Selling a horse with a trial

Posting again about horse sales question. I have a second sale horse that is ready for their new home. I’m usually the type of person that shuns all complications in my life especially when it comes to horses. However I have a buyer that wants to buy my horse but they want a trial but I don’t do trials. Period. I don’t like the risk involved and the idea that even with insurance and all that you may get a destroyed horse back to care for the rest of it’s life is terrifying. What I am willing to do is sell the horse to them and buy it back if it doesn’t work out. With a contract for a specific amount of time for them to try it before they have to say keep or leave. Other than saying that I can refuse to accept deliver of and not repurchase horse if not delivered in same condition as it left me and that they have to pay for getting it back to me is there anything I am missing? Chances are very high that everything will work out just fine but I would like to cover myself as best I can when agreeing to something out of the ordinary for me.

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Right now, the horse world is a seller’s world.
Just sell horse as is, they buy it, they pay for it, is their horse.

We have always told people if horse would not work, we take it back.
We had people take advantage of that some times, other times were glad to help someone that had problems, like being diagnosed with cancer a few months after buying horse, we bought him back from her.
Taking a horse back for any reason is for the horse’s benefit, since as a seller you can control where horse goes, hopefully to a great place next.

If you are careful who you sell to and lucky that is a good fit, no trail time needed, but as above, some may take advantage of that.
In today’s world, buyers seem desperate to buy, not sure you need to sell any other way than as a straight sale.


The people are first time owners and buyers buying on their trainers recommendations sight unseen and untried. They felt it would be a little extra insurance for them more than just my word that I would buy back if it didn’t work out. I want to do right by my horses and I understand how frustrating buying right now can be. You can’t even get out to see a horse before it is on a trailer from video alone. I am making sure everything is clearly spelled out in sale agreement and is leaning heavily in my favor as it should as I am the at risk party if they break the horse and try to return it. Not likely but you can’t trust people too far and covering my own butt is paramount to me.


So, for me, this begs the question of who/how one determines the horse is in the same condition it was when it left. Do you do your own PPE??? I really don’t know the answer but it’s something to work through.


Nope -


I would be the one to determine condition and soundness if it came back? Video and photos of horse before it gets on the trailer to leave. Leaves me in a bit of a bad spot if they were to drug the horse to not show lameness as it come back to me. I did consider the possibility of saying I have 24 hours to decide if horse is not right like the chicken shipping people do but that is likely over the top. I guess I could draw blood as it is getting off the trailer and send it off if I have doubts. I could always put these conditions out there and it may stop the sale or cause them to just agree to an outright buy. I hate to even be questioning things like this but in this day and age no good deed goes unpunished and putting trust in your fellow man may be unwise.


First time owners, sight unseen, AND a trial? I would be super uncomfortable with the whole thing and would probably wait for the next buyer.


I would not in today’s world, especially selling to someone that wants special deals, when most buyers decide without putting stress or guilt or obligations on you.
That they are going there would make me not want to deal with them.

Someone in your barn, your trainer involved, maybe.
Strangers and strange trainer? Too much risk for you.


Do you know the trainer? Has the trainer seen the horse in person and ridden it?

If you’re not comfortable with a trial, then don’t do a trial. (I would not. Especially not to an inexperienced person. Who knows what kind of expectations they have.)

This just sounds like it has all kinds of potential downsides. This isn’t like buying a mattress with a 90-day guarantee. I’m just imagining newbie owners and really questioning a trainer who would advise them to buy sight unseen.


appears to me you have answered your question yourself … wait for another buyer

it is your horse, it is your business …and you do not do trials


Thinking of things from the horse’s perspective:“What is good for the horse?”

I would really be concerned about a first time horse owner buying a horse of mine. I would want to see pics/videos of the barn. I would want references from their vet. I would want to know the name of the farrier they’ve arranged for and i’d make that call to be sure. The person designated as their trainer, could actually only be a neighbor.

And no way would i send a horse away in a trailer unless i had full payment in my bank.

A buy-back in my contract would be an absolute and i’d probably have an ‘initial here’ spot right there.


what is keeping them from a trial? a buy back is no different than a trail, they can still negatively impact the horse for the worse. There really isn’t much restriction on travel that a reasonable person cannot undertake

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I would not do it. Offer them the chance to look at the horse and then it is their decision.


I benefited from having a horse on trial, which at the time was pretty common in the hunter world (I assume it still is between trainers), so I am not a poster who is all pearl clutching about sending a horse out on trial.

In this case I think if you do not trust this trainer enough to send your horse there on trial, why do you trust them enough to send your horse there with a buy back clause? How is it different in your eyes?


Another “no” vote from me. Just had this play out with a barn acquaintance of mine. They had Horse up for sale for a while with a couple of bites, but no purchase. Several months in they had an interested party; first-time owners with a teenage child who had some type of back issue. The family came out to try Horse multiple times, including twice with their trainers. Family loves this horse but wants a week or two trial to make sure everything is fine.

Acquaintance is not a fan but eventually allowed them to take Horse on a 3-day trial. They’d gotten a written contract and a nonrefundable deposit. Horse is gone for 2 or 3 weeks, then returned because something popped up on the vet check (which they didn’t schedule until the very end of the multiweek trial obviously). Horse returns “lame” and with hot front feet.

Acquaintance is pissed because Horse now has an issue that it didn’t previously AND has been off the market for a month+. Buyers are pissed because they felt Acquaintance tried to sell them a lame horse so they want part of the nonrefundable deposit back. Entire thing was a mess.


Selling to first time owners you are not going to get the same horse back.

Every time they interact with it they are training it and undoing all the training you have done.


A first time owner is not necessarily a novice rider.


Yeah, I rode at a hunter barn about 7-8 years ago, and it wasn’t uncommon to take a horse on trial for a week or two, even to take it to a local show. It was between trainers who knew one another and their programs very well, and the trial was for a fee.

In this scenario, there’s a lot of unknown quantities. What type of horse is it? What is the vibe of the owners (I agree first time owners aren’t necessarily novices)? How serious are they? Will they freak out if the horse isn’t perfect the minute they take him off the trailer? Do they have a trainer?

Also, since the market is hot, it might just be easier to hold out for a clean, quick sale.


I have sent many of my horses on a ~1 week trial before purchase.

First of all, it does really depend on the age/stage of a horse. I wouldn’t send a youngster (e.g. newly broke 4yo) on a trial. But for a more mature horse, I absolutely want to know that it’s going to be a good fit and understand why people want to get the chance to see it on their home turf.

With that being said, I would likely not be comfortable in a sight unseen situation. I would require the people to come ride it at my house before proposing that they were ready to buy it. I wouldn’t enter in that sort of a risky situation if I didn’t really and truly believe that the horse and rider were a good match.

Also, I am comfortable doing this with trainers I know, less so with trainers I don’t.

A few requirements:

  1. insurance policy must be purchased to cover horse from the minute it sets foot on my trailer to go to the lease site
  2. I would not let the horse be shod or changed in any way prior to the vet check and decision to purchase (this means that if a horse is coming up on the end of their shoeing cycle, I would shoe early before the horse went on trial). If horse had to be messed with farrier-wise, I would require it to be with my farrier.
  3. Nonrefundable deposit (typically $1-2k)
  4. I want to know who the vet doing the PPE is. There are a few vets that I will not work with for PPE purposes.

With those parameters being met (and depending on the answers to Impractical_Horsewoman’s questions), I don’t have a big problem with a trial. It is a risk. But so is selling a horse…but to that point, so is owning a horse at all!


The only situation I even consider a trial is when a horse is going to a trainers program that I know and horse will only be ridden by the professional and lessons with buyer. 3-5 day trial, gives them plenty of time to get a PPE and conclude on it.

If it was someone I didn’t know with first time buyers, I would say absolutely not.

It’s a sellers market, you call the shots, someone will buy your horse.