Trainer reimbursement for consultation on a horse purchase

I found a horse on line and liked what I saw I asked my trainer what she thought of the horses videos posted online and she liked how he moved. I messaged the seller and asked for the X-Rays to be sent. My trainer looked at the X-Rays and forwarded to my vet. The vet asked for another view which was messaged to the seller and then provided and sent to vet. I agreed to buy the horse and asked for the needed information to set up shipping and arranged payment to be wired to the seller. Trainer offered her experience with her insurance company so a quote was sent to me from her preferred insurance carrier and I paid for insurance with a new company rather than who I had my old horse insured under. Trainer put me in touch with a horse hauler she was familiar with and I booked transport to the barn. Once he arrived and was unloaded I was a happy New horse owner until trainer said " How do you want to pay my commission?" Mmmmm, whaaat? I always want to pay a fair price for services received but what should that be in this case? We have been friends for many years and I have been there to help her move to New barns and transport horses in my trailer when theirs had problems all performed as a friend. I was shocked she wants a commission on a horse I had searched for by myself, contacted seller myself, and discussed the merits of the horse as I thought with a friend. Stepping back and trying to view the situation as not a friend but as a trainer to a student now. What should be a fair payment for watching the video of horse, forwarding X-Rays to vet, talking to vet with their approval, insurance name, horse transport name… conversations over dinner… The time frame was over two weeks from when I found the horse to securing delivery to the barn. I sold my horse the month prior to this all by myself as well. I want to do what is right and fair.

You should have asked before you started giving her tasks to do. Did you think she was spending hours of her time for free? From what I can tell, she was instrumental in making this purchase happen. You are buying expertise not just hours, and expertise around horses is priceless. How much is her commission usually?


You need to ask the trainer what her expected commission is, none of us random internet people can tell you what her time and expertise was worth. If her question was “How do you want to pay my commission” and not “How much commission are you giving me?” I assume she has a number determined already and was asking if you’d be paying in cash, check, Venmo, etc., and in one payment or several.

Regardless of your friendship, you as a non-horse-professional (I assume) helping her out with moving barns and horses is not the same as her, a horse-professional, providing you with professional services. If you had agreed to barter professional services, that would be different. As her friend, you should have absolutely expected to pay her for her experience, I’m surprised that you’re surprised by this. Friends should support each other’s businesses, not try to get freebies off them.

ETA - I do agree with the others that have said trainer should have mentioned it up front, as well, but that doesn’t mean that you’re owed free services. Poor communication is the main factor in a number of ruined relationships, professional and personal alike.


She says she normally charges $10,000 for horse buying service but 10% would be for this purchase. I never asked her to do anything but view the videos the rest just happened during conversations… we eat dinner together most evenings and during the course of eating watched the video, she watched as I sent the messages and then I concluded the rest with my husband over the next two weeks. I never thought there was a service happening. Looking back I do see she that by her asking to view the X-Rays and forwarding to our vet that this had the appearance of professional consultation. It just seems this went from friends discussing to professional consultation without my knowledge .

So now you have learned an important lesson.

Your trainer is never “just your friend.” You are her client and her income stream. Once she starts comping you services she loses income and could go out of business. Most trainers are on a pretty tight budget.

Always ask up front, and this includes going to shows, holding for the farrier, blanket changes, etc. Don’t expect all these to be comped because you are friends. Read your boarding contract carefully.

You are her client first and her friend second. If you got out of horses, would you still be socializing with her? Unlikely.


As Scribbler said, this should have been decided upon before you asked her opinion on the video, etc. That’s not really any different than going in person, it takes less time but regardless you are asking for her professional opinion and she is entitled to be paid for that. But maybe because it didn’t involve as much time as going to see the horse in person you might be able to negotiate a lesser charge than her usual commission. Some trainers will want their full commission though.

You can’t really be a friend with your trainer, you can be close and you can be friendly, but she is helping you because that’s how she earns her living, it makes a normal friendship almost impossible to sustain


Asking her to view the video is asking for her professional opinion, that’s what she is being paid for.


Industry standard is 10%. If it was to be different than this amount, it should have been discussed up front. She provided her services. You accepted those services. Pay her and consider it a lesson learned.


Lesson learned for you but IMO your trainer should have told you up front her fees and had something in writing with you. I’m not sure why she told you only once the horse was delivered.


Well, while I don’t disagree that it is a professional opinion, I don’t think viewing one video = a 10% commission.

I think the “you accepted those services” piece is in question. OP asked the trainer to watch a video of a horse she had found and was interested in. That’s really not a 10% commission…not knowing the value of the horse, I would hesitate to hand over $5K on a $50K horse for that.


I agree with this sentiment. And with @JanuaryGirl that a 10% fee is relatively standard.

BUT: Can we just take a minute and note how crazy that is. I believe that horse professionals should be paid fairly for their services and expertise. And I do understand that commissions are an industry standard–I pay mine. But just because it’s normal doesn’t mean it should be. I really wish that professionals would consider a business model where they do not expect $10k in payment for looking at a single video and sending a text message.


Agreed- and if they do expect that kind of commission for watching a single video then they should tell the client before watching the video.

I don’t see how the OP is any more at fault than the trainer. The trainer should have been upfront.


I didn’t say she necessarily owes 10%, in my first post I said maybe the commission could be negotiated since it wasn’t an “in person” viewing. And I didn’t mention 10% in my second post either I said she gets paid for her professional opinion, and I stand by that statement. Regardless, any time you ask your trainer for their professional advice about a potential purchase you should be prepared to be billed and first find out what possible fees might be involved. Having dinner with the trainer on a regular basis doesn’t entitle a client to a discount on commissions either. That’s why I don’t believe clients and trainers can be friends in the real sense.


It is crazy and it should not be the norm, I agree with that. But unfortunately it seems unlikely to change any time soon.

I wasn’t suggesting that you thought 10% was appropriate - it was mentioned above as the industry standard and I don’t think that in this instance, it is appropriate.

In my opinion - it is the professional’s responsibility to say - “hey, I will help you, but I do charge a commission, even though we are friends.” Or something like that. Otherwise, how will a client know and budget for it? Certainly I would not expect a client to expect to pay any trainer (friend or otherwise) a 10% commission for looking at one video and sending one text. At least, not without an up front conversation. I can imagine a professional telling a client “My commission is 10%, and that doesn’t change if you buy the first horse you look at or the 20th horse. [That’s because by the time you’ve looked at 20 horses, I’m not making money. But it balances out over time.]”

If a pro is not willing to say that, I don’t really see how they deserve to get paid any commission. They shouldn’t get paid out of a sense of guilt on the part of the buyer.


Her flat fee is 10 grand? For a video and casual conversations over dinner?

I understand where you got confused. Although I agree you should have asked ahead of time, she should have let you know that a casual talk over dinner cost 10 grand. I wouldn’t pay her 10% for looking at a couple videos but if you didn’t ask ahead of time, you should decide if she’s worth keeping as your trainer.


I think this confusion was caused by the trainer as much as it was by the OP. OP has done many favors for trainer over the year such as free trailering and helping with barn moves. She could have charged for her time and use of equipment. Clearly trainer assumed they were friends and OP wanted to help her because trainer didn’t offer to pay. Now the tables are turned and OP asked trainer to watch one video and trainer also sent one text message and shared the name of a hauler. And this all happened when OP and trainer were already spending time together as friends. I can see why OP thought watching one video, sending one text, and giving her the name of a hauler was done as friends, just as she did many things for trainer as a friend without charging.

I think OP should tell trainer she was surprised by the request for the commission and explain why. I wouldn’t be surprised if the friendship falters at that point. It’s hard to be friends with your trainer.

I have two fantastic trainers in my life right now. But I’ve known countless trainers that thought if they even spoke 5 words about a horse in passing they would have their hand out for their 10% commission if a sale resulted from those 5 words months down the line. It’s an oddity of the industry that gets taken too far by too many trainers. Even real estate agents have to pass an examine, get licensed, and SHARE the commission on a real estate transaction. In horses every trainer near a horse sale thinks they should get 10% paid to each of them.


Personally rather than asking for internet opinions I would be talking with an attorney


In my area, many of the trainers will list their commission rates on their website along with training, board and other rates. One lists their commission rates as 15% over 100K and 10% under 100K consultant fees starting at $500.00.

The OP might look at websites of local trainers in the area to see if they have rates listed and if so, offer to pay the going rate in the area for the service they received.


OP, what does she charge per hour for a lesson? Go ahead and pick the most expensive lesson she teaches. How many hours to you think she put into your horse deal. Add 50% of the actual time to that. Let that number roll around in your head for a while until it’s half-way comfortable.

IMO, regardless of what you do about the past blurriness, where you did her a favor (and I don’t care if you are an ammy and a client; if you hauled horses for her you were “professional enough” for her purposes), you and she need to agree upon a number, you need to pay it and you both need to move on.

To me, the commission system works when 1. The client knows that up front; and 2. When the pro does just about everything to make the deal work, most notably finding the horse. So that 10% seems fair when the client has to try, say, 15 horses or the client tries one, but the horse was a magic, perfect fit that came only because the pro spent 15 years building the contacts that produced the perfect horse.

Oh, except that, traditionally, the buyer doesn’t pay the commission at all, rather, the seller who just made money rather spent it, pays commission(s) out of the proceeds from the sale. For this reason, as well a the fact that nothing about payment for your pro’s services was ever mentioned while she was doing all of these things for you, also suggests that you don’t owe her money, technically, but that you’d be being a “good guy” to pay her fairly for her time.

The commission should not be a “lottery winnings” way of making a living, i.e, you try to really hit the jack pot and do the minimum of work to get your client a new horse. I would not want to be treated this way by my pro.

I hope you can pick a number, negotiate it, write a check and put this behind you. But if that didn’t go swimmingly, I think I’d also cut off my “free, not professional and so not worth anything” favors like hauling for her.

Going forward, I’d know that my pro just sucked a little bit at the business side of her business, where she needs to tell clients what’s a favor and what’s a service before hand so that those adults can choose. That’s on unusual among horse trainers. So I’d do the asking about what something in the gray area was going to cost me in the future. When the pro wants to get clearer, problems like this will go away.