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Horse Shopping: Question About Ethics--Of the Buyer

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  • Horse Shopping: Question About Ethics--Of the Buyer

    I tried a gelding recently. I'd already heard that he had to be led into the show ring on a lead rope, wouldn't go in on his own. I watched a class with his regular rider. Yes, they led him in. When the rider tried to send him forward, his ears pinned and he bucked a little. Rider tapped him with the whip, horse said "Oh, all right," and started the course. Rider made all kinds of mistakes but the horse knew his job and covered. When it was time for me to try him, horse was presented all tacked up and ready to go. Again, objections. But once jumping commenced, all heart, great technique, knew his job.

    Then: Afterwards, I untacked the horse to do a once-over of his body. Yikes--on one side the saddle had rubbed him right down to the skin. It had apparently never occurred to rider or trainer that the horse's behavior might be the result of pain from a poorly fitted saddle.

    I said nothing and still feel bad about it. But my trainer was there, the other trainer was there...I guess I got intimidated and also confused about the right thing to do. Nobody had asked for my advice, and people tend to resent unsolicited advice, especially when it could be construed as critical. In a situation where I'm just trying a horse, this kind of thing may come up again. What should I do--say something and try for tact, or just keep my mouth shut? As I say, I still feel rotten about the whole thing. Poor horse.

  • #2
    I would have spoken up. Not in a mean way but made note of it just in case for some crazy reason they didn't know it was there.


    • #3
      I am not sure that it is your place to suggest that his behavior is the result of poorly fitting tack... BUT you certainly are within your rights as a potential buyer to point out that you are concerned that rubs like his often don't come without additional pain below the surface of a superficial rub mark. She may get the point...


      • #4
        As a buyer, and buying from an actual training barn situation, you are under no ethical responsibility to diagnose what is wrong with the horses that are being presented for sale. If they don't know better then they aren't going to listen to you.

        With self-styled knowledgeable owners I also wouldn't comment on run forward heels, hunters bump, bulgy necks, going short behind, etc. I would just say thank you and walk away.

        If you went to see an absolute newbie greenie clueless person who didn't know horses needed their feet trimmed or why their horses were so skinny, you might want to make some helpful suggestions. Or call animal control when you got home.

        As far as saddle rub, who knows. I don't think horse would be jumping so well if he was so sore he needed to be led into the ring. That's probably a long term behaviorial issue and may speak to larger questions of training and horsemaship.

        If the rub isn't raw, it might not be hurting. Winter hair can be fragile. Also you don't know that it is this saddle that caused the rub. Could be another piece of gear altogether.

        I agree it's a sign of questionable management for them to let this happen, but I expect there are a lot of red flags here.


        • #5
          I would have looked at my trainer, looked at bald patch, back n forth until my trainer "picked up what I was putting down" and let them take the lead...mmmmmayyyybbeeee played dumb and casually asked my trainer "oh think a little MTG will fix that or Corona?" all innocent and sweet as pie. Not saying "OH MY GOD THE ELEPHANT BARELY FITS IN THIS ROOM DON"T LET IT STEP ON YOU" but more like "Hey my eyes may be playing tricks on me...Did you see that?" This sounds more like a case of rain rot or other skin condition than rubbing of saddle, but does explain saint horse's reluctant behavior.It was not wrong of you to keep your mouth shut, especially since you had trainer ie professional with you...if you were looking at a house with your realtor and both walked into a room with a piece of plywood in the middle of a wall who would you expect to ask why it was there?


          • #6
            I would have just said something like “oh, hey, I’m sure you know, but it looks like he’s got something going on here.” It wouldn’t be weird to make a comment about something you didn’t see when the saddle was on.


            • #7
              If I was seriously interested in a horse I would maybe want to ask some questions and do some problem solving. But if I'd already decided to walk away, I would just silently roll my eyes. I'm sure they knew about the rub.


              • #8
                I'd have a problem with anyone who would tack up a horse for someone to ride and there was a sore under the saddle. What sort of behav are you potenially setting the rider up for? Good grief.

                I would have pointed out the rub. Tactfully; but it would have been mentioned.
                No matter where you go, there you are


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Beck View Post
                  I'd have a problem with anyone who would tack up a horse for someone to ride and there was a sore under the saddle. What sort of behav are you potenially setting the rider up for? Good grief.

                  I would have pointed out the rub. Tactfully; but it would have been mentioned.
                  I agree its a red flag. And there might be times I wanted to shake that red flag a little. When were his hooves last trimmed? Hmmm, what's the blood dropping from his mouth? I noticed he gives a little hop every time he goes into the canter. Etc.

                  I might or might not say these things, because I am trying to never act on my basic stir the pot impulses.

                  But I would never think that I had an ethical obligation to point out poor horse keeping to a pro trainer who knows what they are doing and is making deliberate choices, whether good or bad.

                  In other words, OP, yeah you missed a good chance to let the trainer see they weren't impressing you. But you did not fail in any ethical obligations because clearly they knew about the rub. That is why they saddled him up before you got there.

                  My hunch is horse is being sold on because he is showing increasingly bad behavior for his rider and much much more is wrong than the rub.


                  • #10
                    I probably would have said something before really thinking about if I should or not. I recently went to look at a horse with someone. The horse was barefoot and hadn't been trimmed for at least 6 months, probably more, and had the long toes, flares and 2 inch toe crack that goes along with that. The horse was not a good fit, and we thought we saw an off step once in a while (maybe from those long flares and toe crack?). As we were finishing up, I said to the seller "you might want to do something about those toe cracks before they get any worse". She said "she's a little overdue for a trim" and then went on to tell us how great her feet are.

                    So, say something or don't say something - if the seller is turning a blind eye to it, it probably doesn't matter either way.
                    Last edited by Mango20; May. 2, 2019, 11:24 AM.


                    • #11
                      Dont feel bad OP. First, as was pointed out, the owner likely knows and has dismissed it as unimportant. Second, many of us who say "I would have said..." have also been in the position in which they didnt actually say anything and later regretted it.


                      • Original Poster

                        Thanks for all your thoughts on this. I take some comfort from the idea that the trainer probably did know about the raw spot and dismissed it, so my piping up about it would only have elicited a shrug. About what was really causing the horse's behavior, who knows really. Could have been the saddle, could have been something else. But there was no denying that sore spot, and my question centered on the "if you see something, say something" idea--when to act on it and when not to. Would I be helping someone who might welcome a heads-up, or would I--as Scribbler suggested-- be letting the trainer know I was unimpressed? Or, worse, coming off as an annoying know-it-all? I guess I'll decide case by case.


                        • #13
                          Was it "raw" or just the hair rubbed off? Those are two entirely different things. Hair rubbed off is possibly an extremely minor issue. Either way, it's still entirely possible that this horse's dislike of entering the ring is a behavioral issue that is not rooted in pain. Without knowing the horse well, you can't say if that rub is a new thing or has coincided with his dislike of entering the ring. Unless there is an obvious horse welfare issue, I think leaving it at a polite remark is the best course of action.


                          • #14
                            Not my horse, not my problem.


                            • #15
                              I think "Is this new?" is a pretty safe way of calling attention to something like this. IMO, it'd be hard to read that as judgmental or accusatory and put people on the defensive right off the bat (unless there was deliberately unethical stuff happening). They saw you looking over the horse as a buyer, so I'd expect them to be prepared to answer questions about things you found.

                              It also implicitly assumes they know about it, or if they don't they have an opening to say "must be new", etc. etc. If they did know about it, then you have an opening to start asking about how they are managing it.

                              With or without seeing the rub, I think you were also well within your right to ask about how they had been managing the behavior issue, if they had looked for a relationship to saddle fit or other physical issues, if it had been escalating, etc.


                              • #16
                                Raw or hair rubbed off? Thats a big difference. I like the "is this new?" line.


                                • #17
                                  With things like this you can ask questions like "oh I see he has a rub - have you found that he's difficult to fit tack to, or is there a particular brand that is good vs bad?" As a buyer, this is a fair question. Some horses do excellently with certain brands of tack or blankets due to shape and cuts. Some buyers need to factor in prices to outfit their potential new horse (or may have stuff that they're wondering will work for a horse). It's an innocuous way to open the door and feel out what the situation is.


                                  • #18
                                    I would not have appreciated that a seller let me ride their horse with a sore under his saddle. They were unethical to let you ride him. It's not likely that it could have happened in the course of one class and your ride. When you were looking him over and spotted the sore - you might have just said "Oh, you have a booboo" and let it go at that.

                                    Bringing up behavior, performance or conformation issues during a prospective sale inspection would tell me the buyer was trying to negotiate the price down. That is ok if that is what you, as the buyer, want to do. But, if you don't like what you see - say thank you and walk away.


                                    • #19
                                      Some of us would have no trouble speaking up, protocol or not.

                                      But in general its a good idea to say " Thank You", and just go.
                                      Last edited by merrygoround; May. 4, 2019, 03:36 PM.
                                      Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

                                      Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.


                                      • #20
                                        If I have decided I am not interested in the horse, I say nothing. If I still might be, then I ask questions. "Is this new?" is a good way to broach it. When shopping with a client, I would also be happy if they said "can you take a look at this" to me, so I can see the issue.
                                        Freeing worms from cans everywhere!