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Un-sellable horse

From: Kimberley

Hello, Thanks very much for your help on so many different things, but I was unable to find anything on what to do with a horse you can not sell.

I have a lovely big 16.2 TB gelding. He is a looker and will one day do well in eventing. I brought him thinking he knew alot more then he did then I found out he knew worst then nothing so starting from before scatch I have retrained him and got him out of his bad habits. When I first got this horse his problems ranged from trying to kill you and rearing, bucking, biting, striking out, freaking if he saw another horse anywhere near him trot. Amazingly enough even through I had only been riding for 4 years when I got him and I'm only 16 after only two falls He is now much much better easy to handle on the ground, floats, worms, shoes. He is even calm enough to ride at home. The thing is I need to sell him, I have lost most of my confidence riding him and am very close to giving up horses altogether, He will be fine at home too but but a couple of problems

1. Everyone knows who he is because I use to show a lot and would always be out of the ring before the end of class one as he is a danger to other horses.

2. What should I tell people buying him? at home he should be fine to ride but as soon as they take him away from the farm and put someone other then me on him he is going to freak out. I learned right from the start how to deal with his freak outs... do nothing, should I tell a buyer about his freak outs or just leave it, cause if he rears and they try to do something he will either flip over or jump for and buck pretty bad. What if no one is interested in the horse because everyone knows him. The best advice I've been given by many people is to shoot him. But when he goes good he does lovely dressage, I'm jumping him 3' and he is as bold as anything not spooking at anything. We have spent thousands and thousands of dollars on this horse to get him right now we just want to get rid of him can you please help with suggestions as I don't want him put down.

Thanks very much


Hi Kimberly! The first thing you need to do is forget about the money that you've put into this horse. It doesn't matter whether it was a thousand dollars or a hundred thousand dollars, the facts are that the horse is NOT "right" and that the money is GONE. Forget the money - it's a sunk cost.

Then think about the actual value of this horse, and figure out just what amount of money someone would be likely to offer for a gelding that can't be safely ridden and can't be competed. Good looks don't count - and neither does imagined potential. We're talking actual value here. (Hint: look at the current price of horsemeat, estimate the horse's weight, and do the math.)

The next thing you need to do is think very hard about the potential legal implications of selling this horse. This is where you need to bring your parents into the picture. You're a minor, and it's their assets that are going to be at risk if this horse is sold. Then you and your parents will need to talk to a lawyer who specializes in equine law. Selling any horse, even a nice-as-pie, sweet, docile "babysitter" horse, can put the seller at legal risk - especially if the seller conceals facts about the horse. But when the horse in question is known - by you, your parents, your trainer and vet, competitors and management staff at many shows, and many other people - to be dangerous to other horses, its rider, and itself, then the risk is infinitely higher. RISKS, I should say. This isn't just about your family's money - it's about the risks to potential buyers, future riders, and to the horse itself.

You've said that this horse is a danger to other horses, and a danger to his rider. That would be enough for most ethical horse-owners to decide against trying to sell the horse. But if the ethics question doesn't trouble you or your parents, and none of you are worried about the physical dangers to potential buyers, or concerned about the horse's welfare, and you're determined to sell the horse anyway, YOU STILL MUST GET LEGAL ADVICE FIRST.

Invest in an hour or two of professional advice from a specialist in equine law before you decide to put this horse up for sale. You will probably be advised not to try to sell the horse - and this is advice that may save lives, and will undoubtedly save you a lot of money. Since money seems to mean a lot to you, here's my advice on THAT subject: You and your parents need to stop thinking about the money you've spent in the past, and start thinking about the money you may have to spend in the future. The amount you've spent up to this point, and any money you might get from the sale of the horse, no matter how much it is, will be NOTHING when you compare it to the money you may end up spending when an injured buyer files a lawsuit against you. Ask the lawyer about this - and also ask about the amount of money you would have to spend in court costs even if the lawsuit were unsuccessful.

There are rules and laws about selling horses, like the laws about selling cars. If your car has been in a wreck or a flood, and you sell it without revealing this information, YOU will be sorry. If your horse is unsound, injured, or in the habit of rearing or flipping over (which may indicate an underlying unsoundness or injury, by the way), and you sell it without revealing this information, YOU will be sorry. In both cases, there will be financial penalties, but more importantly, in both cases, you would be putting the purchaser at risk. In the case of the horse for sale, you're also putting the horse at risk. You must realize that you may get someone killed if you misrepresent this horse to a potential buyer.

When you sell a horse, you have to be honest about the horse - not about what he's going to do when the buyer takes him home, because you can't actually predict that, but about what he has done at YOUR barn, and what he has done with you at competitions and events. You can't advertise him as a horse with great eventing potential, because you don't know that, and the evidence, so far, is to the contrary. You CANNOT allow someone to purchase or even try this horse unless you've told the truth about the animal. Again, it's like selling a car - saying "This car is in great shape" and not mentioning that the engine catches on fire periodically, because, gosh, most of the time it DOESN'T catch fire, so why mention it? If someone buys - or even test-drives - the car, and the engine catches fire, who's responsible? That's right: YOU are.

What about the buyer? What about other, future riders? If you sell this horse, you're going to have to worry about the buyer, any subsequent buyers, and any other riders who may find themselves trying to sit on this animal. In fact, you need to be worrying about this NOW, before you put the horse up for sale. If your vet, trainer, and lawyer agree that it's a fine idea to go ahead and sell this horse, which I think is extremely unlikely, there's one more person with whom your parents should talk. They'll need to call their insurance company, and find out whether your personal, business, or farm liability insurance will cover them in case someone who comes out to try the horse experiences one of his bucking, jumping, or flipping episodes. My guess is that it will NOT, but they will need to find out.

And... what about the horse itself? Give some thought to this, please. Have you considered what sort of person would buy the horse as a potential riding animal, knowing its history? It won't be someone looking for a gentle, quiet animal. It won't be someone looking for a well-trained animal. It won't be anyone sane or sensible or ethical - but that doesn't mean that it will be someone who "deserves" to get hurt.

There are three kinds of purchasers for horses like this: There are sentimental, inexperienced, ignorant young teens who think that carrots and kisses will "cure" the horse's problems - you have no business putting such children at risk. Then there are unscrupulous dealers who will buy horses and run them through multiple auctions, selling them "as is", and "honestly" claiming that they have no experience with the horses so can't speak to their history, temperament, or training. And finally, there are people who deliver horses to slaughterhouses and collect a few hundred dollars per head. When a horse has the kind of problems that make it actively dangerous to other horses, riders, and itself, it is going to end up at the slaughterhouse unless someone arranges to have it euthanized first. That is, if it's lucky it will end up at the slaughterhouse, and not find itself chained to a tree in someone's mudlot, dying slowly from starvation and thirst.

The slaughterhouse is not the worst option here - in fact, the slaughterhouse is actually the horse's second-best option, after euthanasia. The reality is that if a damaged, dangerous horse is good-looking, someone will buy it and try to coax or force it into submission. The next owner - or the same owner - will then try to "drug-train" it. Later, that owner, or another owner, will try to "starvation-train" it. And finally, someone will either abandon it to die, or sell it for meat. Trust me, a horse like this will NOT be passed along from one kind, loving owner to another until it ends up in a happy retirement pasture somewhere.

Is there a "best case" scenario for your family and this horse, other than having your vet euthanize the animal before something horrible and horribly expensive happens? Probably not. Yes, of course it's POSSIBLE that a kind, gentle, talented trainer with lots of spare time and a penchant for rescuing dangerous horses might offer to give you good money for this horse, sign a release exempting you from all litigation, and even succeed in rehabilitating the horse. It's POSSIBLE - but it's very much against the odds. It's equally possible that pigs MAY fly. I don't think you should bet human lives, the horse's quality of life, or your family's financial assets on either possibility.

I wish I could offer you a good solution that would let you put everything right, but sometimes that just isn't in the cards. The questions your family should be trying to answer now are not "How much money can we get for the horse?" and "How much do we have to tell the buyer?" but "What solution is most practical and most ethical?" and "What will cause the least amount of future pain, grief, and damage to the horse, to any potential buyers, and to our family's financial security?" The "best advice" you got from many people may have sounded unkind, but sadly, it probably WAS good advice. All I can do is list the reasons the advice was sound. The bottom line here, I fear, is that the horse - and the problem - you've described is not something that you or your family can afford to pass on to anyone else.


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