Saturday, August 15, 2009

"You Sold Them WHAT?!"

This is an issue I have been bothered by for an eternity. Piggybacking on yesterday's post somewhat, the ethics of folks who sell entirely incompatible horses to beginners, or just horses that are totally unsuited for the buyer's purposes. Another one that tends to burn my hide is the flocking to an innocent bystander with sales pitches on horses, much akin to how potential buyers are descended upon when shopping for a vehicle.

I had a client a couple of years ago who brought me a beautiful yearling Purebred Arabian filly for basic groundwork (leading, tying, trailering, wash rack, hotwalker, etc) in preparation for a potential show career as a Halter horse. Awesome people, just wonderful, caring owners who loved their "baby" more than anything in this world. What truly frosted me is how they actually ended up with this filly. They were looking for a pair of riding horses, as first time horse owners, to enjoy trail riding after having bought their dream property and put up horse facilities. They acquired a gentle old Paint gelding who was a retired rope horse but dead broke and gentle, then found an advertisement for an Arabian mare from another local trainer. They went to see her and promptly fell in love.

Trouble was, this mare had precious little under saddle training and she was in foal. That and she was a definite Alpha who had little respect for humans. Why in the world would anyone, let alone a trainer, sell a mare like this to beginners? It boggles the mind.

Similarly, that feeling I sometimes get when at a horse show, that there are buzzards circling, just waiting for the kill.

Sometimes when jaunting around a showgrounds, we'll take a look at various horses, particularly after having seen them in some of the classes and I want a closer look. There's not necessarily any particular reason sometimes, but perhaps I'm interested in what the sire produces or have another, equally cogent reason for peeking in on a horse. Inevitably, a trainer or other representative of the farm or owner of the horse comes running up trying to shove pictures, pedigrees and videos in my face.

Now, when I am in the market either for myself or a client, my first stop is going to be directly talking to the trainer (or owner if there is no trainer or agent) as opposed to stopping in to look at the horse. Otherwise the chances are, if I am just looking, you're not going to make a sale anyhow so why bother hovering over me and trying to convince me why Ibn Mr Fabulous is a horse I just can't live without? It's not unlike car shopping where the sales associates act like vultures. Been there, done that and I'm not giving my business to someone who acts in this manner.

Times are tough, I understand that, and more people than ever are selling horses these days. Adding to that sentiment, more people than ever need to sell their horses for financial reasons. This is why there are so many horses being given away ~ it's the economy. However, using some of the tactics I see in trying to get horses sold just rubs me the wrong way.

Here is another similar topic that often gets me raging, if only because of the implications involved ~ trainers going behind the backs of other trainers trying to spirit away their clients. Not only is this in my opinion highly unethical, but it reeks of poor sportsmanship. I have been fortunate in that I've only had a couple of brushes with this sort of thing in the past, but I hear stories about it happening to others frequently.

It's yet another thing that's wrong with the horse world. But I'm off my soapbox now!



  1. "Ibn Mr Fabulous"--LOL!

    I do think it's human nature for the average horse owner, who may only be peripherally involved in the industry and is selling a horse they've gotten along with for awhile, to overestimate their horse's capacity to get along with different owners and adapt to new situations.
    For example, me and Dobbin have ridden around the familiar trail accessible from our back gate twice a week for years, so I should advertise him as a successful, finished competitive trail horse, right?
    Well, he probably has a great deal of potential, and could progress to competing with his new beginner owner, if she has well-thought-out goals and gets a few lessons with the right trainer.

    But more often than not, the new owner with stars in her eyes, enters him in a competition that takes place the weekend after she buys him, "issues" come up, and she either sends him back, starts a lawsuit or (more often) gives up and dumps Dobbin in the pasture.

    My point, buyer beware. I've ridden, owned, cared for, leased from others and leased-out my own, showed, bought & sold, started & trained, barn-managed, judged, at different times for the past 36 years---but STILL! I will always get an opinion from my vet and farrier, and expect a trial period in which I can ride the horse under supervision from a trainer who is familiar with my goals, before I sign that final contract and buy the horse.

    All that said, there is no excuse to advertise an in-foal mare as one (or two!) trail horses, even from a backyard owner.

    And there is absolutely NO EXCUSE for a professional trainer, dealer or breeder to NOT do their best to match the right horse to the right owner. Yeah, sometimes buyers get stars in their eyes and just have to have that pretty horse.

    So, professionals should not only explain the horse's potential honestly, but also put that in their contract--phrases such as "will do best in experienced home" , "recommend training before entering this horse in competition", "buyer has waived the recommended vet check," etc.

    Yes, times ARE really hard. But they won't be this bad forever, and the professionals who practise honest ethics through the hard times today, will still be here tomorrow.

    The ones who don't, hopefully, won't.

  2. I should probably have explained the "Ibn" thing for non-Arabians folks, huh? LOL

    Ibn = son of in Arabic
    Bint = daughter of in Arabic

    Great points!! You're probably right about the individual horse owner's tendency to overestimate ~ both their horse and potential buyers as well. Which is why I urge folks to utilize a skilled agent or a trainer with experience in marketing. Of course, that costs money and takes a commission out of the sale, and I'm sure many folks (especially in this sort of economy) don't want to take that sort of hit financially. That is fully understandable.

    I have a few articles that I've written on the topic of marketing, focusing on selling and buying horses. One of these days I'll post them!

    A pre-purchase is a MUST as far as I am concerned, every time, for every horse. Unless you're picking up a dirt cheap low-end auction horse where you can't have him vetted, or adopting from a rescue, for instance (though the horse should have been fully vetted by the rescue), do that PPE. Talking to your farrier (and preferably your vet and farrier work well together) is a great idea, too. Consulting with your trainer is a no-brainer!! (hey, I am a poet and didn't know it, ha!)

  3. Matching horses with buyers should not have to be such an art. But there seem to be many trainers (and owners) who don't care as long as they can quickly dump the horses they don't want.

    I have a client who unsuspectingly bought a mare who had all sorts of problems, and paid a very high sum for her. They knew she was blind in one eye (I made sure of that, because I had the horse in training), but the sellers didn't disclose any of her other problems, which I was unaware of as well. She was also far too much horse for the young child who was to be her rider, but sadly I was not involved in a bulk of the negotiating. Her sellers were only interested in getting rid of her, not concerned in the least about where she went and who she went with. Thank goodness she was bought by the most incredible people who love her to pieces as a member of the family. She just as easily could have gone to a kill buyer.

    Then there was the client who bought a Half-Arab mare for five figures in what to me was an extremely shady deal, it was one of those "stars in their eyes" situations. Buyer just had to have the horse, and seller added all sorts of caveats even after the deal was done (like a retained foal), they were so smitten with her they even allowed the seller's vet to do the pre purchase exam. BIG no-no in my book, always! Recently that same trainer/seller has tried to sell these same clients a virtually untrained, way overpriced chocolate palomino Arab/Morgan cross filly. Those buyers are FAR smarter now and not interested in being taken advantage of again. Hard lesson to learn, and quite expensive in veterinary bills!

    On the trial period, that one seems to be a rarity these days, though about five years ago it saved one of my clients a whole lot of heartache and expense. In a purchase search I had found what I thought was the perfect all around horse for her daughter. Gorgeous mare, Halter quality, big and bay, saw her ridden and rode her myself on two different occasions before taking the client and her daughter down to ride her (both Western and Hunt-seat), saw her do flawless flying changes, saw the owner take her over a couple of 1.5' cavalettis...just the ideal horse. Thankfully I negotiated a two week trial. We got her home and she was a totally different horse. The following week, the prepurchase exam showed she was in pain ~ turns out she was in a moderately advanced stage of navicular.

    These sorts of stories make me sad........ :(

  4. LOL, "Ibn" and "Bint"--wish I knew Arabic! My horse has ancestors in his pedigree with those names, and how clueless am I, I assumed that meant his bloodlines were "foundation"--thanks for setting me straight!
    The only horse I ever bought without input from a trainer was Apache (the amazing Appy mare I described on the trail thread) and that was only because my expectation was for a good companion horse--she was only $600--and I DID get a PPE anyway!
    I totally lucked out with her, but I would never expect getting that lucky again.

    Matching horses with buyers really IS an art--but like you said, it shouldn't be. All the buying and selling I've ever done has been in our local market, with the help of a few familiar, respected trainers who know what the buyers need--and always with a lease-with-option-to-buy contract (very strict what they do, where they go, who they board with, who they train with, who they vet with) until they exercise their option to buy.
    I've never had a bad experience with this arrangement, or had reason to fear for the welfare of any horse I've sold. But, I'm not a professional dealer.
    I would expect (hope) that a professional dealer would have the same attitude and be able to put together as safe a contract, but their experience would allow them to be a bit quicker and more definite in predicting whether the horse and rider are a good match.


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