Purchasing a horse is a big step, but can be made a bit less scary and less complicated when you enlist the help of your trainer.
The following is a breakdown of options and costs you can expect to incur related to your purchase.
- Trainer commission: Straight commission is 10%
- Sale barn: The seller will pay the commission to the sale barn and the buyer will pay the commission to their own trainer.
- In barn sale: This is a sale between two clients of the same trainer. Commission is 15% to be split between the buyer and the seller.
So, you may wonder, why are you paying a commission? The commission is for your trainer's knowledge and expertise, which will guide you through negotiating the price of a horse, and purchase. The trainer will shop online and through sale barns, to find horses within your parameters, and narrow down your options into an acceptable group for you and your trainer to see. Depending on your price point and parameters, you could also be shopping on your own or flying overseas to see horses with your trainer. If you choose to travel with your trainer, you are responsible for all costs including food and lodging, whether you travel 3 hours or 10,000 miles. Your trainer will be able to gauge the suitability of the horse by seeing and/or riding it, and will notice any conditions or abnormalities, that you may not, like swelling in the legs, odd confirmation that could eventually lead to lameness or a minor lameness that will be easily handled with veterinary assistance. Your trainer speaks the same language as the seller and is astute enough to recognize red flags or pick up on things left unsaid.
Congratulations, you've chosen to work with your trainer and are ready for the next step, a contract that states what is expected of each party, to eliminate any big surprises.
Discussing your budget is the first thing your trainer will need to do with you when horse shopping and your wish list comes next. Your wish list can be as simple as, "quiet, under 17 years old, and a $5000 budget", or as in depth as, "I want a rose gray Warmblood gelding, 7 years old, able to jump around 3.6', with the ability to go higher, at least second level dressage base, no taller than 16.1, very loving, no rear, buck or bolt, great on trail, and a budget of $20,000."
The first wish list example is so vague that it would have you out looking at hundreds of sale horses. While this leaves a lot of flexibility, your trainer will only want to see ones you have preselected, since viewing all horses for sale in that range will not utilize your time effectively. If you absolutely prefer your trainer accompanies you at every horse viewing, be prepared to spend upwards of $50/hour for your trainer’s time, unless a purchase is made and the commission covers that viewing fee. The second wish list example, on the other hand, has such precise parameters that it will be a harder to find a horse to satisfy all characteristics, but with the narrowed field, there will be significantly fewer horses to go see.
Optimally, you'll want to give your trainer more information than the first wish list example, while remaining a bit more open minded than the second. Your trainer will be able to give you options that meet most criteria, but may be the wrong color, or a little older/younger. It is best to keep an open mind and remember that the best horse may not match your wish list entirely, but you should always go look at a horse if your trainer recommends it. You never know when you’re going to have a connection with a horse, as one buyer found out. She told her trainer she would never ever own a mare, much less a chestnut mare. When her trainer brought a great prospect in for her to try, that just so happened to be a chestnut mare, it ended up being her horse of a lifetime. You just never know.
That exciting day has arrived. You’ve found a horse that you love, and your search is over. It's time to let your trainer finish the job, by scheduling a vet check with a vet he trusts. This exam can be as in-depth as a full work up and x-rays of all joints and feet, or a simple lameness exam. This all depends on the price point and intended use of the horse. The trainer will use the information from the vet to negotiate the sale of the horse. It is always good to be prepared that in the eventuality a lameness or potential lameness is found during the vet check, it will make for a no sale.