Dear Jessica, I am hoping to buy my first horse very soon. I have been religiously following the advice in your books and columns, and after two years of lessons and a six-month full-lease of a horse, I think that I am now ready to own a horse of my own. My instructor (who is also a huge fan of yours!) agrees and has been helping me look for a horse. I would love to buy the horse I was leasing, but his owner loves him too and she is moving out of state and taking him with her, so that just isn't going to happen. We have looked at eight horses and keep coming back to the #3 horse. My instructor thinks that he will be very suitable for me, and I enjoyed riding him. After looking at just the three horses, I wasn't convinced that this horse was "the one", but after looking at another five horses I haven't found one that I liked better than this one, or even as much!
My problem is that I want to take him on trial for a few months, which I think is fair because if I do buy him he will be getting a "forever home". His owner says that she doesn't do business that way and that she wants to sell him to a good home, but the only way she will let me have him on trial is if I give her a post-dated check for the purchase price, and then I only get to have him for two weeks before she will cash the check, AND I will have to do everything with my instructor present whenever I ride the horse. My instructor says that she'll be happy to supervise me but she doesn't want to be involved in the money side of things, since the horse's owner is a friend of hers. Of course, practically everybody we know including most of the other sellers are friends of hers! She isn't even taking a commission so I know she means it.
She seems to think that this arrangement is okay. But it makes me nervous because, what if I discover that I don't really get along with this horse as well as I want to? Or what if another horse turns up that is even better and more suitable for me? I need more time to ride this horse and decide what to do. Is it unreasonable of me to want to have this horse on trial for even two months? After all, I am probably going to buy him! I know that I have read about longer trial periods and this one seems too short. Help, please!
I'm sorry that you can't buy the horse you've been leasing, but at least it sounds as though he has a good and caring owner. But as he isn't for sale, you'll have to find a horse that IS available, and it sounds as though you and your instructor have done a good job of horse-hunting. Again, well done.
Your instructor appears to be bending over backwards to be fair, which is a very good thing. And truly, the seller sounds very reasonable to me - I know that two weeks doesn't sound like much time when you're thinking that you would like two or three months, but these days, a two-week trial is a very generous offer. Many sellers simply won't allow a horse out on trial AT ALL, let alone for a week, let alone for two weeks. The risks are too great. Look at it this way - if you were selling your car, you probably wouldn't let a prospective buyer take it away and drive it for two weeks. Anything could happen during those two weeks! But at least with a car, in case of damage it would be possible to repair it, buy new parts, repaint it, etc. With a horse, there are many more things that can go wrong - and no spare parts. As for the time period, again, if you were selling your car, and someone wanted to "try it out" for two or three months, you wouldn't be able to show it to anyone else during those months, you wouldn't get paid until the end of that time, and even then, the person might decide not to buy it! This has been known to happen in the horse world - some people have been known to "take a horse on trial" and then return it (in whatever condition) after the trial period, without ever having intended to buy the animal. What they really wanted was a horse for the summer...
A post-dated check for the agreed-on price of the horse, to be cashed by the horse's owners after the two-week period if you decide to keep the horse, is a very ordinary, conventional, sensible arrangement. It's NORMAL. So is the requirement that you do everything under your instructor's supervision. That just means that the horse's owners know and trust your instructor, believe that you could be a good owner for their horse, and are willing to extend themselves on your behalf so that you can try their horse - but they aren't silly or stupid, and they don't want to take silly or stupid chances. That, too, is ordinary, conventional, sensible, and NORMAL.
Your instructor likes the horse, you like the horse, and you have looked at eight horses and keep coming back to this one. The horse's owners are kind enough to allow you to take the horse on trial for two weeks. This sounds like a win-win situation to me. I think that if you have the horse for two weeks, work with him under your instructor's supervision, and then decide that you do or don't want him, you'll have had time to make a good, informed decision. If I were you, I would thank the owners for their generosity and begin the two-week trial.
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