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WWYD - Commissions and purchasing a horse

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  • WWYD - Commissions and purchasing a horse

    I work part-time at a barn as a trainer. I have a full-time job, not to mention a full-time life.

    Recently a girl at my barn came to me and wants to buy a horse. I explained to her the commission structure and she seems befuddled by all of it. Her mom is NOT involved because her dad (the parents are divorced) is paying for her horse and I don't think they want to pay a commission of 10%.

    I've shown her a few horses on-line that she hadn't seen before and has looked at a few I did show her.

    She has $10K to spend. She REALLY needs this horse because my assumption is her home life leaves something to be desired. Lovely rider, rides the legs off all our lesson horses and would be a blue ribbon winner on our circuit for sure. Could EASILY surpass our 3' limit and hit some A shows.

    Question is, should I offer her another way of getting my input on the horse she buys? Maybe by like paying per ride? I don't want her to make the green mistake we've all made of buying a horse completely wrong for her.

    My time is precious and I feel I should be compensated but I also feel like my girls need some direction because none of them come from well to do families or even two parents families..... So I feel some social responsibility for their success at least at the barn. How can I work this where I am NOT doing it for free but also giving this girl the helping hand I think she needs?

  • #2
    Can she work it off by painting jumps, cleaning stalls, whatever? And paying your expenses of course.


    • #3
      Offer her a flat fee to evaluate her choices. That way, your time isn't wasted and she understands that an educated opinion has value.

      Do you think you should talk to the father about the business side of the deal? I'm not sure it's fair to a minor to be responsible for spending that much money. If you talk to the dad there is less chance for misunderstanding.


      • Original Poster

        Dad lives in Florida. I never see Mom. In fact, she lives like 14 doors down from the barn and walks home every night after her lessons. Which makes my hair stand on end because it's a nice neighborhood but as far as I'm concerned, I'm responsible for those girls from the time they step on for lessons until they are safely delivered home. But we had an issue at summer camp so....


        Her mother and I are meeting this weekend about her joining showteam. I will also talk to her and her grandparents about perhaps a flat fee. Plus, let's be real.

        I love riding other people's horses as much as my own!


        • #5
          If the father is paying it seems like the father would be the one to talk to. Why not ask the girl for her father's phone number so you can call him directly and get things straightened out.


          • #6
            Just a caution here that you may or may not have already thought of:

            I would be careful about whatever deviation from your standard policy you might chose to make. You will be setting a precident. Don't think that other customers will not find out. Don't think that they won't will expect similar treatment.

            My advice is that if you want to deviate from your normal policy, you should do it in a way that does require her to pay your commission (your standard policy), but perhaps allows her to work it off over time. For example, pay "X" amount of the commission and work off "X" amount doing whatever you can arrange (stalls, grooming at shows, etc.).


            • #7
              Bad Start

              Showing at 'A' level shows is about money. If she shows difficulty now, it's going to head down hill. I mean, don't loose hope, I was in the same situation when I was a 2' hunter rider. I would say she should lease a horse. Steady payment, no vet bill responcibility (depending), and not the life time comitment. When I was younger, all I wanted was my own show horse. What happends if this girl has potential to ride big, but the horse doesn't? Now you have this athlete holding you back, you prob wont make your money back in a sale, which at low level can take AGES to get done.

              I leased, got better, worked for bigger classes, and when I was ready to advance I went and worked as a flat rider for some of the big guys! I have also in the past baught a mare who showed potential, then didn't produce. Took me almost a year to sell her. Really slowed me down. I don't regret her little adorible face, but I regret buying a horse. Not till riding industry comes to me with a horse will I own another one.

              If you charge 10%, then you charge 10%.. It's nice to wave policies, but it's also good for the girl to fight for her right to buy a horse. The horse industry IS NOT in ANY way something you 'wheesle' into. You have to fight for your position. It made me a stronger person.
              Last edited by norolimasfaloth; Jan. 29, 2009, 10:43 AM. Reason: Added
              ~*~There Is Never A Bad Horse - Just Bad Riders~*~
              ^^Great Riders Know How To Take Advise^^

              Worked With The Best In The Industry For Years And I'm Still Learning!


              • #8
                Sometimes you have to weigh the future benefits to you-ie.new boarder,new show horse, more lesson $, vs. a minimal comission....Sure you need to charge for your time, but do you really want to potentially loose future gains over what sounds like a non-horse involved family that does not understand the horse buying process.... If the girl really wants this, charge dad a flat fee for your input, and make kid earn her dues w the balance.


                • #9
                  Have you tried breaking it down for them all that is covered by the commission, how much time/effort you have to put in, etc . . .? I agree with not setting a bad precedent unless you are willing to offer the same alternatives to other clients.


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by zahena View Post
                    I don't think they want to pay a commission of 10%...

                    My time is precious and I feel I should be compensated but I also feel like my girls need some direction because none of them come from well to do families or even two parents families..... So I feel some social responsibility for their success at least at the barn.
                    You know, it's nice to be nice BUT you cannot be responsible for financial shortfalls and run a business at the same time. I betcha Dad expects to be paid for every second on the job and he really needs to realize YOU are entitled to the same thing in your profession. And 10k is alot of money.

                    If you want to work out an arrangement where she can work it off, can she do 1k worth of work? How much time at $10 an hour credit is that going to take? Is she going to show up after the first couple of weeks? Is she going to keep a time sheet? Does she even have her own transportation to the barn or depend on an overschedualed parent?

                    Young people, and older ones, are good at impulsively getting into something then dropping the ball when the newness wears off and working it off or caring for it gets to be a grind. Concern is that you think you can count on this gal to do 1k worth of work for you over 6 months or so after school and weekends and it just is not going to happen after the first weeks.

                    Besides that, if you let them slide on your well earned comission, you think that will be the end of not having the money to pay for your services?

                    Remember, these people are NOT broke if they are already taking lessons and can spend 10k in this economy.

                    You need to talk to the adult with the checkbook. You need to be dealing with the adult and getting inofrmation from them, not the well meaning but horse crazy kid.

                    I just thought of another thing here...divorced parents sometimes are at cross purposes. They can promise the kid all sorts of things that are alot more complicated then they appear...as in Dad buys the horse (out of guilt?) but Mom has to take the kid to the barn to ride it-if and when she gets around to it.

                    It is rarely straightforward with a split parent situation where one wants to fund the horse and the other gets stuck with the details. Watch out.
                    When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                    The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.


                    • #11
                      Showing her a
                      'few horses on line" so far doesn't count as earning any commission.

                      With the economy in the crapper why not settle for a flat fee of say $500. "if and when she buys a horse you find for her".

                      And if she is a minor she's not writing any checks. You legaly need to deal w/ whom ever is her legal gaurdian.

                      If you do find her that special horse and the seller is not going to be compensating you for bringing her a client then why not opt to put it into monthly payments on the board bill? W/ consent from whom ever pays her bills?

                      Isn't a full paying boarder w/ lessons and show fees enough compensation?

                      So far you haven't spent any gas money, phone call money, only your time and advice which to you has a $$ value but in the long run dispensed free bodes for good will. And brings more customers.

                      I don't want any bashing here, I just sold a horse and a boarder brought the customer in, she asked for the commission $$ off her board bill.
                      Another trainer routinaly sends me buyers and I gift her a flat fee on completion of each sale regardless of amount. She gets a boarder and lessons and show fees.
                      We are so hung up on how much our time and opinion is worth that the buyer sometimes gets the short end of the stick.
                      $10K to buy, vet and ship home a potential new horse brings actual coast down to say $7500. and if we add on a commisson out of the $10K she has like $6500. to spend.
                      Puts it all in a diffrent light now doesn't it.

                      Why not ask her to print out what she finds on line, go thru have her call w/ a list of questions you prepared,have her view You tube if avaialble then narrow down to 3 best and have a go see. Charge a flat fee to cover mileage and time to be added to board bill over say 3 months. Get it in writting or else send her off on her own and bring back video her top 2 picks. Then you go see w/ her.


                      • #12
                        What about finding a horse slightly under the 10k budget so that they can afford your commission? When we were looking for a horse, commission was already included within our budget and it made things a whole lot easier!


                        • Original Poster

                          All great advice!

                          I've already been told by her mom before "dad is handling that" so I do need to get in touch with dad or grandad who seems to be doing the grunt work.

                          I've also told her $10K is pretty generous considering there are some super nice animals out there for around $8500. And perfect for her level and will carry her well to the next.

                          I'll talk to them about the flat fee. I did do that with another person who wound up never buying ANYTHING so it made it all worthwhile.

                          I just dont' want her stuck with something she can't handle either and then casting a bad shadow on me by people saying "Poor so and so, Z let her buy that horse and it was way too much" when I never had a hand in it. I did tell her if I go and try the horse, that's when the commission kicks in. But a flat fee might work better.

                          Honestly, none of my riders are ever going to go spend more than $5500 on a horse so setting that precedent might make more sense.


                          • #14
                            6500 really is still in the same light when a divorced Dad buys a horse but does not provide the daily support system to get kid to the barn, depending on uninterested Mom to get that done. Then does not want to pay a commission...maybe...OP has not talked directly to Dad and she really has to. Who knows what the real details are here until she gets that from Dad personally.

                            Yeah, hits a nerve with me. I made a good gelding available on a half lease for FREE due to work committments. Idea was to keep him show fit and she could show him. Dad outfitted talented 13 y/o rider with pricey French saddle, the latest fad helmet, tall boots, $$ breeches and lots of lessons. Agreement was they had 3 days a week which would consist of one lesson and 2 hacks and they had to call me if they could not get there so I could make other arrangements to get horse ridden.

                            Unfortunately, Mom hated that Dad gifted the kid with all this stuff and stopped bringing her out. Nobody called me. Horse sat. BO assumed I was aware horse was sitting and just getting T/O. Went on for a couple of months before I became aware. End of arrangement.

                            You have to talk to the adult that will be funding this before doing anything else...and the fact Mom is disinterested tells me this will go the way my attempt to help somebody out did.
                            When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

                            The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.


                            • Original Poster

                              I'll talk to the kid because I'd really like to nix mom out. Not because I think Mom is a bad person but Mom would appear to have....uh....problems.....

                              The good news is that the kid lives up the street. Like 14 doors away from our barn so walking there is her main mode of transportation and it's maybe a 5 minute walk. So that's the silver lining.

                              The bad part, I'm sure, will be getting mom to participate when we'll need her help like for showing. Mom is very proud that she's done some winning at their previous barn so maybe the pride will kick in when she starts winning her some ribbons.

                              Also, Mom has contacted me about getting her some work at our barn. Guessing she just wants daughter out of her hair.... I feel for this girl because I think she gets overlooked at her house. And she's an amazing talent. Grandma and Grandpa come to lessons (assuming Daddy's side) and they are very knowledgeable people so they might provide a good support system in the show ring.


                              • #16
                                I agree that OP needs to get an agreement with Dad covering the sales process, preferably in writing. Whether the compensation is a percentage or a flat fee (which you can deal with in terms of precedent easily - just create a "minimum" which applies to any sales below X dollars) you need to have it all out in the open and not subject to interpretation.

                                Sounds like the kid can get to and from the barn on her own (apparently lives near enough to walk although the OP sounds concerned about the safety of doing so) so the transportation issue might not be a problem. However, I would also hand over a package of info which includes a formal boarding agreement, rate sheet and ideally, a list of expectations (rider will be out a minimum of x days per week or make other arrangements for horse to be ridden, minimum number of lessons required, if any, etc. Get Mom's sig on those if possible since she is apparently the custodial parent.

                                Then, I'd say find the kid a nice horse in her price range, which is $10k less your commission/flat fee and enjoy the new customer. In most areas these days, that will buy a pretty nice animal that the kid will probably have a ball with.
                                We move pretty fast for some rabid garden snails.


                                • #17
                                  Don't forget to remind them about the cost of a pre-purchase exam, assuming they will want one.

                                  With an $8,000 limit, this girl will end up with a very nice horse and still be able to afford the pre-purchase exam, a 10% commission and a few extra $$$ to spare for shopping for her new best friend.

                                  I'm assuming an adult relative (mom, dad, grandparent) has agreed to pay board?



                                  • #18
                                    I've come in contact with a couple of trainers who didn't ask for a commission. I guess they thought between lessons, training and show fees they were getting enough money from me.


                                    • #19
                                      Please be careful regarding the amount of repsonsibility you give this girl. I know you say mom is uninvolved and has problems, but that doesn't mean it's acceptable for you to work out the details of her future horse purchases through her. If you need a commission on this sale, you should dicuss that commission with an adult. Nothing discussed with a child will hold water anywhere, so pick up the phone and call dad yesterday.

                                      For future reference, I would tell clients about your fee when discussing the price of an animal. For example, if I have $10k to spend on a horse, that doesn't mean I have $11k, so as my trainer, it is your responsibility to show me horses within MY budget. If you charge a 10% commission, the show me horses listed at $9k so I'm not left trying to find more $$ when you add on your commissions.

                                      I would have handled the discussion like this:
                                      Student: We'd like to buy a horse. We have about $10k to spend when all is said and done.
                                      Trainer: Okay, great. That means I will be looking at horses in the $9k range, as I charge a 10% commission on all sales. This is to ensure that you end up with a horse that is best matched to your abilities.

                                      No more questions asked, your fees are clear. But again, when dealing with commissions, I feel it's the trainers responsibility to show me animals within my budget when commissions are already included. There's nothing that can ruin a client-trainer relationship more easily than 'suprise' fees at the end of a transaction.

                                      ETA: You say the grandparents are knowledgable concerning the girl's lessons. Does this mean they are familiar with the SOP regarding sales commissions? If they are, then a discussion between the grandparents and dad might loan itself to a smoother transaction. If not, I might point dad to this board so he can inquire on his own regarding the practice of commissions in this industry. That way, he can read some personal experiences from individuals who've paid\charged commissions in the past and come to his own conclusion concerning the service you are offering during the purchase process.
                                      Here today, gone tomorrow...


                                      • Original Poster

                                        Well in talking to her, it appears the grandpa has someone going out and trying horses for her. She showed me a couple that she liked and then said that her grandpas friend rode such and such horse. Not sure what their deal is with them.

                                        I'm trying to step away. She did try a horse at our barn and I did let her know of the horses issues prior to her riding him. The horse has bad navicular which his current owner doesn't seem to see a problem with. She claims the horse is "lazy". I claim the horse as injured. Thankfully my girl is smart enough to see that the horse has some serious leg issues because his back hinds are always stocked up to the size of my thighs.

                                        I will have a conversation with mom and grandparents this weekend. She can easily find something in the $8500 range. I know of a horse for $8K that has shown A's but like most kids, she thinks she needs something that can jump 4', which we just don't do at our barn. We're a B rated barn, with some A thrown in but I'm not comfortable schooling someone at that height.