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?
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.
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?