In the equine world, it's a common practice to let your horse go "on trial" to a potential buyer to see whether or not they are a good fit. When a horse goes on a trial period, the buyer takes the horse home to try the horse before making a final decision. Commonly, the buyer will also have a vet check performed during this period. A trial period mainly benefits the buyer in the fact that they are able to fully examine and evaluate the horse before purchasing, but a trial period can also be helpful to the seller as way to help complete a sale.
What Can Go Wrong?
While trial periods have their benefits, there can also be many problems associated with them. In a simple horse sale, the buyer pays the seller on the spot and takes the horse home. However, in a trial period, the seller still owns the horse but the buyer has possession and control of the horse, which is where the lines of responsibility become blurred.
How to Avoid Legal Issues
While problems such as this cannot be entirely avoided, there are many things you can do as a seller to avoid getting "ripped off." It's very important to have a written sale agreement that covers all aspects of the trial period before the horse goes on trial to the buyer, as well as a liability release. During this time, you may want to contact a lawyer experienced in equine legal solutions to make sure you have covered everything properly. You should also have the buyer give you a large cash deposit up front (about 50%). In your contract, you should cover under what circumstances you keep the deposit and when you must return it to the buyer. It's also important to set boundaries, such as limiting the trial period to one week to lessen the risk of problems, as well as limiting what the buyer can do with the horse.
You may also want to consider insuring your horse mortality, theft and loss of use and check out the barn in which the horse will be kept during the trial. This can help you feel more comfortable about the trial and you should be able to talk or watch the buyer's trainer at work. Finally, make sure you know where your horse is at all times during the trial. This should be defined in the contract whether or not they can take him off property. If you are ever in doubt about a clause that should be added to your contract, be sure to contact a lawyer experienced in equine legal solutions in order to properly protect you and your horse.