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Letting a horse go on trial

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  • Letting a horse go on trial

    I have been selling horses for about 15 years. I rarely let a horse go on trial and I have sold about 80 or so horses in the last 10 years. The few times I have let a horse go out, over 90% of the time they come back with riding issues they never exhibited before. I don't let them go on trial with the exception of the lesson ponies. I have had people inquire about horses in the 5 figure range and tell me that if I let the horse go on trial I will probably sell it and if I don't, they won't even come out to try the horse. I Have offered to bring the horse to their facility to try, within reasonable driving distance. I have clients that WILL NOT even consider letting a horse go out regardless of who the trainer is at the barn of the prospective purchaser. I am just not comfortable sending out horses unsupervised by me that we have spent months or years on. I will let a horse go for a few days if that purchaser wants their vet to do the vetting, but that's it.
    Anyone else have these issues? Love to hear about good and bad experiences.

    Facebook: Hilltop Farm VA

  • #2
    I have been on the other side of your issue. I have taken a few horses on trial. All because it was too far to travel several times a week to work with the horse. I crafted a carefully worded contract that protected both me and the owner with regards to the horse. If anything happened to the horse while in my care I was responsible for all costs associated including any and all damages that the horse might cause. If the worse case scenario occurred I was to pay the full purchase price. It is best that the owner be responsible for the transportation-charge for the trip. Have them be there for the loading and unloading and sign the agreement after the horse is delivered and agreed by both parties to be in good condition. If there is a problem with the horse when it is returned, there should be a time frame in which the horse should be checked by a vet. If something is medically wrong with the horse then the person who took it on trial would be responsible. Riding or behavioral issues shouldn't occur with a 1-2 week trial and if they do it would be temporary and would go away when they get back into their regular routine. They should give you a 10% non-refundable deposit that would be applied to the purchase price. If they are agreeable to all of this then you have a very serious buyer and IMO a good chance of selling the horse. The more a buyer has to invest in time and effort the more serious they will take it. Not a sermon-just a thought!


    • #3
      Originally posted by showmomturnedrider View Post
      Riding or behavioral issues shouldn't occur with a 1-2 week trial and if they do it would be temporary and would go away when they get back into their regular routine.
      I really disagree with this statement. I've seen horses pushed way too far beyond their comfort level while out on trial and turned into stoppers within a week or two. It doesn't take too many lies to a horse to kill his trust. Then the seller has to put the pieces back together again, which can take a significant amount of time. In those short weeks, the horse has gone from "ready to be sold" to "needs remedial work." That's not a risk I'm willing to take with my investment.

      Over the years, I've had horses on trial and I've sent horses on trial. But the experience I've had in sending horses out is generally negative. I will only do it if I know the barn and trainer very, very well, and I have a detailed contract.
      Life would be infinitely better if pinatas suddenly appeared throughout the day.


      • #4
        I was allowed to take my horse on trial even though it was only a distance of about 30 miles from my barn to his home. My trainer and I both felt it was important to see him in different surroundings and his reaction to them. I got a insurance binder on him and a carefully worded contract. The exception to my cirsumstance was my horse was a pasture ornament coming back from a suspensory injury. He failed the vetting miserably because he was so out of shape but I loved him so much I bought him anyways Today he is a wonderful 2'6"/2'9" show hunter. Moral of my story, we saw how wonderful he was in a different environment and that's just one of the many reasons I bought. So as a potential/buyer owner, I think trials are important but I do understand the risks.
        Dear life, please send grapes. Sincerely, I prefer wine over lemonade.


        • #5
          I personally wouldnt spend more then a few thousand without getting a horse on trial for a few weeks, at least. After my mare, I wont even look at a horse unless there is a trial offered. I understand your point of view, but how can I determine if this horse you are sellin is my perfect fit, only ridden on your property, only in your care, and for only a few days? Not to say you do this, but how do I know a seller isnt buting or drugging a horse when I'm not around? Or even lunging/working the crap out of them to keep them quiet?

          My mare was great the first week I got her, then after we got to know each other, she turned into her usual self. And I now realize why the previous owners had her in full training for two months, she was ridden daily durring that time. And they still decided to sell her, because she was too much for their daughter. She just seems to be the kind of horse who is always a little green, no matter how much you ride, or how many lessons you pay for.


          • #6
            I've bought two horses on trial. One for myself & a pony for my daughter. Both were fabulous experiences and until recently I'd would have recommended it to everyone.
            A little over a year ago I had a young TB I was trying to sell & someone expressed an interest, but wanted to have a trial. She was a student of an acquaintance of mine, had a little barn at home in the town I live in, it seemed like a good thing. The trial was for two weeks. In the two weeks, they went on vacation without telling me and left my horse in the care of someone else. When I found this out, I went to check on him. He had a gash on his fetlock which was not discovered by the person watching him because he was turned out in mud. It was too old to stitch, even though it should have been. I was livid, so I took him home. He was lame at the time I pulled him out of the paddock at their barn, but I thought it was due to the cut. It turned out that he had sustained a tear in the ligaments of the stifle, and he's been unsound ever since, despite time tons of time off & large vet bills. So..I'll never do it again.
            "We're still right, they're still wrong" James Carville


            • #7
              Would you go to the local department store and buy plates, silverware and glasses and use them for two weeks and take them back as new? Probably not.

              Nothing good has ever come from trial periods. That said, the only agreement I have ever done is full purchase price paid up front, a vetting, contract and 10$ nonrefundable deposit, insurance. People get one week with horse. At that juncture they have enough in the horse to be serious or not.


              • #8
                I was at a barn where a beautiful, well-trained horse came in on trial and left with left with his training completely undone by a beginner rider and his leg full of long cuts because he put his leg thru the chicken-coop wiring this barn used for fencing. Lesson: NNNNNNEEEVVVEEERRRR (never) let a horse out on trial. Find another buyer.
                L'in'MAO at the horse world


                • #9
                  I know trainers that don't do trials. And they sell horses. I don't consider these "cheap" horses either--mid 5 figures.
                  "I'm not crazy...my mother had me tested"


                  • #10
                    I wont. I don't care who the buyer is. If you can't tell from a ride or two that the horse is right for you, you probably aren't the right buyer to begin with.

                    I will ship the horse out to try at a show or another farm, within reason, but I will not let my horses out from my control.

                    I let a horse go once and the horse came back not wanting to load on a trailer. They said they had other problems too, took me a couple months to get the horse back to where he was before he went out to the highly recommended "best ammy rider in the area". PWAAA. Never again.
                    Stoneybrook Farm Afton TN


                    • #11
                      I let my last horse go out on trial. It takes a lot of trust on both sides and I wouldn't do it for just anyone. In my case it worked out great. They loved her after two weeks and ended up keeping her.

                      I can totally understand why a seller would or would not let a horse go on trial.

                      I have not taken a horse on a trial as a buyer, but if I was plunking down $30k+ and the option was there, I would. It's one thing to buy a 3 or 4 year old...if you bring it home and it has issues, you are probably going to just work through it anyway as that is part of having a green horse. But if you're buying a made horse, it would be nice to have some one on one time with him.

                      TR is right that you should know whether or not the horse will work for you in a ride or two. I tried my last horse two times at the seller's farm. For me it's kind of awkward because it feels like all eyes are on me and that makes me nervous. I rode him about 40 minutes both times and he seemed like what I was looking for.

                      When I brought him home though and put him to work, it turned out he was way 'more' horse than I had bargained for. Had I the option to take him on trial for a week I might have found that out and passed on him. Anyway I ended up keeping him (he was cheap enough), I didn't want to send him back from where he came. A year later we are still working on a lot of issues and I'm no where near showing (I wanted to be showing all last year). It's okay though, live and learn!! He has a forever home with me whether we ever make it to the show ring or not.
                      Originally posted by barka.lounger
                      u get big old crop and bust that nags ass the next time it even slow down.

                      we see u in gp ring in no time.


                      • #12
                        New here…
                        I have purchased a horse on trial and without. Depends on the horse and trainer.
                        Horse purchased on trial, was sent on trial for one week but I knew I had to have him after 1 min. Owners were given heads up on my intentions on same day


                        • #13
                          From a buyers standpoint... for a inexperienced student, I would require taking a horse on trial prior to purchase. I've been burned too many times to risk it. But keep in mind- I'm not going to be buying my student a green bean. It's going to be a made horse, so the risks of "messing it up" will be less likely.

                          For a more experienced rider, I'm less likely to want to take a horse on trial. A more experienced rider, working with a trainer, should be able to work out any kinks the horse might have once we have it. But I will want to bring the horse to my farm to be ridden and vetted.

                          From a seller's standpoint- if it's a greenie, it will not go out on trial, do not even ask me. If it's made, and I know you or your trainer I would probably let it go out, but I won't let it go to a complete stranger.


                          • #14
                            In the past I've ridden with trainers and at farms where you didn't even think about buying anything (unless it was an import) without taking it back to the farm on trial. I used to think this was really the only way to do it. Then I got old enough to start horse shopping and talking to sellers for myself.

                            A couple of years ago I was shopping for a low-mid 5 figure youngster. I found it to be about 1/2 the sellers were willing to send their horses out on trial, the other half no. In the end I never ended up taking any horses 'home' on trial. The one I bought came from a breeder who said he'd been burned too many times as the OP suggested. The seller was more than happy to let me make multiple visits, ride in different areas, ride at a show, etc. While I had my family and friends telling me this was a big reg flag, I believed the seller was honestly trying to do what was best for his horses. And that horse is still doing awesome with me today


                            • #15
                              I've never heard of anything good coming of trials either and I have thus far refused any requests for such as well as buyers asking if they could 'return the horse if it did not work out' (though that one I would possibly re-consider, on a case-to-case basis, once we have our own property hopefully this year, in the interests of the horse in question). I do however welcome potential buyers to come out as many times as they'd like to try the horse out. On the other hand, I would love the opportunity to have a horse out on trial whom I am about to drop big bucks on and I personally love the lease-to-purchase agreements. However I understand where the seller is coming from as well and do not expect (or even ask for) trials - you get a pretty good assessment of the horse just working with the horse on the ground a bit and riding them once or twice under-saddle. If you get the horse and find out it is not as you expected after a couple of weeks, sell it - it seems the buyer's risk is far lesser than the seller's and often it can be the buyer's riding or such that is creating the 'issues' with the horse. I think buyers need to put more work into just making the horse they buy work, into allowing the horse to teach them. I realise the horse could be drugged or something unexpected could possibly turn up once the horse is home, however it seems that risk is much lower than the horse being injured or otherwise compromised by the potential buyer taking the horse out on trial.

                              That said, donkeyman, I like your way of going about things.
                              ....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.


                              • #16
                                Ah, yes, trials. I have mixed views on them. My old junior hunter (10+ years ago) went out on a few trials. He had some issues to begin with, but he did typically come back with more issues that he left with. And yes, he often came back! He was a nice horse and very competitive at shows, but he required a very technical ride and was probably the least forgiving horse I have ever encountered. Loved him, though. The trials were annoying because he came back with additional issues, but I wouldn't have wanted someone to buy him who wouldn't be able to get along with him long term.

                                Wetook a bunch of horses on trial when I was a junior, and I don't ever remember any problems with those. I think escrow accounts were involved, but, heck, I was just a kid, so I can't really remember.

                                As an adult, I have taken two horses on trial, one of which I purchased and now own. The first one was a cute mare that was at the top of my price range. Ended up not buying her do to some spookiness and some over fences form issues that we didn't think we could fix. If they wouldn't have given me a trial, I probably would have tried her once and passed on her. The week trial gave us a chance to see if we could make any progress on fixing her front end. That said, if she were my horse, I don't think I would want someone else trying to "fix" anything - so I'm a bit hypocritical in that respect, lol. I guess it gave the sellers a better chance of selling the horse because, if we had made progress on her front end, I probably would have purchased her.

                                Second horse (my dear sweet boy!) we took on a two week trial. I knew I wanted him from the first ride and wanted to vet him right away, but my then-trainer wanted me to finish the two week trial before deciding. He was a three-year-old more or less straight off the track (someone bought him straight from the track and then resold immediately w/ no additional training). I didn't feel like the additional two weeks proved much, other than perhaps to reaffirm that I wanted him. That was a case where I obviously understood what I was buying - a prospect with no h/j training - so my expectations were different than if he had been a made horse. From first ride to last during the trial period, he rode just like what he was - a green three-year-old off the track! I guess what I'm saying is that in that case, the trial was fine, but not really necessary.

                                Looking back on the trial periods, I am very thankful that nothing bad happened to the horses while in my care on trial. My former trainer did not suggest insurance or any special precautions (horses were both turned out daily while on trial), there was not contract in either case, etc. I knew better but didn't want to "rock the boat" - not blaming her at all for my own stupidity. But, yikes, I am so glad that everything worked out. I don't think I would take a horse on trial ever again, or, if I did, I would want a damn good contract in place and an insurance policy. And I would NEVER send one of my own out on trial. I would allow a short term lease, perhaps, but with traditional lease terms and insurance paid for by the buyer. And never, ever, ever with a green bean.


                                • #17
                                  We never ever do trials. Of the 13 horses we advertised in 2009, all 13 were sold, most within 2 months, without going on trial.

                                  We've taken horses to shows (that we were already going to) so the rider could watch and ride, taken horses cross country schooling, taken them to another farm, pretty much everything. We understand it's a lot of money to buy a horse, and why someone would want to make sure they're good off the farm, so we don't mind bending over backward for someone who seems serious. We just want to be there and make sure no shenanigans go on that would undue all the work we've done.


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by AddingStrides View Post
                                    I was at a barn where a beautiful, well-trained horse came in on trial and left with left with his training completely undone by a beginner rider and his leg full of long cuts because he put his leg thru the chicken-coop wiring this barn used for fencing. Lesson: NNNNNNEEEVVVEEERRRR (never) let a horse out on trial. Find another buyer.
                                    Sorry that was the sellers fault, they should have matched the rider and horse better, and inspected the facility.


                                    • #19
                                      After having a mare dropped off by a shipper from a trial 4/5 lame on right hind at the walk and finding a MAJOR, career ending stifle injury (she was for sale for $20k and we recently gave her away), we won't do trials ever again, at least as people know them. Most buyers don't understand how risky a trial is to them, as well as the seller.

                                      What we do now do is this, and it has worked several times successfully. It enforces the "you break it, you buy it" axiom. Buyer can take horse on trial but purchases the horse with a return clause in the contract, money is wired or paid in full by cashier's check which is deposited. Horse is technically sold. If they don't like the horse or it does not vet acceptably, they may bring it back as stated in the return clause, which says we will take it back if it, in OUR opinion, is exactly as it left. This means, physically, mentally, emotionally, training-wise, etc. We will ride it, go over it, etc, and if all seems well, money is returned, minus 10% for the deposit to cover our opportunity cost while the horse was gone and off the market.

                                      We tested this on the first horse which was paid in full, contract signed, and ended up being just a bit too small for the client. Horse came back, we rode him, looked him over and he was fine, and the money was wired back. Everyone was happy. That way, if someone can't do the dump and run again, and is automatically responsible for the damage caused. Plus, it makes them be more careful with the horse as it's technically theirs. It has seemed to work well thus far... just a suggestion!
                                      Signature Sporthorses


                                      • Original Poster

                                        I have offered prospective purchases to let me bring the horse to them for a ride, meet me at HITS Culpeper to try the horse during the time they are showing. I've let customers meet me at local shows and even show the horse. I am more than willing to let people try horses in different venues. In the 9 1/2 years i have been in Virginia I have sold about 80 horses as I mentioned in my original post, one was returned and that was after they left here to board at a barn closer to their house. The daughter turned the mare into a dirty stopper, she wouldn't even jump a cross rail. Unsuccessful in trying to sell her, they brought her back for the summer, I "fixed" her, gave the girl a few coaching sessions and knew they would NEVER work well together again. When she was here for 8 months when they bought her and in 2x weekly lessons they were wonderful. They gave her back to me and while she is jumping up to 4' courses with us, I can't sell her to a weak rider. So, now she is a "hard to sell" horse.
                                        I sent and mare out on trial 4 or so years ago, she came back in one week horrible and I mean horrible. It took a year to fix her. That was the last time I let anything go on trial. Lately with the bad economy, it seems people don't want to "gamble" and they are asking for a trial period. Sales have virtually come to a stand still and while I am over horsed, I can't justify letting them go. I put a lot of proper training in them and to have it undone in a week or two can ruin it for me and the horse the next time someone wants to try the horse. I upload countless videos of the horses with kids riding at home and at shows and with professional rides. My clients are not complaining about the horses not selling as they are well aware of the economy. I give out more information than I probably should about a horse as it might kill the sale over the phone, but... my time is as important as the customer interested in the horse.
                                        I appreciate everyone's responses so far and I can see from an amateur riders point of view, but from my point of view it is just too risky to let a horse go unsupervised by me, the trainer.

                                        Facebook: Hilltop Farm VA