Q: I’m selling my horse. A prospective buyer who rides with a trainer I trust wants to take him on a two-week trial basis. What documentation should I put in place first before he leaves our property?

A: Great question! While two weeks may seem like a short time to some, anything can happen in those two weeks, so you’re right to want to have the proper documentation in place.

When considering allowing a horse to go out on trial there are three primary things that I would care about:

Terms of Use: Prior to the horse leaving your care, you need to put into writing the terms of use for the trial period. Think about what matters to you: who may ride the horse while it’s on trial? If it’s a jumper, do you care how high may it be jumped? May it go to a show during that time?

You can think of this documentation much like an abbreviated lease contract, and with that in mind, some things to consider might include:

Restrictions on use: This is your opportunity to put into writing anything like the examples listed above. Can the horse go off of the trial trainer’s property? Can it go on trail rides? Think of anything that you may not be comfortable with and include mention of it in the contract.

Quality of care: This is of greater importance in a longer-term lease contract, but you can still include in the trial contract brief documentation as to any pertinent aspects of the horse’s care. For instance, “the horse should always be ridden in boots” or “the horse should wear a sheet or blanket any time temperatures reach below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.”

In case of injury: While it’s scary to think that anything could happen in just two weeks, you should include information on what happens should death, injury, or illness occur. While we hate to think of it, these situations do happen, and all parties will want to be prepared if they do. In the case of an injury occurring during the trial, who is responsible for the vet bills? The answers to questions such as this should be decided upon in advance and included in the contract.

Insurance: Insuring against the risk of injury is critical. In the same trial contract, you should require that the prospective buyer insure the horse during the trial period. In my opinion, it’s extremely important to have the horse insured with major medical and mortality for the sales price prior to it going out on trial. 

Finances: Finally, you need to address the financial agreement. I always recommend that a non-refundable deposit is paid prior to the trial period, with that deposit then being deducted from the horse’s purchase price if the sale goes through following the trial. At the end of the two-week trial, the remaining purchasing funds should be delivered by the buyer to the seller on the trial end date, or the horse should be returned immediately on that date at the prospective buyer’s expense. This is again important to include in the written documentation.

With proper documentation in place, you’re ready to allow your horse to go out on trial, and you’ve have done your part to alleviate any risks that could arise!

Have a legal question? Post it in the comments below for the opportunity to be featured in a future Q&A column with Armand Leone of Leone Equestrian Law.

About the Author

Armand Leone is the founding partner of Leone Equestrian Law LLC, a New Jersey-based law firm that provides legal services and consultation for equestrian professionals ranging from riders and trainers to owners and show managers in the FEI disciplines on a wide variety of issues. Learn more about Leone Equestrian Law LLC at equestriancounsel.com, on Facebook, or by emailing info@equestriancounsel.com.