Horse Sales Practices - Am I Being Unreasonable?

I have a friend who is selling her horse. A trainer arranged to come try the horse with her client, a minor, and the minor’s parents. The trainer told us not to disclose the asking price to the Parents.

Trainer has now requested a trial and PPE at her farm. She wants the trial agreement and sales agreement to go to her because they contain the true sales price of the horse. She has stated that “she is buying the horse and selling it to her client”; however, the Parents have wired us the deposit for the trial of the horse.

Now here’s my issue, legally, this opens the door to a number of issues: fraud, liability, bad faith, UCC etc. I am coming at this from a legal standpoint and not a horse sales standpoint.

Is this normal? For a trainer to tell the student/parents the horse is xxx dollars when it is really yyy dollars? My “spidey senses” are telling me something is wrong with this situation.

Any advice or insight would be appreciated.


From what I read on COTH, exaggerating the price to a client is normal, resulting in a bigger commission for the trainer. What is particularly distasteful is the trainer seeking the collusion of your friend, the seller.


This is bad practice! Tell the buyer!

I had a coach as a teen who did this to her best friend.

Sold the horse for $25k and told her it was $15k. She took the $10k AND commission. Sketchy


I wouldn’t condone that whether it’s normal practice or not. The last three horses that I’ve purchased were yearlings and weanlings that I found myself, so I’m not up on the current etiquette and practices. But that just sounds shady.

Trainers put time and effort into finding horses for clients, in most cases they deserve some sort of compensation. But that needs to be transparent and hashed out prior to looking at horses. The parents deserve to know what they’re spending their hard earned money on. And honestly, if I were the seller I’d be starting to wonder what other shady things the trainer is willing to do? Do I really want my horse to go there? Where will the horse end up in a few years? That isn’t a solid foundation to build a trainer-client relationship, it could very well go south.


It is always wrong to lie.
And this seems like that is what is happening here.

Does this happen sometimes? Yes, most certainly it does.
Is it right that this happens, no.

Can you be upfront with this trainer, that you are not willing to be part of their lie and since the parents are who wired the money, it appears you are selling the horse to them, not to the trainer?


As others have said, this is normal but doesn’t make it right. I’ve had a few trainers ask me to do similar things in hopes of getting a bigger commission cut—I always tell them that the commission you get is between you and your client, just like the commission I pay my trainer is between me and her. I do not think you should go behind trainer’s back and tell the clients, but I do think that you should be firm with the trainer: “The price of the horse is X, and the trial agreement and bill of sale will be made out to Jane Doe, since they were the ones who placed the deposit with me.”


If I were the parents I’d love to know I’d need to look over any bills from this trainer extra carefully in future, or take my business elsewhere.


Many years ago, I had a trainer want to show my horse to a client. I had quoted her X price. She told me that I needed to tell them that I wanted XY for the horse. I told her no, that I wouldn’t do that. He was not an expensive horse, and she wanted to double his price, and keep the difference herself. Nope. Just nope.


It is a breach of fiduciary duty by trainer as agent for their client at best. Or fraud. Some states like Florida have some specific laws on this and cases to support it.

I don’t think you can say it’s really an arm’s length transaction to sell to trainer and then trainer sells to client in this case.

What is common is for a seller’s agent to build in their commission into the asking price. But not so much on the buyer’s agent side especially assuming they are going to ask for separate commission on top of that.


This part is weird. If the trainer wants the parents to buy the horse from her, then everything should be going through her.

I would be thinking twice about selling a horse into this kind of situation. What else are they going to be… less than honest about?

If you want a horse-person-lawyer take on it, Kelly MacQueen is awesome.


This is all super shady. I’d tell the trainer that since the deposit for the trial was direct from the parents, then that’s where the rest of it is going too.

I wouldn’t want to touch this situation with a 10 foot pole honestly… who wants their name wrapped up in this? If the trainer gets caught they will somehow try to blame you during the fall out triage. No thanks.


it’s wrong. if she is buying and reselling she should pay the deposit. if you blow her cover, she will kill the deal and find someone who will tolerate that nonsense.

the horse business is fraught with conventions that are so ethically unfathomable to most people that it boggles the mind. Yet it perpetuates because of the people that “grow up in the business” and never have a job where there is any oversight.


As a seller I would not deal with this trainer or situation.


Look at it this way–at “best” you will have it weighing on your mind that you were used to defraud a client to enrich the trainer. At worst, you will be tainted by the transaction as a seller reputation-wise. From the parents’ perspective, once they get wise that the trainer used this deal to get more money from them in a fraudulent way, they may badmouth you and the trainer. Even if it wasn’t your idea, why would they trust that?

Sell the horse in a normal way, to an honest trainer. They are out there. Don’t sell your reputation for nothing to prop up a shady scheme.


I always prefer things on the up and up. I don’t think any purchaser would begrudge a sales commission, a trainer shouldn’t work for free!
Keeping the true price secret suggests (strongly) outlandish commission mark up. I would not be part of that.
If the ‘trainer’ doesn’t mind this shadiness does she really have the clients best interest in mind, is the horse and student a good match?
I have seen trainers take advantage of parents just trying to help their young rider get started only be grossly taken advantage of. Turns my stomach.


On top of what everyone else has said, there is NO WAY that I would let a horse go on trial to a trainer that has shown a contempt for the truth and a willingness to commit fraud.


…and this is how law suits commence. Tarjan vs Roffman wasn’t even the first suit that came to my mind for inflated horse sale price resulting in a lawsuit but it was the easiest to paste into this post.


I would not be involved in this, either. And I REALLY would not let the horse go to trainer’s farm for a trial or a PPE. There are so many ways this can go sideways. If I were in your friend’s shoes, I’d call the trainer and say the horse can’t leave. They can come ride it again and have the PPE done at the home farm. I would also tell trainer I couldn’t participate in such a dishonest deal…how would trainer like to move forward? If this trainer really wants the horse, they will figure out a slimy way out. Like “ gosh, owner liked your kid so much they came down x$. Could I get a bit more in my commission, then?”


Not normal but not unheard of in the hunter jumper world (and apparently dressage).

Money goes directly from buyer to seller.

Buyer should then pay their trainer’s commission separately. Seller should not be involved in that.

Seller to pay their own trainer a commission (if arranged for/ appropriate).

This situation screams sketchy. Run


here’s another