At home, trainer and I would watch the video and she'd provide comments on how it looked. The plan was to have her come out and see the one or two horses that looked best on tape, but she loved one gelding so much, he came home a week later without an additional try-out/viewing.
                        As an older, adult without a trainer, I'd use the same method. I'd go ride a bunch of horses, while Hubby video'd. I'd compare my notes with how it looked on the video, and make an offer on the one that looked/felt like the best fit. In fact, of the last several horses I've owned, the *only* one that turned out to be a disaster was one where I was talked into an unsuitable match (ie crazy) by a "trainer" I was boarding with at the time. Against my better judgement, I went with the one she was enthusiastic about, and that was a 1.5yr nightmare. but that's a different story..... Bottom line: if you trainer is on board, bring a friend with a video camera and you can still get good feedback on the ride from someone you trust, but in the comfort of their home, which saves you some money and her some time.... good luck and happy horse hunting....
                        A good man can make you feel sexy, strong, and able to take on the world.... oh, sorry.... that's wine...wine does that...



                        • #13
                          In my junior years and college days, I went on many horse shopping excursions with my trainers to jockey potential purchases around and put many horses that came in on trial through their paces. It was wonderful experience in what to look for, what (and how) to ask, evaluating potential and most importantly when to walk away. A great foundation and education that I am forever grateful for.

                          I never really set out with the intention to buy a horse for myself, but I guess you could say that I went on exactly two shopping trips. The first was almost because I thought the ad I found on craigslist for an imported five year old KWPN gelding from a dealer that my friend was acquainted with was too good to be true. So we went - my friend and I - and found that it was a five year old import with well known (and liked by us) blood lines that was way over his owner's head. She was a nice girl that literally bought him over the internet using an inheritance and she had come to terms with the fact that he was too much horse for her to handle, which was evident when it took three of us to bridle him so he could be ridden. It turned out that I was the second person to try him and the first had already decided to buy him by the time I got home. But the experience brought me hope that such a horse could be found. The search continued....

                          A year later, I found another ad on EquineNow.com for a KWPN gelding in state. Believing it was probably too good to be true again, my friend and I went out to try him and I was blown away at the amazing prospect sitting in someone's backyard. We tried him, I took him on trial and bought him ten days later.

                          Turns out, the craigslist horse was listed for sale again, just in time for my friend to try him out for herself this time. She tried him (I came along for support), took him on trial and bought him a week later.

                          Now we both had input from our trainers during the trial period. Their overall opinion was that they could see the potential but wouldn't necessarily pick either horse for us or as a resale horse for themselves. The reasons varied but basically they weren't completely on board with either horse.

                          My friend absolutely adores the craigslist horse and he has inspired her to train towards a debut in the AO jumpers in the next few years. They are a wonderful team and compliment one another so well.....

                          I really can't imagine owning another horse. He reeks A circuit hunter and does everything I ask of him. If I have any complaints, they would be that he doesn't tolerate my bad habits well and I have to ride better in order to get the best out of him. But his best is the best that I have ridden - so who wouldn't want to ride better? Its hard work and frustrating at times, but he's pretty amazing even if he's not always perfect. And he isn't my favorite color but its not fair to judge him by the color of his coat....he's conformationally and structurally beautiful as horses go however.

                          Long story - sorry - but the moral is that you can be the best advocate for yourself when it comes to horse shopping. If you know what you want and what you don't want - give it a shot. I took my education and applied it to my own personal taste and opinions. My results were nothing short of amazing (in my opinion and my friend's). If you need support, bring a knowledgable friend. If you have more questions, ask your trainer. If they want to get paid for their opinion, they are entitled to and if you aren't willing to pay for it, then maybe you should ask someone else.....


                          • #14
                            Some sellers will wnat a trainer with you, others don't care one way or the other. Ask them when you schedual an appointment.

                            If you take your trainer to see one that makes your final cut, they may charge just a lesson fee+ travel time or they may want a 10-15% commission for their opinion on talent and suitability based on their years of experience. You are paying for that with a commission, their experience, not the 20 minutes to evaluate it just like you pay the doctor for theirs, not the 10 minutes in the the exam room.

                            Some trainers are worth every penny of it. Some aren't even worth the lesson fee in evaluating horses. But you need to ask the trainer and get that settled before you look. Or move and ask the new trainer.
                            When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                            The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.


                            • #15
                              When I have horse shopped in the past, I made an arrangement with my trainer to pay her to review videos/ads and help me evaluate a few horses. With her, I paid a fee based the time she spent, rather than a flat commission.

                              It really depends on the trainer and their program. I like to have a second set of eyes on a horse that I'm interested in buying because sometimes they'll see something I missed.

                              I have seen lots and lots of people buy horses without a trainer's input and end up with something that isn't suitable.
                              Equine Ink - My soapbox for equestrian writings & reviews.
                              EquestrianHow2 - Operating instructions for your horse.


                              • #16
                                Speaking as a trainer, I am more than happy to have my riders shop without me but certainly would like them to have me give the prospect a look see before they make the purchase. All depends on the individual! some get so excited about a new horse that they don't look past the "glitz" to see if there is a problem that may not work out for them. some are so desperate, they want to buy the first thing they see no matter what. Others have the skill and knowledge to be able to make an informed and wise descion.


                                • #17
                                  I've shopped with and without trainer present (the latter most recently). I brought a riding friend and video camera with me and found those to be helpful. There definitely are pros to bringing a trainer with you especially with green horses. One of the horse I tried was a young prospect and the owner said he was quiet, quiet, quiet. The horse spun and dumped me unprovoked after a 15 min quiet warm up from the owner. Looking back I would have liked to have a trainer to get on before me, though no harm done. Plus it makes for an entertaining video to play back.

                                  The second horse I tried that day (at a different farm) I ended buying after less than 5 minutes on his back. If you know what you're looking for and confident with your riding ability, then bring a friend and go for it!
                                  Last edited by Rocky092; Jan. 2, 2013, 11:19 AM. Reason: typo
                                  They Neigh, I Pay
                                  I Should Have Been A House Wife


                                  • #18
                                    I personally have never done it any other way. I always brought someone with me to take photos video. If the horse merited a return visit, I scheduled it with the trainer and paid her her normal hourly "lesson" rate for the time she took seeing the horse with me.

                                    As it turned out, both horses I ended up buying she never saw before I bought them. But she did go look at several with me that I ended up passing on (one turned out to be maybe stolen and the situation was way shady and I bailed for that reason and not the horse?! One I just decided I didn't like his jump when the jumps went up even though he was overall a nice sort). I ended up buying one I tried in VA without the trainer but it was clear he was "the one." The second time I bought sight unseen off a video but he was young/just started,
                                    "The Son Dee Times" "Sustained" "Somerset" "Franklin Square"


                                    • #19
                                      Ditto Findeight. Also depends on your boarding arrangement. Some trainers will charge you a fee of sorts whether they participated in the search for the horse or not - if you bring a new horse into their barn they might assess a finder's fee or something even if you went out all on your own. I think much of it depends on your particular situation and how much trainer involvement you currently have. Agree you should discuss w/ your trainer and get some type of agreement set up - In Writing. Happy horse hunting


                                      • #20
                                        I've tried horses by myself since I was an older junior. It saves both me and my trainer time. Unless a trainer found the horse for me I'll go by myself with a knowledgeable friend to give a second opinion/video/take pictures.