When it comes to selling a horse, I'm a big believer in letting it go "on trial" with the prospective buyer. After all, if you have nothing to hide about the horse, why not give the person interested in him an opportunity to see if they're truly a good match?

I know, the voice in the back of your head is saying, "What if the horse gets seriously injured while on trial? What if they ruin him?!"

While it might take several pages, be sure to include every important aspect of your horse's care in a trial or lease agreement.

Photo: Alexandra Beckstett

Here's where I'm also a big believer in putting everything in writing and signing contracts. This helps set boundaries for what the prospective buyer (or agent, or leasee, or whoever you're handing possession of your horse to) can and cannot do with your horse and who is legally responsible for expenses and injuries. These agreements can be as simple or detailed as you want--although in my opinion, the more detailed, the better.

Because I have no legal background myself (remember, this blog is based purely on personal experience!), I had an equine lawyer draw up contracts for the past two horses I've sent out on trial to be sold. The first was extremely basic--essentially, "Agree that you will care for my horse, and sign here." Unfortunately, that basically was just a green light for them to do whatever they wanted with the horse. Two years later, I'm still hearing stories about different states, barns, and horse shows my horse traveled to while in that trainer's possession.

So when I sent Lily out on trial this past December, I made sure to put everything I could possibly worry about in the contract. This included:

  • Who is responsible for shipping costs to and (if necessary) from the prospective buyer's farm?
  • Who is responsible for her upkeep, and what does that entail (feed type, supplements, water, blanketing, turnout preferences, grooming, exercise, etc.)?
  • What costs will I cover? I was adamant that Lily receive quality regular farrier and veterinary care, so I offered to split hoof care and any routine veterinary costs (deworming, vaccination, etc.) while she was on trial.
  • What belongings does the horse come with? I sent Lily off with her blankets, shipping wraps, and a nice leather halter. They go with the horse and would be the new owner's to keep.
  • What happens if the horse gets hurt? If Lily got injured while in their care, they would be responsible for treating that injury and all related expenses. If the horse had not recovered after X days, they must pay to ship her back to me.
  • Who insures the horse? I maintained my major medical and surgical coverage, and the prospective buyer also obtained their own policy on her.
  • Where can the horse go? The horse is not to leave the state unless agreed upon by me.
  • Can they show the horse? I agreed to let them take Lily to local shows as long as they notify me first.
  • How long is the trial to last? I did not specify the length of the trial, but rather agreed that if the intended buyer did not purchase Lily, then the trainer would continue marketing her for sale in that area.

And, of course, all the legal jargon that goes into creating an agreement like this. The outcome? After three weeks and one horse show, Lily sold to great new home!

Some details commonly seen in these types of contracts that I intentionally left off included who could ride the horse (as I knew multiple people might be trying her) and the need for the prospective buyer to put down a refundable security deposit.

What else would you include in a contract to try or lease a horse?