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Leasing a horse that failed the vet check

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  • Leasing a horse that failed the vet check

    Found an excellent horse, took him on trial, and he failed the vet check. No lameness during the trail period of 1 week. But at the vet check, he flexed positive in left ankle, so vet xrayed that ankle. Xrays showed some calcium deposits (on the coffin bone, not in the joint) and also a spot of bone deterioration in the joint. Vet said "don't do it", so I returned him. We wanted the horse for local showing (3'), which he has been doing without lameness for 4 years. I see he's still for sale online. Not an expensive horse ($5K, but expensive for me!). Only 8 years old.

    Yesterday I saw the vet on an unrelated issue and we discussed the horse and how disapointed we were because that horse was everything we wanted. He said that in the "expensive" horse world, owners will lease the horse out if they can't sell it due to a failed vet check but is sound. The lease would run as long as the horse remained sound (remember, this horse IS currently sound). If the horse became unsound, the horse goes back to the owner.

    Has anyone every heard of anything like this? Sounds like a "lose" situation for the owner to me, except for the fact that if the horse won't sell, the owner keeps shelling out $500/mo for board; if the horse goes out on lease, the owner saves that $500 plus gets a lease fee . I guess as the owner if you have a $30k horse and you get $10k/yr. for a lease fee, you would at least get some of your money before the potential lameness appears. Who knows, the horse may never go lame! I was thinking of approaching the owner with this.

    Anyone with experience in something like this?

  • #2
    If I read you right the horse was offered at $30K, you turned it down due to PPE findings, and now they're asking $5K? At that price may be it's worth the "risk" given age, current soundness, and intended use.

    You could always ask about a lease agreement. If the seller needs to lighten expenses they may even do it.

    The worst they could say is "no."

    Mangalarga Marchador: Uma Raça, Uma Paixão


    • #3
      If the horse is what you want and the vet thinks that it's likely to not get any worse than it is for some time then you've a choice. You either take a chance or you don't.

      I'm also thinking that the most likely reason the horse is showing signs of wear and tear on joints is the very fact he's only 8 years old and has been at jumping etc for 4 years. Good conditioning and ensuring right conditions and work programme may well mean he'll not get any worse.

      You could either buy it or else lease it. Personally speaking, I've not heard of that in these sort of circumstances and I'd also say if you want to take the chance and give him a chance that it's best to buy and then you are in control. He's cheap and for that price I can't personally see why you would want to even consider leasing in the circumstances described or why the owner would want to just lease.

      What you might want to consider is negotiating the price a little in the light of the veterinary inspection but to be honest, sounds like price isn't the issue.


      • #4
        Guilherme, OP said the horse was $5k. The $30k number was used in an example of the cost structure of leasing.

        I think it's a good idea, depending on how much they expect you to pay beyond the horse's keep. There are nice horses to be had for free lease (that is to say, you pay the horse's board & keep & shoes), so I wouldn't deplete your horse purchasing account too much to for this guy.

        I also agree w/ Thomas that if you lease the horse, you might moderate / improve his conditioning to extend his working life and to mitigate further deterioration of the coffin bone.

        When people say a horse regularly jumps a given height, I always wonder exactly what that means. Does the horse do that in a lesson a couple times a week? Do they jump that height in shows every other week or so? Or is their jumping schedule lighter or heavier than that? It's hard to know what other people think is 'regular' without being more specific.
        I tolerate all kinds of animal idiosyncrasies.
        I've found that I don't tolerate people idiosyncrasies as well. - Casey09


        • Original Poster

          Thanks so far, everyone. Guilherme, LoriB was correct, I was just using the $30k as an example. The horse is $5k to purchase, and before I returned him the seller did offer to reduce the price in light of the findings, but I didn't entertain it at that time so I don't know how much she had in mind.

          What Thomas said is what I'm struggling with - take the chance or not. Thomas, I guess everything is relative, because for me $5k is too much to take a chance on, $500 I would do it in a heartbeat. Everybody has their comfort level.

          I would still like to hear from someone who leased, rather than bought, a horse that was sound but couldn't pass a vet check, if anyone is out there. How was the lease structured? I'm going to try to come up with something creative and approach the owner, I think.


          • #6
            I would ask about the lease, but wouldn't expect to get it. If the horse is sound, performing well and has no issues, there's a good chance that another buyer would be willing to overlook the vet results. The purchase price is not particularly high.

            Last year I had a consignment horse with a bad flexion. Turned out he had a bone chip. Nice horse, perfectly sound otherwise and in regular work. The first buyer decided to pass due to the vetting. I ended up selling the horse to the second buyer for MORE than the first buyer offered. And that was with the chip disclosed upfront and x-rays sent to her vet.

            Still, if you don't ask, you'll never know.
            Where Fjeral Norwegian Fjords Rule


            • #7
              We had a very lovely horse for sale two years ago that wouldn't pass a ppe at all, but he had never taken a lame step. The people who eventually bought him, leased him for one year. During that time, either party could get out of the lease for any reason. At the end of the year, the lesee had to either return the horse or pay the remainder of the purchase price--this wasn't set up for her to lease for another year, as the owner wanted the horse sold. They basically had a year's trial, showed him many many times with great success, bought him and have never looked back. This was for more $$ than your example and it worked out in this case--the horse seems able to stand up to the physical demands of a top 3'6" horse. But nobody would have blamed them for walking away either, and if you can negotiate that lease/option from the seller, it will certainly give you the time you need to make an informed decision.


              • #8
                Thanks for the clarification on the original price.

                A horse doesn't pass or fail a PPE. All the PPE does is establish the current health status of the horse. The prospective buyer decides whether or not the health status is consistent with their intended uses.

                The PPE report can also be used as a "negotiating tool" regarding price. If the horse, in fact, has some health negatives the seller might consider a lower price vice continuing to incur the costs of ownership. If the negative is "fixable" they might take the horse off the market and "fix" it. Or, perhaps, give a "credit" to a buyer. Lots of other possibilities, too.

                If a buyer rejected a horse I was offering based upon PPE and then asked to "free lease" it I'd probably not be real receptive. This would be particularly true if the reasons for refusal were weak and horse was not showing signs of difficulty. Unless I knew the vet pretty well I'd likely "smell a rat." If I thought I was being scammed I'd invite the buyer, vet, and anyone associated with them to be on their way; I don't like to do business with thieves. I might be very wrong, but I might be very right. In any event I wouldn't put a horse of mine the position of being the "canary in the coal mine."

                If they offered to lease at a fair price I'd consider it. That tells me they're serious and not "scammers." But I'd make it a "lease purchase" and put a limit on the time for the lease. Sooner or later I'd expect them to "fish or cut bait." I'm not in the horse leasing business, nor to I want to be. Others may feel differently.

                Frankly, it seems to me that the horse in question is likely suitable for the OPs purposes (vet's comments notwithstanding). There are no perfect horses, only good ones.

                Mangalarga Marchador: Uma Raça, Uma Paixão


                • #9
                  While you are technically correct, Ghuilherme, about horses not passing or failing a PPE, when someone tells me a horse flunked a vetting, I interpret that to mean that the prospective purchaser determined or was advised by their vet and or trainer that some fact about the horse's condition was discovered that they considered a deal-breaker.

                  Deal-breakers aren't the same for everyone, by a long shot, and are strongly influenced by a horse's intended use and the rider's goals relative to the price asked, etc.

                  Many purchasers might consider any navicular changes to be deal-breakers. Or evidence of past laminitis, given the cost and difficulty of treating those problems.
                  I tolerate all kinds of animal idiosyncrasies.
                  I've found that I don't tolerate people idiosyncrasies as well. - Casey09


                  • #10
                    Ask your self these 2 ?:

                    1. Is the horse right for me regardless of price? (no matter how cheap it is if the horse isnt right for you its not right)

                    if you want the horse

                    2. What is the highest I would pay for the horse as it "stands" now? (understand $5K is a high price--pick something less) Offer a 1 year lease with the price set at your highest price- buy him at the end of the lease or walk away. Maybe offer some% of your price as a nonrefundable down payment so the owners dont think you are going use him up and walk away.

                    Horses are going for cheap right now. The owners would nt have to pay board for 1 year if they say yes, or if they say no, you could offer them your price and see where it goes.
                    “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” Peter Drucker


                    • #11
                      Considering that right now there are plenty of horses that are sound and young and looking for homes either as giveaways or free leases, I would not offer to pay a lease fee to the owner of the 5k horse. I might pay a lease fee to the owner of a 30k horse that failed the PPE because if it really was a 30k horse, then as far as a lease is concerned, it remains a 30k horse unless it goes lame, in which case you send it back. The 5k horse with bad x-rays at 8 years old is certainly not even worth that amount, they might be willing to free lease it to you for a year at a time to avoid paying board. You could always nicely make the offer and leave it up to them.


                      • #12

                        Is this by any chance your first horse?

                        How are you keeping it? At home or paying for livery care somewhere else?

                        I'm asking because I really think you need to think a little more circumspectly. In my opinion this isn't about whether to lease or not at all. I can't help thinking it's about whether to own considering the condition. Or at least that is what it should be about.

                        Your vet presumably knows what the intent is for the horse and is suggesting leasing. Now that is saying to me that he's thinking that the horse would probably do what you want and that you've been talking to him about the risks of buying per se and he's trying to help with advice about that.

                        To be blunt though. If the horse is good enough to lease to do what you require, then it's got to be good enough to buy. You simply need to decide if you want to buy the horse or not. You also need to decide if you can afford to have a horse and ensure you have capital reserve for contingency and things that need managing over the lifetime of the horse.

                        Only you can decide on the finance bit but you might well be better considering just paying someone else e.g. a Riding School to let you ride one of their horses. That way if one's lame or unsound or even just lost a shoe, there's always another waiting in the wings and there's no fuss, trouble, worry or expense associated with it.

                        You have to spend a lot at a Riding Centre for the cost comparison argument to work. The cost of owning is a lot and compared to the cost of the initial outlay it's the cost of keep that you need to be considering seriously.

                        The only way you can avoid not taking a chance is to not own.

                        Personally speaking I don't even have horses vetted if they're less than £3,000. Though perversely I always recommend that those who purchase do and that includes those who buy horses off me that I've bought without a vet inspection.

                        In my opinion for that price there's nothing to be found from a veterinary inspection perspective that would affect a purchase that I couldn't find myself. Likewise for an investment of that amount there's things I expect and things I don't expect.

                        Originally posted by josierider View Post
                        The horse is $5k to purchase, and before I returned him the seller did offer to reduce the price in light of the findings, but I didn't entertain it at that time so I don't know how much she had in mind.

                        What Thomas said is what I'm struggling with - take the chance or not. Thomas, I guess everything is relative, because for me $5k is too much to take a chance on, $500 I would do it in a heartbeat. Everybody has their comfort level.

                        I would still like to hear from someone who leased, rather than bought, a horse that was sound but couldn't pass a vet check, if anyone is out there. How was the lease structured? I'm going to try to come up with something creative and approach the owner, I think.
                        Every time you buy a horse you're taking a chance. However and in my opinion you also have to be in a position whereby if something goes wrong that he has a chance with you.

                        Remember this is a living thing you're buying. They don't come with guarantees and warranties and things can go wrong. They can get silly injuries and they can get ill.

                        I've been involved in buying and selling horses for decades: personally doing it and with a mass of friends who do the same - all sorts, sizes and prices.

                        Trust me I've a mass of stories of the one that cost a fortune and passed a vet inspection and then dropped dead with an aneurysm first week of purchase or came up lame with a tendon injury a month in to its new home.

                        Likewise the one that sold cheap because it failed the flexion test but goes on to live a lifetime of soundness AND high level successful competition eventing and horse driving trials.

                        We all know that such as navicular can show up nothing on x ray with a horse that is crippled lame and show up as showing changes to the navicular bone in a horse that is totally sound.

                        Truth is, it's a living thing. There's no guarantee. You do what you can to inform you and you take the information into account and in consideration of what you intend to do and your personal circumstances.

                        Now to me a $500 horse is just meat money. For that I'd be expecting things wrong with it. For that price, I'd be expecting previous poor ownership and management. I'd be expecting to have to invest a lot into the horse to make it something more marketable. I always say things like "If it sounds too good to be true, then it is!" and "There's no such thing as a bargain". "No such thing as a free horse" "No such thing as a cheap horse"

                        And trust me, I've worked with a LOT of "free" and "cheap" horses. Charged and supported a lot of people for working with free and cheap horses.

                        I know the market is flooded at the low end - it's been that way for some time now. Not really to do with the recent state of the economy though. That's been happening for some time. The growth in ownership was disproportionately high at the low end and over the past 10 years. They're the horses that tend to be "recycled" or sold and sold and sold as the owner finds a new interest or that they take more looking after and cost more than they imagined. There's always been a lot at that end and there will continue to be so. I know there's a lot of perfectly nice horses on the market that sell cheap but generally you're kidding yourself if you think they don't need anything investing in them and aren't likely over time to cost you probably more than the more expensive (well bred, well trained, well managed) horse .

                        The purchase price of a horse pales into insignificance compared to it's cost of keep. I often say to people that if they're worried about the initial capital outlay cost if it's anything less than £5,000 ($7500) then they ought to seriously be questioning whether they can genuinely afford to have a horse. It doesn't take much to run up a vet bill of $1,000. All you need is ONE incident of bad luck!

                        Then on top of the keep there's the cost of entering and travelling to these shows you're fancying doing.

                        So this horse is sound and you've given him a good trial? He's showing some signs of secondary joint disease in the coffin joint. That could be excessive jumping, or it's conformation or even how it's previously been trimmed and shod over time.

                        You could well buy another horse for less money and he might not have done so much yet or might be younger and greener but trust me, over time the investment is likely to be exactly the same if you're lucky and in my experience more likely to be a lot more per year.

                        Personally speaking I most often suggest folks who are on a tight budget buy an older, tried and tested horse. So aged over 12/14. That way you've the evidence of performance over time. You know what's been invested in the horse in terms of training and management.

                        Likewise I tend always to be fairly cautious when folks sell horses aged 8 and less and full of how much the horse has done for 4 years or more. But then I'm one of those old fashioned sorts that thinks 8 year olds are young and still learning their trade. If folks have genuinely been doing a lot and particularly things like her percussion jumping or lots of tight little circle or any highly repetitive stuff with the horse that age then I'm thinking "secondary joint disease", wear and tear etc etc. I'd be expecting it. Not surprised at all if it was showing up.

                        Rather than the vet inspection putting me off in the circumstances that you describe, I'd be looking at the horse. You've not said what the history of prior ownership was or such as what work programme it was in prior to your having it on trial but you want to ensure that he was in regular work. So in other words that he wasn't just rested and coming back - so in other words likely to come up lame. They've given you a trial so sounds like the owners are genuine. Did they know he had a problem? Has he ever shown lameness with them? What have they had to spend on vet bills? Have they owned him a while?

                        Then ask yourself this:

                        Is it a nice sort and type for what I want?
                        Is it sound at all paces in hand and on both reins and under saddle?
                        Does it carry itself reasonably well for jumping?
                        Is it well mannered and easy to manage from the ground and under saddle?
                        If I didn't know how much the horse cost would I still like it?
                        If I didn't know about the calcification would I already have spent my money?
                        If he comes up unsound for another reason this year- nothing to do with the calcification - maybe an awkward step or slip in the paddock can I manage having to spend $1,000 and lay him off for 6 weeks?

                        You want all "yes" to the above.


                        Consider if you might have to spend any money on it's training or on any known health condition this year? Sounds to me like those were "No's"

                        Remember veterinary insurance can be your friend.


                        • #13
                          For the OP in real time

                          Here's what I'd do:

                          1) Ask myself what I was buying this horse for-- resale? A forever home? A modestly-priced horse who could teach me the ropes? If the last one is the reason you are buying this horse, know there may be few around like him in your price range.

                          2) If you do want a horse to teach you for the time-being, a lease-as-trial is a great idea. If the owner thinks the horse is sound, regardless of what radiographs show, he/she might be willing to do this deal. If they aren't so confident and want to sell an 8-year-old who does seem to have "older" legs precisely to avoid future problems, you should, too. But, you might be able to encourage them to lease the horse to you if he will be in a training and show program where is care will be good and his value will increase.

                          3) (Maybe most important): Talk with your vet about the prognosis for the potential soundness problems he foresees from the radiographs. If you don't mind selling him "down a notch" or to a school program, say, three years from now, it might not matter to you that you know he won't stay sound forever. Horses don't stay sound forever, and some people are just more comfortable about buying a horse for a temporary job than others.

                          3a) (Also important) Talk to your vet about the treatments for managing lameness-- shoeing, conditioning, meds, joint injections-- and price those out. Joint injections, for example, can be effective in the short term, but expensive. You could easily spend this horse's purchase price on those over a few years. People dropping the $30K you mentioned, might not blink at the same figure.

                          My bottom line: I wouldn't buy a horse whose legs looked like they belong to an older horse.
                          The armchair saddler
                          Politically Pro-Cat


                          • #14
                            LIke Sparky:
                            I have done it once........sale horse turned up with an unknown xray blip on PPE/moved sound. The non clean xray was a surprise so we did do a lease. It was not a forever lease.....but it did give the person who wanted the horse more time to evaluate if there was any problem with the xray blip functionally. If the horse became unsound due to problems with that joint during the initial lease period he could be returned. (FWIW the horse was fine and stayed sound). Leases can be risky and I personally went and checked out the barn where the horse would be staying first. The lesees told me I was welcome to pop in and check on him at any time.....so it worked out well for a harder to sell horse with an "issue".
                            Last edited by camohn; Apr. 12, 2009, 12:22 PM.
                            Providence Farm


                            • #15
                              OP, you say you know this horse and he has been showing for the last 4 years without any soundness issues. If this is the type of program you will keep the horse in...IMO, that is as close to "proof" of serviceable soundness as you will get in a purchase situation. The sellers additionally gave you a week's trial so you could assure yourself that the horse wasn't on any undisclosed meds and could live in your program - which is very generous on a horse at that price point.

                              Maybe I am in the minority, but I think asking the seller to assume a permanent, ongoing risk is a more than a little unreasonable.

                              From the seller's point of view, you're asking them to insure you for anything that goes wrong - say, you miss to a jump, crash & hurt the horse, and then get to return him, lame and unusable to be back on their feed bill... would *you* do a deal like that? I sure wouldn't.

                              Now, what I *have* seen done in the past - frankly only for pretty expensive horses in the six figure range - is a shorter term lease-to-purchase arrangement, similar to what another poster wrote about above. I'd never give a year, but perhaps a few months at a standard lease rate, to demonstrate to the buyer that the horse will hold up to regular work. The lease payments include the cost of insurance at the buyer's expense, to protect both parties in the event there is a mishap, and at the conclusion of the lease term, the buyer either purchases the horse at the previously agreed upon price, or returns the horse and walks away.
                              We move pretty fast for some rabid garden snails.


                              • #16
                                OP- I was in a very similar situation when I was horse shopping, and ended up doing a lease on a failed PPE. Had a PPE done on a horse that was in that range, and knew things would show up because he raced several years and had some track jewelry. Radiographs were very bad, and in my vet's 30+ years of experience he said that the issue has become a problem sooner rather than later in about 75% of the cases he has seen. So, the owner and I ended up with an arrangement where I would lease him (full lease for all board, farrier, minor vet, insurance) until I found a horse to buy or he became unsound. I had him and enjoyed him until I found the guy I ended up buying, of course not seriously looking but I guess that's how they often show up in our lives . I learned a lot from that lease and had a great time with him, and am so greatful that the owner was willing to do that for me.

                                Long story short, just talk to the owner and see what they would be willing to do. If you lease and it seems like you still want to buy him, you could always buy down the road.


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by Thomas
                                  Personally speaking I don't even have horses vetted if they're less than £3,000. Though perversely I always recommend that those who purchase do and that includes those who buy horses off me that I've bought without a vet inspection.
                                  Haha. me too. Perversely, the one mucho expensive horse that I had a PPE on, turned out to have OCD on subsequent x-rays (had passed all his flexions etc, so we didn't get xrays in the beginning) which were done to investigate an unrelated hind end problem. He has never been lame from those xray findings and he's 20.

                                  The horse in question is 8. He's been showing sound for 4 years and passed a trial period sound. He has some xrays findings that your vet feels may be significant. You've been offfered a lower price as a compensation. I would have the same concerns as Thomas- the horse's training history is more significant than the xray findings perhaps. Who shows a horse over that height of fences at 4?

                                  You know, you could get a totally clean horse with the same record and he could colic tomorrow and you'd lose him, or he could kick the trailer on the way home and permanently lame himself...and he would be more money than this one.

                                  I had a 3rd level schoolhorse that I sold a long time ago. Someone came to look at him, and had him xrayed and found he had some changes even though he'd never taken an unsound step in his life and was then 12. She offered me half what I was asking. She passed on him and bought a more expensive horse, who died in a colic less than a year later. Then she bought a horse who tore a suspensory while she was training and was permanently unsound and was euthanized. Someone else bought my schoolmaster at the asking price, and is still riding him- 12 years later and sound, on no treatment.

                                  Its your call, but he does sound like someone I might take a chance on.
                                  "The Threat of Internet Ignorance: ... we are witnessing the rise of an age of equestrian disinformation, one where a trusting public can graze on nonsense packaged to look like fact."-LRG-AF


                                  • #18
                                    Horses don't "fail" vet checks. A competent vet will never give a horse a pass/fail. A competent vet will tell you their findings for the things you ask them to examine and possibly give you advice on how they think those finding will hold up under the kind of work you intend on doing, and if they are a good vet they will probably be correct in that assessment, but they could also be wrong and the horse could last for years doing that kind of work.

                                    I have seen people spend six figures on a horse that has string halt and bone spurs in a knee and front ankle, knowing that those conditions existed they still spent six figures, and that horse went on to win World Championship's in his division and he is still showing and doing well now ten years later. You need to look at the horse and weigh his benefits and good things over his detractions. There are no perfect horses out there.

                                    As an owner or as a trainer advising my clients I would not lease out an under $5k horse, period. With higher end horses we will occasionally do leases if the horse stays in the barn, on the same training and showing program, and is still for sale, the leaser being given first right of refusal.
                                    Last edited by Renae; Apr. 11, 2009, 12:18 PM.


                                    • #19
                                      Leasing horse with failed vet check

                                      I would consider whether or not the horse is really "suited to you and your needs." If so, make a lower offer and see whether or not they take it. You have to consider that there are no perfect PPE exams. You have to decide what you can live with and what you can't. We once had a jumper that was 12 with horrible flexions, EPM, had rolled down a hill in a trailer, had had tie back surgery, was 300 pounds underweight, sore in his back, etc. We decided to buy him anyway, at a little lower price. He won the NAL children's jumper finals and we gave him good maintenance, etc. He had never had his hocks injected, legend, etc. He won many local eq and jumper classes, as well as being 5th in the National Stateline Medal Finals. Our daughter learned so much from him! He is now teaching a 65 year old lady how to ride and is almost 20 years old. If someone tells you your PPE is perfect - that's when I would question it and run the other way. We were always on the budget plan, but decided this one was worth taking a chance. You are the only one that can decide what you can live with. I would not think that someone having a horse with a price tag of $5k is going to want to lease the horse. I would just make them a reasonable offer. If you have known this horse for 4 years, there is a good chance that the horse will still remain sound. But, there is always the possiblilty it may not. Perhaps you could offer to lease the horse for 6 months, with your "lease" fees applying to the purchase price. At the end of 6 months, if you decide not to purchase the horse, the owner keeps the lease fees. If you decide to purchase the horse, your "lease" fees will apply towards the purchase. Good luck to you with your decision!


                                      • #20
                                        You can always get a second opinion.