Freaky Friday Guest Rant

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 Why You Should Never, Ever, Ever Agree to a Pre-Purchase Trial Period

I wish I had a time machine so I could travel back to last February and punch myself in the face when I agreed to let a potential buyer take my horse Page on a 30-day pre-purchase trial. I did everything right, so I thought. I interviewed her extensively. I visited her property and checked out her fencing, shelter, and hay. We both signed a contract stating that she would be responsible should the horse get hurt during the trial. I’d owned Page for over a decade, and knew his calm, gentle personality could win over anyone. He is not accident prone, hardly ever gets sick, and is a very sturdy boy.  What could possibly go wrong?

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Anytime you find yourself thinking or, God forbid, uttering the words “What could go wrong?”, immediately stop whatever you’re doing because that phrase always and only precedes unimaginably horrible train wrecks. In my case, it started on the trailer ride over. Page has always been a good loader and traveler, but this time he banged his head in the trailer and had to get stitches. The Horrid Woman hemmed and hawed about calling the vet (because it was on her dime at this point, based on our contract), but I insisted. In hindsight, I missed two gigantic clues: the horse did not want to go with her, and she did not want to call the vet for an injury that quite obviously required a vet.

 

Then the emails and text messages started. Multiple times a day, complaining about anything and everything. “You told me this horse was calm but he just wants to go, go, go” [Page is the laziest horse ever and does not want to do anything remotely resembling “go” so I cannot imagine what she was doing to him]. “Why does he stand like that, what’s wrong with him, he must be lame” [that’s just how horses stand sometimes, which you’d think she would know since at one time she simultaneously owned both a horse and functional eyeballs]. “It’s only been two weeks and he’s already been through half a bag of feed, why does he have to eat so much” [umm, because he’s a HORSE]. Another thing she should keep in mind: it is poor form to brag about your $2,500 saddle and then complain about a $17 bag of horse feed.

 

Of course she was building up to her coup de grace, which was “This horse has cost me so much already, I don’t want to pay your asking price, so how much less will you take for him?” In other words, she insisted on having a trial period but then complained about the costs the horse incurred during the trial period. I told her my price my firm, and she responded with a lengthy tirade about how she had already invested tons of money in him, he was going to need spring shots soon, he didn’t want to load in her trailer (shocker, after he banged his head in there), she had a big tax bill this year (because that’s relevant to my horse why?), and finally, the kicker: “I haven’t been able to ride him because he’s been lame for a week.”

 

First she complained that he ate too much and now she reveals he’s been lame for a week, without notifying me or a vet? That was it. I tried to pick him up the next day, but she refused to let me on the property. When I got him the next day, he was a mess. I could not believe you could do that to a horse in 28 days. He started out a little chunky, but when I picked him up, you could count every rib. She had worked him so hard that his hooves were worn down to nubs – they looked like pony feet. And he wasn’t just a little lame, he was VERY lame.

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I immediately called the vet and she arrived shortly after we got Page back to his stable. Page had punctured the bottom of his hoof, and it had a deep crack and significant bruising around it. The vet provided a written statement saying the injury was at least a day old and there was no way it had happened between the Horrid Woman’s house and mine. I took photos documenting his ribby condition, and sent my complaint off to Animal Services. They issued the Horrid Woman a $100 citation for “animal endangerment”, for failing to provide necessary vet care.

 

Suffering consequences for your actions is not something the spoiled, rich Horrid Woman is familiar with. She had her lawyer send me a long letter threatening to sue me for her mental anguish and defamation of character, among other ridiculous things. So let that sink in. She starved and injured my horse, continued to work my horse for a full week after he got lame (as I found out later), and she was only concerned about her “mental anguish”. She began offering multiple and different stories about his lameness and condition. First, he wasn’t lame. Then he was lame but it was the fault of the trainer who came to have a session teaching him to load in her ancient deathbox of a trailer. Then, after I sent her the vet bill for his hoof injury, she suddenly remembered seeing him hit his hoof on a manhole cover, but that was the trainer’s fault, too, because she also now remembered that was when it happened. It was the same with his weight. At first she claimed his weight was fine, then, after seeing the photos, she recalled that he had lost weight but said it was because he was old and a hard keeper, and I probably never worm him or have his teeth done (he’s only 16, and I religiously keep up with all his routine health care). Nevermind the fact that after I got him back, he regained all of his weight in a month and a half. I guess he suddenly got over being old and a hard keeper.

 

She opted to fight the ticket in Animal Court, and when the day came, it was a disaster. The Animal Services court isn’t really a court, and they don’t have a real judge, just a lawyer acting as arbitrator. The lawyer we got knew nothing about horses. The Horrid Woman showed a video taken on her property as proof that the horse wasn’t lame the day I picked him up. Unfortunately for her, the video clearly showed him limping. Unfortunately for me, the arbitrator said that even though she could see he was lame, that didn’t mean he needed to see a vet. I showed her the documentation for his hoof injury, and again she said that wasn’t proof that he actually NEEDED vet care. I was flummoxed that I kept being told, “Yes, we can see the horse is lame and lost a bunch of weight, but you can’t prove she did anything wrong.”

 

The Horrid Woman told so many lies it would have made a used-car salesman uncomfortable. It was weird how much she contradicted herself and the arbitrator still bought it. She went on about how it was the trainer’s fault Page was lame, but then argued that he wasn’t lame. She also claimed his weight was fine and my pictures were fake, but then rambled endlessly about all the many, not-her-fault things that caused his weight loss and about how hard she tried to get him to regain weight.

 

I wish I had a happy ending with which to wrap this up, but in the end the Horrid Woman’s ticket got dismissed and poor Page is still lame. His hoof is getting better, but because she worked him so hard while he was lame, he incurred other injuries. I don’t know when he might ever be sound again. I failed him by letting that no-good POS take him, and she doesn’t even care that she caused him months of lameness and suffering. Some people are simply incapable of acknowledging (or learning from) their mistakes or feeling empathy for other living creatures. The good part is that I got him back before he was too starved and abused to recover, but I have to admit I’m angry and bitter about the whole ordeal. I know karma doesn’t work this way, but come on! Is it too much to ask that I get to see that woman get what she deserves, sooner rather than later?

~JS

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14 comments

  1. Posted by jenn, at Reply

    Oh my goodness. Well, I was one of those people who WANTED to do a trial run with a horse my boyfriends mom was looking to purchase. She made the mistake of telling the horse trader that ” I know nothing. You can lie to me and I won’t know any better”. Luckily I went with after hearing this. We drove up and this horse had clearly been drugged in some form (already sweaty and feverishly licking). Also, he stumbled underneath himself WALKING when I asked the “trader” to lunge him.
    I have two geldings (and care for 11 horses right now) and they are religiously cared for. Wormings, vaccines, good quality hay, water, feed, (and fat supplement for my older boy). They are not worked hard (low level dressage, trail rides) and enjoy year round pasture, I would have been a good person to pre-purchase to.
    I am so sorry about what happened to your horse and I could not imagine what he’s gone through. I guess I’m just trying to point out the other side of horse purchasing. It can be difficult for both sides.
    I ABSOLUTELY AGREE that Horrid Woman should never be allowed to own a horse. I also insisted that we leave when I realized what the “trader” was up to.
    I guess… ya never know… till ya know.

  2. Posted by Shannon, at Reply

    So glad to hear that Page is back in your loving hands. Sadly, the horrible woman has probably already replaced him with another victim.
    I believe in Karma and, at some point, she will get hers. Let’s hope it’s before she abuses any more innocent horses and their people!

  3. Posted by Miss Deb, at Reply

    She had to pay a lawyer, so that’s something.

  4. Posted by Christine McMannis, at Reply

    Thank You for sharing your story. Some people are really pathetic! But don’t worry. She will get hers in the end. And after your description of her behavior, I’m willing to bet her life is already miserable. Which is why she tries to inflict it on others. I hope your horse recovers enough at least to live out the rest of his life pain-free.

  5. Posted by Karina, at Reply

    There are exceptions to every rule. I am a para-equestrian and will never be able to purchase a horse without at least a 30 day trial. I have to know how the horse responds to stimuli with me. I just have to be as careful as I can be.

  6. Posted by Carla Kelly, at Reply

    It sounds like you have never done a trail period before but tried to think of all the things to cover your basis. First and foremost, no animal leaves the farm without a check for the total amount. 2nd Trial periods that are close to your place would include some schooling with you, who knows the horse, and the new buyer to insure a smooth transition. It’s like buying a stick shift car and never having drove one…you will certainly grind the gears. Recommendations from her vet or local riding club, or someone you feel confident about prior to deals or delivery would have been prudent. Plus a clause that says, you can end the trail period at anytime should you feel the horse is not a match for the new buyer. Injuries incurred with new trial owner in route might have me calling and holding off till the horse is healed. Why start on a negative foot? Better the horse be in 100% shape to go to an unknown . Yes, the lady took you over the coals but I have a feeling you knew things weren’t right from the moment you unloaded thus not wanting to call the vet. When things started to smell bad at the beginning, you should listen to your gut…..better to wait for another buyer. I have been in this business many years and if I had but one piece of advise to give it would be listen to your gut. It is amazing how we tend to Talk ourselves into this will be a good deal. And finally, always stick to your side of the bargain. Your reputation is your most valuable commodity! When it is lost or its integrity challenged, it is extremely difficult to overcome. Better luck in the future.

  7. Posted by Martha, at Reply

    This seems more like an argument in favor of a trial period.
    I know some people don’t care what happens to a horse after it’s sold as long as they get paid what they want for it, but this seller seems as concerned about the welfare of the horse as she is about the financial loss, and if the horse had been sold outright she wouldn’t have been in a position to get it back.
    Maybe the solution is to do a trial period, but with a sizable deposit?

  8. Posted by Jen, at Reply

    Thanks for all the feedback. Jenn and Karina, you both have a good point. As there are untrustworthy sellers as well as buyers, and you want to make sure you and the horse are a good match, sometimes a trial period could work in your favor. Carla Kelly, I do wish I had listened to my gut. The whole thing was such a horrible ordeal for me (having to sell him at all) that I was afraid I would have found fault with even the best of buyers.Shannon and Christine, I can only hope that karma catches up with her and she doesn’t get another horse. Finally, Martha, thanks for giving me a different way to look at this. You are absolutely right – it is a good thing she only had him on a trial period, because that means I could get him back! A deposit would have been a fantastic idea. As it is, the most important thing is that I got him away from there, and he is safely back at my barn and recovering well.

    The vet thinks he tore or pulled a suspensory ligament, which is why he’s still lame. But that is totally manageable, thank goodness! He gets hand-walked for 30 minutes a day, which he enjoys. Yesterday he got to stop on his daily walk down the road to be petted by a whole birthday party of kids. He thinks he’s on vacation.

  9. Posted by Christy, at Reply

    Good for you Karina! I completely agree. I passed on a 17hh Holsteiner gelding who was blind in one eye because the owner wouldn’t let him go for a one-week trial. I had ridden him twice and loved him. At the time, I had 2 year old twins and there was no chance I was paying that kind of money without knowing how he’d be with little ones running around. As it turned out, we could not come to an agreement, SHE injured the horse the following month and sold him to a dealer for $1,000. He flipped him for $5,000 to a girl who was terrified of him and left him in a field for a year. I did an “in search of ad” a bout 4 years later on Dreamhorse, she replied, and my riding instructor friend essentially rescued him. He was once a grand horse and could still have been had the original owner agreed to a one-week trial with me, especially because I agreed to assume all liability AND insure him with her as benefactor. There’s definitely a place for trials.

  10. Posted by ktha, at Reply

    Does make you wonder if she has horses on trial regularly , hammers them then sends ’em back . My old boy has been with me 18yrs now because he was the very devil when he was younger , gelded late & still behaved like a stallion for the first twelve months . Why is he still with me when the idea was to break him school him up & sell him on ? Because I was worried that he’d end up in an auction , going downhill each time he got there . Have been asked to sell him several times so put about that he’s never going to be for sale .
    Am afraid I can’t understand how you can “borrow” in effect & treat someone else’s horse badly , Think some people don’t do shame . As has been said at least you could go & take him back instead of her being able to gradually destroy him . Hope you enjoy him now he’s home & have many years of happiness with him

  11. Posted by Helen, at Reply

    I too think this post is an argument in favour of trials, because you were able to get Page back, and thank goodness for that. I hate to think the condition he would be in now had the woman paid for him in full (in which case I’d guarantee she would hang onto him just, well, because.)

  12. Posted by Jane, at Reply

    JS, the upside is he was on a 30 Trial Period :) If she had just paid for the horse outright and hauled him home he could be dead by now instead of with you. Unfortunately now your buddy is lame but with any luck that will work itself out. As crazy as it sounds you might want to talk to your vet about Viagra for increasing circulation to his feet to promote healing.

  13. Posted by Claire Vale, at Reply

    Trials are an important part of finding the right horse, in the hopes that the right match will result in a lasting and happy home. Sadly as JS has found, there are also risks involved for all parties. An unscrupulous buyer or seller can cause a lot of harm.

    To minimise the risks, one option is to have an at-home trial – they come to you, at least for the first few weeks so you can see how they operate. If the potential purchaser isn’t close enough to come to your place for the trial period, then sending the horse may be the best option – PROVIDED you’ve covered your bases. JS, you did most of the things needed initially; it was the follow-through that lacked a bit. In my mind, while the horse is away (before the sale is finalised), the owner needs to have eyes on it once a week to ensure it’s safe and doing okay. That means visiting yourself, or finding an impartial knowledgeable local to drop by for you, or it you trust the potential buyer, photos and video. Any sign that things aren’t going to plan, and horsie is straight back on the truck home again.

    As well as regular checks, having part or all of the sale money up front can avoid issues of unpaid bills and remedial treatment – that money could be placed in escrow with a lawyer if needed to prevent an unscrupulous seller from keeping some or all of the money when that wasn’t warranted.

    Your trial documentation should note just who gets to decide if the horse needed treatment/feed/whatever – i.e., it isn’t up to some dummy that wouldn’t know a horse from a back-hoe, it’s up to a respected impartial equine professional (preferably someone named in the contract) who gets to determine how much, if any, money should be given to the owner in the vent the horse is returned in poor condition. And of course it should be noted that any money spent during the trial period is at the potential buyers expense – there will be no negotiating the price based on money spent, unless it was agreed upon by both parties before the money was spent (e.g. if the potential buyer was to discover an existing undisclosed condition that required extra treatment, but that should be negotiated before any treatment began).

    As for whether or not she’ll ever get her come-uppance, that’s debatable. We’ve all heard stories of people that manage to skate by repeating their poor behaviour over and over with no real solution. Or it takes many years (and poorly treated animals/people) before it finally happens. Your horse probably isn’t the first, and probably won’t be the last that this woman inflicts herself upon.

    Unfortunately, it’s also very hard to name names and slow the spread of their reign of terror without ending up on the wrong side of the law yourself. This is where spreading your tale of caution in the area where she is seeking a horse (e.g. the place you were advertising him) can come in handy to alert other sellers to be aware, ask for more details and follow up more frequently. You can describe the situation and remind people to be alert for certain signs without actually giving names and getting yourself in hot water.

    [And finally: JS, while he’s laid up with his injuries, now is the perfect time to do lots and lots and lots of belly lifts, butt tucks and topline strengthening exercises to minimise the likelihood that his back will end up sore some time in the near future…]

  14. Posted by Leanne Chaney, at Reply

    Great points of contract with trial periods! Never thought to appoint a horse person a qualified evaluator vs just going through the “system” where fair shakes are not done due to plea bargaining. Also noted is that expenses incurred are not reimbursable by the leasing party..