Dennis BeaverFebruary 4, 2022 • By Dennis Beaver 

For anyone considering the purchase of a horse, today’s story will be especially relevant and began with emails from “Kent” and “Miranda.”

Kent wrote:

“A few months ago someone suggested that a great way of dealing with all the tension we are facing is to spend time riding a horse. All of my employees agreed, we’ve been taking lessons, and now want to buy a couple of horses but do not want to be taken for a ride! We would appreciate any advice you can offer.”

Miranda explained, “Our 10 year-old twin daughters have been mad about horses for years, are taking riding lessons and I have asked their trainer to locate horses for each of them.

“How can we avoid getting into trouble with this purchase?”

I ran these interesting requests by Houston-based Equine attorney Rebecca Pennington and asked her to set out some of the classic mistakes people make when looking to buy a horse.

1 – Want Trouble? Fall in Love with a Pretty Face! First, look into its eyes!

Consequences: For someone with no experience, the absolute worst thing they can do is to look into its eyes before you look at the rest of the horse. Do not look into its eyes first, because you might fall in love! Here’s why:

Humans and horses have coexisted for thousands of years developing a profound relationship that played a critical role in shaping our world. So, we love our horses and they love us, too. A buyer must examine every other aspect of the horse before looking him in the face! Check his conformation, movement, and temperament. Look inside the stall to see evidence of destructive behavior.

When families with young children go out to buy a horse, the first “pretty face” they see will be followed by, “Mommy, Daddy, we love him! Buy him!”

2 – Unless you are an experienced horse person, do not go out and buy the horse yourself. Just go it alone and do not spend the time or money in consulting an experienced horseman before buying. Trust your neighbor who is willing to sell you one of his.

Consequences: You could buy a hose unsuitable for your needs or with health or temperament issues. You are also likely to pay way more than you have to.

3 – Buy a horse without a written contract.

Consequences: You can verbally be told anything about the horse. Sellers can guarantee that if you are not happy with the horse they will refund the purchase price but that is unlikely without a written contract stating that guarantee.

Without a written contract, the seller or broker can easily lie to you. No matter what kind of verbal promises they make, if it is not in writing it will be very difficult to prove in court. And if you signed the seller’s bill of sale, it will likely have words that say “I have made no representations of any kind … and you have had the opportunity to do a pre-purchase exam.” That is basically an as is sale that negates the previous promises they made in most states.

3 – Allow an agent to do the bargaining and to handle the purchase.

Consequences: Miranda’s situation is typical. Daughter is taking riding lessons, and mom asks the trainer to locate a horse and says, “I will pay as much as $10,000.”

The trainer finds one for $5,000. But mom is told the price is $10,000. Trainer gives seller $5,000 and pockets the difference. And he may even collect a commission on the sale as well! This type of rip off happens frequently!

Deal directly with the seller and write the check yourself.

4 – Buy the horse without doing a pre-purchase veterinary exam.

Consequences: You could buy a horse that has health or lameness issues. No matter how wonderful and healthy a horse appears when you go to see it, have your veterinarian look for hidden problems. Treat it like buying a used car where you have a mechanic check it out first. This is not the time to rush or engage in false economy. The cost for such an exam ranges from $200 to $1,000, depending upon the area of the country you are in.

5 – Buy a horse sight unseen after seeing photos and videos. Fail to accept the fact that this can be a dirty business!

Consequences: You rely on what the seller has shown you – photos, ads, perhaps a video of the horse – but what you wind up with is not the same horse you saw! The photos and video may be old or the horse may have been drugged up in the video! When you actually get the horse, you see the real condition.

Impulse buying when it comes to a horse can have potentially lasting, bad consequences. There is a reason the term “horse trader” has such a negative connotation. It can be a dirty business and requires the assistance of someone with a great deal of experience.

Concluding our interview, Rebecca said, “The person who coined the expression, ‘As healthy as a horse’ must have had a sick sense of humor. Horses are far more fragile than most people realize. Buyers must use caution!”

Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and enjoys hearing from his readers. Contact Dennis Beaver.